Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle....

Saturday morning, having let the cats in for breakfast then letting them back outside, I was confused by the sound of Tyra “mrowring”. After checking around, I realized she was outside, calling at the back door. While she is normally a decidedly yakky kitty, it’s unusual for her to cry to come IN. The mystery was solved when I opened the door and found a dead finch at her fluffy black feet. *sigh* A gift like only a cat can give.

We’ve had dozens of cats over the years and have learned that this is really the greatest gift a cat can bestow on a human….or at least it is to a cat. The cat we had when I was growing up was a giver. Putsy was a prolific breeder and great hunter, a skill she would pass on to her spawn by maiming a gopher and allowing her kittens to ‘play’ with the quarry. She would finally go in for the kill and share the bounty with her babies. Great training. Unpleasant to watch but really the way to teach your children to hunt if you’re so inclined. If she was between litters, she would deposit portions of any variety of vermin on the back step. A cat we had in Nevada, Hawk, actually brought a jackrabbit home once and tore it open to share with his nieces and nephews. Surprisingly, Hawk was neutered but was helping to train the babies of a stray that came to our spawning grounds.

We acquired one of our best hunters in Camden, South Carolina in 1975 - that's him at the top. Torker was feral orphan left behind by his mom under a boat at the shop where Mark worked. I bottle-fed him and he grew to be an awesome cat, quite content to travel on the dash of our van (picture it - it was the 70's) but with still enough wild blood that the scent of eggs would drive him to a frenzy. If I was fixing eggs for breakfast, he would quite literally jump on the table and steal scrambled eggs from a plate and run to a corner to feast before you had a chance to react. I learned to cook him an egg of his own and serve it hot to slow down his devouring it so Mark could finish HIS breakfast in peace.

Torker came back from South Carolina with us, traveling on the dash most of the way. He hunted in Florida. He hunted in Texas. Once we got home to Santa Cruz, he went camping with us. In fact, we’re pretty sure he’s the reason the “All Dogs Must Be on Leash” signs in Yosemite were changed to “All PETS Must Be On Leash”. I remember a ranger stopping his truck as Torker chased a big bushy-tailed gray squirrel up a tree. Luckily, the squirrel was more agile and we did not have to hide the remains from Smokey Bear but most prey around our house were not so fortunate. He caught birds (big ones), gophers, mice….and he would bring those gifts to me. Unfortunately, we lived in an apartment at the end of the hall….and he would bring them alive. If I didn’t come home soon enough, he would kill it for me. If I took too long, he would eviscerate the little creature leaving me only the most delectable pieces….stomach, claws and face. Yeah…nice gift. Thank you, Torker. He would not do this without first bashing and tossing the carcass around in the hallway, leaving little red splats all over the hallway wall. The girl in the apartment nearest the door did not appreciate the bloody walls but she MUST have preferred them to the live mice that would run in the hallway. Again, “Thank you, Torker” for endearing us to our neighbors. Torker’s love for the road took him for rides in stranger’s cars….if a car door was left open, he would jump in. Three times he disappeared, twice he was returned. to the pound where we would retrieve him. I’m sure the last ride he went on was with someone who recognized he was a perfectly awesome cat and with a Southern drawl to boot.

Our most recent felines have been hunters but not eaters. More of the Garfield perspective…..”eww, Eat mice?” They will hunt, generally unsuccessfully but if they manage to capture something, they will simply run them to death and leave the carcass behind for us to clean up. I’m fine with nature taking its course, survival of the fittest and all, but I hate that they kill for sport. So, for the spring, while the baby birds are fledging, I will need to bell the cats. Or at least Tyra. And to the mommy bird, I apologize. I grieve your loss.