The Sixth Cat


 We’re all familiar with the 12th man, right?

The term represents the football fan, and his (or her) support and involvement, with a certain team. The 12th man doesn’t take to the field, but is part of the game.

Last night I encountered the 6th cat.

It was a typical Saturday evening. Late night, buzzed on cocktails, Martin and I were feeding the critters. The barn was ablaze in light and raucous activity. Maisie blasting her barks and the horses banging their feed tubs as they scarfed down dinner. The five cats milled about, meowing plaintively for food.

“Alright, alright,” I muttered, retrieving a can of wet food from the tack room. Cracking it open, I approached the dishes perched on the hayloft stairs. Already, two cats were in position, awaiting the meal.

At least I thought they were cats.

I assumed they were cats.

And I stood in arm’s reach, cat can tipped in preparation for pouring, when I saw the two of them.




I didn’t scream, instead opting for a steady, panic-fueled chant: “Oh-my-god-oh-my-god-oh-my-god-oh-my-god-OHMYGOD!….” while bolting across the barn to the nearest open door.

When I realized that the opossum was neither in pursuit, nor poised to attack, I studied the beady-eyed beast. “Hey Martin!” I hollered. “Grab my camera! And hurry!”

But there wasn’t any need for speed because Mr. Oh-Possum showed no interest in departing. Instead, he squatted over a cat dish and stared expectantly as if to say, “Okay, I’m ready. Serve it up, lady.”


The barn cats were equally nonchalant. They filed past the wildlife, heading up and down the stairs, suggesting that Oh-Possum is not a visitor but a regular tenant.

Martin and I crept relatively close (Translation: I advanced cautiously while shoving Martin in front as a human shield); the possum hissed briefly, but didn’t budge.

Despite the late hour, I phoned our neighbor. “Chet, get down here right now and shoot this thing!” I yelled.

Chet was unmoved. “It doesn’t sound rabid. Just use the trap I left you,” he said, referring to the humane trap he’d loaned us to catch our semi-feral cat.  

We tossed a lump of cat food in the trap and set it. But we must have set it wrong because this morning, the trap door was shut and the cage empty. (Admittedly, I was relieved to avoid another encounter with that oversized rat.)

Now that the sixth cat has made his presence known, I think it’s time to re-think the division of evening chores. Suddenly, kid-duty — bathing the crew and settling them into bed — has become an appealing option…