Thursday, March 17, 2016

What you C is what you get, the middle.


This the middle of my favorite things that begin with the letter C. I've all ready written about number one & two of my five favorite things that begin with the letter C in the previous post. Now here is number three of my five favorite things that begin with the letter C:

3. Cats

I love pussy! There, I've said it! I like to play with them, stroke them, & luv to hear them purr as I caress & pet them. I love cats, & they love me! They look gorgeous & are very soft, warm, & silky.
They're also pretty smart & make great companions. Not to mention they are masters at exterminating vermin!

Not only are cats valued for their hunting skills, in my family, especially on my mother's side, cats hold a sacred place of honor. We respect them & revere them for their gift to the family. It's a long tale, maybe I'll write it out someday, or maybe not. Some stories, especially family myths & legends are best told around a fire in the dark mysteries & magic of the night. Long story short:

In the history of family lore, an ancestor saved a cat & took very good care of it for many years til the cat died of old age. The cat repaid the ancestor's kindness by becoming a herald to the family. When someone in the family was about pass on, a cat would cry out, a phantom cat no one would find. And in a dream that night, the cat would reveal who would pass on soon, giving the family members time to make peace & say goodbye before the end comes. And it is a precious gift that we have cherished for generations, one that those of us who believe have witnessed time & time again, always grateful for the rare opportunity to make peace, settle matters, & bid farewell to loved ones before they passed on.

I will always be grateful for having cats in my life. Growing up on the farm, we had two to ten cats at any given time. Our cats were great mousers, & their pest control skills were highly valued. Mice, birds, cockroaches, grasshoppers, centipedes, & other pests were killed with ease by our cats. I've even seen them take out some reptiles & arachnids!

Even dogs wouldn't mess with our cats,  because our cats fought as one pack. And when some strange dogs would pick a fight with our dogs, our cats would actually stand with our dogs & join with our dogs to attack the enemies. My two brothers & I thought that was normal, til our neighborhood friends said no, it was just our cats that did that, so that made them even more special. I suspect they stuck with the dogs because the cats themselves were raised & socialized with the dogs, so in their minds, they were one pack. They ate together, they slept together, & even played together. It seemed natural that they would spend time with each other.

Our cats were fierce but very gentle & affectionate, & they loved falling asleep on our laps or letting us play with them or stroke their soft fur. A few actually enjoyed playing fetch! Most times, they'd be passed out on the porch bench, sleeping in the warm sun or underneath the cool shade. It was pretty normal to have them sleeping in the same room with someone taking a nap or watching tv, reading a book, or doing some other task. That they were always present seemed right & made the place feel like home.

As impressive as their fighting & killing skills were, our cats never attacked the chickens & ducks & their chicks on the farm. In fact, they never attacked any of the livestock or other farm animals, just the vermin & other critters that meant them harm. Still, their hunting prowess was so excellent that we had people begging for the kittens. But we never gave them away, because our parents truly believed that the cats were a part of the family, & you don't give family away. Our cats started out as strays that we found & raised. And once adopted into the family, they became a part of the family, & we would never ever part with them.

My mother actually stopped an attempted robbery, when a stranger from the next village tried to steal our cats, but the cats fought back, raised a ruckus that alerted the dogs who came barking & biting, sending out the alarm to my mother that something was amiss.

My mother goes to the barn to find the stranger screaming, trying to fight off the clawing cats coming at him from the rafters, & the barking dogs which actually managed to bite his legs as he scrambled up the post, leaving him bleeding from the broken skin & his jeans in tatters from the dog bites.

A call to the police led to the stranger's arrest after my Mom managed to calm the animals down & let the police haul the would be kidnapper away. Come to find out, the failed thief had heard about our cats hunting skills & was going to steal them to sell to other farmers in other villages who were desperate for good cats to eliminate vermin on the property.

In the end, my parents decided not to press any charges, & let the thief go free, partly out of mercy, partly because they felt justice had been served. They figured he'd all ready suffered enough, & the entire village & neighboring ones would have learned an important lesson. Don't try to steal our pets, because you will fail & get seriously hurt!

