By Michael Willard
"Now coming to you live from Oakwood Outdoor Arena, the contest for the fur-fight championship oooof the neeeeiiggh-bor-hooood. On the left side of the driveway, weighing in at a slim and trim 12 pounds, the gray-coated ghost from the odd-numbered houses on the street, its the Sooooongbird Kiiill-ller. "And on the right side of the driveway, tipping the scale at more than 20 pounds, dressed in the black-and-white tuxedo fur combination, its the backyard panther from the Willard household, Biiiiiigg Faaaa-ttaaaayyyy. "Laaaa-dies and geeentlemen, leeeeet's get reeeeeady to ruuuuumble!"
Every day, shortly after I wake up, the first thing I hear coming from the great outdoors is the familiar meow of our "Alabama Tuxedo Cat," Big Fatty. It seems he hears my alarm go off each morning, and as soon as he does, he begins the call to be let in to the air-conditioned comforts of the house. Either that, or he's beckoning for his next meal. That’s why, when I stepped out the door one morning this week without seeing or hearing hide nor hair of Big Fatty, I knew something was amiss. Usually he spends all his time laying around the driveway or in cool places near the house. His morning absence was out of the ordinary, and I was concerned, but not enough to spend a whole lot of time searching for him. However, an urgent text message from the wife shortly after I left the house, gave me enough concern to worry about my furry friend of 10 years. Immediately, I feared for the worst. Fortunately, when I made contact with the wife, she let me know Big Fatty had made his morning appearance outside our house. Unfortunately, when he did show up, he was wearing the war wounds that have become all to familiar since we let our cat become an "outdoor" resident a few years ago. Yes, it seems Big Fatty likes to mix it up in the nightly neighborhood cat fights. Since, generally, he is the most friendly cat you'll ever meet, that's a problem. Factor in the fact that he is 10 years old, is just a teeny bit overweight, slow-moving and very docile, that's even more of a problem. If he could lay down on an opponent and use his sheer mass to force a fight submission, he might have a chance. If he has to rely on his "catlike" reflexes, speed and overall blood thirst, I fear Big Fatty is way out of his league. After all, his training partner, our Schnauzer, doesn't put up much of a fight. In fact, our dog and cat have an almost loving relationship. Sure, the dog steps over Big Fatty's line occasionally and draws back a snout full of claw. Sometimes the cat gets too close to his brother's sleeping spot on the couch and receives a warning growl or bark. In the end though, their little tussle club tiffs are short-lived, and they go back to peaceful co-existence quickly. In the animal kingdom at-large, Big Fatty seems to be pretty apathetic to other animals on his turf. We've seen him sleep soundly while a rotten squirrel tiptoes within a foot of him to steal pieces of cat food. He doesn't have the slightest interest in capturing a bird, or even the favored cat prey, moles and voles. Simply put, he is a friend of everyone. Everyone, that is, except the neighbors' cats. And those cats are well-trained assassins. The wife and I have watched from our window as they have captured and killed a few birds. They are fast on the foot, quick with the claw and always ready to pounce. They're cold-blooded killers, I tell you. So it isn't much surprise that when our friendly Big Fatty decides to take a mid-night stroll, he might rile the fury of some of those neighbor cats. In my head I imagine Big Fatty lumbering into the neighbors' yards to be quickly greeted by one of the killers darting out of the shrubbery where they like to hide. Friendly as can be, Big Fatty offers a gentle greeting, a lick or a sniff. Judging from his wounds when he returned home this week, his peace offerings are greeted with flying fur and a malicious bite on the back or tail. I never seen the enocunters occur, but I have a pretty good idea about what happens. When he comes home after these kerfluffles, we ask him where he's gone to obtain such brutal injuries. Of course, he keeps quiet — the first rule of catfight club is that you do not talk about catfight club. Since he has showed up at the doorstep looking worse for wear on at least two other occasions besides this week, Big Fatty clearly isn't learning any lessons during his frequent forays into the fighting world. I guess the other cats just don't want him prowling around their turf, and being the stubborn boy he is, Big Fatty just doesn't seem to be learning the lesson. Maybe I am. After a visit to the vet to make sure Big Fatty is OK, it may be time to retire the wanna-be cat fighter to a more restful place indoors. There, the only thing he'll really have to worry about is whether the dog will share his space on the couch.
Michael Willard is the publisher of and a columnist for The Observer News Enterprise. His column appears in the weekend edition.