cats

The Interloper

Olive is our sweet, affable — but dimwitted — barn cat.

Of the farm’s five felines, Olive is slow to respond to kids, cars and other threats to life and limb. Dopey Olive, we often say. She’s a few bricks short of a load. 

But Olive does possess an unwavering desire to lounge indoors. Leave the screen door unlatched…. crack the mudroom door to unload groceries…. and she skulks in, and bee-lines for a bed.

Once detected, she is discharged.

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Lately however, Olive has adopted a new tactic. She is a stealth, nighttime interloper.

Let me set the scene. It is 5:30 am. The house is relatively dark and I stumble groggily around the kitchen — assembling lunches — while my mind pedals through the day’s to-do list.

It is cricket-quiet and I presume I’m alone, until an abrasive SCRATCH-SCRATCH-SCRATCH rings out. I stifle a startled cry before spying the cat, clawing the couch.

Unceremoniously, I heave Olive out the door.

The next morning I’m lost in thought, when the cat freaks me out again, her darkened shape writhing in the living room shadows.

“Hey!” I yell at the kids when they emerge later. “Someone keeps leaving the damn door open and the damn cat is in the house, scratching up the couches! Shut the door, okay?”

Blankly, the kids stare back; none of them fess up.

Olive announces her presence over four consecutive mornings — clawing a different piece of furniture each day — until it dawns on me: 

This cat is beating the odds.

In the cellar I discover her entry point: she has popped out a broken, jagged window pane. The same window that I featured in my second-ever blog post, way back in 2009.  

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At the time, wise old Drippy stalked me from a perch by the basement window. But he never breached the glass barrier. He never puzzled it out.

Perhaps Olive is not as dimwitted as I thought.

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The Sixth Cat

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 We’re all familiar with the 12th man, right?

The term represents the football fan, and his (or her) support and involvement, with a certain team. The 12th man doesn’t take to the field, but is part of the game.

Last night I encountered the 6th cat.

It was a typical Saturday evening. Late night, buzzed on cocktails, Martin and I were feeding the critters. The barn was ablaze in light and raucous activity. Maisie blasting her barks and the horses banging their feed tubs as they scarfed down dinner. The five cats milled about, meowing plaintively for food.

“Alright, alright,” I muttered, retrieving a can of wet food from the tack room. Cracking it open, I approached the dishes perched on the hayloft stairs. Already, two cats were in position, awaiting the meal.

At least I thought they were cats.

I assumed they were cats.

And I stood in arm’s reach, cat can tipped in preparation for pouring, when I saw the two of them.

 

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I didn’t scream, instead opting for a steady, panic-fueled chant: “Oh-my-god-oh-my-god-oh-my-god-oh-my-god-OHMYGOD!….” while bolting across the barn to the nearest open door.

When I realized that the opossum was neither in pursuit, nor poised to attack, I studied the beady-eyed beast. “Hey Martin!” I hollered. “Grab my camera! And hurry!”

But there wasn’t any need for speed because Mr. Oh-Possum showed no interest in departing. Instead, he squatted over a cat dish and stared expectantly as if to say, “Okay, I’m ready. Serve it up, lady.”

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The barn cats were equally nonchalant. They filed past the wildlife, heading up and down the stairs, suggesting that Oh-Possum is not a visitor but a regular tenant.

Martin and I crept relatively close (Translation: I advanced cautiously while shoving Martin in front as a human shield); the possum hissed briefly, but didn’t budge.

Despite the late hour, I phoned our neighbor. “Chet, get down here right now and shoot this thing!” I yelled.

Chet was unmoved. “It doesn’t sound rabid. Just use the trap I left you,” he said, referring to the humane trap he’d loaned us to catch our semi-feral cat.  

We tossed a lump of cat food in the trap and set it. But we must have set it wrong because this morning, the trap door was shut and the cage empty. (Admittedly, I was relieved to avoid another encounter with that oversized rat.)

Now that the sixth cat has made his presence known, I think it’s time to re-think the division of evening chores. Suddenly, kid-duty — bathing the crew and settling them into bed — has become an appealing option…

 

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Lazy Post: Digging

 

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One recent winter afternoon, I caught Brynn digging beneath the evergreen near the silo (nicknamed “the cat tree,” for reasons outlined here).

I understand the appeal: that soft earth is yielding… whether you are shifting soil for kicks.

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Or seeking a feline burial plot.

I held my tongue but mentally, warned her with all my might.

Brynnzilla, I would not dig too deep if I were you…

 

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