Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Men and Cats



She had a rough start in this life—her mother killed by a car—she and her siblings forced to fend for themselves before they were finished nursing—hiding in abandoned buildings, crossing dangerous alleyways, depending on bag ladies and the kindness of strangers for sustenance.

Then she came to us. Jan had been after me to get her a pet. I had my horse, after all, and our dog Rivers had been gone for a few years. Friend Jerald captured her in one of his downtown buildings. Said she was the pick of the litter because she was a tuxedo cat—black with a white tie at her throat and a spot of white on her belly.

He brought the kitty to us in a box. I knew next to nothing about cats and neither did Jan. I have always been a horse and dog person and Jan a dog person. We had cats when I was a boy, but they were barn cats. My contacts with them only came when I milked our jersey and the barn cats begged me to send a spray or two their way. They followed me and the milk bucket back to the house, but at a respectable distance.  Touching one would get you scratched.

No animals of any kind were allowed in our house when I was growing up. Jan was unsure about this little kitty and I was highly reluctant. I intended to ignore the situation as much as possible and hope she didn’t disrupt my life too much. We agreed that we would put her on the covered porch in a little house we bought for her and let her stay outside as soon as she was big enough to fend for herself. Because of her green eyes, Jan named her Jade.

I read somewhere that a woman can pet a horse and her heartbeat will match the horse’s within ten seconds. Jade worked that magic on Jan right away. She was a calming influence and Jan loved everything she did. There were a few problems with owning a cat in the beginning, but nothing serious. She usually ate inside, but quickly asked to be let out. When the first catfight occurred in the dark, we moved her into the utility room to sleep.

When she was still a kitty, I came home one night green with nausea and a bad headache and went directly to bed. In a few minutes, I felt something under the covers with me. I knew it was her, and that she was not allowed on the bed, but was too sick to do anything about it. Jade made her way to the top, stuck her head out, laid it down in the hollow of my neck, and purred. I think she knew I was sick.

The next morning, she lay down on my bare feet when I was shaving. I knew she had me then. The head butts and rubbing against my leg cemented it. When Jan told friends and family that the cat had captured my heart, I told them it was hard not to love something that seemed to love you. I referred to her as a wily seductress, a regular femme fatale.

During the first year, I would see her peeking out from the shrubbery or ground cover as I drove off in the mornings. I couldn’t shake the feeling that it might be the last time I ever saw her. Jan felt the same way. Jade takes risks and loves the outdoors. But her early life prepared her for survival.
She likes dark, tight, and protected spots, so she spent a lot of time under our old barn, in trees, and hidden in the weeds along our fence line. She befriends skunks, possums, raccoons and some stray cats (fighting or running from others).  We were outside one day when she walked alongside a mother raccoon as she moved her young ones from the barn to a tree nest. Jade repeated the trip with each new baby.

She likes to go out before daylight and come back in after dark. We worry when we hear coyotes howl as she steps out, wonder if she will return. The first night she did not come home, Jan fretted by the window until close to midnight. Jade finally limped home. She had apparently been trapped by a predator and had to leap from barn rafters to escape.

I never knew before Jade that cats growl. Jade growls when any strange animal enters anywhere on our nine acres. She knows where the fence lines are and never ventures far outside them. She is very afraid of strangers and hides outside when we have guests. If she gets trapped inside when they arrive, she stays under the bed until the guests leave.

Our friends, and especially our children, are amazed that I allow this cat in the house. During one holiday celebration, she stayed under the bed about as long as she could, finally emerging before our family left. She slinked her way around the perimeter of the room to reach my chair and jumped on my knee. I imagined her announcing to the others, “I belong to him. So don’t mess with me.” I only learned later that she was saying, “He belongs to me.”

Her conquest of me is now complete. She usually finds me when I go outside, turns on her back in front of me for a belly rub. Jan loves the time Jade spends with her in her quilt house, but much to her chagrin, Jade seems to prefer my lap when she’s in the living room, probably because I have saved her from so many catfights and predators. And she almost always responds (eventually) to my whistle when it’s time to come home.

She comes and goes as she pleases now, but still spends most days outside. She knows how to ask to get out and which door she prefers. She asks that you accompany her to the utility room to eat. She does all sorts of endearing things, like slapping my cheeks with her paws when I do sit-ups.

I don’t know if cats can experience the true emotion of love, but it’s a sure thing they can experience trust. Jade trusts me and that gives me a warm feeling. I won’t let her down. 


1 comment:

EarlStubbs said...

Jim: If given the opportunity, cat will endear themselves to most people. My first pet, in the early 40's, was a big brindle and white tom named Jerry. He will serve as the narrator to my pet book if I ever get it finished. Nancy is a cat hater which is unfortunate. She has missed out on so much.