About 4:30 on a Saturday morning—a year ago last spring—my spouse called me out of bed; “quick! Come look out the back door! I roused, went and saw a cat—and four little kittens. Two of the kittens; one gray, and one gray and white, were playfully scampering around inside our privacy fence. The other two, one entirely light yellow; the other, light yellow and white; were huddled on the bottom step looking forlorn and miserable. It was heart rendering to see that they were terribly malnourished.
We had decided, years ago, to give up having cats around the house after our last cat died. Parting was just too painful. Our last was our beloved Pogi: a long haired yellow and white tomcat that stole our hearts away; and in return, gave us eight years of treasured companionship and devotion.
The two yellow kittens were already at death’s door. One died the next day, and the other, a few days later. Each was buried next to the big old fir tree in our back yard. By now, we had, inadvertently acquired heavy hearts, an emaciated mother cat and her remaining two kittens. Although thin, obviously, they had gotten the larger share of their mother’s milk. We started them on kitten food. They thrived. In good time, we were fortunate to find good owners for both. All that was left was the mother cat. From us, she acquired a home and her name: Matilda.
Matilda had plenty to eat, fresh water, a place of refuge from the elements, and once again, the caring hands of humans. I feel certain she was once somebody’s pet. It was quite some time, however, before we could get close to her, but over time, she, somewhat, warmed up to us; but never, like the numerous cats we had owned in previous years.
One day, when I opened the back door, she was lounging on the stoop. Not only did she hold her ground instead of jumping off; so intently did she peer inside the still open door that I mused — perhaps, she had been someone’s indoor pet. As months passed, our greatest pleasure came from seeing the gradual transformation of her anguished face to one of contentment.
However; whenever the broom was reached for to sweep steps and patio, she would make a fast, frantic exit from the privacy area; which told us she had experienced an unfriendly broom elsewhere. Oh, the hardships that must fall upon hapless, homeless felines in their struggles to exist! Under our care, she settled into a secure routine.
Last spring, Matilda had kittens beneath a shed, behind a house across the street; as told to me by our neighbor, whose house is on the lot next to the shed. For the first three or four days, Matilda showed up for just one meal. Then she quit going at all, across the street. We knew that her kittens, most likely, were no longer alive; most likely killed by one of the several feral tomcats that lived and foraged for mice in the field behind the shed.
Towards the end of July, she had a new litter of kittens. This time, she had them under our tool shed, although we did not know it at the time. Only later, by circumstantial evidence did we reach that realization; I will explain, shortly. For the time being, all we knew was she’d had kittens; all we could do was hope that they were safe.
About three weeks later on an August Monday I looked out the back door to our privacy area, and to my surprise, there she was with four beautiful kittens; two calicos, one yellow, and one black. Of the calicos, one had bright colors; the other was long haired, with faded colors and a distinctively marked face. It was the face an artist might have whimsically designed. Different colors arranged on either side, as if a straight line had first been drawn from the middle point between its ears, to its nose, before the colors were assigned. His was the first name given: Faded Glory.
I felt great relief, knowing the kittens were safely inside the fence, and that Matilda had brought them to us while they were still young enough for us to cultivate in them, a sense of family with spouse and me. It was a joyous moment! We stepped out into the yard to look them over and within minutes noticed the absence of Faded Glory. Where had he gone?
He was nowhere to be found inside the privacy fence. We pondered: how could so little of a critter have disappeared so fast? We did not see him again until four or five hours later, when he suddenly reappeared. The next few days, he continued to disappear and reappear. It was mystifying; until we finally caught a glimpse of him stealing under the fence and under the tool shed. Then, it was obvious; he was just skittering off to the safe, familiar place where he was born.
By that time, I had already closed the space between the bottom of the fence and the ground with left over fireplace logs, all along the left side, and along the back side as far as the tool shed, to keep the kittens from straying off. So, then we closed the exit that Faded Glory accessed to underneath the shed. It was obvious that he was fearful of us; and a little fearful of his siblings. But, allowing him to continue spending big parts of his day in isolation, we knew, was not going to make him tamer.
Why he, only, fled to safety to under the tool shed ceased being mystifying as we observed that the mother cat fed him apart from the other three. The only reason we could see for this was that the three were quiet feeders, except occasionally, when he fed with them. In her “cat” wisdom, Matilda chose to feed him alone for peace of mind; but, in the process he was missing out on an important part of kitten-hood:
Whether sleeping or awake, he was usually alone while the others fed, slept, and good naturedly played and wrestled together. If one of them pounced on him to wrestle, he would wiggle free and flee! With his long hair, he appeared the larger of the four, but in behavior, was the most fearful. So, closing off his exit to the tool shed was our first step on behalf of our fearful little kitten.
But, alas! Before the week was finished, the cat moved them! It was very disheartening! We had so enjoyed watching them playing, wrestling, and chasing each other about. In abilities and skills, the three were evenly matched and good natured. It seemed as if they took turns at winning at wrestling and not one of the three, so got the worst of it as to be cross with the other(s), except for once in a great while. Often, two would be wrestling and the third would jump right in to make for vigorous, but contented three-way wrestling!