The first cat we had that I remember was a black tiger striped cat. My parents found her mewling in a garbage can, where some terrible person had dumped her at the marketplace. My parents brought the kitten home, cleaned her up, & nursed her back to health. When they asked my two brothers & me what to name it, we came up with "Kitty". Not terribly imaginative, but hey, we were 3, 4, & 5 year olds, so give us a break!

We did a lot better a few days later when our dad comes home with an orange tiger striped kitten he had found mewling in the dump behind his work. He couldn't find any other kittens & there was no mother cat around. He suspected this kitten was dumped, too, so he brought it home. My brothers & I named him "Tiger", because he looked like a little tiger.

Surprisingly, our female dog took a shine to
the kittens, & often stuck close to them, sharing sleep space & food. It's probably why our cats are so close to our dogs & why they developed such strong bonds with them.

Eventually, Kitty & Tiger grew into great mousers, & they had kittens of their own. Over the course of the years, we had a few more strays come into our home & become part of the family. We loved our cats. They were not only hardworking, keeping the place vermin free, but they made great companions & playmates, often seeking out our company & content to just share a space or sleep in peace. Occasionally, they left us offerings of dead mice & birds & insects that they had slaughtered. It was a gross, yet fascinating, reminder to us of their awesome skills & value to the farm & family.

Our cats lived long lives. Most were still alive when I left home. The only cat we had that passed away was Pirate, the one eyed black & white tuxedo cat. He was an old stray that used to live at the old church, & my parents used to feed him treats when we would go to church & see him about. We never knew if Pirate was born with one good eye or if he hurt/lost one due to injury/illness. But that one eye did not seem to bother him one bit. We thought it gave him character; we thought it made him look like a pirate, so we named him so, while everyone else at the church just called him 'That cat'. And other than my family & the neighborhood kids, everyone else ignored the cat or treated it as a nuisance.

When they tore down the old church to build a new, much bigger one, Pirate actually followed us home! When we got home, he followed us to the kitchen where we fed him, then he sauntered over to a living room windowsill, stretched, then laid down to sleep. And that would be his spot for the next decade or so. He'd venture out to the porch every now & then, disappear, & then we'd see him killing vermin for a while before coming back indoors for meals or to return to his post on the windowsill.

The other cats took to Pirate well enough. They played a few times, but mostly, they let the old cat sleep. And every now & then, Pirate would occasionally rub up against our legs as a signal that he wanted to be held, & we gladly complied. He was mostly a content cat, we couldn't help feeling relaxed & happy when he was around.

Once, during a church visitation to our farm, the wife of the visiting deacon, recognizing Pirate as the old church cat, tried to claim him, saying he belonged to the church & needed to be at the new church to kill the mice infesting the new church. My dad objected, saying Pirate was our cat now, a member of the family. Imagine our horror, when that old bittie ignored my Dad & tried to grab Pirate!

My parents stood up, but it turned out Pirate was having none of this nonsense at all! As soon as that old bittie reached for Pirate, he started growling & hissing, ears drawn back, teeth baring, eyes declaring intent to attack. And even more impressive our other cats came running in & started hissing at the old bittie, too! Even the dogs got in on the action, suddenly standing at the windows, barking in at the visitors.

Suffice it to say the visit was over quickly & the old bittie & her husband beat a hasty retreat, right after my parents got us to calm the animals & take them to the barn to clear a path for the rude visitors to escape. Needless to say, that was the last time anyone from church tried to claim Pirate. And there were a hell of a lot less church visitations after that, which was all good & well for us.

When the rude visitors left, my Mom commented, "Well, that'll show them what happens to people trying to mess with this family. The pets did not like that rude old bittie one bit!"

My Dad replied, "Of course they didn't like her. Animals can spot evil a mile away!" And they both chuckled at that.

But as it turns out, my Dad was right. A month later, the authorities were investigating irregularities in the church funds. Turns out, the old bittie had been embezzling serious money from the church, especially during the fundraising for & construction of the new church! Not only was she ordered to pay back the stolen funds, but she did time in prison for her theft, & when she was let out, she & her husband disappeared, having left town to live somewhere else.

