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CATS

October 5, 2014

The world is filled with cat lovers. From ancient Egypt where they were first domesticated to the exotic Persian cats, the animals have been revered. They are thought to be the most popular pets in the world. Many of our friends are cat people, some house four or five cats in their homes – the very definition of house cat.
Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber the Broadway musical Cats won numerous awards including a Tony as the best musical. As of this year it is the second longest running musical on Broadway.
Suffice it to say, many people love and enjoy cats.
I am fascinated by the big cats on the National Geographic television channel. I enjoy watching the Panthers, the Lions, the Bengals, and the Jaguars of the National Football League. I can tolerate cats around the house as long as they stay outside, hunt rodents for their keep, and leave the birds alone.
Since we were married Clare and I have pretty much agreed that cats were not our favorite pets. Clare just downright does not like cats, inside or out.
I have learned that when Clare senses something is amiss, I need to pay attention to her. While house hunting in Winston-Salem, we visited one picturesque abode. We got no further than the front door when Clare said, “Yuck! The previous family had cats! Many cats!”
We purchased a different home, further out in the country near the old Moravian settlement of Pfafftown, North Carolina. We had no sooner moved into our new domicile, when our first visitor appeared on our doorstep. He was a very large cat, as white as Martha White’s self-rising flour, and as wild as a March hare. We were told by neighbors that the cat belonged to the previous owners of the house.
I made the mistake of feeding leftovers to the feline, and he stayed around for the seven years we lived there. I named him the Kentucky Wildcat, though we resided in the heart of Atlantic Coast basketball territory. In the seven years we had Kentucky, I never laid a hand on him. I never could get close enough even to scratch his ears. He possessed the disconcerting habit of darting across my path when I went outside on dark nights. Though I half expected his surprise appearances, he never failed to startle me.
I saw Kentucky for the last time on the day we moved away. I thought of trying to take him with us but he was simply not available. It seemed only right. I really had never owned him. I doubt he ever had a real owner.
Several years ago we were sitting quietly in our den when Clare smelled something burning. I sniffed and detected nothing. Clare insisted that I look around the house with her. Reluctantly, I left my chair to join the search. I could not smell anything burning.
But there was! And it was my fault!
I had come home from work, pulled off my necktie, and flung it toward a chair in our bedroom. One end of the silk tie had flipped over a lampshade, and was touching the hot light blub. The end of the tie was smoldering, just before bursting into flames. Clare’s keen olfactory awareness saved us from a more serious problem.
Clare often wears two pairs of glasses. Her prescription lenses are perched on her nose and a pair of reading glasses is at the ready on top of her head. But her unaided eyesight is amazing. She can spot a dead bug on our basement floor at thirty paces. She can see a stain on my shirt and identify the source before I am even aware of the blimish. She carries a Tide laundry stick in her purse, just to keep me presentable.
My wife’s hearing is equally sensitive. Last spring during a booming thunderstorm, Clare thought she heard a baby crying. I, of course, heard nothing. But I have learned to pay attention when Clare senses something strange. As I listened, I heard only rumbling thunder, whistling wind, and pounding rain.
“I hear something that sounds like a baby crying,” Clare insisted. I listened more closely, and I heard what she had heard.
I went out into the storm to investigate. Sure enough, Clare was right! It was a baby crying – a baby kitten.
I reported my find. “Don’t bring that cat into this house!” she instructed.
I heeded her warning. Again, I have never regarded myself as a cat person. Dogs are more to my liking. At the same time, I felt compelled to provide some comfort for the black and white foundling. The little kitten had obviously become separated from her mother during the storm. I could not be sure how old the kitten was. She was so small I could hold her in the palm of one hand.
Placing an old towel in a garden basket, I made a bed for the tiny trembling stray. Cold, wet, hungry, and frightened, she continued to cry. She even tried to nurse my little finger in search of milk. That didn’t work.
I called a good friend, a retired veterinarian, who gave me sound guidance.
“You found her, Kirk. She’s your responsibility. You’ll have to become her mother.”
At a local pet store, I purchased a formula substitute for mother’s milk. The little orphan lapped it up and promptly fell asleep in the crook of my arm. I am not really a cat person, but I had become the unexpected caretaker of a kitten.
Our daughter named the cat. “She was delivered to your porch by a thunderstorm. You have to name her Stormy.” So, Stormy she is.
My veterinarian friend advised me on immunizations and on the proper time to have her spayed. Those health issues were taken care of by the good folks at our local animal shelter.
My responsibilities are relatively few. I make sure Stormy has her regular ration of food, that her water bowl is freshly filled each day, and that she has a routine tick and flea treatment. I also take a little time to scratch her ears. When I sit down on a favorite bench in the yard near the tree of life, Stormy still enjoys climbing into my lap for a snooze. I, who am not really a cat person, enjoy that, too.
Stormy has made herself at home in our garden. She quickly found the patch of catnip and enjoys a daily tumble in the fragrant foliage. She has her favorite lookout posts and napping places. She has climbed most of the trees in our garden and knows how to descend as well as ascend each one.
Early in our relationship, Stormy and I reached an agreement. She is free to stalk and capture any varmint that crosses the estate. However, she is under strict orders to leave the birds alone.
We have been gifted with a variety of relics at our front door. These have included an assortment of deceased moles, voles, mice, and chipmunks, and at least three gray squirrel tails. I don’t know what she did with the other end of the squirrels. Perhaps there are three tailless squirrels still bounding through our tree branches.
Late one night, I heard the sounds of a major catfight. Actually, Stormy had cornered a possum. She wasn’t quite sure what to do with the critter, so I ran it off with a pickax handle I keep close by for just such occasions.
As far as I can tell the bird casualties have been limited to one starling. Honestly, I wasn’t a bit upset by the demise of the pesky starling. She is a discerning cat.
In one corner of our garden, I have a cast-iron chiminea that I bought from a fellow in Commerce, Georgia. Sometimes on cool nights I build a small fire in the rusty stove. Stormy ventures over to check me out. Then, just like she did when she was a little kitten, she will hop on my lap. I am not really a cat person, but I scratch her ears. Stormy purrs, and we enjoy watch the dying embers together.

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