Toronto Star

The whims of our four-legged neighbour Kevin

As the pandemic wore on, our furry new friend slowly warmed up to us

- SOLVEJ SCHOU

PASADENA, CALIF.—His name is Kevin.

Kevin, with grey, black and white tiger stripes, his furry underbelly white, his eyes bright yellow. “What’s the name of your cat?” we asked our neighbours. “Kevin.” “Kevin?” Yes.

A random and perfect name for a cat.

For the almost decade that we’ve lived at our rental house here, my husband Dave and I didn’t know or see Kevin. For years, he existed in the crevices of our next door neighbours’ house, a fuzzy ball of affection waiting to be discovered. An indoor-outdoor tabby, he apparently visited other people in the neighbourh­ood, but not us.

Last year, as my staff senior writer job at a college hard-pivoted from working in an office to working remotely from home, due to the pandemic, and my creative life as a musician ground to a homebound halt, Kevin came by a few times when I sat at a tiny outdoor table on the side of our place.

He rubbed against my leg. After that — whoosh — he disappeare­d.

Then, this year, in mid-March, we saw Kevin on our porch.

He came over to me, staring up with those big, yellow, serious eyes. He flopped onto his back, and he let me scratch his head. I documented the moment on social media: “Made a new friend today. Kevin, our neighbours’ cat. Comforting to pet him, and he loves the attention.”

Day by day, Kevin started coming around regularly. His routine was always the same: He would suddenly show up, stare at us with a silent urgent meow, and then walk back and forth rubbing his face on our wooden porch bench. He would allow us to bend down and pet him with long strokes. It always seemed like a privilege to pet him: this deeply affectiona­te neighbours’ cat who was as shiny and new to us as we were to him.

It went like this until one momentous afternoon in early April, when Kevin sat on my lap. He jumped on as I was sitting on our porch bench, wearing a black dress with white swirls, and he proceeded to shed all over me. It was a big step in our human-cat relationsh­ip. But let me back up a moment. Being affectiona­te with neighbours’ pets, and animals in general, isn’t new for me and Dave. Dave grew up with three dachshunds and two cats. I grew up with a white, scrappy, indooroutd­oor cat named Kitty whom we got after my mom — who was allergic to animals — died of cancer when my brother and I were kids.

While Dave and I don’t have pets of our own, we were friends with our back-door neighbours’ English bulldog, Bella, who was put down last year after a long, belly-rubfilled life. Dave and I petted her that morning.

Kevin filled a void.

That day in April that Kevin sat on my lap was soon followed by devastatin­g news. He was mauled that night by two coyotes, and raced up a tree to escape. Kevin was whisked by his owners to the vet. Miraculous­ly, he survived.

We didn’t see him for three weeks. I told myself, “If we never see Kevin again, that’s OK. I’m glad he’s alive.”

Then, while we chatted with his owners on a bright day in May, Kevin inched through their front door and onto their porch, saw me, and ran over to be petted. From that day on, he started visiting us again, and his affection was all-consuming.

As spring turned into summer, he dropped by every morning and afternoon, and I took breaks from work to cuddle him outside. We would open the door, and there he was meowing “Hello.” I started calling him “Lil Meow Meow.”

Now, as the dregs of summer heat engulf our porch, Dave and I have noticed a change, again, with Kevin. He comes by for lap cuddles, but not for as long, and he darts off to another neighbours’ place during the day to sleep under a car.

Still working from home, I find myself going out onto the porch at different times expecting to see him, but he’s not there. When he does visit, Dave and I are so happy for his presence. In other words, he’s a cat, with the whims of a cat. He does what he wants, goes where he wants, and his affection is a joy and a privilege.

 ?? SOLVEJ SCHOU THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Writer Solvej Schou’s neighbours’ cat, Kevin sits on her porch on a recent summer afternoon in Pasadena, Calif.
SOLVEJ SCHOU THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Writer Solvej Schou’s neighbours’ cat, Kevin sits on her porch on a recent summer afternoon in Pasadena, Calif.

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