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A Cat Tale

This post is for those who love cats and for those who hate cats. If you have followed my blog, you may already know that we recently adopted a stray kitty, whom we named Autumn, but you may not know the rest of the story.

When I was a child we always had cats, but my husband Lou was a cat hater, as was his father and his father's mother before him. Grandma could be forgiven her prejudice, for she lived next door to an irresponsible cat owner who kept 26 cats. (Legend may or may not have stretched the numbers.) These animals yowled under her windows at night and hissed at her when she stepped out of her door during the day. They put paw prints all over the hood of her car. Worst of all, they killed small creatures and left decomposing body parts scattered across her front lawn. Grandma told the tales, and the hate was passed through the generations, as hate so often is.

When Lou and I were first married, we lived in a small urban apartment, only steps from a busy street. One icy winter night we heard a piteous cry outside. Lou opened the door, and there was a gray kitten, cold and hungry. It is one thing to hate cats in theory, but it is another to be confronted with a helpless creature in need. 

I was reading a book on the other side of the room when Lou brought the animal inside.

"Do you think it would like some warm milk?" he asked. 

"Oh, I think so." I was hiding a big smile behind my book. 

Lou carried the kitten to the kitchen, and soon I heard sounds of the refrigerator door opening and pans rattling. Then Lou called out.

"This cat is sick!"

I hurried to the kitchen.

"Listen to it," Lou said. "It must have pneumonia. It has rales!" (Rales is a medical term for a rough sound made by congested lungs.)

I listened to the deep rumble coming from the kitten and immediately recognized it as a sign, not of illness, but of contentment. The cat was purring! Previously, Lou's contact with cats had been limited to lab specimens pickled in formaldehyde. He had never heard one purr.

What happened next was my fault, for I laughed and poked fun at him. Lou grumbled and soon put the cat back outside. Ours was certainly no place for a cat, and neither of us had time to care for one. The next morning we were both horrified and guilt stricken when we saw that the kitten had been killed by a car. 

Fast forward to present time. There have been no cats until now. We have always had dogs, most of whom loved to chase any neighboring cats who wandered onto our property. But the dogs are gone now; when Autumn showed up, she was a reminder of that other gray kitten, so long ago. Nevertheless, Lou was noncommittal. Autumn needed to work on him if she was to live here.

Maybe she was thinking the way to a man's heart was through his stomach when she laid a rat at our back door. It was headless, decapitated as cleanly as if she had used a surgical knife.

Lou was not impressed. Obviously, there must be some rats out there, but we don't have a problem with them. We do have a problem with ground squirrels, who are constantly digging holes everywhere.

"Cat," Lou said to her sternly, "This is not acceptable. If you are going to stay here, you have to bring me ground squirrels."

Later that same day Lou was outside when Autumn came hurrying toward him. In her mouth dangled a ground squirrel. When she dropped it at his feet, she had earned her place in the family.

Despite her predatory nature, Autumn is a sweet kitty. She is affectionate toward me, but clearly she loves Lou the best. She follows him around, accompanying him on walks like a faithful puppy. And Lou? The other day he announced, "Autumn is my cat," which is purr-fectly amazing.

 February, 2014: For a follow-up of this story, you may be interested in The Cat is Back.

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Reader Comments (24)

Fabulous story. Cats have a way of choosing their victims...I mean family. ;)

November 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa at Greenbow

Very interesting! I have cats that just show up! I did not know they understand what you are saying! Neat! I'm going to have to talk to my cats.

November 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMs. Tree

Cats have amazing survivor skills, don't they? They know just what to do to sneak past your armor into your heart.

November 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara H.

Nice story, everybody thinks I'm crazy not having a cat when I live in the country surrounded by (I'm sure) lots of mice and some rats. So far I haven't relented but never say never..... Christina

November 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Lovely story with a happy ending!

November 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPauline Mulligan

What a delightfully told story. I don't know why cat lovers marry cat haters but they always do. My husband had two Siamese when we married and we barely tolerate each other (the cats and me, not the husband and me. Just want to make sure you got that.) But I thought I could put up with them for a few years, and I have. They are both 18 now and going strong. How does this happen?

I'm glad this little adoptee turned Lou's heart.

November 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaurrie

Lifelong cat haters are extremely rare. :)

All of the cats that my family has had over the years (6 cats in total) have demanded to be taken in. And one was a Birman!

