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The Wild Cat
Sometime last October I noticed I was being robbed. It wasn’t a very significant theft; I feed the birds, and the suet I store for them on my porch in a garbage bag was disappearing. The bag had been slit open and chunks chewed out of the suet.
Early one morning I opened the porch door and caught the culprit in the act, though I didn’t see much of him as he departed in ten foot leaps through the snow and disappeared through the trees. Clearly, it was a cat, gone wild.
I hung the suet up, but the cat climbed the wall and ate it anyway.
There are several ways to deal with animals you don’t want around your place and I have a very accurate rifle, which is one way of handling the problem.
But one day I surprised the wild cat on the porch and for a few moments we had eye to eye contact. I don’t know what it thought of me, but for the first time I had a good look at it, and it changed my mind about how I was going to deal with it.
It’s a pure black, long-haired cat, weighing about nine pounds, I’d guess. Its fur is matted, and it’s not fat, but it has wonderful, bright yellow eyes. Most of all, it’s wild. It looked at me, not to see whether I might be a friend, but only to see how formidable an enemy I might be. The day was bitter cold and clearly it was hungry; only real hunger could have driven it to approach in broad daylight where it was obviously not wanted. Finally, I moved, and it left in great bounds through the woods.
Shortly after that, I began to leave dry cat food on the porch, and the cat now comes every two days, only at night, and eats every crumb. I suspect it comes at the same time, but I have never actually seen it; only its tracks in the snow are proof it’s the wild cat and not some other animal.
The obvious question is, why have I changed from vengeance seeker to feeder of this wild cat? Probably it’s because the cat is a symbol of life in the mountains in the latter half of the 20th century, and I can’t harm such a symbol. I have much admiration for the spirit of life in this animal, at one time no doubt a domesticated and pampered pet. Then, abandoned, it could have lain down and died. But it had a brain and a desire to live. So in spite of dogs which run loose and in packs, and numerous other predators, including man, the wild cat has survived. It has survived in a totally alien environment, in one of the worst winters in memory. How can one fail to admire the sheer courage of such an animal?
We see it more frequently now, and with the coming of spring it does not always clean its bowl. In a few weeks the field mice will become available. I may not see the wild cat until next winter. Even then, we will not have a real friendship, I suspect, although if we both live long enough, perhaps it will one day come to trust me.
Even if we never become friends, I will count it a privilege to have known it and to have contributed to its well being. It has taught me something precious about survival in a dangerous age.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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