Friday, November 1, 2013
My Josie cat has been very restless this past week. I was worried at first that she was sick, except that she goes through the same amount of cat food and water at home. We noticed her buddy, a handsome and friendly neighbor tabby, has been missing in that same amount of time. Like Mutt & Jeff, if you saw one, the other wasn't far behind. The two were almost inseparable at my house. He was friendly to the point of wandering in if you left the door open. Sit on the front porch and he'd happily join you on the swing. Build a roaring fire out back in the evening and he'd hunch next to your adirondack chair to watch the flames. I always smiled when I walked past the front door and saw him staring intently at me, waiting patiently for her to come out. (If she even happened to be inside.) They lounged together on my porch, my steps, my patio, my yard. They chased butterflies, birds, lizards, frogs. They hunched together on the rock wall to watch my fish swim and they'd race across yards to climb tall backyard trees.
I discovered last night that Josie's tabby friend is gone for good. Seems a new neighbor who moved in recently didn't like him in their yard or on their porch. They called the police, and then they called Animal Control. My longtime neighbor went over to talk to them about what she could do and how they might reach an agreement, She asked another family who loved him to stop giving him treats so he might stay away from their court. But the new neighbors were angrily adamant: there was no middle ground, they labeled her family terrible pet owners and suggested that Animal Control would be called every time he wandered over. They were lucky. Their vet lives on 10 acres and was happy to re-home him. But now I worry about my cat, Josie.
We've never owned a cat who wasn't feral. Let me tell you: feral cats are appreciative and they are little lovers and they are natural-born wildlife feeders. They know what it is to live hungry, wet, cold, flea-bitten and without. They desperately love their people who make life easy. Our first feral cat, Chilly, came from my in-law's barn in Iowa. Josie came from a summer retreat that encroached upon the sea dunes on the Outer Banks. What I know is this: once feral, always feral. You can give a feral cat a home, but you'll never remove feral from their ingrained psyche. To be sure, they cherish all the comforts of their indoor home, but they desire their wild outdoor home above all. And collar? I've purchased 25 or more over the years--she wears them for 3-5 days and they're gone. (I thought I wised up on her one time. I bought one that buckled and had no quick release. She taught me: I heard her meowing out back and discovered her hanging from it. Into the trash it went.)
Now, I know all the things you're going to say to me: they litter your yard, they eat your birds, they're not safe outdoors. And my reply is: I'm a gardener--I live to dig in that dirt and if I've ever found cat litter, (which I don't recall), I'm more apt to find raccoon, possum, fox, deer and rabbit litter. I'm a bird lover. I cry when she catches one, but she eats the whole thing, minus those feathers. I love my koi pond, but the best thing they've taught me is that the Great Outdoors are just way out of my control. I can fence them in, I can test their water, I can feed them daily, but I'm never going to be able to control their outdoor life. There will always be something I can't do for them.
Our feral cats would certainly live a shortened life outdoors if they hadn't "adopted" us. I live pleasantly alongside mine and she brings such joy to my life. If I kept her in, I'd deprive her of what makes her tick. I let her in and out all day long like a dog because she turns her nose up at kitty litter so we don't own one. (And I know better than to fight that battle with her.) The thing is, I don't have any real good answers, I just understand why she's suddenly restless this past week. I'm sad for my neighbor's family, and I'm nervous for my own twelve year old cat. If you live close and happen to see her of green eyes and pink nose and if she annoys you, shoo her away. She's mine. But she's not doing anymore damage than, say the deer, voles/moles, possum, or raccoon around here are.