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Tuesday, 24 July 2007

What a cruel, cruel world for a cat

Farm life can be so very cruel…

Growing up on a farm, my absolute favourite animals were cats. If I had a dollar for every hour of my childhood I spent playing with cats, taunting cats, pretending to be a cat, forcing my little friends to be my kittens, and chasing cats, I would be a millionaire! This common knowledge earned me the name of “Cat Woman” in my hometown of Ste-Anne, Manitoba until I moved away at the age of seven. Needless to say, I have worked tremendously hard not to get attached to the twenty wild farm cats we now have.

But every now and again, one of the new kittens becomes brave and friendly and you can’t help but open your heart! I’ve told Mélina not to name them, but before we know it, we are referring to them as Oreo, Shivers, Panda, Stickers, etc…

My first lesson happened this time last year. A litter of three female kittens had been found: Stickers and Chloe were the good ones, particularly Chloe. She would run up to me and jump up on my shoulder as I walked around the farm. What a charmer! To my horror, Duane’s dad who comes into the yard several times a day to feed the cats leftovers and to feed the chickens, accidentally ran over Chloe who had been running towards his truck. This was hard to take and I reminded myself not to get attached.

Next we found Shivers, a tiny runt. We tamed him and often giggled at his small yet stocky figure and bulging blue eyes. He got some strange eye infection and we found him dead not to long afterwards. Same story with a few more kittens. Even Mina said “any kitten I play with dies.”

Chloe and Sticker’s mom had another litter this spring, Oreo and Panda. Oreo outshone all the cats to-date. Kids could pick him up by the tail, by the whiskers and he wouldn’t falter. He kept purring and smiling. Yes, smiling! He became my greeter as he always hung out by the door in hopes I’d slip him a little goat’s milk. Anika loved the way Oreo would climb on her lap when we’d sit outside. He followed me everywhere around the farm. Last I saw him, he was on the deck purring away yesterday afternoon as I headed back into the house.

Finally, Sticker (Chloe’s sister) stood out among the rest. She was the most tamed and she’d always greet me at the door, particularly because she wanted food! She got pregnant this spring and had her first litter last week. Surely her genetics would mean not-so-wild kittens?? I found them yesterday morning: four of them. But they were mewing like crazy. I kept an eye on them the rest of the day in hopes that Sticker would show her face. Had she abandoned them? Surprisingly, I didn’t see Sticker at all the rest of the day. This morning, I headed back to discover two of the kittens dead, one at death’s door and the other mewing with all its strength. My heart broke! How dare Sticker abandon her kittens! I picked up the stronger one and brought it to another litter of three week-old kittens in hopes they could keep the little one warm and hopeful until I put Anika down so I could tend to it properly. An hour later, Anika finally went down for her nap and I pumped a bit of milk and put it in a syringe in hopes I would be able to get the kitten to drink something. I went out to the litter and my heart stopped… it was gone! I searched frantically but could only find the five 3 week-old kittens. Could the mother have come back in that little time and taken the kitten somewhere else? Would she have killed it?

Truly upset, I came back to the house. Duane’s dad knocked on the door and said “I found two cats in the water barrel by the deck… drowned. Better get rid of them before they stink up the place.” (Always practical)

I froze. Please don’t let it be one of my favourites…

I went with Duane and discovered it was Sticker and her little brother, Oreo. They must have tried to get a drink and fell in. She hadn’t abandoned her babies… she’d died!

This was all too much in one day. I bawled my eyes out with no sympathy. “I warned you not to get attached.” Much appreciated words of wisdom from my husband… NOT! I know they’re just animals, but you can’t help but love the ones that stand out. I don’t try to love them, I just do! I don’t like any of the other gazillion wild cats! Why can’t they be the ones that die?? Why is it ALWAYS the good ones??

There’s my rant for today. I’m exhausted from tearing the place apart looking for that baby kitten. I’m exhausted from bawling and I’m whooped from missing my two good cats. It’s just not fair. What a cruel, cruel world.


linsy said...

Rita, they're not "just" animals so don't feel ridiculous. You love them and they have just as much a right to life as you or me.

Gros bisous

Lisa Vogt said...

Rita, I'm glad you have started a blog! I look forward to reading it. Cats have a very special ability to get to your least they do with me. I'm glad you love your cats so much and you are looking out for them.

I have been wanting to call you to arrange a meeting time, but things are busy with summer, new job and wedding on the horizon. It's no good excuse so I hope to speak to you soon!

Rhea said...

Rita.. i just read your story about the cats.. remind me to tell you what my happened to my baby calf.. and you wonder why us Vaags women are so tough.. you have to be or you'll spend you're life sobing over lost animals..

But i do love your stories you certainly do have a gift..