Saturday, November 05, 2005

What the Voluntary Cat Left Behind

Rejection is never easy to take, especially when it comes from the paws of a black and white cat you rescued from the local animal shelter.  Our voluntary cat never did explain why she refused to stay in our house for more than a couple weeks at a time.  Despite the electronic chip in her neck that kept getting her returned to us, she managed to let us know that she wanted another address.  There are cats who do like our house and three of them have stayed.  One never comes inside.  He spends most of the day sunning himself in the yards of various indulgent neighbors.  He only goes near us when he wants to eat and even then it’s only to show up on our front porch just long enough to empty a bowl of cat food.   We have no idea where he sleeps. The other one is a kitten whom my wife evicted for about a week after she started using the back of our bookshelf as her litter box.  I mean the kitten.  My wife has been house trained as long as we’ve known one another.  The third one is gray with gray stripes and has recently taken up hunting.  

We come out in the morning and find rodent remains on our front door mat.  For a few years, the cat would leave the head and spinal column of the moles, gophers, or rats she happened to trap in our yard.  In the last two weeks, the cat has reversed its pattern and is now leaving the back half of the rat on our doorstep so that often a spiral tail hangs just over the edge of the brown doormat onto the pebble-finish cement of the door step.  My wife insists that I bury the remains before she’ll step outside again.  She forbids me to bury any rat tails any spot in our front yard that she might be gardening on the weekend.   One time I tried to dispose of the half carcass in the front yard of one of the neighbors we don’t like so much only to see our neighbor walking towards his mailbox just as I started to cross the street with a shovel filled with rat hindquarters.  I turned around and buried it about three feet from our apple tree under a pile of dead leaves.  I don’t blame my wife for being afraid of the cat’s offerings.  One time, she stepped outside barefoot and forgot to look down.  

I wish I could ask our cat why she went from leaving us heads to leaving us tails.  Cats, unfortunately, seem to take a kind of pride in not having to explain anything that they do.  Actually, I’d like to know why she leaves animal parts on our doorstep in any form.  We feed her well enough.  We’ve always petted her when she’s asked to be petted.  We even let her in the house when it’s cold or raining or both.  My wife insists that leaving the remains of other species on our door step is some feline version of tribute, possibly their expression of appreciation for our hospitality.  It’s even occurred to me that she’s leaving the other half as a delicacy for one of us to eat along with her.  That might explain the fact that she switched halves.  Perhaps it occurred to her that humans, who don’t have tails, might like one of their own.  Most likely it’s just some form of cat humor that’s beyond the humans with whom they choose to live.

About a year ago, we had another cat who was quite a good hunter.  One time I was trying to jump start my daughter’s car when a huge rat jumped out of the engine compartment.  I was so surprised that I ran into the house and left the hood of her car propped up.  No family members believed me until a few days later, Buster, our cat, proudly carried the body of what was likely the same rat into our kitchen.  Instead of praise, Buster was greeted with a chorus of screams and ran out of the house rat in mouth.  He was so frightened by the screams that he dropped the dead rat on the doorstep just off the doormat.  A few months later, our neighbor who hates us because my wife called the pound after he refused to keep his dog from wandering the neighborhood at night must have left the gate open one afternoon.  Wish, another of our cats, was sitting on our doorstep and the dog came into our yard, grabbed him in his teeth, and shook the cat until another neighbor pulled him off.  The dog then ran off and killed another cat down the street. We had to sue the neighbor to get him to pay the vet bill.  Wish died at the vets about three days later.  The neighbor was angry at us because he had to destroy his dog.  He never apologized nor did he ever ask about our cat when she was at the vet.

I don’t know if our gray cat knows this story, though I imagine the neighborhood cats do communicate about such vital matters.  If she does know the story, I wonder if it’s connected to her leaving rat parts on our door.  Maybe, she misses Wish and this is kind of cat performance-tribute art recognizing the domestic animal chain of being in which cats are both hunter and hunted.

There’s a sign on our front door that tells people to take their shoes off before they go in the house.  It was actually up even before my wife stepped in the entrails this year, but I’m sure that made it less likely that she’ll take the sign down.  I imagine our guests have no sense of the history of our doorstep as altar in some complex feline system of belief.  I’m sure none of them would even guess that so many mysteries lie right on our doorstep.  


At 11/07/2005 01:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, truth in advertising -- I am very big, like my vet, on urban cats being strictly indoor cats as there are, as we can see, too many perils for them outside.

I do wish you'd gotten to leave the hind-end parts of the rat on the lawn of the Bad Guy.

It is amazing how people think their horrible vicious dog is just the bees knees. As a window-washer, people would always say, "Oh Rover is wonderful" as Rover was lunging for my throat. True. If there hadn't been an afghan hung over the back of a chair which by some deft luck I swung between me and Rover's fangs, I would not be a-bloggin' today. (To my credit, I did just plain leave the house and say Wash this, as it were.)

Everything feline is always fascinating.

Hate to say it, but if the Big Quack comes & it's between saving Frolic and Jester and any human -- well, I do not hesitate, lest their fur be mussed.

I always like the cat stories best, tho I have to say I would prefer more cat triumph and human bafflement and less cat carnage, thanks.

At 11/07/2005 09:08:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

We actually don't exactly live in the city or anything that's all that urban.

This one had more rat carnage than cat carnage, but for some reasons no one ever defends rats here.


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