Cat Tales

Millions of people walk their pets.

cat, cat tales

A significant number of those walk dogs, some of the pooches almost bigger in size than their owners. Other dogs are so tiny they can be carried in purses. Some folks walk pot-bellied pigs. Horse owners and riders often walk their mounts, especially for various types of exercise or training. A small number of pet owners might walk the unexpected, from monkeys to iguanas, or some other exotic and unusual species.

I walk cats. Mind you, it’s not something I ever set out purposely to do.

For many years, I walked the meadows with a dog. And, ours have always been farm dogs, not attuned to leisurely strolling along on a leash, but to running free and exploring the woods and meadows near my side. I still miss having a dog and may someday connect with just the right one that fits the circumstances of our retirement and The Farmer’s continuing instability with walking.

So, I walk cats. It’s been their idea, not mine. There have always been one or two cats around the farm that invited themselves along with the dog and I. Once, our chocolate Lab, Jinx, got caught in a fox trap that a trapper had set without first verifying permission for the location. While I ran for help, a cat that had been walking with us stayed right by poor Jinx’s side, as if to keep watch over him.

Last spring, one of our best cat mothers and mousers gave birth in the calf nursery. Not a slacker, she delivered seven adorable tiny kittens in a pile of straw in an empty calf pen, where the family spent the next several weeks. It was a rather strange collection, a couple of sleek all-black kittens, three gray-black tiger-striped types and two marked like Ragdoll cats, complete with beautiful blue eyes.

Apparently some unusual DNA lurks in the feline bloodlines that roam the neighborhood. Before too many weeks, it was apparent that two of the tiger-striped kittens and at least one of the Ragdoll-type also had some extra Persian-like fluffiness in their genes. It was such an adorable litter of kittens that I spent more time than usual playing with them. The long-haired ones continued to grow more fluffy and beautiful. The pair of dark tiger kittens soon developed the appearance of classic Maine Coon cats.

About the time the kittens were being weaned and beginning to drink milk from a dish and eat catfood, one of the Ragdoll kittens disappeared. I vowed that would not happen with the second one, and began grooming the long-haired, beautiful kitten to be a housecat.
By midsummer, most of this crew of half-grown felines had relocated themselves to the basement porch, racing back to the barn at feeding time and dashing along every time I went to the garden, where they chased each other through the sweet corn and around the pumpkin patch. And, before long, they began tagging along on my walks to the meadow.
On several occasions, I lost one or more of them, coming back to the house with only half of the pack, as they got sidetracked climbing trees or sneaking through the tall weeds for mice and moles. My dogs always came when called; cats simply ignored the summons. Eventually, when they hadn’t appeared several hours later, I’d backtrack down to the fencerows to call for them. Sooner or later, they would come bounding out of the tall grasses in response.

Now, on every weather and schedule-permitting morning, the cats and I walk to the meadow. Some days, it’s just one or two of them, on others, the entire porch pack: housecat Teddy, the fluffy and spoiled Ragdoll; one or both of the Maine Coon characters; one smooth-haired tiger; one or two black cats; a gentle, all-white grown cat that was dumped off at the farm last summer by some ignorant former owner; and an assortment of gray and white barn cats.

I’m sure the neighbors think I’m nuts, with this posse of cats in front, in back and weaving around my feet. They hide in the tall, dried grasses along the pond, pounce on and chase each other, race up and down the trees, inspect and poke among clumps of dried grass for field mice and just generally seem to enjoy each day’s adventure. I still lose one or more of them in the fencerows occasionally.

They’re big “kids” now. They find their way home, and always in time for evening feeding.
I still miss having a dog. But the cats seem to think being dog-less is just purrrrfect.

Joyce Bupp is a freelance writer in York County, Pennsylvania.

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