I'd walk a way down the sidewalk and turn back around and it'd be sitting nicely watching me. I'd bend down just slightly, maintaining eye contact, and the cat took it as "it's okay, you can follow me", which it did.
It was also incredibly scrawny. I mean, its back end, from the middle to the base of its tail, was concave. Its upcurving spine was visible, completely visible, and the skin ran underneath it. Almost the opposite of Abbie, who's nearly as wide as a regular cat is as long. It had no collar, but I couldn't see any visible bites or bug infestations or battle scars on it. I checked the hindquarters and judging from the reddish tinge Down Below, I think it's the kind of cat who goes into heat every so often.
I don't remember much about mama cats, seeing as how our housecats were mostly always spayed and neutered, so I can't tell if a concave belly section is indicative of a recent birth -- but I'd have thought a mama cat would be kinda big so she could feed her kittens, and also not be lolling about on the sidewalk in the middle of the day, following me around when I indicated it was okay.
We stopped at one part because someone had gotten into a car a bit up the street and was getting ready to drive off. The cat hesitated when it heard the door slam so we stopped. It has smarts, that one. As I was petting it, a neighbor came out to put her trash on the curb.
"Have you seen this cat around?" I asked. "Does it have a home?"
"Yeah, I think so," she replied. "Every year they shave it, so it must." And it was true; the legs looked like they'd been shaved a month or so ago and a longhair cat who hangs outside in the July and August heat is probably quite happy for that.
"It's so scrawny," I said. The neighbor said something about knowing The Meanest Cat On The Block and I couldn't believe it.
"How can this one be so mean?" I asked. "It certainly looks friendly to me."
"No, no," the neighbor said, pointing to a black cat heading down her porch steps. "That's the Meanest Cat On The Block."
That was where I bid orange tawny goodbye, for I did not want to lead it into the path of the Meanest Cat On The Block, even though I'm sure theirs will cross today at some point.
But I'm still worried about its skin-and-boniness. Surely whoever it owns is feeding it. And it certainly was friendly towards people, not half-feral and constantly suspicious like a few of the other neighborhood strays I've seen (hence the careful approach to give it enough time to run if it felt so inclined.) But no collar and no belly made me worried.
Since I don't know if it had a home, I didn't take the cat in and give it some food. Or even take it to the vet and have it checked out; if it has a home, it'd be missed. Besides, the last thing I need is another longhaired cat. I barely keep up with His Nibs' furballs as it is.
(comments suggest the poor dear might have Feline Leukemia or a tapeworm, which make sense. the cat certainly wasn't in any pain. in a right good mood, really.)