Wednesday, July 30, 2008
That's Chloey at the left, one of my six rescued cats. She's been with us for at least a ten or twelve years.
She showed up in our barn one day long ago, pregnant and hungry. Whoever had her before hadn't treated her very well, and it took days for her to let me near her. Food was the answer - she finally decided that I could be trusted, as I'd been bringing her food for more than a week.
Not long afterwards, she gave birth to five kittens. She was such a tiny cat that she couldn't feel them all, and I ended up caring for her tiniest kitten, Brutus.
Brutus was the runt of the litter, but was tough enough to fight for his life. His siblings were triple his size, and wouldn't let him feed, so I spent many hours with Brutus balanced carefully on my chest, a doll bottle keeping him fed. He took forever to feed, but he eventually caught up with his brothers and sisters. Of course, by then, he wasn't interested in anything other than a bottle and all that human attention.
We found homes for all the kittens except Brutus. After weeks of hand-feeding Brutus, I became so attached that I couldn't give him up.
While raising her brood, Chloey earned a new title: Terrorist Cat. Tom named her that when she began beating up our other cats who, due to natural curiousity, got too close to her babies. Chloey took on any and all other cats, including those who were two or three times her size. All the other cats soon learned to stay away from Chloey and her kittens, or be prepared to die. Chloey was quite serious about her Terrorist role, and the rest of the cats found out the hard way, ending up with bites and scratches from Terrorist Chloey.
Chloey the Terrorist finally settled down after her babies all had new homes. Her best friend was Brutus, since the other cats refused to have anything to do with her. Chloey and Brutus both loved the outdoors, and spent as much time as possible outside. They had been spayed and neutered, so they stayed close and didn't wander, spending most of their time in our century-old barn.
Tom would let them out every morning so they could enjoy the day. The other cats usually stayed indoors. But if Chloey didn't get outside, she went back to Terrorist status and picked on the other cats. Except Brutus - he was her favorite, and she tolerated him even during his everyday mom-wrestling matches. They'd spend the day outside wandering our little two acres, no matter what the weather. At the end of the day, just before dark, they dutifully came in, ready to eat their dinner and then curl up for the night.
Two weeks ago, Chloey didn't come in. Brutus did, but his mother didn't. Tom called and then went looking. He didn't find her, and - since once in a while she refused to come in because the barn mice were gaining on her - he let her stay out. He knew she'd be waiting at our door in the morning, just like all the other times.
But that was not to be. It's been two weeks now, and Chloey isn't coming home. One of the reasons why all our cats are required to be in at night is because the coyotes have grown in number over the last few years. We've seen them at dawn, out on the hunt, and we hear them howling late at night. Their numbers have increased dramatically due to lack of coyote-predators, and now all the rabbits and most of the squirrels in our neighborhood are gone. Cats are next on their list.
She's gone. Chloey had a fabulous personality, once you got beyond the Terrorist character. She lived a good life with us, asked for nothing, and gave me a lot of memorable smiles. She weighed about four pounds, but gave us tons of love. I miss you, Chloey.