For a few days, my husband and I had a kitten.

I realized we had one when I heard plaintive meowing from the back porch. Of course, I flung open the door, because when a person hears meowing, she naturally wants to bring in the meower and give it anything it wants.

First, though, I looked to see what sort of cat it was. It was a kitten -- small, black and hungry. When I opened the door, it darted away, but I was optimistic as I poured milk into a yellow plastic bowl and sprinkled in a handful of dog food.

Within minutes, the kitten was back, lapping in a businesslike manner, every so often glancing around while its little jaws worked, like a restaurant diner checking out what other patrons are having.

We threw ourselves into the kitten project. I refilled the food dish twice a day and went so far as to buy a bag of kitten food.

My husband, meanwhile, found a clean spackling bucket and lined it with a couple of red seat cushions from the garage. Under, over and around this cozy circular nook, he piled insulating blocks of wood.

It was a Pritzker-worthy architectural marvel, and we hoped the kitten soon would move in.

He even came home with catnip. My husband, that is -- not the kitten.

My husband, who is by no means a cat kicker or even a person who will remove a cat by inserting his foot underneath the animal's middle and gently removing it from his path, nevertheless has never been what I would call a cat guy. A cat guy owns cats, loves cats, understands cats and speaks to cats. My husband thinks cats are fine, in other families.

As for me, I've owned cats and loved them, but having a cat in our current house has never been an option because I could literally see no place to put a litter box. It couldn't be here, I'd think, looking around, and certainly not there. Maybe in the ... ? No. Or over by the ... ? No again.

I concluded long ago that the house itself precluded the possibility of having cats and gave myself over entirely to dogs. Listen, I would have a dog in my house regardless of physical obstacles. Try to stop me.

Now here we were, both of us conspiring to lure this kitten into a bucket house and thence to our own house. We still have no place to put a litter box, but in my giddy state, who cared?

One night, after we had fed the kitten, he looked up, saw us and held our gaze for several seconds before returning to his bowl. Victory seemed at hand.

Then it all fell apart.

Another cat, a full-grown animal with spots of brown and gray, hangs around the buildings behind our house. It's too sleek and well-fed to be a stray; we suspect it's a cat with both a home and the urge to ramble. It doesn't meow at our door. It rarely ventures into our yard, preferring to watch us from a distance.

I've gotten the impression the cat likes its reputation as a lonely wanderer. "Well, I'm the type of guy who will never settle down," it probably hums to itself.

But this night, when I looked for the kitten, I saw the cat, sitting on the walk by our back door. It saw me, too, and didn't even stop humming. ("I'm never in one place; I roam from town to town.")

Then he strolled to a nearby hedge and very deliberately sprayed it. We haven't seen the kitten since.

I pictured this cat cornering our kitten for a little talk; " ... and stay away, if you know what's good for you," I imagined the talk concluding.

I've decided our kitten found another friendly house. I've decided he's been given another bowl, another bed and another catnip mouse.

If this is fantasy -- if I know nothing of the gritty underworld of cats -- spare me your explanations and let me cradle my illusions.

I'm still hoping the kitten will come back.

Write to Margo Bartlett at