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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cats, Cows & Comfort Zones

We were just heading out the door one morning when I caught sight of a long white tail in my peripheral vision. It was heading down the basement stairs. Oh no. We had an intruder. And it was not housetrained.
The Farmer has a “thing” about cats in the house. He was raised to believe that cats belong outdoors. As our cats are all half-wild barn cats, they wouldn’t know what to do with a litter box if they came across one. My house plants, on the other hand…
I didn’t have time to chase the cat, so I simply closed the basement door and hoped the Farmer wouldn’t notice her.
When I returned that afternoon, the basement door was still closed. I opened it and tiptoed down the stairs, mewing for the cat in what I hoped was a non-confrontational manner. The feline appeared from under a chair and jumped up onto the table where the girls’ old dollhouse stood. The cat stood and looked at me for a moment, letting out a long “meeeewww”, before disappearing into the dollhouse. Moments later, her face appeared in the window. She looked just like King Julian from Madagascar with her wild eyes. And her mewing was so soft, I couldn’t hear her. Her mouth was moving but no sound was coming out. I was laughing and trying to coerce her out of the structure when I heard my husband’s footfall on the stairs.
The Farmer didn’t share my sense of humour about the situation. He wanted the cat out of the dollhouse that he had made for his children with his own hands, out of the basement and out of the house. NOW.
I don’t remember whose idea it was, but I’ll take the credit. I went outside and got Cody, our goofy black setter. He followed me down the stairs, and immediately sniffed out the cat. Cat Julian turned into a prickly puffball with claws, scooted through the dog’s legs and pretty much flew up the basement stairs. I had left the back door open a crack, and I was absolutely positive I saw her tail disappearing under the porch as I reached the door to close it.
“She’s gone now. And I don’t think she made a mess,” I told the Farmer. He looked around the basement, doubtful.
Later that evening, just around midnight, I was returning from a girls’ night out with my sister. “Oh-oh,” Cathy said, as she opened the door. “Cat in the house. I just saw it going down the basement stairs.”
When I reached the bottom of the stairs, the cat was sitting on a nearby chair. She let out a plaintive wail. She was probably just as frustrated as I was, and missing her kittens too. I tried to cross the space between us quickly, but tripped on a metal cage that we use for catching skunks. I wondered how long the Farmer had been trying unsuccessfully to catch the feral beast. Fun way to spend an evening.
My stumble startled the cat, and she disappeared into her dollhouse. I decided to close the basement door and keep her downstairs for the night. I hoped her wailing wouldn’t keep us up.
Before the sun was up Saturday morning, the Farmer was out the door for goose hunting on the St. Lawrence. I was in charge of watering the cows. It sounded simple enough, so I decided to sleep in.
Betty’s bawling woke me up at 8 am. I got dressed quickly and opened the patio door. Three cats ran in. I put their feed outside, opened the basement door for Cat Julian, and took off for the barn.
The cows have to remain separated from the sheep until snow covers the ground, which will discourage them from escaping through the forest. The water in the sheep trough is heated, but I couldn’t let the cows into the open area to drink. Personally, I think it would be far simpler to buy another heater for the cow’s water trough, but at the moment we just have the one. And the cows’ water hose was frozen.
I had no choice but to haul water by hand. I filled two buckets from the water trough, and carried them about fifty feet through the half-door to the rear barnyard. This task was difficult enough, but Betty decided to up the ante by bowling me over for my bucket the minute I crawled through the door. I struggled to get the water into their trough before the big bovine could spill all of it. I repeated this process about ten times until the trough was full. My arms shook from the effort, I was teeth-to-toenails mud and I hoped the neighbours weren’t watching from their window.
The cows jostled for position around the trough and sluuuuuurped greedily. Finally, after a few minutes, they were sated.
I dropped my buckets and limped back to the house. Just then, Cat Julian appeared in the doorway. She gingerly put her foot outside and touched the icy wood with one padded toe. I froze on the steps and held my breath. One false move and she would be back in her dollhouse in the basement.
It was cold outside, but hunger finally won out. Cat Julian strutted past me and met up with her two calico kittens on the woodpile.
I must admit, I felt a very gratifying sense of accomplishment. But I felt as though I had been run over by a truck.
The Accidental Farmwife would like to thank everyone who dropped in to say Merry Christmas and to share a hot chocolate during the parade last week. Diana.fisher@metroland.com.

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