The smallest of the four, was the black female. Her reflexes, notably quicker than the others, compensated for her smallness. As Faded Glory was fearful she was fearless. Her legs and paws were slender and graceful. As I watched her antics—in my mind —words formed —“quick—ER—than a cat! Hence, she was named Zenyatta, after the amazing filly in the video above (click on the tab–top row). Zenyatta, the dancing racehorse, the swift racehorse, was retired after 19 straight wins and one loss. The name of this unique horse was perfect for our unique kitten.
So, I looked out the back door one morning, and they were gone—but not for long! Matilda had moved them to just behind the privacy fence, under a huge fir tree. For at least a week, she had them all to herself, again. We, purposely, left them alone, fearing she would move them, further away, if we intruded. But, one day, heavy rainfall was predicted. I held off until the rain began; predictions don’t always mean for sure. But, I could see, by then, a downpour was at hand.
By the time I got three kittens under cover, I was soaked—Faded Glory had lit out for under the shed as soon as he saw me lifting the lower branches. Matilda showed up much later. I’ll never know exactly what she thought. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t gratitude that her kids were not drenched, because the next morning, only three were inside the privacy fence. Zenyatta was gone! Imagine my chagrin!
I determined to keep an eye on the rest and to be alert for opportunity to, perhaps, learn the whereabouts of her new hiding place. But, drat! After frequent trips to the window, Faded Glory was gone! Just after dark, the other two were huddled under daylily leaves. When I looked again, about 15 minutes later, she had nabbed another! Zelda, the female calico was gone. Only Shiloh, the yellow kitten, remained.
Not to be outfoxed, again, I picked Shiloh up, and took him inside, where he spent the evening in my lap, and the night in a cardboard box. Expecting Matilda to show up around 6:00 in the morning, I resolved to let the kitten out then, and to do better at keeping an eye out. Still, I already knew she would give me the slip, if at all possible.
My spouse woke me at 5:45 a.m., to say the cat was at the door. I got right up, got the kitten and food and put both out. Then we hatched our plan and watched like hawks! The plan was to move one car from garage to the yard, where I could wait inside to watch her come around the corner from the back. The car was positioned; then we alternated keeping watch at the back window.
She ate, fed the kitten, washed his face and hers, and proceeded to dawdle. She seemed, always, to have a mystical sense of knowing when my attention was diverted. At this point of the morning, both were on the stoop right outside the back door. I was at the window when I heard her emit a warning growl. Then, in a flash she shot off the stoop to the left after a big old yellow tomcat from across the street. I hurried to the door for a better view.
Here’s where it got comical! I leaned out the door and to my surprise the big yellow tomcat was on his back leaning up against the corner of fence and house with all four paws up in the air; his usual exit, now blocked; and she was right in his face with her fur in alert mode! Both were frozen like statues; his face looked as if he was pleading; “have mercy”!
My leaning out broke the spell and he shot to the opposite side of the fence, where there was an opening, and made a lightning swift exit. She was right on his tracks! Zing! Gone! All we could do was laugh, and laugh, and laugh some more. Big Yeller, as we called him, got an unexpected stand of fury from our protective mother cat. Normally, he would have strolled in, unchallenged, to gobble up anything remaining in her food dish. It was so funny! Just the memory of that “have mercy!” look, still brings us a chortle.
I wish I could see a replay of the entire episode; because from the instant mother cat shot off the stoop …… within a split second, her much startled and frightened kitten shot off in the same direction, and dropped a height of the two steps ….. to where the bewildered critter found refuge and a momentary huddle ‘twixt corner made by house and stoop. His sole experience with the stoop thus far had been barely navigating the two steps up, and being stumped at how to navigate the two steps down. However, that didn’t interfere with his shooting from the stoop ─ quick as lightening and smooth as silk!
After my retrieving the kitten, half concealed by daylily leaves; and reuniting the two, Matilda picked him up by nape of his neck … as I watched! I was dumfounded. Obviously, she had scrapped the usual ploy of waiting until we were distracted, and the coast clear to vanish with the last kitten to the new hiding place. The tom cat showing up, apparently, changed her mind.
With our cell phones in hand, my spouse assumed my watch at the window. I went out through the garage and climbed into the car parked in the yard, which would allow me to observe her carrying the kitten without her being the wiser. Our plan worked like a charm! In less than a minute she came around the corner with kitten in tow. I called and told my spouse that she was in my sights, headed to the front.
As soon as she reached the garage, she turned right; went up our front walk past the stoop, turned right, again, to disappear under the bushes running all along the front of the house. I relayed this new development to my spouse, who then went the opposite direction around the house to see if the cat came out from the other end of the bushes. She didn’t; so now we knew, and with great relief that the kittens were close at hand and relatively secure.
