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Cats: Gotta Love ФEm

There are dog people and cat people. I am definitely a cat person.

Randy is reconnecting with his inner cat.

I have rediscovered this fact after we lost two dogs within a month of each other; one from old age, the other from cancer.

That left us with only one pet: Raven, our half-tabby, half-Siamese cat.

I have nothing against dogs. I have been a buddy with many dogs in my life. On our Wisconsin farm, we had at least two or three all the time.

But cats--we had dozens of them.

A dairy farm generally has lots of mice…our farm had lots and lots of mice. Thus, we needed lots and lots of cats.

Cats, when left to their own devices, multiply almost as prodigiously as rabbits. So I can recall sitting among dozens of felines, from cuddly kittens to swaggering tomcats.

Cats were often my babysitters on the farm when I was a toddler. My mother would place me in the midst of a herd of cats with a bowl of milk, and she knew I would stay occupied long enough for her to get chores done.

Raven came to us one Thanksgiving morning about eight years ago. It was a cold, rainy November day.

I went to the garage to get something, and I heard the sound of an animal scurrying, cans falling, boxes being overturned.

The ruckus led me to a storage rack. Under the rack, glaring at me with feral ferocity, was the mangiest little ball of wet fur I’d ever seen.

I donned a pair of leather gloves and fished out the kitten, spitting, biting, and clawing at me in appreciation of my efforts.

My wife had apparently seen the little fellow around the neighborhood and had put food out for him. He had probably stopped by for a snack, wandered into the garage when the door was open, and got trapped there.

Thus began a relationship that continues today.

The kitten from our garage was an orphan, although we have since seen another cat in the neighborhood that bears a strong family resemblance.

After we cleaned him up, we saw that he was quite a handsome little rascal, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, with an inquisitive little set of piercing blue eyes that watched everything around him.

He stayed skittish and fearful for several days. His life on the street had made him suspicious of everything. To this day, he is very cautious around strangers, generally choosing to hide under a bed or in a closet until visitors are gone.

But from that little wet ball of fur has grown an 18-pound companion who acts as much like a dog as a cat. He actually demonstrates the best of both.

For example, most cats won’t come when you call them. But Raven does. He patrols his territory, but no matter where he is, he comes running when we call him, even if it’s not mealtime.

But like a cat, the path he takes probably won’t be a straight line--unless he’s really hungry; he will normally take a circuitous route, zigzagging from one interesting item to another, just to let you know he’s not totally at your beck and call.

He also likes to hang around his people, like a dog. When I am working at my desk, he jumps up on it and plops his considerable length right where I’m working. When I try to retrieve something like a pen or piece of paper from the desktop, he swats at me playfully. When I get coffee, he comes with, then follows me back and plops down again.

Cats are self-cleaning, too. We trained Raven when he was a kitten to use the pet door to do his business so we don’t even have that stinky litter box in the house.

The Siamese in him produces quite a conversationalist, too. He talks and jabbers, trying to tell us in cat language how his day is going. I have learned his language, and can now have pretty intelligible discussions with him.

His tail is of particular interest. It is a living thing, not always under his control. It is longer than most cat tails, and stronger. When he whips it around, it can topple half-full soda cans.

He has learned to live with his tail now, but when he was young, he and his tail had a pretty unruly relationship. He would spend hours chasing it, or just watching it as it flitted around behind him, curling and bouncing all on its own.

He would stalk his own tail, watching it closely as it danced around, then suddenly attacking it, only to have it pull away, leaving him with this “Where did it go?” look on his face.

Raven got along well with our two dogs--Leia, a chocolate lab/setter, and Bandit, a peek-a-poo--and misses them like we do.

He used to pester them both, flitting that tail in their faces; Leia would tolerate it, just walking away patiently as the cat tried to brush up against her; Bandit was not as tolerant and would often chase Raven out the pet door. Raven was bigger than Bandit and could have easily defended himself, but he always played the game.

Raven will now often come in from outside and issue a plaintive yowl, a drawn-out and deep-throated call that is a bit sad and guttural. We think he’s calling his dog buddies.

We understand his sadness, but it’s just us humans here now, so we try to give him some play time when he does it, to take his mind off it.

I think I’ve reconnected with my inner cat, because I’ve been able to give Raven more attention, and it brings back those memories from the farm. I always felt safe and loved when I was surrounded by all those cats.

Dogs are cool; cats rule. What do you think?

Do you have a pet story to share? Maybe you have a different pet other than a dog or cat that PRB readers would love to hear about; anybody own a skunk? I’ve heard they make great pets.

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine who also served for 15 years in municipal parks and recreation, is now a full-time photojournalist who lives in Peachtree City, Ga.; he can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email cwo4usmc@comcast.net.

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