Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cat Comes Back

Guess who just showed up, meowing her head off, wanting to be picked up and made over? Lucy - our barn cat, who we haven't seen for about two months. I cried, brought her in the house, opened a fresh can of cat food, and found an old fleece jacket for her to sleep on.

What's so special about an old barn cat, you ask? Well, first off, all cats are special in this house. But Lucy, now nine years old, strolls in with a long story behind her.

She was found by my friend, at about one day old in a blackberry patch, one of six kittens and a starving mother. I took them home to my house, fed the kittens formula at first, until the mother gained some strength and was able to take over. Lucy was the runt. She had a tiny, malformed little face and I wasn't sure she would make it. But she did, and at a few weeks old, when we started the kittens on wet canned food, she stood in the middle of the dish growling at her brothers and sisters. That survival instinct must be why she's still here.

Although we found good homes for four of the kittens, and ended up keeping her brother and her mother (all of whom shortly got spayed and neutered) many of them met a bad ending. Coyotes, the road, and even people who think it's fun to shoot cats (don't get me started) all took their toll.

Lucy was once a spoiled house cat, but by choice decided she'd rather live outside. She moved first outside to our barn, and then to a group of tumble-down sheds next door. We have always kept food for her in the barn, and in turn she keeps it absolutely mouse-free. But stay in the house? Lucy would come inside for a little bit, where we'd bribe her with kitty treats and canned food and lots of petting. But soon, she'd spring for the door, wanting to be out in her world again - one that she seems to have mastered.

But because I know how old Lucy is, at nine years, I began to worry about her. Besides that, she has become increasingly feral, not showing her face at all for sometimes weeks or months at a time, or wanting to be seen or caught. So imagine my surprise when mid-day today I heard Lucy meowing in the bushes, over and over, obviously announcing her presence. Silly Cat. Within a few minutes, I had her in my arms and she was purring. Right now she is napping on top of the clothes dryer, perfectly happy. I wonder how long she'll stay this time.

This darn old cat, with a mind of her own, will always have a home with us. Inside or out.

Do you have a cat that comes and goes? Do you worry about them?


Unknown said...

This made me smile!
What a beautiful cat.
I just recently got a kitten and she is growing so fast!
She had her first outdoor adventure the other day, and I have to admit I was anxious!
Right now she is sleeping on my painting easel...

Linda Benson said...

Jill Marie - Kittens are so cute when they first discover the outdoors - pouncing on every leaf, bug, and blade of grass. We have always let ours be inside/outside cats, but I keep mine inside at night now, since we have such a bad coyote problem around here. Except for Lucy. She pretty much does her own thing. Good luck with your sweet kitten!

Graceannah's Stories said...

I adopted my Mom's kitty 3 years ago when she had to move out of her home. Shadow had always been an indoor cat. One of my great joys has been watching her enjoy sitting in outside in the sunshine. Discovering frogs, birds and bugs. She lives in my art studio and goes outside only in the daytime. Sometimes after she has been outside, she runs in the door and announces herself and tells me her adventures.

Dreaming said...

Our cats have never gone out and about. They stay close to home. I think it would be very hard if they went off, gallivanting, for weeks at a time.

Linda Benson said...

You know, cats do love to be outside. They have a lot of fun out there, and they also like to be inside where it's nice and cozy. It's funny, but I think Lucy was probably close to home this entire time. She's just had her nose out of joint and her feathers in a fluff ever since we brought home Penny, our wild young dog. Lucy also doesn't get along with Fred, our bad kitten/cat. So she just decided to establish her own barnyard territory where she could be solitary.

I learned a lot about feral cat behavior from a children's novel I read last year by the late Jean Craighead George (of Julie of the Wolves/My Side of the Mountain fame.) The book is called The Cats of Roxville Station, and you might find a copy in the library. Fascinating read about marking territory and such, and cat lovers will appreciate it.

wilsonc said...

Ha! Linda, I was just going to suggest there might be a book in this story...did you ever read Garrioson Keillor's "Cat, You Better Come Home." Loved it.

Linda Benson said...

No, I haven't seen that book. I'll have to find a copy. Thanks, wilsonc. I love cat stories. I have an old Beverly Cleary novel I found (at a garage sale) called Socks. OMG - I just laughed my butt off reading it. A great book for cat lovers - so funny!

DT said...

I have heard stories of cats that just like to move around. And every 'owner' is in fact a hotelier for the season. She's a beautiful cat and it's lovely that she's put in an appearance.

Patricia said...

I haven't had a cat since I was a little girl and that one I taught to feed herself using her paws along the dolly-size baby bottle. One day she was gone and my mother said she didn't know what happened to her, but rumor has it that mom found her on the counter and gave her away. I'll never know whether this is true or not. It was devastating.
I would be so worried if I had a cat who was slightly feral because I'm a worry wart anyway and I'd be afraid for the poor kitty.

Linda Benson said...

Derek - if we lived in a place with closer neighbors, I'd almost suspect Lucy of "cheating" on us, and I've also heard of cats that go house-to-house for handouts. But we live in the sticks and know all of our neighbors, who are spread pretty far apart.

Patti - I'm sorry about your kitten. Sorry, but I think that was just mean. (But then, maybe childhood trauma produces good writers.) If I lived in town or the city, I'm not sure I would ever let my kitties outside either. I'd keep them inside where they'd be safe.

I brought the old cat, Lucy, into the house last night, and she graced us with her presence the entire night. I hope this means she'll start coming around a little more now. We miss her.

Sharon Ledwith said...

It's a horrible feeling not to know what happen to your pet. I feel for you. I lost Patches all of an hour and was frantic. Found her on the neighbour's dock, happy as a clam (or maybe eating one)! In any case, I so glad your old cat came back to claim you. Cats can be possessive! You're a good soul, kid! Lots of pennies in heaven for you! Cheers!

Shannon Hitchcock ~ Children's Writer said...

I grew up on a farm and we never had animals in the house. They all lived in the barn, or the doghouse, or the chicken coop. Thanks for bringing back good memories.