Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Cat Whisperer

"Sometimes, it's a hard world for small things."
--Raising Arizona

I spent this afternoon with a cat.

Someone from the town contacted our Scout troop to see if we could help with some yard work. Seems an elderly woman has gone into the hospital, shehas no relatives living nearby and the town felt that while she was away that her yard should be tidied up. There is a lot of stuff for her to trip over. And the leaves need removed. They thought of us, and I was dispatched to go assess what the project would be like.

I drove to the house after having lunch with my friend Janet. It is an old colonial farm house with a barn, and it is in disrepair. I feel awful for the woman who lives there, it is obvious she needs a lot more than a leaf raking. The yard is leafy for sure, but nothing that some sturdy Scouts can't handle. I walked around the house, figured out where we will be depositing the leaves (there is a large stick pile down by the creek in the back so we'll head that way with our dumpings...) and when I came back around I saw him.

A little white, black and grey kitty, curled up on a pile of leaves outside the back door. He lifted his head and looked at me and meowed.

"Hello," I said to him. "Are you locked out? It's probably a good thing that you're outside instead of inside..." I squatted down low. He meowed at me a few times, stood up and arched his back in a stretch.

"Come and see me, kitty," I called to him, and he did. He came over, meowing and I offered him my hand. He then walked around me a few times, sniffing, meowing. I answered his meows with "I know," and "I heard that," and "Oh, yeah. Totally." I patted his head and he arched his back to me. He rubbed his face on my knee, my ankles, my hand. Giving me his scent.

He laid down on his side, tail flicking leaves about, and showed me his belly. Now, with a dog, I would take that as an invitation to scratch that belly, but cats (in my experience) usually end up biting me. So I talked to him for a while, walked around some more. He followed me, meowing and rubbing against me. He ran ahead, turned and waited. He walked behind. He meowed. I answered.

I then began to feel very badly for him. I mean, if his owner is in the hospital, who is taking care of him? The barn door was chained shut but someone had shoved the bottom of it open a bit, and there was a metal pan of water in there, but no food. It appeared he had shelter at night and from the weather, so that was good. But there was no sign of food anywhere.

The house across the street was beautifully maintained, and had two cars in the driveway. I figured I'd go ask them if they knew anything about the cat. The woman who answered the door was very sweet. She told me that this cat was the last of the neighborhood strays, that in the past few weeks coyotes were definitely killing the cats off. Over the summer there had been quite a few around, but this was the last one.

She told me that the little old lady across the way would come out and feed all the cats, putting tins of food on paper plates. I told her that I was relieved to hear that, and said that if he WAS her cat I would take him up to my vet and have her house him (I'd pay her something if I could) until the woman was out of the hospital. She assured me that he was indeed not necessarily the woman's cat.

"She lost her cat a while ago," the woman said. "It was at that point I saw her start to deteriorate... she's gone downhill quickly these past few months... all because of losing her cat."

I told her that the boys would be over to do yard work tomorrow, and she told me that the woman is very particular about these branches that she puts along the edge of her driveway. I'd noticed the branches all lined up, not really organized or tidy. I figured they had broken off the trees and was going to take them for my wood stove. I'm glad the woman told me because if the lady is that particular... well! I'll make sure it looks good and the boys do not get rid of the branches. I told her that we were just going to rake, tidy up, and we'll add fixing the edging to our tasks.

The woman and I said goodbye and I walked to my car. Instead of going home, I drove to the market. I picked up a few cans of cat food. I went back to the house.

Pulling into the driveway, I noticed he wasn't where I left him and he hadn't gone back to his leafy bed. I called out and he answered. Meow.

He was on the roof.

Yes. The roof. All the way the hell up on the roof.

"What the heck are you doing up there?" I asked him. "How'd you manage that? Come on down. I have some food for you, silly." He meowed to me and paced back and forth, trying to figure out the best way to me.

He got to a smaller roof by the barn but couldn't quite get down. It was amusing to watch him. "You got UP there, so I presume you've done it before and know how to get down... so how are you going to do it?" He meowed and meowed and paced. I honestly couldn't figure out how he was going to get down. I found a plastic yard chair on the side porch, and stood on it, reaching up to him, but he was just out of my reach. Not wanting to break my neck, I got off the chair, held it over my head against the side of the house.

Right about then I started laughing at myself. I mean honestly. I'm holding a chair up to the side of a house for a CAT to jump down into and get off a roof. What must I have looked like to the neighbors if they looked out at me just then. A silly fat lady with a chair over her head with a cat dangling into it.

He jumped into the chair, and I laughed harder. I lowered him down and called him silly. He jumped off the chair and walked around me in circles. I took out a tin of cat food and set it out for him. He wanted to be petted more than he wanted to eat, initially. He sniffed the food, turned back to me and meowed and walked around me. His purring was powerful. I love when cats purr, so I scratched his head and told him to eat.

Getting back to the food he licked it a little and then began to devour it. I patted him, scratched his back, and the purr was fired up.

And I started to cry.

He was about halfway through the tin when I got up to go. I figured that he was fine for the night, and I'll be back tomorrow with the Scouts so hopefully he won't be too freaked out by the invasion. I'm hoping it is an invasion and not just Geoff and me.

It is indeed a hard world for small things. I know coyotes need to eat. I just wish it was chipmunks and squirrels instead of cats that purr and call to me. Wild things that are wild and meant to be food for the hunters.

And it is a hard world for little old ladies. I think of this woman in the hospital, I don't even know her name at all. I told the woman across the street that I didn't need to know her name. It isn't about knowing her name or anything.... I just think of her and this old house that she lives in and it is probably a mess inside, and how does she live? Is she warm enough at night? Some of the window panes were busted, there are obvious problems with the fascia boards and the roof. Does it leak in when it rains? What if she is so sick she doesn't come home? What happens to her life and her stuff?

What happens to the cat? I figure eventually he'll walk over to someone else's house, but I'm sure he's gotten used to the relationship he has with this lady.

I just don't know.

So tomorrow, think of us as we're raking. Think of the little old lady whatever her name is and her ailment is. Pray for her that she can come home and feed her cat. And that we don't make her mad by doing something to the yard that she doesn't like.


  1. I am thankful for a world with people with beautiful hearts like yours, Christine. Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. thanks. that totally made me smile.

  3. Awesome. You are.

  4. Anonymous1:30 PM

    Ok, now I am crying. Please put kitty in a box and send to Cape of Cod.
    You are a good person.
    Hope you have a lovely holiday with your family!

  5. Anonymous6:48 PM

    You made me cry. Poor kitty, poor lady. You guys did a good thing helping out. I hope the kitty and the lady are reunited soon.