Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: cats

The Wise Old Mother Cat

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On this International Day of the Cat, it seems an opportune time to clear up some misconceptions about the relationship between cats and humans.

From the human standpoint the relationship seems frustrating. We can’t train our cat to do anything, she won’t even come when we call.

From the cat’s standpoint, the relationship is working out well. We open the door for her when she wants to go in or out; we provide the kind of food she likes; we give her a warm place to stay when it’s cold outside, and all the other amenities for a good life.

You see, we humans tend to understand this relationship all backwards: humans have never domesticated cats, they have domesticated us.

It goes back thousands of years to when our human ancestors in the fertile crescent began to plant crops and build houses. The ancestors of our cats lived there too and soon realized the opportunities these human innovations provided for them. Mice and rats foraged in the fields and especially loved the places where grain was stored. And when humans stayed in one place for any length of time their dwelling places became magnets for mice and rats. Wherever humans lived there was a constant supply of food for cats.

During this time, a Wise Old Mother Cat gathered the many generations of her offspring together and began to teach them how to make the best of this opportunity.

“These two-legged creatures are taking notice of the way you reduce the number of mice and rats that eat their food and trouble their homes. If you act wisely, they will become your friends and protectors.

“Be wary of them at first, all are not kind. But if one of them acts kindly toward you, show your appreciation by purring. They love that sound. Don’t use your claws and teeth to protect yourself unless your life is in danger. They will learn that you intend them no harm and will begin to trust you.

“When that happens, don’t be afraid to enter into their homes and show that you trust them in return. It will take many years, but in time they will become your friends. If you act affectionately to them, they will do the same to you. Little by little, over time, you will be able to train them to provide everything you need for your comfort and happiness.”

OK, I admit it, the Wise Old Mother Cat is a legend (created by yours truly). But can anyone deny that something much like this has happened?

Memories of Panda

Panda was our number one furry friend for over 15 years. We got her from a street cat rescue program when she was about six months old. She was part of a litter of long haired black cats found in an abandoned car in a back alley. She grew into a magnificent Maine Coon cat and lived with us in our last three homes.

In our first home, she would perch on the back of the couch, part the vertical blinds with her paw  to look out on the driveway and watch for our return.

She was the same age as our oldest grandchild and all our grandchildren learned from her that gentleness and kindness were the  keys to inspiring trust.

After spending hours at the computer I would turn around and see her on the floor quietly watching me. As soon as I made eye contact she was on her feet leading me to where I kept her brush and comb. A little time spent grooming her made her happy and gave me a needed break. She loved to be vacuumed, the air current through her long hair must have felt good.

The first evening afterwe moved onto this acreage she went outside to explore. When she didn’t come back we went looking for her with flashlights. We went all over the yard, searching and calling her. Finally we gave up and went back to the house. There she was, calmly sitting on the front step, as if to say “Where have you guys been? I’ve been waiting for you.”

I like cats because they are free. They could survive as feral anaimals but choose to make their home with us. They don’t often come when they are called, but when they feel like it they will jump on our lap and purr contentedly.

If I accidentally stepped on Panda’s tail or paw she would give a loud squawk, but that was all. She never believed that I had done it deliberately and it didn’t affect her trust in me. She would calmly sleep through sudden loud noises and commotions in the house, but if a can of salmon was opened she would wake from her sleep, wherever she was, and show up to ask for a share.

Yesterday we took her to the vet and had her put to sleep. Over the past few months she has lost weight until she was just skin and bones. Her blood pressure was high and her kidneys were failing. The vet gave us medicine and at times it seemed to be helping. Finally we had to face the reality that the things we were doing to try and relieve her distress were only causing her more distress. It is a relief to know her suffering is over.

I hope that I have learned something about respect and trust from my relationship with Pand that will transfer to my relationships with people.

Snow, beautiful snow

It’s springtime in Saskatchewan and our yard has begun to emerge from the winter’s accumulation of snow. We were greeted this morning by more of the white stuff falling from the sky; by dinner time about 10 cm has accumulated. Beautiful, glittering, pristine white snow.