After the morning’s encounter with what may well be the father of the kittens, she threw dawdling and caution to the wind; without the usual wait for us to get preoccupied. We could only suppose the tomcat showing up gave her urgency to get back around front with the last kitten.
My hunch that she would move them no more, proved right. In less than two weeks, she moved them back to inside the privacy fence, and from then on seemed perfectly content to let us share their affections. ~
Especially, for home schooling, today’s post is followed by:
a bit of prose about cats, written by an unknown person (anonymous) in the style of William Shakespeare. The prose is written as if being spoken by a cat; and is a parody of the lines spoken by Prince Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. The speaker is lamenting the unpleasant things of life.
quotes about cats that just might make you and your children smile or laugh out loud. We certainly know that both smiles and laughter are good for the soul!
vocabulary words: again, a long list. Select and use as you wish. Help your children understand the value of learning and using new words to add interest, meaning, and impact to what they say and write. Make sure a dictionary is always handy, and encourage your children to develop the highly important habit of looking up new words. Learning to be adept with words is best started, early as possible.
To go outside, and there perchance to stay
Or to remain within: that is the question.
Whether ‘tis better for a cat to suffer
The cuffs and buffets of inclement weather
That nature rains on those who roam abroad,
Or take a nap upon a scrap of carpet,
And so by dozing melt the solid hours
That clog the clock’s bright gears with sullen time
And stall the dinner bell.
To sit, to stare outdoors, and by a stare to seem to state
A wish to venture forth without delay,
Then when the portal’s opened up, to stand
as if transfixed by doubt. To prowl; to sleep;
To choose not knowing when we may once more
Our re-admittance gain: aye, there’s the hairball;
For if a paw were shaped to turn a knob,
Or work a lock or slip a window-catch
And going out and coming in were made
As simple as the breaking of a bowl.
What cat would bear the household’s petty plagues,
The cook’s well-practiced kicks, the butler’s broom,
The infant’s careless pokes, the tickled ears,
The trampled tail, and all the daily shocks
That fur is heir to, when of his own free will,
He might his exodus or entrance make with a mere mitten?
Who would spaniel fear,
Or strays trespassing from a neighbor’s yard,
But that the dread of our unheeded cries
And scratches at a barricaded door
No claw can open up, dispels our nerve
And makes us rather bear our humans’ faults
Than run away to us-guessed miseries?
Thus caution doth make house cats of us all;
And thus the bristling hair of resolution
Is softened up with the pale brush of thought
And since our choices hinge on weighty things,
We pause upon the threshold of decision.
“Cats have it all – admiration, an endless sleep, and company only when they want it.” ~ Rod McKuen
“Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier ‘n puttin’ it back in!” ~ Will Rogers
“If only cats grew into kittens.” ~ R. D. Stern
“My husband said it was him or the cat. I miss him sometimes.” ~ Anonymous
“A cat will assume the shape of its container.” ~ Author Unknown
“It’s very hard to be polite if you’re a cat. ~ Anonymous
“If cats could talk, they wouldn’t.” ~ Nan Porter
“A cat in grass is a tiger in the jungle.” ~ English proverb
“The cat is mighty dignified, until the dog comes by.” ~ American proverb
“The cat has nine lives – three for playing – three for straying, and three for staying.” ~ English Proverb
I had to let my husband go. The cat was allergic. ~ Author Unknown
Buy a dog a toy, and he’ll play with it forever. Buy a cat a present, and it will play with the wrapper for ten minutes.” ~ Author Unknown
“The cat is there when you call her – if she doesn’t have something better to do.” ~Bill Alder
“Here, kitty, kitty, kitty.” “What? You have food? No food?” Not now: I need to check out these curtains.” ~ Author Unknown
Assign your children/child to write a short poem or prose about cats. For help in starting a poem, give them pairs of rhyming words such as cat/hat; funny/sunny; fight/night light/kite; lap/nap; ball/call; jump/bump, fish/dish, hall/tall/; small/fall.
Or: have them draw a picture of Matilda and Old Yeller in the corner; with Matilda’s fur reflecting her protective mode, and Old Yeller’s face that seems to be saying, “Have mercy”!
(If you haven’t read the vocabulary instructions at the end of all previous four posts; I encourage taking a few minutes to do so that you may better apply today’s lesson.)
Each week, display the selected words on the refrigerator, and encourage their use during discussions and conversations –by every household member. Explain, or remind them, that the Dictionary words may have more than one meaning. The assignment is to look them up in the Dictionary, and find the meaning that fits the context of the sentence or paragraph.
As the week draws to an end, consider rereading to the children, An August Cat Saga and ask them if learning and using the new words has added more enjoyment in hearing the story a second time.
Use the prose in Hamlet’s Cat to help them experience empathy for animals that rely on humans for protection and substance.
From time to time, or year to year, have them reread Hamlet’s Cat. As they get older, they will better comprehend what they are reading. It may, also, help them acquire a real appreciation of Shakespeare.