Of Fur and Feather

By Leah
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One of the joys of living on a farm is the animals. Each has his own special place and usefulness. But sometimes I have my doubts about the farm cats.

Oh, I love my cats. I’m very much a cat person. But farm cats are hunters, and occasionally they like to share their successes.

My oldest cat is a yellow striped tom named Ginger. I made him one of the leading characters in the book I wrote because he always shares his kills. In fact, I have yet to see him eat anything he brings in. I suspect he makes two kills: one for himself, and one to give away. Because that is exactly what he does — give it away.

I am one of those stupid cat owners who installed a cat door. Yes, it does away with the litter box and yes, I am no longer required to be the doorman to my cats, but it also provides a way for them to bring in anything they decide they want to keep or share. And Ginger loves to share. We have what is called “Mouse Alert” at our house. In the early hours of the morning, my husband and I are frequently awaken by a soft muffled meowing. It grows in volume until one of us gets up, turns on the light, praises the catch of the day, and unceremoniously dumps both it and Ginger back outside. If we fail to respond to “Mouse Alert,” Ginger simply brings it onto the bed to make sure we are aware of how wonderful he is.

The evening of my 50th birthday, Ginger arrived early with a present for me. We were watching a movie when he came through the cat door dragging a huge rat and dropped it at my feet with a chirp as if to say “Happy Birthday!” The rat was still alive and mostly unharmed. We gaped at each other in astonishment (the rat and me, that is), while my husband grabbed his work boot and proceeded to give said rat a concussion.

Another morning I got up to find my dog, Huckleberry, eyeing a dead mouse on his bed, and Ginger sitting there staring at him as if to say, “Here, I’ve brought you breakfast in bed.” Huckey is half basset hound, so he gave me one of those droopy-eyed looks as if to say, “Please, take it away.” Ginger seemed very insulted when I scooped up the mouse in a dust pan and pitched it out the door.

My other cat is a Siamese. DC (which stands for various words, depending on the mood and circumstance at the time) invented paranoia. He is convinced that the entire world is out to get him. At least, he was. Now that I am home full time once more he is beginning to gain courage and will slip outside for small forays into the “wilds” of the backyard. And good old Ginger is teaching him to hunt. So far his kills have consisted of baby mice and lizards. Until this morning.

I was just pouring myself my second cup of tea when I saw DC come charging out from under my bed at the speed of light and almost instantly charge back under. “He’s got something!” my husband cried. But I just shook my head. “Another lizard.” I replied. “One of these days he’s going to get poisoned.”

After Greg left for work, I went in to make the bed and raise the shades. And when I lifted the shade, low and behold there sat a sparrow. We eyed each other for a moment, then I carefully pushed out the screen of the window and the poor bird shot out to freedom. And DC? Exhausted from all of his “hunting,” he was found sound asleep on his favorite perch on the cat tree.

Despite all of the hassle, I really would do anything for these two fur balls. Ginger is the guardian of the garden, for one thing. He spends most of his days and evenings lying among the raised beds and containers. I have never had damage from rabbits, squirrels, mice, rats, etc. Even the crows seem to fear my mighty hunter. And I haven’t had mice living in my house for at least five years now. In fact, mice and rats are so scarce, I often wonder where he finds them to share.

And DC? I call him my “Purry Home Companion.” He purrs a deep, throaty sound that I find very soothing. They say cats are the number one stress-relieving pets. (Dogs are almost tied with them for the honor). When I worked full time, it was nice to come home and have a cat land in my lap, purring and cuddling. After a long day at the office dealing with unhappy customers, it was nice to know someone out there still loved me (besides my husband).

So I think I’ll keep my farm cats, even if I do have to respond to “Mouse Alerts” and rescue kidnapped birds. A farm just isn’t home without the cats.