I had planned to go to the city this morning, but decided to rather stay home and contemplate the beauty of the snow. My decision was largely motivated by the knowledge that the city streets will be pretty ugly by now.

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A few minutes ago Pookie (who looks very much like the cat in the photo above) decided he wanted to go out. I opened the door and the sight of all that snow on the doorstep seemed very uninviting.

Well, why don’t I make the world outside a little more inviting for a kitty? A few minutes with a push broom cleared the heavy wet snow off the door step and the patio stones in front of it.

Pookie went out, walked down the steps and to the end of the patio stones. Then he gingerly stepped into the snow, excavated a spot, used it for a bathroom, covered it up and came back in.

There is a litter box in the house, but that is shared with two other cats. This is much more sanitary.

Winter – month five

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Snow is such beautiful stuff, so sparkly bright and clean, a symbol of purity. We just got another 30 cm of it over the weekend to mark the beginning of month 5 of winter.

Perhaps you can tell that my enthusiasm is somewhat less than it would have been when I was a seven year old boy. So I try to remind myself of the benefits of snow. When there is snow on the ground we don’t have a bug problem and I don’t have to cut grass or weed flower beds. Plus, this fresh blanket of snow should be thick enough to muffle the mumblings and grumblings about drought – for a few weeks at least.

Honestly, though, I won’t be disappointed when it leaves. Our cats are getting cabin fever, and so are we.

Second thoughts and scattered thoughts

Upon reading my last post, about my father, after I had posted it, I realize that it is an even rougher first draft than I had thought. It does altogether too much telling and not enough showing. It needs a serious rewrite, but I won’t post the rewrite. Everything I post here will need to be revised before publication and there is no use boring you by posting multiple revisions of every chapter.

Jerry Jenkins describes himself as a “pantser”, one who writes by the seat of his pants without having a clear idea in mind of where a particular story is going to take him until he is finished. That is what I am most comfortable with, but I think a memoir needs a rough outline to know what episodes in my life are worth including, and in what order. I will get back to posting further chapters of my memoir in a few days.

– When did the pronunciation of schism change? My wife and I say shizm. I have three current dictionaries of Canadian English (Oxford, Collins and Nelson-Gage) and they all say skizm. How long has that been going on? The Brits say sizm. In French it is shizm, maybe that’s where we got it. My impression is that all Canadians used to pronounce it that way, is my memory playing tricks on me?

– There is a scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy and her friends find a chasm barring their way. The Cowardly Lion is afraid to try jumping over it. One of the group suggests he go back and take a run at it. “But that’s not the way a cat jumps,” he responds. Indeed it isn’t. Cats have powerful muscles in their back legs and usually just crouch and leap. Our Pookie doesn’t even crouch. He is the smallest of our cats, with legs that are a little longer than most cats. He walks up to our bed , 66 cm / 26 inches high, slightly flexes his legs and he is on top of the bed. It looks like he just floats up without much effort.

– We always thought the mounds of fine rich soil in gardens, lawns, fields and pastures were the work of moles. Some folks told us there are no moles in Saskatchewan and we didn’t believe them. What else would do that? Yesterday there was an unfamiliar rodent lying dead beside our front walk, courtesy of one of our cats. It took some searching, but we discovered it is a Northern Pocket Gopher, and that they make exactly the kind of mounds we are seeing and are hardly ever seen above ground. Another lesson courtesy of our cats. There must be a whole city of these critters beneath our feet.

How much do cats really know?

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I took Angus to the vet this morning; Angus being the middle of our three cats, officially described as domestic short hair, but mostly Siamese in temperament. He knows what’s in store when the cat carrier appears and did not enter it willingly. Once the car was moving he commenced a deep-voiced mournful wail that he repeated frequently during the 15 minute trip.

Once we got to the vet office he was quiet, probably not wanting to draw the attention of the big dog that came in just after us. Once in the examining room he willingly walked out of the carrier and quietly submitted to the attentions of the nice lady vet, including the two needles she gave him for booster shots. Then he walked back into the carrier and was reasonably quiet on the way home. He knows the drill, just likes to let us know that this is not his idea of a fun way to start the day.

