My roommate's cat, named Cedric, is an enormous (in the sense of SIZE not necessarily girth) gray tabby. With front and back legs completely extended, the cat is nearly six feet long. He weighs nearly sixteen pounds. He's solid muscle. He's a killing machine.

Which is a good thing, since my roomie adopted him with the express purpose of being a mouser.

For the first six weeks of the cat's residence, he stayed under my roommate's bed. Then the killing began. First were the mice. Then the birds. Then, one memorable night, the bats.

This cat is lord and master of not only our house, but the entire neighborhood. He's cowed the other local cats into complete submission, and those that wouldn't toe the line mysteriously vanished. His sphere of influence stretches -- as far as we've yet been able to determine -- for about a 5-block radius.

During the summer, he'll hide out underneath the juniper in our front yard, nearly invisible, lounging about, tail thumping ever so slightly, master of all he surveys. If he takes a fancy to you, he'll greet you in a gray streak, somehow moving from there to you in a millisecond, to attack your ankle by way of welcome, as if to say, "You'd be long gone if you didn't have the ability to operate the can opener."

During the winter, if the temperature drops below 65, he will insist on sleeping in a heated room. And there'd better be a down comforter on the bed. And you'd better not take up too much space. That internal thermostat of his works quite well. You'd just better be a light sleeper, for if it gets too cold at 4 AM and your bedroom door is closed, he'll yowl at it, and he will not stop until you've let him in.

My roommate travels, quite a bit, and when he's gone, it's incumbent upon me to ensure the cat food bowl is always full (and believe me, the cat, or so I thought, eats a lot), the water always clean and cool, and the plush towel upon which he sits to dine is never dirty.

He's really rather marvelous, the way he's enslaved us all.

You'd think that such an arrogant and domineering cat would, were he human, subscribe to a somewhat conservative point of view, believing that extreme self-sufficiency will eventually win the day. I myself thought this until last night.

Suffering a moderate dose of back pain, I was having trouble sleeping, even with medication. So, at about 3 o'clock this morning, I awoke, terribly thirsty.

I made my way into the kitchen in order to get a glass of milk.

And there saw a sight that turned my view of the cat on its ear.

Gathered 'round the feeding bowl were not one, not two, not three, but four extremely thin kittens, local and abandoned strays, it appeared. They were happily munching on food, drinking from time to time the fresh water I had provided earlier that night (and, come to think of it, that's when I felt the first twinge of pain in my back), and purring loudly.

Sitting directly in front of them, tail curled ever so elegantly around his paws, eyes half-lidded but oh, so aware, was Cedric. When the kittens saw me, they all dashed out through the cat door. Cedric, casting me a glance that said, "Mention one word of this to my owner, motherfucker, and you'll die like every other thing that's seen this has died. And they won't find you. Because I'll eat you," sauntered slowly through the door after them, into the night.

Stunned, I stood in the kitchen, back pain momentarily forgotten. Cedric, lord of the suburban jungle, mass mouser, mass murderer extraordinaire was feeding ... the homeless. Doing a bit of civic good in the small of the night.

But he wasn't doing it at his expense. He was doing it at mine. He knows my roommate is out of town. He knows that I'm currently the one (and I'm unemployed for the most part mind you) scraping together the dough to buy his food. Did he think to ask me if I'd mind? Did he stop to consider the ramifications of his momentary lapse into kindheartedness? No. He just marched the ragamuffins into the kitchen and fed them, as if it was his divine right to do so. I don't know how long he's been doing this, but I'm paying for it!!!

Well, I've got something on him now. I don't know how to use this information yet. But I will, someday. For now I know the truth.

The cat is a liberal.

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