A kitten was dropped off at a construction site where my dad was working as a general contractor building homes in Huntsville, Alabama, in the mid-1980s.
The fluff ball meowed so much that one of the construction workers threatened to nail the cat up inside the drywall of the house if my dad didn’t take it away.
And so my dad took it home, and I named the cat Madison, after the mermaid in the 1980s film “Splash.” Little did we know that the kitten was actually a boy, but he remained Madison for all 18 years of his life.
Madison the Maine Coon was more like a dog than an actual feline, drooling when he was really happy, following me around everywhere. He didn’t mind being dressed in doll clothes, and he didn’t bother with a litter box. Madison scratched on the door when he wanted to go out, just like our two dogs.
Every night, he slept on the end of my bed, until I went away to college. I’m not sure he quite forgave me for that, since he never slept at my feet again. Madison lived a long, happy life though, much better than his meager beginnings on that construction site.
I’ve secretly always wanted another Maine Coon, those giant fluffy cats with wispy ears, but my husband is allergic.
Our three kids have always wanted a cat, so much so that our oldest daughter declared on more than one occasion that when she grew up, she was going to move out just so she could have a cat. I’d laugh and tell our daughter, who was maybe 8 at the time, that her daddy wouldn’t be able to come visit if she had cats in the house. But our girl just shrugged and smiled.
“I can come visit you instead,” she said.
Before Christmas, our neighborhood association started trapping stray cats that live in the woods surrounding our neighborhood, in an effort to spay and neuter the animals. While a few of those cats were feral, many of the cats were not.
A couple of days after the cats had their surgery, my two girls and I went to a neighbor’s garage to meet the cats as they recuperated. There was a timid, but friendly, Maine Coon who had deeply bonded with a tabby-and-white spotted cat, who seemed to be her best friend.
I agreed to help out by keeping and feeding the pair of felines in my garage, until they could be re-released. At that point, if the cats wanted to come back, I’d feed them, and then we’d have a cat (or two) — only outdoors.
The cats stayed in our garage, occasionally making short visits inside the house. Our dogs discovered they were overly excited about cats so close by, and the cats discovered they wanted nothing to do with the dogs.
We cared for the cats through the holidays, eventually releasing the pair, who we named “Maddie” and “Addie” back outside. While the Maine Coon, known as Maddie, decided she preferred the woods and wanted little to do with us other than to eat, the other cat, “Addie” ran to the garage as soon as she was called.
Recently, when my husband was out of town and it was a particularly cold night, I called out to Addie, and she came running. I scooped her up, tucked her in close and carried her up the stairs past our two dogs. I brought her into my oldest daughter’s room, where the cat quickly curled up with my girl in her bed. She nestled in close, put her head on my sleeping daughter’s arm, and started to purr so loud that I could hear her across the room. The next morning, Addie still laid there, nestled comfortably, purring away.
Each day, Addie spends her time outside with the other neighborhood cats. But every night for the last several nights, she’ll meet me at the garage door or come running when called, and sleeps in the warmth of my daughter’s bed, just like my cat Madison slept with me as a kid.
She's not quite a giant Maine Coon, and we can’t have her inside quite as much as my daughter and the cat might like, but if Addie claims us, we’ll have her, since it seems to make our daughter and Addie equally happy.
Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News. Reach her at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: THE MOM STOP: Neighborhood cat purrs its way into family's heart