I couldn't believe that she was bold enough to actually steal money from the church. But then again, the bitch did try to steal our cat! So yeah, totally evil.

Pirate was all ready an old cat when he came to live with us. He eventually passed away from old age, curled comfortably on my mother's lap one Saturday morning. I was in high school then. We had been noticing that over the past year, he had slowed down significantly. We had wooden steps made just so he could still climb up to sleep at his favorite windowsill. The vet had told us that Pirate was very old, & it was a miracle he was still alive at this point. The vet guessed that Pirate was close to twenty years old, possibly older!

He was all ready an older adult cat when he came to live with us, living the life of a free cat. But he spent over ten long wonderful years with us, & even sired two litters of kittens with another stray we picked up, Velvet. And we will always be grateful for time he spent with us & for the love & joy he brought into our lives. When he passed away that Saturday morning, my mother, my two closest brothers, & a niece & nephew were by his side.

After his breakfast that morning, he climbed into my mother's lap instead of on his favorite windowsill. We knew then that the end was near. So did our other cats & the dogs, who came in, & sat down. Within half an hour, Pirate passed away, & though I hadn't cried for a long time, I remember tears running down my eyes, as we mourned the loss of a loved one, & said goodbye to a wonderful, loving cat.

We buried Pirate in the unsown field a short distance behind the pasture & barn. It was where we buried Hope, the old horse, when he finally died of old age as well the previous year. After we buried Pirate, the other pets stayed on his grave & for many years after, they would visit his grave & hang out for a bit. And after Pirate passed on, Velvet took up residence on Pirate's windowsill, & kept watch over the front porch as Pirate had done for many years.

Velvet was another street cat my parents brought home from the market. While selling crops at the stand, my parents noticed this tiny black domestic shorthair cat ducking back & forth under the stalls. When it came close to our stall, my parents popped open a can of sardines, & coaxed the little black cat to come eat.

After a few tentative steps, the little black cat came over, took a cautionary bite, then sensing it was safe, started to eat. And for most of the day, it stayed with my parents, hanging out under their chairs, occasionally coming up to be petted, & eating another full can of sardines for lunch.

When my parents packed up for the end of the day, the black cat followed them, got in the truck, & arrived home, safely carried in my mother's arms. Naturally, we were excited at having another cat--our third at this point. But our parents got us to calm down & fetch some food & water for the cat.

She ate her bowl of food alongside our other two cats, Kitty & Tiger. And after they ate, they started to socialize. And before the evening was over, our newest member had made herself at home.

My eldest sister, the second oldest child & eldest daughter, the nicest & kindest to the three of us youngest, our favorite sibling (still to this very day), decided to name our newest cat, Velvet. Partly because the cat was gorgeous & felt smooth & rich like velvet. Also, I suspect our eldest sister wasn't too thrilled with our terrible naming choices. We wanted to name the all black cat, Blackie, in keeping with the trend where we just named our newest all white puppy, Whitey. Thank goodness our wise sister prevailed, because Velvet is a much better name & best describes our black cat.

Velvet retained her love of the outdoors, & out of all the cats, she loved exploring outside, & we'd often find her climbing trees or stalking prey through the woods & grass. But she always came home to meals, & every evening, she came back indoors & often slept in the corner of the living room, within sight of the front door & across from the dining room.

It was only after Pirate passed away did Velvet take to sleeping on his windowsill, & keeping that spot for many years after. Though she still enjoyed venturing outdoors, she was also spending a lot more time napping on the windowsill, & hunting around the porch as Pirate did so many years before. I'm pretty sure Velvet missed Pirate, because we all did.

Though Pirate was gone & we missed him a lot, we will always remember him & believe him to be in a better, happier place, with an even more awesome windowsill. And isn't that what we all want, a nice windowsill? Heaven is a place we can call home, full of love, happiness, friends & loved ones, with beautiful views & plenty of warm sunshine.

