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Friday, April 28, 2017

The cat came back, to toy with my emotions.

“The cat came back, the very next day…the cat came back – we thought he was a goner but the cat came back, he just wouldn’t stay away…” – Harry Miller, 1893.
Monday was not a good day. It started off ok, when the temperature rose to 23 degrees in the sunshine. But when I stepped out onto the back porch, the Farmer met me with a hard look on his face.
“Go back in the house, please.”
“Huh?” that was rude, I thought. Then… “Is there a dead cat in the pool?!” I guessed it. It has only happened a couple of times in the ten years I have been at the farm, because most of our cats are far too smart to go near the pool. We lost a kitten once, and a stray who was obviously unfamiliar with the landscape. I needed to know who the victim was this time, and I dreaded the answer.
“I need to see him,” I said, fearing the worst. Junior, one of our two barn cats who over-winters in the house, had only started his springtime excursions the day before. Could he be the cat who fell in the pool? The Farmer didn’t want to show me. I grabbed the feed bag he was holding and peeked inside. The wet body was mostly grey. I started to cry despite myself, and stomped off toward the house. It certainly looked like Junior the grey tabby to me.
“I don’t think he fell in,” said the Farmer. He was on top of the ice. It’s like he was in a fight with another cat and just died there.”
I slammed the door behind me and vowed to buy a pool cover so we would never lose another cat. I blamed myself for announcing the weather forecast to Junior and shoving him and his siblings outside. The other cats were acting strangely, sitting at the patio door and staring out at the pool. Perhaps they had witnessed the entire unfortunate event. I cried intermittently throughout the day, whenever I thought of my cheerful, rambunctious cat who trusted me for his care and safety. I felt sick and couldn’t eat.
Tuesday was a little better. I had a number of work-related distractions and needed to focus on writing assignments so I successfully put Junior out of my mind for most of the day.
Wednesday morning I went outside to check on our lame calf. I found her lying in the woodpile, out of the wind. Her foot is healing well, and I like that she lets me put hands on her. That always makes it easier if you have to catch them to treat them or to take milk for babies in the future.
On my way back into the house, I heard a “mrrttt” and saw a grey blur shoot through my legs. Junior! The missing cat had returned from the dead. I followed him into the basement, where he allowed me to pet him as he filled his face with food. He seemed rather frantic, as if he had been through quite an experience. For the rest of the morning he was quite vocal, either purring with voiced breathing as he groomed himself in front of the wood stove, or sitting at my feet as I worked in the kitchen and at my desk, a barrage of kitty questions directed at me.
Junior spent a good part of Wednesday morning racing up and down the stairs after Sheila and Sammy. He appeared quite happy to be home. He rolled on his back and ripped at the carpet on the stairs, forcing me to lock him in the basement until he calmed down. Junior is back. Might I add this is also the cat who was adopted as a kitten and summarily returned for his inability to adapt to his new human. It's not the first time he has made a triumphant return to the farm.
I feel very bad about the cat who died in or around my pool, and will take steps to ensure no one falls into it and drowns ever again. I still have no idea which cat ran out of his nine lives. I don’t think it was the white and black stray tomcat who likes to engage Sammy in fights that leave holes in his leg. The cat I saw was grey. Perhaps it was another stray. This time of year the males are off wandering to see who they can fight for territory. They are looking for females to impregnate and leaving a trail of wounded warriors in their wake.
I suspect Junior knows, and is trying to tell me.

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