After my dog, Perun, died and before the arrival of Poochini, I had no pets. But I love all animals. When a cat arrived on my doorstep looking for a possible meal, I obliged. She was black with beautiful green eyes. Although she remained rather skittish throughout our relationship, she slowly developed a sense of trust. I called her “Momma.”
One day, Momma showed up for breakfast with a large, muscular tabby who I named “Orange.” He never did warm up to me, unfortunately. But he was still willing to enter my house if that was where the food plate sat.
Some days later, the two arrived with a third cat, suspiciously colored as a cross-between of Momma and Orange. Without proof, I decided she was their child. It didn't matter. She, like the others, got a meal.
Over time, other cats began to show up looking for food. How did they know to come here? Had I gained a reputation as an easy push-over? Had the word spread? By who?
I realized that, if not careful, I would soon be feeding the entire village population of cats. So I only continued to feed the three.
I should mention here that there was a fourth cat. He was an early arrival. Black with auburn fur on his shins, he was very thin and appeared older than the other cats. But he was gentle, with a very relaxed demeanor. He would sit next to me and welcome my petting. We became friends and then I fell in love. He spent a lot of time on my property, looking for rodents and just basking in the sun. I looked forward to him greeting me each morning.
But after less than two months, he had gotten even thinner and moved a bit more slowly. Then one day, he appeared very weak and ate very little. The next day, he came but refused food altogether. He had difficulty mounting the steps. I understood that his time on earth was limited.
I petted him gently, then he walked to his favorite spot and lay in the sun. An hour later, he rose and began to walk towards the lower land. I knew he would not be returning. While I tried to be stoic and to think about the greater circle of life in which we all live, I was very sad that my friend was now leaving me forever.
“Veles,” I said.
He turned around to look at me one last time.
“Thank you for your friendship.”
He stared at me for a moment, then again turned to walk down the hill, gone forever. Except in my heart.
These experiences inspired me to write the following poem.
Cats in Winter
An orange and a black come to eat
These lovely morsels I serve,
But scamper quickly far away
Should ever “the human” emerge.
Do you not wonder, my felines,
Whence comes this veritable feast?
Do you suppose it is a gift
From gods, and not that human beast?
With little to eat in winter,
Perhaps only the errant mouse,
You are caringly fed by me,
The man in the old wooden house.
From underneath the house we watch
You set the bowl of tasty fare.
By now we are accustomed to
This act. ‘Tis why we wait and stare.
But may we make a small request
For another’s sake, we assure –
We have a child of black and orange
Who joins us should a meal occur.
And then just in our neighborhood
Are friends who’d also like to dine –
Just one or two more mouths to feed
Or three or four or six or nine…
My shelves are slowly running dry.
My purse is overburdened, too.
I can’t say what will happen next
When nothing’s left for me or you.
But spring will surely soon arrive;
The streams will fill with tiny fish
And fields will harbor mousey pests
Which I think you will find delish!
I’ll feed you through the wintry white.
‘Tis all that I can promise you.
Come springtime you’ll be on your own
And do whatever felines do.