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Close Encounters of the Feral Kind

In early June 2009, I glanced out the kitchen window as I was talking on the phone. It startled me to see a mother cat with two kittens approaching my driveway. I ran out the front door still carrying the phone. I told my mother on the other end that I was seeing something terrible. It was morally unethical to my senses that a cat with babies would be loose outside.

I came around the corner of the house and approached them head-on in an attempt to block their path. What I witnessed changed my perception. This "close encounter of the feral kind" opened my eyes to a generally unseen reality. Feral cats are among us.

Beauty even when its not pretty:

They reminded me of scorpions the way they moved. A mother cat with two kittens walking in a strange synchronized rhythm: their heads turning from side to side and their bodies low to the ground. It was an odd primitive dance of cautionary locomotion. She had taught her babies this walk of stealth and surveillant head movement. I was mesmerized and alarmed. I felt powerless in the face of such pure instinctual intelligence.

I looked into the mother cat's eyes and we exchanged pieces of our souls in that moment of time. Intensely dedicated to motherhood and cleverly skilled at obscurity, it was only out of dire necessity that she had exposed her brood in the human realm. Optic yellow rays emitted from her eyes in bright daylight as a warning. She is a feral cat. She is wild.

What elegant markings: mostly black with white eyebrows and whiskers, white bib, black bow-tie, and one full-length white glove. An old-world longhair of generations past who had managed to survive on shear fright and fury.

I too was responsible.

These living creatures had been betrayed by the machine of human neglect; byproducts of the "throw-away" society. I personally felt the pain of that ugly acknowledgment in my heart.

Sadly, I admit, this was not the first time we had encountered each other. I had chased her out of my yard years ago. Our eyes had met then too. She had comically resembled the cartoon cat Sylvester on the run in a funny skit. Far from comical now.

Once while I was conducting a lesson with a Bible student, I was told that there had been a black and white cat sitting at the screen slider door for the hour. Perhaps just curious or hungry? It wasn't my cat, so we scared her away. People were unresponsive to meet her needs and were to be feared.

My concern did not matter now. She was riveted on one thing: to escape an encounter with a human and to keep her precious babies safely in line and in formation, one on each side of her. One kitten was longhaired like her with patches of brightly colored calico. The other kitten was gray tabby. The kittens were fat-bellied and well-fed looking. The trio maneuvered past me.

Where were they going?

In wonderment, I observed her mission. This mother cat was teaching her kittens to cross the road! Busy Heights Ravenna Road right on the curve where it turns into Sheridan. The cars go so fast around that curve! I needed to stop these cats. I hollered, "NO!" I am not sure that my voice was even audible as I realized it was useless. The mother cat successfully crossed with the tabby kitten. The calico was left sitting upright on its back legs at the road's edge terrified and crying, and looking both ways. It finally made a careless bolt into traffic as it saw its mother and sibling bounding away on the other side. The calico narrowly escaped being hit by a truck.

"This will not happen again on my watch."

~ Diane Vanas

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