What Cats Teach Us

They live outdoors, in  a beautiful wooded environment, a wildlife preserve. Here, a variety of trees and flowering shrubs grow wild; birds and ducks roam freely, and squirrels scamper up trees. This is where the cats live, either because they were left behind by their humans, or because they were born here.

The maintenance of this habitat is enabled by rent. On these grounds is built a sprawling apartment complex, with lakes stocked with fish and native birds and alligators and individual gardens maintained by the residents.

The cats near the 1700 block have formed a colony. As many as 10 or 11 at one time have gathered when one of the cat ladies shows up with her bag of Meow Mix or Purina cat chow. There is one cat-- larger than most of the others-- with a mean disposition. He does not like to share food. He is aggressive. The others avoid him. The cats are essentially peaceful, unless attacked.

It was probably inevitable I'd wind up a cat lady. In my younger years, there were always cats in our home. They'd show up on our porch, follow us home from church. Sometimes, they'd leave gifts outside the door: a dead pigeon, a small bird. I'd shriek, but the truth is, when a cat brings you a dead bird, it's a gift akin to a dozen red roses on Valentine's Day.

The cat colony sticks together for mutual aid and protection, much like a union of workers. They chase each other playfully through the woods, roll around on their backs in the warm sun, crunching the leaves beneath them. When I put their food bowls down, the older cats hang back, allowing the kittens to eat first; when the little ones are finished, the bigger cats take their turn. When dinner time is over, outside cats wash up; cleaning their own faces and paws, and each other's.

The great outdoors is their bathroom. Just as they do indoors in a litter box, the outside cats will dig a small hole, then cover up their "business" when they're done. Despite what you may have heard, cats don't need to be litter box "trained." It is a natural instinct. Don't believe everything you hear, and only half of what you read.

We, the cat ladies, (and men) have the best of intentions. The cats are our "babies." We feed them because we love them, because they're beautiful creatures that harm no one, that live in harmony with nature if we let them. They live outdoors, on the street through no fault of their own, usually because their human owners abandoned them. Some people are annoyed by the cats'presence. They advocate turning them in to the pound, where they will most likely be killed. Cats of various sizes have lived on the earth since the dawn of time. Why shouldn't they have a right to live out their natural lives?

The cats don't need us. No they don't. Cats will hunt a squirrel or a bird or a lizard and drink from the lake or a puddle if we bring them no food. They will find shelter from the rain  in the woods or under a patio umbrella. They can defend themselves against predators with sharp claws and teeth. They have good instincts. They will avoid any shelter with one small door and no way out.

Rats and mice will stay away from cats, which is why many a smart business owner in Brooklyn has a shop cat that lives on the premises. Health inspectors would do better by monitoring the hand washing habits of restaurant workers rather than banning the presence of a cat.

Cats appreciate the beauty of the natural world. Abandoned outdoors, they will find the heavily wooded areas, even near a parking garage. Sure, they'll come out to meet and greet cat ladies and other fans bearing food, but then they disappear into the wild and the green.

Like panthers and pumas and lions and cheetahs, outside cats or "feral" cats don't want to sit on your couch watching t.v. They don't deserve to be executed by lethal injection because a human left them outdoors. Feral cats deserve to live. Want to know more? http://www.alleycat.org/

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