9. When Cats Cry

One of the most heartbreaking things one can witness is to see a cat crying.  If you have never seen it, you probably will not believe me.  However, I can tell you it is certainly true.  I know.  I know.  There are people (those who are “experts” in the field of cat behavior) who will tell you that cats do not express their emotions in this way.   They contend that cats will become lethargic, or show a disinterest in food, or withdraw and that if there are tears, it is for medical reasons rather than from emotional distress.  Some medical reasons they cite are eye irritation from a speck of dust, a scratch from another cat, an allergy, or from a contagious disease, such as upper respiratory infection.  I know better.  I know cats cry when they hurt emotionally.

Sasha is a big furry, gentle, fourteen pound male feral cat, who is now one of our companions.  He was in the first (of three) feral litters of HRH Alexandria Regina.  I would let him in the house to eat his meals in peace and to allow him to have a little respite from the cruelty of the outside world.  He became quite socialized and would be in the house sometimes for hours at a time.   He would find his perfect place in the sun on a comfy cushion and fall asleep – soundly…possibly the best sleep of the day for him.  He also liked to follow me around.   He would head-butt my leg; I would pet him until he indicated he was tired of the routine and wanted to sleep, or eat, or groom.

One day, I had to do some things in the basement.  It’s an unfinished basement with exposed beams and rafters.  I was not accustomed to closing the door behind me, since we did not have indoor companions at that time…and…I forgot that Sasha was in the house.  The next thing I know, I see Sasha on the stair way and he is very frightened.   I walked towards him to see if I could ease him back up the stairs, but he panicked and ran past me into the basement.  He ran around to several different locations in the basement looking for an exit.  He finally went to the top of a shelving unit and tried to make himself invisible; he then went into the rafters behind some insulation.

I tried talking to him and tried to get him to come to me, but nothing worked.  I finally got the ladder and put myself level with him so he could see me.  I stroked him and spoke to him softly and as I was speaking with him, he started to cry.   He cried real tears that fell onto my hand.   I stroked them away and kept talking to him.  It was the saddest thing to see.  He could not express himself in any other way at that time, so perhaps he knew I would understand tears or perhaps it was involuntary.  Eventually, my husband came home and together we coaxed him down where he went limp in my arms as I was carrying him up the stairs.   It was a day, long remembered ….

Nancy L. H. Laurent

1. How It All Began – Beginnings with Feral Cats

Thus begins my understanding of both domestic cats and community cats.  Not everything is in chronological order, but then, every account has a beginning, a history, and some interruptions and digressions.

One overcast early morning, my cat Clyde whispered: “Every life deserves nine cats.  Your life won’t be complete until then.”  He continued: “Let your meditation be ‘Meow’ as you focus on this touchstone of feline wisdom.”  I’ve always listened to Clyde; he’s never steered me wrong.

Now then, before there even was a Clyde, there was Clyde’s mother, Lexie (HRH Alexandria Regina), who is an old, wise mama cat.  She would spend countless hours teaching her third and last litter of kits, Clyde, Hope, and Hunter.

I remember Lexie talking to her kits into the long hours of one evening in early autumn as they lay around her.  Then, for some reason, that particular evening just slowed to a halt.  Everything was still.  It was 11:45 PM.  I moved in a bit closer to listen and I heard her say with an unwavering voice to her teary eyed kits, “Yes, my little ones, all cats do go to heaven.  If it were not so, I would have told you.”  Time stood still as those words of comfort were quietly engraved on my heart and theirs.  Within moments, they all began purring and snuggled together for a long and comforting nap until their usual 3:00 AM playtime.  Life has never been the same after that.

The sacred moments in our lives and those of our cats are precious.  We hold those moments forever in our hearts with a love that’s ineffable.  And – we are careful who we share those moments with.  One doesn’t throw pearls before swine. (Matthew 7:6)  But, let’s leave that discussion for another time.

Well, I got ahead of myself as I sometimes do.  There are so many memories and I have to pick and choose.

It all really began in the quiet late afternoon of an early winter day in 2006 as the western sun became an orange ball just over the treetops.  As we were nearing our Belvidere home, we noticed a white animal; it was a large cat crawling out of a wide opening storm sewer at the curb.  It was snowing lightly with large, lazy, fluffy flakes hovering above the ground.  Our granddaughter, who was with us, bestowed upon him the name of Snowball.  We know well after that time, that because of Snowball’s age and reputed wisdom (it’s a small neighborhood and things get around here) he was respectfully called the old, wise man, and many went to him for solace, advice, and thoughts about humans.  He’d survived a long time as a feral and knew more than the others.   He truly merited all the respect he received.  Snowball is with us.

We discovered that feral cats will present themselves to people who will help.  We just didn’t know it and we didn’t know that it would happen to us.

I’d never seen him before just as I’d never seen other ferals in the neighborhood.  Perhaps the new pair of glasses I’d gotten allowed me to see.  Or, maybe Snowball was one of the great gifts that have been there for years; I had just never opened this one.

It was a great wake up moment that captured us then and hasn’t let go over the unending months and years.  That moment was a gift in the midst of a normal and sometimes uneventful life.  A short time later, Snowball came to the back porch – actually it’s a 3′ X 3′ step.  He sat there with an expectant look (no, I’m not anthropomorphizing here); we didn’t have any cat food.  Well, who would?

Now, we had some warm roast beef from supper and some cans of tuna on a shelf.  Guess what?  He liked the roast beef and the tuna.  He ate as if he hadn’t eaten in days.  Go figure!

I will stop here and move many, many months later.  My cat Clyde (TNR #009) told me once again: “Every good life should have nine cats – it will make you more human.  And yes, Craig, Snowball was very hungry when he first appeared on your porch.  No one else had noticed him either.  And — no one had fed him so well.  He did look into your eyes and spoke.  You are forever in his heart.”

One man put it so well:  “Cats are a mysterious kind of folk. There is more passing in their minds than we are aware of.” (Sir Walter Scott)

I am thankful for all of you who take care of cats in a variety of ways.  Of course, we never own them.  Remember: “Dogs have masters.  Cats have staff.”

From those of you who volunteer at shelters, in TNR projects, and support others, there are often accounts of overwhelming difficulties, the stories of the love you have for all of your animals, and the unexpected sadness and tears of disappointment when things just don’t seem to work out.  Then there’s the stunning grief of finding one of your ferals out on the road – why do they have to cross the road anyway?  It’s of little immediate comfort at the time, but “All cats do go to heaven.”

Snowball is an old, wise cat.  He likes to remind me of an old saying.  He says it will keep my hopes up and a smile on my face.  “To the world, you’re just a person.  To a rescued cat, you are the world.”  I don’t think there’s any reward or honor which is greater than that, do you?

Please share with me some of your moments with your indoor cats, and your neighborhood cats.