A Ringtail Tale

“Diana,” Julie, our receptionist called my desk, “there is a kitten on the rail outside the office. I’m going to bring it in before it falls.”


“Sure,” I said and left my desk to see what she was talking about.

We owned a small property management company, and our office was on the second floor of a building in a commercial area of Tucson. The pebble concrete open stairway was the only way up to the landing outside our door. The rail around the landing was the barrier that kept us from falling to the parking lot thirty feet below. A kitten walking on that rail was doing a highwire act with no net.

In Julie came with a small orange ringtail cat. She set him on the floor of the reception area, and he pranced into the main office, a prince coming to assess his kingdom. There was no hesitation. He did not appear frightened or intimidated to be in a foreign place. He held his ringed tail up proudly and acknowledged everyone in the office with a short visit as he toured each nook and cranny. It was obvious he had been cared for, no feral cat he. He was plump and confident. I followed him around to see what he would do. I began talking to him.

“I’m Ringer,” he told me in a telepathic way.

I announced his name to everyone. I asked Julie to take petty cash to the Walgreens down the block and buy a litter box, cat litter, food, and bowls to make our visitor welcome for his short stay with us. We made posters to put up around the building. The only residential parcel on the block was an apartment complex behind our office building. It was sectioned off by a six-foot plus fence at the back of our parking lot. We made a poster for the apartments with Ringer’s picture and details to put up wherever people might see them. Ringer set about making himself at home charming each of our agents and employees.

My husband was out of town but due back the next morning. We had a cat at home, Phoebe (you can read about her in a separate blog post, 9/19). She was a demon cat and I knew she would not be amenable to adding to the family. No one else was immediately willing to take Ringer home. At the end of the day, I said Ringer could stay in my husband’s office for the night and we’d decide what to do with him if we didn’t get any response to the posters. It was a Friday night.

I picked Ken up at the airport and said we needed to make a short detour to the office before going home.

“What’s up?” he asked suspiciously.

“Just something I want you to see.”

When we got to the office I opened the door to his office and out came Ringer. “Where did you get that cat? It’s not staying here.”

I filled him in on Ringer’s backstory as best I could and said we were trying to find his home. Ringer did his part weaving in and out of Ken’s legs, looking up, making clever little meow sounds asking to be his best friend. It worked, Ken succumbed to his spell quickly.

“Ok. He can be here for the time being but we need to find him a home.”

Several weeks later, Ringer had established himself as the official office greeter. Everyone who came in, client, tenant, or applicant was checked out. He ran to the door whenever it was opened to see what new friend he could make. We had a policy with new tenants who had dogs that they had to bring the dogs into the office for an interview before we rented to them. The whole office is animal crazy so it was our way of getting to know lots and lots of dogs. Ringer also liked dogs and would make a quick acquaintance when they dropped by. If the dogs were friendly, he would stand by during the interview in the conference room, if not he would disappear back into the office.  He was never intimidated but he was respectful of others.

Ringer especially liked to hang out in Ken’s office. If Ken left for a minute, Ringer would curl up on his chair. Otherwise, he would stretch out on the desk or snuggle up in the visitor chair. From time to time, he would wander the rest of the office checking on each person. Everyone adored him and enjoyed his company. He loved it when the printer started and would run to the cabinet it was on to stand by to see what came out. He was a great poseur when the camera came out.

Ringer supervising the printing

Ringer as office mate

Ringer stayed in the office every night alone. I took him to the vet that specialized in felines around the corner from our office. He pronounced him fit and healthy and said he was probably four to six months old. He also said he should be castrated. Ouch! I wasn’t sure I knew him well enough to authorize that act but since no one had stepped up to claim him, I did. We took him home after the operation to watch over him. Phoebe let it be known she did not approve. She would walk up and slap him in the face when he was resting on his little bed. Small as she was she packed a powerful punch. She hissed, she spat, she growled – in every way telling him he was an intruder. I spent time with her telling her she was still queen and that he was recovering from surgery and would go back to the office in a few days. I don’t think she bought it. We had to quarantine him to keep him safe.

I took him back to the office after a few days and he was happy to be in his friendly environment. We started taking him home on weekends because we enjoyed his happy personality. He was the yang to Phoebe’s yin. Phoebe adapted, sort of. Ringer learned to stay out of her way. Then we began taking him back and forth every day. Ken always left earlier than I did to go to work so Ringer was my passenger. He liked the car ride to and from the office, especially when I played classical music on the radio. He would get into his carrier instantly when I put it down whether to go home or back to the office. Eventually, he grew to be fifteen pounds and too heavy for me to lug up and down the stairs every day. We made the decision that he was our home cat and Phoebe would just have to like it or lump it. It was a little nerve-wracking to leave them alone the first time without putting him in a separate space. We didn’t know if we would come home to war or peace. They worked it out. Ringer gave Phoebe a wide berth and she pretended he didn’t exist.

Ringer enjoying his martini
Ringer relaxing at home

Phoebe was my all-the-time cat. If I was home, she was with me, beside me, on my lap, sleeping with us. Ringer found his own place and stayed out of the way. Ringer adopted three stuffed pets, a yellow duck, a gray mouse, and a brown teddy bear. Each was two to three inches high. He carried them around with him one by one. Sometimes he would bring one or the other to us – meowing as he walked into the room to let us know he had a gift. He would lay it at our feet to share his special toy with us.

When Phoebe died, I had a talk with Ringer and told him he was now my support animal. He understood and from that day he came to sit on my lap, he slept with us at night and he hung around both of us all the time. He would bring his three buddies to bed at night, putting them at the foot of the bed. Then during the day he would take them one by one from the bed and play with them or leave them in other rooms. But always he would tuck them into bed each night. He enjoyed a cocktail at cocktail hour – a martini glass of water with a dash of water added. He liked being a part of the party.

Ringer was an indoor/outdoor cat who the entire neighborhood got to know. He was always friendly and curious. When he died, we heard from neighbors how much he would be missed. All the office staff mourned his passing too. Of course, no one misses him as much as we do. He is buried in our backyard with his three pets – mouse, teddy and duck, but at a great distance from Phoebe.

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