This afternoon I went out back to toss something in the garbage can, and surprised a small grey tabby, who spooked. She retreated to the bottom of the stairs leading down from the deck, would not heed my invitations to come closer, but kept meowing. Faint, short mews with question marks embedded in them. (I did crouch, then sit, to make myself look less imposing.) When I went back indoors and watched through the peephole, she came back up on the deck and nosed around, but when she heard the doorknob turn, she fled to the stair again. I put out a small amount of milk in a bowl to see whether she'd take it -- she ignored that. So I left her alone for twenty minutes. When I went out there again, she was still on the stair. This time I tried advancing one her, hand outstretched. Oddly, my approaching her seemed to be what she wanted. She met me partway, and as soon as my hand was within reach of that "arch the neck and back like a sea serpent to be pettted" maneuver, that's what she did, making sure the side of her head and the back of her neck met my fingers.
*Presto!* she turned from skittish kitty to attention-sponge. Started getting upset every time I stood up and took my hands out of petting distance. Drank half the milk, very hungrily. I noticed that a) she is wearing a pink collar with a bell, but no tags; and b) I can feel her ribs. She's very small, so I'm not sure whether she's just a rather tiny adult or is not quite grown up. When I was able to handle her front paws, I wasn't able to make her claws come out, but I'm not sure yet whether that means she's declawed or just that I didn't have time to hold her paws the right way. (She doesn't seem to like having her paws touched.)
When I went back inside, she scooted for the door and went in as well. Uh oh. This is how Gherhardt wound up with Jezebel. (Okay, she jumped in through a bedroom window, but still...) Thing is, she's got a collar, so I figure she's got humans somewhere. (And I can't afford to take care of a cat right now anyhow -- otherwise I'd probably already have one. But boy could I use a halfway-decent mouser.) I'm wondering whether she's an indoor/outdoor cat who just had a growth spurt and used up all her fat reserves, or an indoor cat who somehow got out and got lost (and got hungry). Like Jezebel when she lived here, this one follows me from room to room, and follows me outside when I go back out (but insists on coming back in when I do). And if I'm not paying enough attention, she cries softly.
Now she's trying to pet herself against my hands while I type, and getting in the way. Of course. But she sure is pretty. And cute. (I'm typing this downstairs, where there's a little bit of room on the desk.)
First to find out whether maybe Jezebel is missing. (It's been a long time since I've seen her, and I'm not sure I'd recognizer her on sight and out of context.) Then, I guess, to put up "found cat" posters. But I'll have to put her out when I go run errands, 'cause there's no litter box here.
Whoops, she just tried to roll over on her back and rub herself against my hands, and slid off the desk. Okay, an answer to one question: she's not declawed. (Just caught my thigh, a tiny bit.)