So, tonight we went out for a walk with our friend Kate (hi Kate!). Not too far into it, we heard loud mewing coming from the underbrush along the stream that separates the walking path from 64th street. Thinking this was the Not Rigby* who'd for some reason wandered a bit afield, I called and a completely unknown cat emerged from the underbrush: a yellow and white cat who seemed both starved and desperate for attention. Telling the others to go on without me, I hurried home and got some cat food for the stray, returning to find he'd wandered a bit further away but was still calling out with loud mews every few seconds. I carried him back to our place and gave him a can of food, which he ate ravenously. Then he walked away a few steps, mewed, and came back; walked off in another direction, mewed, and came back: clearly utterly lost and without any idea which way home lay.
That he had a home I didn't doubt: while his stomach was hollow he was too friendly to be a feral cat, and a total lack of scratches or even burrs showed he hadn't been out on his own long. I sat out with him for quite a while, and after Janice got back from the walk, we talked over what to do, also getting some advice by calling and talking to the people I volunteer with over what their group can and can't do. We decided to bring him into the Box Room (/garage) for the night, and try to see if he was microchipped. In the meantime, we put together a poster and I walked down and posted it at both mail kiosks in our complex.
He settled into the box room readily enough -- more proof he's not a feral cat, if the head-butting and purring weren't indication enough, where we set up a dirt box, water bowl, food dish, and towel in a box to sleep on. Sat with him a while longer, then had to leave him alone down there for the night. Poor basement cat.
And our cats? They've been clustering around the door at the bottom of the stairs leading into the Box Room. They know Something's Up, and that there are Intruders In The House. Luckily, they're not taking it out on each other, but they're carefully monitoring the situation.
* (see earlier post)