Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Beauty of Possessing Cats

Cats and more cats, how they can so easily become an obsession. I have become involved in the cat business as I'm supportive of a cattery, in touch with a cat rescuer and I help three outdoor cats. My friend has a cattery in the beautiful desert and when one visits, at least twenty cats show the traditional cat greeting by clamoring to the door and trying to steal a glance. At night, if I choose to stay, at least twenty cats take the places of the proverbial "cats who sleep with you". One undersized black guy got overly familiar and licked the inside of my ear.

In the middle of the night, aside from rumpled sheets and wadded up blankets, I endured the unexpected sensation of a cat predator at the window. A huge owl spread his wings ominously behind the shade and appeared to be the vampire who might prey upon all domestic cats. After thrashing about, I was able to settle in again and the little black boy resumed his intimate touches. In the daytime, the major challenge was to orchestrate the movements of waves of felines in order to keep them outside an off-limits room. All in all, I enjoyed being a petting partner for this large group of desert cats.

As a friend of a cat rescuer, I've had the experience of smuggling one orange guy named Reggie out of Animal Control. My friend waited outside while I crept into the Control Center and briefly signed the necessary papers to rescue a cat who had been a member of the desert cattery. Due to circumstances beyond his control, and his name is Reggie, he was held captive and labeled undesirable by the powers to be. They had found some kind of bacterial infection and confined him with a group of cats who were deemed unable to be adopted.

I hopefully placed Reggie's name on the "cat to be adopted" line of the application and briskly walked to the backroom where problem cats were being observed. One look at Reggie, an orange and white delight, and I knew I couldn't live without him. I was determined to rescue the feline, as my friend waited anxiously by the door. Indeed, Reggie was given to me with the warning that he wasn't completely well. Since then, he has become the life of the party at the cattery, and has even escaped the outdoor enclosure to enjoy the freedom and thrill of the rooftop.

And I can't forget my three outdoor cats. I possess an unusual tortoise shell female called "Chatty". "Chat" is the French word for cat, and she is also "chatty" or talkative. I'm sure she is part Maincun, which is a breed known for its various vocalizings and heavy, wiry coat. The purebreds of this breed also have hair in their ears and around their feet. Chatty has lead a most unusual life as she has spent it outdoors as a stray. She has survived more than ten years outside and is extremely intelligent, if not cunning. She will appear at exactly the time I chose to go outside the front door the previous evening. She tracks my movements and is able to gauge the expected hour. If I visit a neighbor, she will wait outside that very door for me. If I water the lawn she will stalk me about the yard, probably theorizing about the exact moment I will ascend my staircase and feed the beasties.

Other outdoor cats are "Gent", short for "gentleman" and "Mr Orange", a large, very noisy orange tabby. Gent likes to take his meal by himself, in my kitchen. Each night he is hopeful that I will allow this intrusion into my solitary existence. I live alone so these cats are live bodies who visit my bungalow in the remote corner of my courtyard. Few people can find me, and that works well because I like to choose moments of being alone in my snug apartment. Even so, Gent finds me and, if I remember to let him in, he pauses by my doorway to enjoy pats and pets, then casually trots to the kitchen for a private meal of wet cat food. The only problem in this routine is encountered when he arrives back at the door. Chatty shows her independence and jealousy all at the same time as she tries to strike at him as he leaves the doorway and heads down the stairs.

Mr. Orange is the noisiest cat in the neighborhood and, I'm afraid, may soon bring unwelcome comments from the neighbors. He is a large male, orange with a white belt around his middle. He doesn't come every night, so I know others are helping this supposedly homeless cat. One never knows for sure how many homes these strays have. I received a letter from a knowledgeable ferrel cat coalition and I heard about the process of TNR, which means trap, neuter and release. I only hope I will have time to do all this. Chatty will in fact be going to the cattery as I am taking a very long flight to North Carolina (I live in San Diego) to visit my son, his wife and their two children. It's time for Chatty to retire. I hope I'm right in thinking that the males have another feeding spot across the street.

I know you animal haters will, as of now, hate me when I say that everybody needs to have at least one pet, especially a cat. They are very low maintenance and there is no need for euthanasia. Let me put it this way, because of peoples' selfishness and lack of education, cats are put to sleep in great numbers. I believe as the American Indians believed, that the way we treat animals and our natural world will ultimately affect our own existence. The Bible, in Genesis, says that we are the rulers over animals and, more importantly, are the caretakers of God's creatures. I'm actually not allowed to have pets here at this apartment complex, but I have requested an exception to the rule. If everyone would due their part, Animal Control would not have the odious task of extermination. This, of course includes spaying and neutering teenage cats. I believe that a person's character can be gauged by how he/she treats animals and small children. These are the helpless of the world, and it is up to the rest of us to show compassion and kindness.