Two years ago, on the way home from the vet clinic with Angus, we decided to go on to Swanson to pick up our mail. As soon as we passed the O’Malley Road corner he began an agitated wail and only calmed down when we made the right turn on our return. How did he know?

Several weeks ago, my wife mentioned that she hadn’t seen any gophers this year and wondered if there none around our acreage. The next day Angus appeared at our front door with a freshly killed gopher in his mouth. He didn’t get any further that day. The following day he managed to smuggle another freshly killed gopher into the house, gopher-888841_640.jpgwalked up to my wife seated in front of her computer, and dropped the gopher at her feet. The gift was not appreciated, but Angus had made his point – he knows more about what goes on around this acreage than we do.

Next my wife foolishly wondered if there were any mourning doves around this year, she hadn’t seen or heard any. A couple days later Angus walks across our front yard meowing loudly, or as loud as he could with his mouth full of a feathery creature. My wife dashed out, crying “No birds, Angus. No birds!” Angus dutifully opened his mouth and the mourning dove flew away. It appeared that he was more interested in show and tell than in a feather sandwich.

How did he know what she was talking about? mourning-dove-1601916_640.jpgOr are these all total coincidences?

Cat or dog: which is smarter?

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I will confess my prejudice right off the bat – I think cats are smarter. I have met some well-trained dogs that gave every evidence of having a keen intelligence. Most dogs, though, if left to themselves, don’t seem to have a lot of smarts. They chase cars, defecate on the lawn and have really gross personal hygiene.

Nevertheless, I have fond memories of a dog that looked just like the one in the picture. He was just a land race collie of the type that was common on Saskatchewan farms years ago. He was my protector when I was a toddler. I clearly remember my frustration one day when I wanted to go to the barn. He knew I was too young to venture out there where the big animals were, so he simply stood in my way. I tried and tried to go around him, but he always stood in front of me and wouldn’t let me pass.

A cat won’t do that, but cats are more cuddly and they purr. They are fastidious about their personal hygiene. They are capable of a much wider range of vocalizations than a dog. Cats can rustle up their own food if needed. I once knew a 20year old arthritic cat that was still a successful hunter, bringing home mice and moles that he had caught.

Cats have a distinctive call when they have caught something and want to show it to you. Some years ago our cat came up to the house making that call. She had a toad in her mouth. She didn’t intend to eat it, she just wanted to show it to us. The toad wasn’t hurt at all and hopped away as soon as she let go of it.

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When we were first married we had a domestic long hair cat, not the same colour as the picture shown here, that we called Moochie. For a few days we also had a dog. At night we closed the door to the stairs, with the dog downstairs and the cat upstairs with us. The cat’s litter box was also downstairs, but we hoped she would be good till morning, or wake us up if she had to go. We slept peacefully through the night. I got up in the morning to get ready to go to work, and there was Moochie peeing down the bathtub drain. Show me a dog that has that kind of smarts!

Cats and compassion

We share our home with three cats. Each one came to us as a feral kitten at about six months old. This summer they will be 15, 7 and 6.

They are dependent on us for shelter, food and affection. They tolerate each other, but don’t appear to really like one another, though Pookie will let us know when Angus wants to come in. But as soon as Angus is in the door Pookie acts like he wants to fight with him. They never do each other any harm, though.

Angus came home twice with a bloody ear and now has two neat v’s notched on his right ear. My wife thinks he was scrapping with some other neighbourhood cat, but he showed no other battle wounds. I think that both times he probably lost a game of tag with the magpies.

They appreciate the comforts of home, having a special preference for the two recliners or the two office chairs, which happen to be our preferred seats also. They often interrupt our work with loud demands for food, for brushing or to be let outside.

Our laundry centre is located beside the hallway between the office and kitchen. Every once in a while we will hear Angus calling loudly. There he is, on top of the washing machine and wanting one of us to come and pay him some attention.

Two of the cats shed a lot of hair; we are often awakened in the middle of the night by a cat wanting to go out. The only reward we get is knowing that they like us and feel secure being in the same room as us. And nothing can compare with the contented purring of a cat on one’s lap.

Despite their annoying habits, we love our cats and think most of the distractions are good for us. Which leads me to ponder: am I as compassionate towards the people around me as I am towards my cats?

