To whom it may concern about the Animal Coalition of Tampa

I was not happy when I saw Gacy’s “notch.”

The people at the Animal Coalition of Tampa persuaded me to let them bestow that badge of infertility when I got him neutered. Since he’s an indoor-outdoor cat, they said, it might help if he ever got picked up by the authorities. I agreed, envisioning a tiny V in the tip of his ear.

When I picked him up after his surgery, I was appalled. That was no little tip tweak — he’d been whacked! No, it didn’t bother him at all. There was no bleeding, pain or scratching. The discomfort was all mine. I hadn’t thought him too handsome to begin with (shhhh), and now he looked like a battle-scarred tom.

Today, I embrace Gacy’s notch as the kindest cut, after the one on his other end.  It saved his life.

Like every cat I’ve taken in, he’d lived outdoors before coming to me in 2011. As I had with his predecessors, I neutered, vaccinated, tested for feline leukemia, and tried to make him an indoor dweller. I know cats live healthier, longer lives inside, but they never agree. I’m weak; they win.

It didn’t take me long to fall in love with Gacy and his clown face. He shadows me in the garden, furiously digging when I dig, He watches for me to come home from work and sneaks through the shrubs (lest I see him and think he cares) to greet me at the car door. He sits on my lap in the morning and bats the newspaper pages when I don’t turn them fast enough.

When he went missing last year, I freaked.

I searched the neighborhood, calling his name. I hung and handed out flyers. I called shelters. He’d been missing 10 days when, on a Saturday night, I again scrolled through Hillsborough County Animal Services’ photo gallery.

There was no mistaking him, though he’d been dubbed Brenda. His notched ear stood out front and center.

I picked him up the next day. He’d been at the shelter long past the official five-day hold period despite putting up a wild beastie fight when he arrived, which is why they couldn’t check his sex.

When I asked how he’d escaped euthanasia, the volunteer said, “His ear’s notched. It tells us somebody might care.”

This year, Gacy’s getting a microchip for Christmas, some extra insurance courtesy of Animal Coalition of Tampa. The friendly non-profit offers many low-cost services, including spay-neuter, vaccinations and microchipping.

Yes, it’s best to keep cats inside. The great outdoors holds too many cruel hazards for small animals. But if your best buddy wins that fight, the next best thing is a notch and a microchip.

Then everyone will know someone cares.

Penny Carnathan