Coyotes, alligators and snakes. In Southwest Florida, wildlife and residents often share the same spaces. And just south of downtown Sarasota, a monster lurks behind verdant ferns and a wrought-iron gate, waiting to pounce.
Monster is a black and white cat who leaves dog walkers breathless from a chase that sends them "running and screaming," as one resident wrote in a cautionary post on Nextdoor, the neighborhood social media site. "There was a black and white cat underneath a vehicle that started chasing us! I started screaming bloody murder and running...I'm sure it was quite the spectacle lol," it read.
Monster may cause pedestrians to flee at the sight of her, but area residents know and adore her. "She's a sweetheart mostly, but with people," says Monster's owner, artist Teresa Stone. The indoor-outdoor cat’s signature move is resting under a parked car or crouching behind a fern, then pouncing and chasing dogs as they walk by.
At first, the black and white cat belonged to Stone's son. Fifteen years ago, at Stone's secret behest, neighbors gifted Monster–she already came with the name–to Stone’s son for his fifth birthday. They'd found her, then a stray kitten, in a nearby yard.
Stone had always been a cat person, but her husband at the time, a dog person, refused to keep one. In pursuit of a kitty fix, Stone figured there would be no way he could refuse a cute little kitten gift at her son’s birthday party. The plan worked—but when Monster was about 10 years old, she disappeared for three years.
"When she went missing, everyone in the neighborhood was devastated, and I got phone calls constantly from people thinking they sighted her," says Stone, who is also known in the neighborhood as "Monster’s mother."
But the cat came back.
Monster had adopted new owners in Park East, about a mile and a half away, and in a twist of fate, they moved to a new home near Monster’s original haunt. Stone saw her in the park—but after she had been gone for three years, she wasn’t sure she could positively identify her scrappy tuxedo cat until Monster ducked behind a fern and jumped out at Lola, Stone's dog, to attack her.
Residents were "overjoyed" to learn about Monster’s return, says Stone. She soon reclaimed another of her favorite spots in the middle of a sidewalk. A child once traced a chalk line from the park path over to it, drew a circle and wrote "cat" in it.
Since her return, Monster settled back in with her original mother, Stone, and hasn't budged. What appeared to be a dog bite six months ago slowed her down some, but her seven stitches healed nicely, and she's back to her customary chasing, acting much younger than her 15 years.
The neighbors are elated: "I know we were all worried about [our] resident gargoyle, Monster, who had a nasty bite wound a few months ago," one recently wrote on Nextdoor. "Fear not, she is back in full form and apparently determined to re-establish her reign of terror."
"I’m going to keep Monster until the end, but I don’t think the end is near," adds Stone. "She's a community cat. She’s a rock star."