I don’t expect this entry to get much attention and probably even fewer comments – none deserves fewer. I am the first to admit this is not about any significant socio-political issue that dominates recent conversations here and elsewhere. But, as is true of about half the blogs I write, this one is for personal ventilation. The kind of of exhalation required for no nobler purpose than to rid one’s self of stale, acrid air and to breathe in some that is fresh.
In a sense, it falls in the “rant” category but in a kindler, gentler way. It is a topic that I think of often as it befits a simple mind. At the same time, if I would allow it, the thoughts would birth one of those irrational, passion-filled diatribes we occasionally witness on Blogcritics that does no one – including the author – any good, whatsoever. A little background may shed some light on the murky waters upon which this discourse, uninteresting as it is, floats.
I have an office in a “professional office complex”. It borders some woods, an area that stretches about 100 yards deep behind our building and a half-mile or so down the parkway behind several buildings, moving west. The wooded area and a 8 foot chain link fence separates our complex from Highway 59 which runs on higher ground behind my clinic.
After I moved into the office, some 6 or 7 years back, I would get occasional early morning (I get to the office between 4:30 and 5:00) glimpses of feral cats. These hearty creatures have, I assume, been living in those woods long before I got here. They are the most feral animals one can imagine; avoiding all human contact at any cost. Undoubtedly this is a learned response, sensing – as only animals can – that humans are not to be trusted. They know, perhaps first hand, the capabilities and tendencies of our species.
It is a useful survival trait. For, if they were to be tamed, they would dare to approach cars, moving or not, to beg for a handout from their mortal enemies. They would, if they were so naive, be crushed in the parking lot or on the street, or, if they were lucky, just have someone throw rocks (or anything else handy) at them. Being the intelligent creatures they are, they have learned and they surely learned quickly. They scurry back into the woods and safety.
I have been here for some years now and I see their ghostly images in the predawn hours. I can sometimes see them observing me from the safety of their woods, eyes reflecting the fading morning streetlights or in the headlights of my car. They know that potential evil and even death lurks out on the pavement.
I think, often, about where they once might have been. In the lap of their former owner or curling, figure eight-style, between their owner’s legs while at the sink or opening up a can of cat food. Perhaps they once purred that motorboat purr that signals sheer contentment. Maybe once they actually kneaded their claws into a rug (or some soft, unfortunate furniture), as, I understand, this is how they display ultimate feline bliss. But for these cats, the days of purring and curling up in a warm lap are long over. Now, they run with the speed only a “flight-or-fight” adrenalin rush can fuel.
Last winter, I started feeding them. I couldn’t stand, as an old man with all the sentiment that entails, to see their starvation-ravaged frames skulking about in search of birds (that had long since flown further south) or rodents (who were hibernating), the staples of their usual scant diet. I would place a bowl of cheap, dry cat chow and a bowl of water at woods’ edge in the predawn hours. It would be completely gone a mere hour or two later. It cost me about 10 dollars every couple weeks; the reimbursement to my heart paid in full, many times over.