In an ideal world, every household would have at least one cat. They could leave them outside if they had to, but just feed them and give them limited care. I'm not going to say the State could allocate funds for this, but just that each household could take some responsibility. I live in a city where many animals roam free: the climate is excellent and the city areas are surrounded by uncultivated, unsettled acreage. As a result, possums, raccoons and domestic pets are in abundance. They like the weather just like our homeless population and are frequent visitors to any type of outdoor feeding bowls. I sound as if I have a regular menagerie around here, and I don't: I'm careful about just regularly feeding one cat and I have plans to relocate the males. When I could have a pet, I certainly did.

And here I'm going to sound off about the treatment of all of our wild animals. Why do we need to shoot the wolves, or round up the horses, or eliminate the buffalo (fortunately this practice has ceased). When I travel the vast plains, mountains and valleys of our country I observe more than enough land for all. Sure, bears get into peoples' garbage and scare them to death, and, in this case, something has to be done. But I see pettiness and meanness behind so much of the animal controversy. What lands do our wolves threaten? They have been re-introduced into Yellowstone but the ranchers have been yelling ever since. Isn't part of this a competition with the animals for some favorite spot some rancher took a liking to? And perhaps their pride sets in and then the argument begins that they are not going to give into an animal. We're asked to be wise stewards over our resources by biblical admonition, and this doesn't mean that we are to feel competitive with or power over our animals.

Personally, I can't stand to see an animal caged. They obviously are not meant for this type of confinement and it need not be. If they are given a decent and humane environment as in many zoo's, this is allright. Or if they are taken for regular walks and excusions outside their confines, then this is allright. No one wants to see animals threatened, yelled at and shot unless they are a direct danger to a person. It's so sad to see the efforts of animal conservationists defeated by hunters.

The days when we needed to hunt for meat are over. Then why is it such a sport to take a rifle and shoot a wild and beautiful beast such as a wolf or a bear? I recently saw a T.V. program where an animal activist was forced to take a hunter out on his rounds because he could do nothing about the hunting season. Imagine how he felt. Animals always bring out strong feelings of compassion in these activists. I'm not a fanatic. I do not want to possess tens of tens of cats. Indeed, I'm a tiny bit allergic to cat dander. But I see the feeling that can surround animals and it's the same feeling that surrounds helpless people.

Taking care of these ferrel cats is close to taking care of homeless people, in my mind. It is not at all the same, in that it is much more important to take care of people than animals. But the same compassion is involved in both cases. Whereas there might be some situations that require extermination in the animal world, there are none in the people world. But it is a slippery slope. How one treats animals is some indication as to how he/she treats his fellow human beings. I help feed the homeless next door at my church and I have helped my mentally ill brother through many predicaments. I feel that I can't call myself a follower of Christ, and not at least try to help my brother. I can't look God's lost and needy creatures in the face and not try to do something about it. The life that is given to critters and to people is rendered by the same hand of the Almighty, though I don't believe animals have a soul. They are placed here much like our natural surroundings, trees, bushes and flowers, to enhance our existence. They are not to be opportunities to show our pettiness, vanity or cruelty.

I'm an ecologist at heart, though my profession has been sewing and designs. I can't help getting involved in this controversy and I'm doing my small part to help the critters of this world. I'm not an extremist and I'm not going to pet a tarantula, or swim with sharks. But thinking about those cats has brought out some thoughts I've bottled up for awhile. I used to be a mean and self-centered person when I was young and I was mean to cats. I think back to those times with an intense pain. It seems as if our society is showing some regret as to how we have treated our environment; for instance, permanently scarring the land by over-mining it. Another example is creating the dust bowl of the 30's by over-farming the land. Ken Burns has a documentary coming up on that topic.

These topics are related in my mind because we are, as I have stated, suppose to rule and reign over our environment and its animals with the kind of care Our Lord would show. If you want to give me a name, you could call be a "Christian Ecologist". I just don't like to see selfishness and greed take over in this great country. I hope we can continue to take care of our stray dogs and cats, and to find the time, that important four letter word, to show kindness and care for our surrounding land and its animals. If we find the time for these basic concerns, all else will follow.

I am Donna Gordon, a graduate of the ever-political university at Berkeley. If you are an animal activist, you will enjoy this article, as I did writing it. I am a Christian activist and if you like to get involved in society's causes from a biblical point of view, read me. Please go to Kindle, Nook or Smashwords for my first published novel "The Spiritual Dreams of a Lifetime". It's about my life on the edge and in recovery from addiction. But it also includes my spiritual dreams which, by the way, include many images of nature. You can read more about my causes and motivations in the biography section of Smashwords or Authors' Den. I'm thrilled with the internet way of writing and I know this enthusiasm will rub off on you. This type of writing is a far cry from the writing marathons of the past, which involved sending off specially typed manuscripts with the proper postage etc. I'm always getting passionate about something, as most writers do. Here I am in my bungalow with no one to talk to, so you're it. You will find my novel very personal and I hope it touches your soul. I'm thrilled that we can write these letters to each other and, as the saying goes, "tear our passions to tatters". My life on the edge has included falling off a few times into uncomfortable situations, but, in so doing, my compassion quotient has risen. My favorite saying is "There's not enough compassion in the world" and that's my main reason for taking up the cause in this article, of God's little creature, the cat. He's been given a mouth, nose and ears just like us, and he can receive love.

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