Leaving the VW bug at the top of the hill by the mailbox, I shuffled slowly down the steep asphalt driveway, clutching him to my upper chest. His purring continued.Once in the kitchen, I placed him softly on the linoleum floor. Without hesitation he jumped to the right end of the counter where a bowl of Friskies always sat, out of the dogs' reach. Once there he laid down flat on his belly and began munching steadily. This continued for several minutes, after which he lay his head right on top of the kibble and went soundly to sleep. There he remained for several hours. When I brought the dogs and Thin Kit in that night to feed them, none of them paid him any heed: not so much as a questioning bark or a feline hiss. "How peculiar" I thought.
As days turned into weeks the rescued stray turned into a chubby and magnificent yellow tabby, with coat and eyes the same color as the missing Fat Cat. I began to question if he could indeed BE Fat Cat. Others visiting the house who had known Fat Cat said "Of course, he is Fat Cat."
About that time a new vet, Dr. Braun, set up practice in the neighborhood. When I made the appointment I did not know him. He was a kindly young man, quite formal, with a significant stutter when nervous. I filled out the papers stating the patient was female, 2years old, spayed, all followed by a question mark. I thought it odd that Dr. Braun wished to examine my cat in private, leaving me in the waiting room. After about ten minutes he emerged holding the cat spread out in his arms, tummy upward.
"M-M-Miss Crosse" he said. This cat is a m-m-male, about ten years old." Moving closer he said "This is his p-p-penis, atrophied, but his penis. I blushed deeply, and I'm sure he worked hard to maintain his own composure.
I drove home shaking my head. So Fat Cat got renamed the Imposter, and lived out the end of his life (another three years) at #2 Cathy Lane.
I came to believe that it must have been the great horned owl that lived in the driveway that kidnapped Fat Cat #1. He must have weighed 15 pounds. A mighty feat, but then they are incredible predators.
Curiously, now, about 35 years later, there are many dogs on leash in my new neighborhood, mostly fancy small breeds. The only cat I have ever seen is a large yellow stray, mostly feral, that looks just like Fat Cat. Occasionally it goes missing for three or four days and folks in my block grow concerned, but it always seems to turn up.