The old cat and the old door

When Panda was a young cat, she loved to explore the great outdoors and often wasn’t ready to come in when we wanted to go away or to lock the door for the night. My wife discovered a surefire remedy — kitty treats. She only had to rattle the bag and Panda would come running. That served our purposes and we were happy to have found a way to call her in.

But we soon found that she now expected to be rewarded every time she came in. Whether she came of her own accord or was called, she would immediately go to the place where the kitty treats were stored and would not move until we paid up. In her mind, this was now written into her contract and we owed it to her.

As time went by Panda got older, and so did the house. A leak above the front door caused the frame to rot and we sealed off that door. The side door now became our main entrance. I tried to patch the leaky roof, not very successfully, and looked for someone to do some repairs. Everyone was busy on big jobs, no one seemed interested in this dirty job. Plus, I really thought the rot had probably spread beyond the door frame. Finally, after five years, someone came, saw the damage was not as bad as I had thought, patched the roof, replaced the door frame and our door is better than new.

Panda grew older, wasn’t so often interested in going out anymore, and had ceased to ask for treats when she came in. Our two younger cats never knew there was supposed to be a door just off our kitchen and dining room. They still run for the side door when they want to go out and are slowly adjusting to the idea that we might let them in by the front door.

But Panda remembers. She knows all about this door, and she knows that when she comes in this door we owe her some kitty treats. She has taken to going out much more often than she has for a long time. She only stays out a couple minutes, it is now December and she likes to be warm. But every time she comes in that door she heads straight for the place where we keep the kitty treats. They are in her contract, after all.

Scrambled thoughts on a Monday morning

I woke up some time after 7:00 am and found I was alone in bed. I wondered how long that had been. Through the closed bedroom door I could hear the muffled sound of the washing machine. What was that about? I thought she did all the laundry on Saturday.

After stumbling around groggily for a few minutes, I made my way to the computer and chequed our bank account. Since this is the third last banking day of the month I expected to find that our pensions had been deposited, and yes, they were. I took the next few minutes to spend half the money on bill payments.

Then my wife explained the reason for using the washing machine. She had been washing last night’s dishes at the kitchen sink when she discovered water running out of the cabinet on to the floor. It took a lot of towels to sop up the water and clean up. Then the towels had to be washed. The kitchen tap has a pull out faucet and the connection to the flexible hose had worked loose. It was no big deal to tighten it up again and stop it from leaking. The effects of the loose connection had been a big deal.

Then I weighed myself and found that I had gained five pounds. When I stepped off the scale, though, it did not return to zero. I adjusted the scale back to zero with nothing on it and then I was back to my normal weight. That was better, but still a long way from being good news – my normal weight is 50 pounds, or 25 kg, more than it should be. I feel it in my knees. Yes I’m getting older, but that’s not the whole problem; I’m sure my knees would complain less if they didn’t have to lift that extra weight.

A few years ago I took our badly overweight Panda to the vet for her annual shots. The vet explained to me that dry cat food is far from ideal for cats. Canned cat food contains all the essential nutrients for a cat, is easier to digest, and contains more liquid, causing a cat to feel full sooner than with dry cat food. Since then we have been feeding our cats canned cat food twice a day, plus making dry cat food available to them. Panda has lost 2 kg and is more active and agile at the age of fourteen than she was a few years ago. I’m not going to try her diet, but I have noticed that most weight loss plans ask you to drink lots of water. Maybe there is something in that for me.

I tend to put on weight in the winter when I don’t get outside much. For years I have experimented with different exercise devices and none of them seemed to offer what I needed, nor were they very appealing to use. Then someone suggested a rebounder (mini-trampoline). My daughter has one and she wasn’t using it, so I borrowed it to try out before I decided to spend any money. I have been using it daily, aiming to increase my time to fifteen minutes a day. I have a hiatus hernia and have to be careful not to do anything that would make it flare up and cause me pain in ordinary activities. Last night I came across a recommendation to bounce on the rebounder three times a day, five minutes at a time. That sounds like something I can do.

So now I have done my morning five minutes, cleared the cobwebs from my brain and it’s time to start work.

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