Lost Cat: Answers to ‘Mango’

By Alice Henry Whitmore

I’m kicking myself that I can’t find that poster. Our daughter Samantha made it herself, when she was, oh, 10 or so. See, we had this most amazing cat at the time. His name was Mango. And he went missing.

He was an orangeish tigerish marmalade cat, rather plump and rounded. So, in shape as well as color, he did rather resemble a mango. Or at least Samantha thought so. She was very good at naming cats, our Samantha. She was responsible for the late lamented Tuna (whose runner-up names were Grandpa and Lipstick) and our current cat-in-residence, Wombat. 

When I was a kid, I was terrible at naming cats. I would give them names like Buttercup. And then everyone, including me, would just call the poor badly named creatures Kitty. Once we had two littermates called Black Kitty and White Kitty. They were both brown; one was just darker than the other.

When I was pregnant with Samantha and my husband and I were arguing about (er, considering) names, my brother Scott would tease me and ask, “Why worry about naming her; you’ll just end up calling her “baby.”

Anyway, back to Mango. And why Samantha made the poster that I can’t find even though we cleaned a whole Toyota-load of old magazines and papers out of the attic.

We didn’t adopt Mango, though we had adopted cats before (the late lamented Tuna was a prime adoptee example). No, Mango was a cat who just showed up at our house in Amagansett one day, purring and looking orange and adorable. We fed him, and, sure enough, he started hanging out with us. We loved having Mango around, but we didn’t really “own” him. Oh, we tried to. I took him to the vet for shots and such, and slapped Frontline on him in tick season. 

But when I introduced him to the litter box, he looked at me like I had holes in my head. So, “outdoor cat” he had to remain. Which meant he was free to come and go as he chose. But, sure enough, he would come running when we called his name — bounding across the neighbors’ yards to our house, where he’d spend many happy hours soaking up warmth on our deck, or accepting pets and/or treats from the owner of the nearest lap.

Speaking of laps, once Mango presented me with a not-quite-dead chipmunk. When he laid it at my feet and I didn’t immediately pounce on it, he tossed it onto my lap where I couldn’t possibly ignore it.

Well, one day we called and called. And called some more. No Mango. I tried my best to reassure Samantha, who was around 7 at the time, that Mango was “just fine” and would “turn up when he’s hungry,” but I was just as worried as she was. Probably more so.

So she made this poster that said “Lost Cat: answers to the name Mango” — complete with a photo of said Mango and those little strips with a phone number that you can tear off — and plastered them around the neighborhood.

A couple of weeks passed by in Mango-less agony. Alas, nobody responded to the posters. Maybe people thought they were too cute to deface by tearing off one of the little strips.

But one weekend, just about when I’d started to practice my “Mango is probably better off wherever he is now” speech, I heard this meow outside the bedroom, and there Mango was. He’d clambered up to the second-floor deck via the drain spout, and darn it, he wanted in.

This would be the first of many Mango disappearances-and-returns. Eventually, we got used to them. We figured, wild bachelor that he was, that Mango just needed his “space.” Eventually, though, we discovered the horrible truth: that Mango, that rascal, had two other families.

I found out about one of his families, who called him Salmon, which is also a pretty good orange-inspired cat name, during a visit to the vet. Turns out this other family took him to the same one. The vet put two and two together and realized Mango and Salmon were one and the same, thus saving the cat double immunizations but depriving herself of a patient.

My husband is the one who found out about the other family, who called Mango Steve. One day he and the other family’s dad were walking on the beach and the subject, somehow, turned to cats. “You have an orange cat? That’s funny; we have an orange cat. He’s big and striped and has this sort of raspy meow? Hmm.”

We actually found out about the Steve family before the Salmon family, so for a while there we tried to honor their claim by referring to our joint-custody cat as Stevie Mango. Which had a nice sort of Rat Pack rhythm to it.

As for Mango/Steve/Salmon himself, he didn’t care what you called him, as long as you called him. But now, alas, he really is lost, passed on to the Great Cat Box in the Sky. But we won’t forget him. Not by a long shot. Even if I can’t find that poster.

Alice Henry Whitmore was an advertising copywriter in New York City for many years. She writes a weekly humorous blog at lutheranliar.com.