It's been many years since I've had a pet cat. The closest I've got are some strays who like to sit on my car or porch a few times a week. These strays have lived here long before I moved here, & hopefully they or others will still be here long after I've moved on. Everyone around here feeds them, & they go to different places at different times to feed & lounge, having worked out where the best places & times were to get a meal & just relax.
1939 Be Kind to Animals, American Civics Poster, the Cat They Left Behind

They are independent but mostly friendly. They like to come up & rub against my legs when I'm out on the porch, signaling they wanted to be held or petted, & I'd go ahead & do so. I've been tempted to adopt them, but with my chaotic & at times, long work schedule & out of town travels, it's not safe nor responsible nor smart to own a pet, especially when I'm not around to care for it properly. I can't even keep plants alive! There's no way I can take care of a pet, not right now at least.

I've been reduced to enjoying pets by caring for friends pets when my friends are out of town. It's a great arrangement for all of us--the pet gets well cared for, the owner can travel with peace of mind, & I get to enjoy the company of a pet for a short period, reveling in the temporary custody & care & companionship with a great pet.

I often surprise people with my pet sitting skills, especially when they mostly know me from being busy at work or busy out & about traveling or adventuring in the wild & remote places. They do not expect my patience nor my ability to be still & present & spend time in one place with a single pet. Often, they are shocked when their animals often warm up to me & let me get close. I semi joke that animals are great judges of character. I can't resist picking up a cat & petting it, especially when it snuggles up against me. And I smile everytime I see kittens sleeping or playing. Cats have a magic all their own, & they make the world a more mysterious & enchanting place.

Though I've met many wonderful cats over the years, my first pets will always have a special place in my heart & memories. They were not only useful & important on the farm, but they brought joy & love in our lives. They comforted us, made us laugh, & they shared in our lives the ups & downs, helping us through the toughest of times & sharing with us the good times & happiness.

Some people don't like cats, & that's okay. Not everyone is going to love every animal out there, & that's just the way it is. But I love cats, for their independence, their skills, their beauty, their wild & domestic nature, & for just being themselves. Cats are wonderful creatures, & when you love them & treat them right, they'll love you right back & bring you joy & friendship, & they'll make life so much better, giving you love & happiness.

Related Links:
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10 comments:

  1. You had me at "Cats!" Those were some lucky and happy cats to live in such a loving place. You and your family are wise and caring that each cat is different and special in their own way.

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    1. LX, Thanks for the kind words. I think we were very lucky to have found some really awesome cats, who were very useful & well loved members of the family.

      I am lucky & thankful my parents raised us to respect & care for animals. And it's fascinating how each has a unique personality & way of doing things. Variety makes life interesting.

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  2. My neighbour's cat thwarted an attempted burglary at her home - Siamese.
    Cats are indeed very impressive, my cat and dog used to get on like a house on fire and he was a German Shepherd. I miss my pets.
    Sx

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    1. That's an awesome guard cat, protecting the home from criminals! Your pets sound amazing! It's wonderful & magical when pets of different species become friends, & I definitely miss mine.

      When I got home today, I was greeted by two of the usual strays, waiting on the porch, meowing at me as I got out of the car. That they rubbed up my legs meant they wanted petting, so I petted them. Then I fetched some food & water for them, watched them eat, then let them lay down & rest in peace in the setting sunlight. It was a nice visit.

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  3. Thank you for your celebration of cats because The Mistress adores cats.

    And so does the Internet.

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    1. The internet speaks the truth! Cats are the unofficial mascot & a big draw on the internet. Cats are awesome--whether playing the piano or riding vacuum cleaners or just being cats.

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  4. Replies
    1. MJ, Feel free to enjoy yourself & click away!

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  5. Ooh, good C choice! I find cats alternately intriguing and infuriating! Probably because of their independence, as you've pointed out.
    My sister's cats have accepted me, and Cedplop is pretty much mine now (or, I'm his...)

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    1. IDV, That's is awesome your sister's cats have accepted you into the fold. And it's pretty neat when one starts to develop strong bonds with them, made more special because they are independent, yet they also enjoy our company at the same time.

      It is funny how cats seem to behave as if we're the pets & they are the ones in charge. I suppose it doesn't help matters when we spoil them so, answering them everytime they call or letting them climb all over & sleep on our laps like we're furniture or just there to keep them comfortable :)

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