IF YOU GO far, far north in New York City, you’ll come to a place that looks just like a country town. There are tall trees and little houses with gardens on narrow, crooked streets. It’s a quiet place. You can almost forget where you are.
On one of those crooked streets there once lived a large brown cat. He had brown stripes on his back, on his head, and on his legs. But on his tail, which was thick and broad, he had black stripes. He had amber eyes, fine white whiskers, and a white tip on his broad tail.
He was very big, the biggest cat in the neighborhood, perhaps in the whole city. When he stretched himself out full length, which he was fond of doing on warm, sunny afternoons, he filled the width of the sidewalk.
If you walked down his street, you had to be careful to step around him. And if you were like most people, you stopped to pet him.
The large brown cat was very popular. He liked children, and he liked grownups, and he liked to be petted. He particularly liked to be rubbed on the brown stripes between his ears. Some of the people who came by were walking their dogs. Most of the dogs were well behaved, but a few barked at him in their various dialects.
Arf. Woof. Ruff Yip.
The large, brown cat didn’t run and hide when the dogs barked. Even if they pulled at their leashes and barked fiercely ARF! ARF! ARF! he just looked at them with his calm, amber eyes.
He was no scaredy cat. Nothing frightened him not dogs on leashes, not other cats. When any of the local cats approached him, they saw that the tips of their ears didn’t even come up to his shoulders. They found somewhere else to be in a hurry.
The large brown cat was called Gattone. Shaun and Nikki, the people who took care of him, gave him that name. They’d once lived in Italy, and in Italian gatto means “cat” and gattone means “very large cat.”
Gattone liked his name. When he heard them call, “Gatto, gatto, Gattone,” he almost always came running. As he ran, his tail waved happily from side to side.
But the truth is, he wasn’t really Shaun and Nikki’s cat. He was nobody’s cat.
They’d found him sleeping on the front lawn one morning, so they gave him a bowl of food. He was there the next morning, and then in the evening, waiting for more food. At night he slept under a bush near the house.
Where did Gattone come from? It was a mystery. He didn’t have a tag. Shaun and Nikki searched for notices of a missing cat. No one had reported losing a large, brown tabby with amber eyes and a white tip on his tail.
Shaun and Nikki were glad Gattone wasn’t lost. If he was nobody’s cat, he could stay with them.
They didn’t want him sleeping on the hard ground, so they lined a large box with a thick, soft blanket. Like all cats, Gattone first inspected the new object carefully. He walked around it, studied it from every angle, and sniffed it long and hard. Then, when he was satisfied, he jumped into his new bed, patted down the blanket, and curled up. As he fell asleep, Shaun and Nikki heard the deep, low rumble of a contented cat.