Winston The Cat – Myth, Legend, Outlaw
If your cat got its ass kicked in Maryland between 1996 and 2010, I know who did it. Heck, if your small to mid-sized dog got whooped during that era, I also know who did it.
The story begins in a semi-rural area of Prince George’s County, Maryland in 1996. My friend Carl’s Aunt noticed that her cats and dogs were routinely coming home with blood stains in their fur, missing patches of fur, and rapidly declining morale. Concerned that a large band of aggressive raccoons had built a nest somewhere in the area and were trying to make inroads to the house, she commenced a stakeout to unveil the aggressors.
She didn’t have to wait long.
At the height of the mid-afternoon heat, an animal emerged from the tall grass. A hefty, bright orange cat, slowly and demonstratively strutted toward the shaded area under the back porch where both of her dogs and both of her cats were hiding from the blazing sun. As it entered the shaded area, it met no resistance, only fearful acquiescence. The undisputed alpha male wanted to take a nap in the shade, a privilege it had earned via weeks of liberally administered beatings. And so, it began. The cat was never officially “adopted” by Carl’s Aunt. There was no visit to an ASCPA or “Paws” to endear himself to a potential suitor. Rather, he came, he saw, he conquered. He simply showed up and refused to leave; earning food, shelter, and occasional medical attention through force of will and street dominance. In time he earned a status with Carl’s Aunt that one could loosely define as that of a “pet.”
Unfortunately, earning “domestic” status did nothing to pacify him. Rather, it gave him a stronghold to gather strength and escalate his mayhem. The orange cat enjoyed reminding everyone that he was boss and the violence continued. Desperate for peace and mercy for her pets, Carl’s Aunt began asking friends and family to take the cat away or she’d “have to call animal control to have it put down”. Kind-hearted and impressed by the cat’s dominance, Carl adopted the cat, named it Winston, and gave it a home in his charming, suburban townhouse community.
The neighborhood was never the same.
Sending Winston to this neighborhood was like enrolling Marion "Suge" Knight in a Nantucket Prep School. The local cats and neighborhood authorities were completely overwhelmed and out-matched; they had never experienced anything like Winston. Over the course of the next five years, almost every day, sometime between midnight and 1 AM …….. “Raaarrrrr!!!” – The entire neighborhood would be jolted awake by the primal sounds of a one-sided cat mauling. Every time I visited Carl for some evening drinks, we ended up spending half the night trying to save some neighborhood cat from yet another Winston beating. Like many great warriors, he never let the enemy choose the battlefield. He chose it for them. And his choice field of engagement was the local sewer. After Carl and I had successfully broken up multiple fights, Winston realized he could evade any referees of the game by taking the beatings underground. In the sewer, any melee once regulated by rules and civility quickly became an underground 19th century, bare knuckle boxing match organized by Russian dock workers in Vladivostok.
Over time virtually all of the local cat owners transitioned their outdoor cats into indoor cats. In all likelihood, the cats chose this fate for themselves. Carl received multiple warnings from the county animal authorities about Winston’s unbridled aggression, and Winston’s pervasive notoriety left him without anyone to pick on.
Or so it seemed. In the early 2000s, seeking an escape from his state of ennui, Winston found a new hobby: Mauling dogs who walked by Carl’s house. The neighbors once again submitted to Winston’s will and started avoiding his side of the street altogether when walking their dogs. As is always the case however, someone didn’t get the memo.
In 2003, a young lady dared walk her dog by Carl’s house. Both her and her dog got their asses kicked. Winston bit her dog and mauled him and then responded in kind when the owner got involved.
With complaint number 43 about Winston involving a wounded human, the county animal control decided that they had finally had enough. They visited Carl and told him that if he didn’t move Winston out of the county, they would seize him and have him put to sleep. Who knew a cat could get deported!?
Alpha Males don’t take orders from failures. Winston finished his final years living as a fugitive 10 miles southwest of Carl’s home with Carl’s grandmother. Even in his final year when he could no longer fight, he continued to exert his dominance by demanding feedings at odd hours of the day and night. No matter where or when, Winston always held the trump card. Everyone else always had to fold.
I largely lost touch with Winston after his quasi-deportation but to this day I worry that he may have lived an unfulfilled life; like if Predator had never encountered Arnold Schwarzenegger (i.e. “Dutch”). Perhaps Winston too was in search of a worthwhile adversary. He probably belonged on the Serengeti slapping baboons around and bullying undersized cheetahs. Then again, maybe he was perfectly content living a long life of complete and utter dominance. Either way, it brings me great joy to chronicle his notoriety. Winston the Cat – Pride of P.G. County.