Crete the Cat

One time I saw Crete chilling in the dumpster alley. A mouse ran past, but he didn’t bother to go after it … too busy eating a slice of Five Points Pizza. We became friends after years of crossing paths. All it took was a chicken wing.” Todd Sherwood, of The 5 Spot

Cats, as Garrison Keillor once mused, are a beautiful reminder that not everything has a function. Of course, this isn’t too fair. Some cats are mousers, ever-mindful that where there is a dumpster, there is a tasty rodent. Some cats, however, let the mice go by, sitting sphinxlike, alone with their thoughts (such as cats have them).

One thing, however, unites all members of the Felis genus: they stake a territory. What’s theirs is theirs, and other cats had best not encroach. Their constant purring is not just a mouth thing; that’s just where the noise comes out. Purring is a vibration that ripples their muscles from stem to stern, keeping them in constant taut physical shape and ready to spring into action against any interloper instantly, even after four hours of doing absolutely nothing.

Crete is an elderly Chartreux, best as anyone can tell; a gray, sedate, elder statesman with tawny touches to his fur when seen in the sun. His fiefdom is the alley that runs behind The 5 Spot on Forrest Street, where the adjacent stores Wags & Whiskers and Hip Zipper have their front doors. On this asphalt haven of dumpsters, improvised parking spaces, and cigarette butts, Crete makes his home. As often as not he can be found inside Wags & Whiskers, in a room behind the counter, on a low shelf, regally reclining on a maroon velour pillow. If anywhere can be specifically pinpointed to be his mailing address, this is it, while also saying that he often goes upstairs to the Hip Zipper and hangs out there on the couch, receiving visitors with mellow indifference.

Crete (named for sporting a coloring not dissimilar to concrete) showed up in 2004 along with his mother, whom he declines to name. “It was more grown-over in the alley back then,” Kirt Littrell of Wags & Whiskers says, “more places to hide.” No confirmation has come but the preponderance of evidence suggests they had to leave their previous home under suspicious circumstances, this bolstered by the fact that Crete — who takes a long time to warm up to people — isn’t talking. Like most (if not all) cats, Crete refuses to talk to the press, and best as anyone can tell, he can neither read nor write.

Crete is feral, as was his mom, and when she died, it excited the urge amongst the local humans to care for the orphaned little guy — aloof and skittish as he was. Trish Brantley of Hip Zipper and Amanda Beaty of Wags & Whiskers have been heavily involved in his well-being ever since capturing him many years back; the noble purpose of this intrusion upon his independence being to take him to the vet and have him neutered and vaccinated. Over time little miracles happened, like the day he came up and ate the food left for him, or when he first let Amanda get near enough to him to scratch his head, or the first day he deigned to come into one of the stores.

Somewhere near 17 years old, Crete eschews mice in favor of the many other culinary treats available in Five Points. He appears to enjoy the attention and TLC, although, like most cats, he is loathe to admit it. Either Amanda or Trish (or some other concerned party) do their best to make sure he’s inside for the night. “But he’s a rebel,” Kirt says, “he doesn’t always want to come in.”

Whatever the circumstances that brought Mom and Crete to the alley, he doesn’t seem inclined to spread his territory and stick his nose into the tawdry excesses of the feline underworld. The lucrative bootleg catnip and leftover Star-Kist rackets don’t seem to hold an attraction for him. He appears, in a word, content. Crete doubtless knows that, in the increasingly upscale Five Points milieu, he’s lucky to be grandfathered into the neighborhood, living on kitty rent control if you will. He appears to be healthy, especially for his age, and happy to be where he is, maybe even enjoying the affections of those who have adopted him and christened him the coolest cat this side of the river.