For the past two months my Good Wife and I have been engaged in a nature study. We are not taking a course, but rather are self-instructing. The situation began one day when the head of a small tuxedo cat appeared from behind one of the concrete foundation piers of our barn.
As soon as it (I do not know if it is male or female) showed its face and saw us 200 feet away, it pulled back under the building. Initially, we wondered if it could be a lost pet, but inquiries proved to be negative. Worried about what it had to eat, we put a bowl of food near the barn, and withdrew to a distance where we thought it would not be afraid of us.
After a long pause, slowly the head re-emerged. After a longer pause, it moved the two feet to the double bowl that contained cat food and water. The latter was of no interest, but the food clearly was. For some minutes, a big gulp would be followed by a hasty retreat back under the building. That scenario continued until the food was gone, after which ensued a period of no sign of the new resident.
Beyond the first two weeks, the cat would come out much sooner to begin dining, but the focus was solely on the food, the water still being left untouched. Gradually, each day our retreat after serving the dinner course, diminished in length, until now we are able to withdraw only five feet, and the hungry kitty will begin to dine.
To date we have not been able to pet the new resident, but clearly he or she feels at home in the new digs it has established. From our windows we often see kitty prowling about in the field, and sometimes even coming up into the backyard. On those occasions, if we open the door to go outside, it immediately makes a mad dash back to the comfort and assumed safety found under the barn.
I presume that the proper adjective to use in describing our new resident might be “feral,” but at some time, it must have had a home. The definition of feral applies to animals that live in the wild, but this one clearly considers itself to be at home, and not on the lam, thus although not domesticated, it still is not truly feral. We have yet to hear the first “meow,” which I would take to be a means of expressing appreciation for the servings of delicious cat food.
My Good Wife is determined to make a pet out of our new occupant, even if a somewhat distant one. If we can get to that level, we can take it for proper veterinary care, and finally we can learn its gender. We have not come up with a name as yet, always using the not-specific term, “Kitty.”
Unlike our other new resident, Henry the Goose, this one does not want to come inside, whereas Henry pecks at the door, not understanding why he cannot be indoors with the rest of the family, but then again geese are among the most anthropomorphic of animals. Kitty is satisfied merely with being fed.
As our nature experiment continues, we are increasingly aware of the plight of the many animals left to fend for themselves, without human care and companionship. Our new “kitty” has opted for a human relationship, albeit from a distance, but from watching the food being consumed, we anticipate that friendship cannot be far off.