Cats choose their family whenever they can.

November 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersweetbay

A really lovely post. Reminds me of when we lived in Wisconsin with a big yard facing the woods, and our cat, who could not be kept inside despite our best efforts, brought home trophies to admire, usually lined up in a row on the back steps. Fortunately, she never captured song birds, at least not that we saw. Even so, if we ever get a cat again, we will get two so they keep each other entertained - and keep both inside.

November 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjason

you have a gift for telling stories. So glad the second cat gets a good life. The rescued cats who find us for a home - are the ones that bury themselves deep in our hearts.

November 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDiana of Elephant's Eye

What a smart cat! It is amazing to me that cats will always stalk the person that is the most aloof! And sometimes I really do think they can understand us. Yes, I'm a cat lover. So glad Autumn found such a wonderful home, with two wonderful cat lovers to share it with. :)

November 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHolleyGarden

it is an amazing story, a lovely story, but I do not like cats because of their predatory nature and that they kill native birds and small mammals. But of course they are clearly very clever, very seductive and very beautiful, and your Autumn is no exception. I guess it is not surprising that a cat has not chosen me.

November 21, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercatmint

Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story. I'm sobbing now and I have to get a kleenex. Well, the first part of the previous sentence is an exaggeration, but I'm definitely tearing up. I love cats and dogs, and it's hard for me to understand how people can dislike them. Massive quantities (26 cats) of any living thing in close quarters is too many. But one or two (or maybe more for folks with big houses and habitats) are perfectly suited to wend their way into our hearts. As I write this comment, my two favorite felines are curled up next to me--serving as sweet, loving space heaters on the couch. Happy Thanksgiving.

November 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPlantPostings

Totally loved this story! Now if only I could train our dog as well as Autumn!

My husband isn't a big cat lover either but he's sorely tempted to get a barn cat to keep the mice down.Of course the barn cat may just happen to become a little more domesticated....

November 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Chapman

Even though there is some carnage involved (rats and squirrels), this is a lovely and touching tale Deb. A cat purring would seem like an odd sound, if you were not used to having cats around. My son's bunny makes the most peculiar sounds when he is "purring". He loves it when you rub your fingers along his jaw line and up behind his ears.

November 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

I love cats and of course they understand. Just tonight my husband told our cat that he couldn't eat until his sister came in. He immediately left the "cat room", went to the kitchen and frantically begged to go out. When my husband opened the door, there his sister was. Silly humans.

Loved your cat story and howled along with Lisa at Greenbow's description of cats choosing their victims/family. How is it that I got chosen TWICE this year? I've got a current cat story on my blog, too, showing how they take over if you give 'em an inch.

November 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Jones

Do you think that Autumn is the reincattation of the first gray cat? The first one made a very sad end though. It's odd that car accidents are the first cause of kitten death and they don't even drive.
I am like Lou here but my Tigre is not as sweet as your Autumn and she brings home robins instead of mice... I hate her.

November 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlberto

What a lovely story. I have always been amused that cats always make a beeline for my Dad, who loathes them. Maybe there is a cat plot to convert the world, one human at a time, to being feline fans!

November 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet/Plantaliscious

I think Autumn might be the first grey cat reincattation, maybe your husband was the only good thing that happened to her that night and now she wants to be loyal to him.
Here things are a little different with my Tigre: she often brings me dead robins and I detest her. I guess she might detest me as much. These are cats!

November 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlberto

I love it...I wish we had a vole hunting cat...I adore Autumn.

November 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna@Gardens Eye View

Great story. The bit about Autumn trying to find her way to Lou's heart through his stomach made me chuckle.

November 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterb-a-g

Deb, this story is wonderful and very touching, but I also want to say that you are a great storyteller! I enjoyed reading your post!!!

November 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTatyana

What a cute story (the part after the sad bit at least!) I think cats really adopt their owners. That's usually been our experience. My mother rescued a kitten a while back and managed to convince my cat-hating father that they should keep it. Of course the cat loves my father the best, and only goes on his lap. (And I think my father secretly likes it!)

November 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIndie

Great story that resonates with loads of people. When we were kids my older brother hated cats so I followed suit.. However Myra came into my life and she had even more influence on me than my brother ever did. You guessed, I now like cats, Purdee is hard not to like.

November 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlistair
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