Do cats possess a personality?

While I have never owned a cat, according to what I have seen, I would vote yes. There are felines that are shy, curious, playful, aggressive and outgoing.

Here in Hannibal's "hood" resides one of the friendliest cats in the community. This creature seemingly does not know a stranger, based on the way it readily approaches anyone and everyone.

I do not know the multi-colored cat's back story. I do not know if it is a stray or someone's pet. A youngster on Chestnut, whom I saw attempting to feed it pizza one evening, claims that she is the animal's rightful owner. However, I have seen the cat playing with youngsters on Broadway, so it may possibly reside there.

Just as ownership of the creature is hazy, so too is its name. The girl on Chestnut calls it Bella. Up on Broadway the kids could be heard shouting for Princess. As best as I could tell it did not readily respond when called by either moniker. Maybe not responding when called is just an independent-minded cat thing or perhaps its name is neither Bella or Princess. I have a theory that at the prospect of receiving food or rubbing it would likely answer to "Hey Stupid."

But calling this feline "stupid" would be a definite inaccuracy. Bella (for lack of a better name) is a skilled hunter, knows how to avoid a fight when confronted by other neighborhood cats and has smarts enough to climb a tree out of reach when children become too rough.

Bella is no stranger at the Henley hacienda. This summer when my oldest son, Caleb, was replacing some siding on the side of our house, Bella was his frequent supervisor. My wife, Nancy, has also had an encounter with it, based on a comment she made that the more she pet the cat the more attention it wanted.

It is not uncommon for Bella to disappear for weeks at a time and then suddenly reappear, either prowling the neighborhood or laying on top of a neighbor's derelict car.

Recently, however, it has not been uncommon to look outside and see Bella. It was on such a day that I encountered Hannibal's friendliest cat.

In early September I suffered several cracked ribs in a fall at home. In an effort to help me deal with the Parkinson's that contributed to the fall, our family physician recommended me for Hannibal Regional's Home Health program.

While most of the work has taken place inside, on one occasion the physical therapist, Andrea, asked to see me in action going up and down the steps in front of and behind our house. With Andrea and Nancy assisting I slowly made my way down the back steps. I was halfway down them when a meowing Bella came walking down the alley beside our house.

"Look at all these people to pet me," Bella seemed to be saying.

With Andrea, Nancy and me focused on keeping me upright, no one stopped to rub Bella, who walked between our legs in an effort to garner attention. When no one to pet her, Bella walked with us to the front of the house where I began to ascend the steps. While Andrea and I entered the house, Nancy kept a close eye on Bella so that she would not slip in, too.

When the decision was made for me to do the steps again, Bella was waiting on the front porch, as if she was willing to give us a second chance to give her the rubbing such a friendly cat is due. Again, care was taken so that the cat would not enter the residence when we exited it.

So that Bella would not create a trip hazard, or dart into the house when the back door was open, as I began to climb the rear steps Nancy could be seen herding Bella, Hannibal's friendliest cat, back down the alley in the direction from which it came.

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