Country cat herdin’
Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 8:01 pm
I’m sure most of you think you’ll never need cat herdin’ skills. I know. I used to think the same thing. In fact, some of you are saying out loud right now, “One thing I KNOW I’ll never do is herd cats.” If I were you, I’d still read every word of this column. And ya might wanna keep your “I’ll never” statements to yourself. God has a way of modifying those declarations to provide for our humility. Such was the case for me on a recent warm summer’s day. If you’re a regular column reader, you know that a stray cat recently had five beautiful kittens in our yard. Trying to be responsible cat and kitten parents has been a full-time job for our family. We learned that you’re not to touch the tiny kittens or the mama cat will move them. We learned to give them their space though we loved to watch them from a window. However, the time eventually came for human intervention. They needed a trip to the vet for shots and de-worming. It was time for some cat herdin.’ Easier said than done.
I’ve always been known for being cheap. Frugal is a more polite way of saying it. I didn’t see the need to buy a pet carrier when we had a perfectly good laundry basket. I explained to both boys the way it was all gonna go down. “Boys, take the green laundry basket under the back porch. Put each kitten in the basket and then Leah (the mama cat) will want to be with them and she’ll go willingly. Don’t make loud noises or startle them.”
I’ve known my boys for 11 and 13 years, respectively. Why I believed they could do ANYTHING without making loud noises is beyond me. My intelligence level is clearly waning with age. The first few kittens were captured with little or no trauma. But the last little gray one ran for the hills. The boys had captured four kittens and one mama cat. But there was an escapee on the loose. One thing I want to make perfectly clear in case you ever find yourself on a cat herdin’ mission. Yelling “Here, Kitty, Kitty” to a wild gray kitten is not effective. I’m not sure why they always yell “Here, Kitty, Kitty” on TV, but the little gray kitten didn’t know his name was “Kitty” nor was he interested in coming here. Hour one had us scouring the back yard. We convinced ourselves he couldn’t have gotten to the woods. Hour two had us considering the possibilities of going to the vet with four kittens and the mama cat. Our younger son wouldn’t hear of it. Finally, I called my husband at work who suggested that we release the mama cat and let her sniff him out. Bingo. She immediately went to some shrubbery where he was hiding and convinced him that it was in his best interest to join the rest of the family. At one point I heard her say in secret cat code, “Because I’m the mom, that’s why.” That turned out to be much more effective than a big woman yelling, “Here, Kitty, Kitty” at the top of her lungs. The kittens and Mama were all placed in the green laundry basket, covered loosely with a towel, and taken to the vet. The vet found all the kittens healthy and exceptionally intelligent. IN FACT, the vet said that any family would be BLESSED BEYOND BELIEF to have the opportunity to raise such EXCEPTIONALLY bright kittens. My first response was to hoard all these exceptional kittens for myself. But that just doesn’t seem right. Any takers? Free cat herdin’ lessons included.
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. Her book “The Smartt View: Life, Love, and Cluttered Closets” is available at The Messenger, The University of Tennessee at Martin bookstore or by mail for $10, plus $2 shipping. Send checks to Lisa Smartt, 300 Parrott Road, Dresden TN 38225. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 8.19.09