A house cat with quite a personality
As mentioned in The Savage Sword of Conan essay, we had an interesting house cat in the late 1970s.
Let me share this with you.
My father found a tiny, half-starved, terribly dehydrated kitten at the bottom of a storm drain while out by himself running our dog in some undeveloped areas near summer’s end, 1975. Apparently someone had abandoned her (as part of a litter of kittens?) as she was not a feral kitten. (It may have been our hunting dog’s hearing that led to my father being directed to the kitten who was crying weakly.) He retrieved a length of rope from the trunk of his car and used it to rescue the cat. He told us that the first time he let the rope down to where the kitten was (about 5 or 6 feet below ground level), she got her claws into the rope, but as he was slowly pulling up the rope, she lost her grip so to speak and fell back to the bottom of the hole. On the next attempt, the kitten secured her claws literally for dear life into the rope and my father was able to get her up to the surface.
When he returned home with her, we could see that she was in bad shape. We can only guess how long she had been out there since being abandoned. From the shape she was in, it was likely a few days. maybe as many as 4 or 5? (How long can kittens survive without water and food?)
School had already started, so the role (or task) of nurse providing rehabilitation care fell to my mother. She did not mind. With the use of a household eye dropper, she was able to nurse this weakened kitten back to health. My mother would fill the eye dropper with milk and at other times with water. She also took this poor kitten to the vet and had her checked over and in due course was given the proper shots. The rescued kitten quickly gained weight and strength. This kitten was a fighter and survived and thrived. This feline was a domestic short hair with tortoise-shell colored fur on her underside. (Some photos of such cats are at bottom of this essay.)
Cats (tigers, lions, jaguars, panthers, etc.) are intelligent and beautiful animals. But, they are often solitary creatures that seem to prefer to be left alone. Not so, with this feline. As to name, I simply called her “Kitty” – sounded reasonable at the time. (Ashley and Jennifer were not quite yet popular names for females.)
Here are some of the interesting things this friendly, playful and very intelligent house cat did.
She was very territorial (much like some breeds of dogs).
Large ravens (well known to those living in the Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia areas) would at times, during the summer or early autumn, sit up on the roof and squawk to each other. Kitty would look up at them and she would start hissing and she would be baring her teeth. But, she could not do anything about the large birds. If one were to have come down on to the grass and she ventured near it, the large bird’s wings or claws would have easily “spanked” (or worse) our average size house cat.
In the autumn, when the squirrels were up in trees gathering acorns, she would sometimes sit at the base of a tree and patiently wait for an opportunity to make a meal of a squirrel. Of course, the squirrel saw the cat and would not come down. My mother would call to me when she noticed this situation and say “Larry go out and get the cat. She’s frightening the squirrel up in the tree.”
She was quite an accomplished hunter (mice, birds, and even a small rabbit (that may have been a neighbor child’s pet)). We found remains, usually half eaten or more, near the front door of the house. From my parents’ second floor bedroom window, I did a couple of times observe her stalking (from behind) a bird that was searching for worms in the grass. We also had to be careful with left over meat from dinner. If we left it out while we watched the evening news before cleaning up the kitchen, we would sometimes enter the kitchen to see the cat up on the stove top helping herself to some cooked (and now room temp) meat remaining in an oven tray (or pan, whatever the proper term is).
This cat was like a dog in some ways. When walking down the street of our fairly small housing development to the neighborhood pool, she would follow me. This very much surprised me the first time she did this as I had not beckoned to her to follow me. The distance from our house to the pool was probably about 200 yards or more with the last 60 to 70 yards being down a narrow asphalt path along and then behind the last of the town houses. The small pool was enclosed by a chain link fence. Our cat would stay behind me on the walk down and then hang out in the grass outside the pool’s fence until I would leave and start walking home. She, unasked, followed like an obedient, well trained dog.
Kitty would wake me up in the morning – at the behest of my mother – by running from the kitchen up the stairs and then pushing the bedroom door open with her shoulder (it did not latch securely) and then jumping up on the foot of the bed and walking up to my arm or face to start licking me.
In the winter, when there was snow on the ground, she was a little baffled or puzzled by it. However, when she tired of having to use the litter box, she would sit by the front door indicating that she wanted to go outside. Her little tracks in the snow on the concrete walkway were rather cute.
Kitty would let the small children in the neighborhood pet her and play with her, provided they did not get too rough with her. And, this applied to visiting children not known to her. She would roll on to her back on the warm sidewalk under the shade of a large tree on a summer evening (in the mid Atlantic region) and let the kids pet her freely. When I saw this, the children would be cautioned to be gentle and not startle the cat who might then reflexively (and quite naturally) act defensively
On the carpet in the living room, I would sometimes playfully wrestle her with one of my hands. She would never draw blood either with her sharp teeth or her claws. But, when she tired of the play, she would come down with her teeth into my skin just firm enough to say “I am tired of this now. Let’s stop.” Which, of course, I did. She enjoyed being gently stroked with a finger along her throat up to her chin as well as on the back of her head and neck.
Do cats dream? While reclining in a bean bag chair (remember the 1970s?!), with a local rock station playing music on the radio and reading a college text book (much of my studying as an undergrad was with music in the background – I do think it helped my grades), this cat would be asleep on the bed nearby. At times, I would glance over at her and would see her tail going back and forth. Now, with dogs, this is normally a sign of happiness or contentment. Not so with cats, as it often times expresses stress, anger or fear. Was our cat having nightmares? Who can say?
As household cats go, she was rare. She had an extroverted personality which is rare for house cats from what I have seen since.
Hope this was an enjoyable read for you! For those of you who are first time visitors to larrysmusings, feel free to surf the category tabs for other essays that you may like. We have opened a new “miscellaneous” tab on the left sidebar and it has a few gems as well.
As there is some variation among these cats in color of their fur, no photo here accurately captures what our cat exactly looked like. But, they come close.
This first photo is courtesy of en.wikipedia.org.
This second pic is courtesy of catadoption.co.uk.
The below photo is courtesy of britannica.com.
This fourth photo is courtesy of animalspedia.com. Great photo!
The last pic is courtesy of recycler.com.