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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Barn Cats: Not a Perfect Society

by Anita Mae Draper and JJ Draper


My eleven year old son spent most of last summer observing our barn cats. He started this after reading Erin Hunter’s Warrior series. The books are about a mythical society of cats. JJ became so enthused with the books, he spent hours in the loft confirming what he read. And then he’d come running into the house excited because our cats conformed to the norm.

I asked JJ to write a small blurb about barn cats and this is what he came up with:

Cats live in a type of society which is very interesting to me. The mother cats take care of the kittens, catch food, and play with the kittens too. In their diet is mice, birds, gophers, voles, snakes, and water voles. The cats do play with each other lots. They are interesting because in the hay they make tunnels, and dens. Altogether they are really helpful because they catch pests.

I asked him if the male cats take care of the kittens. He once saw a male carry a mouse in his mouth over to a corner where some kittens were but he said he didn’t stick around to see if the male actually shared with the little ones. Usually, though, the male will carry his ‘prize’ off to a corner by himself and growl if anyone else goes near.

A couple years ago when we had dairy goats, I had a chance to watch the cats in action while doing the morning milking. My favorite times were when the cats would line up in a row and wait for the squirt of milk right from the source. Even though they seemed to know where the milk came from, they’d still jump when the milk ‘got’ them. It didn’t take long before they were pushing each other out of the way with mouths wide open. It sure was funny. The barn faced east with a big sliding door that we’d open wide in good weather and let the sun fill the barn.

Of the seven barn cats we inherited when we took over the farm, a gray tabby became a favourite. We called her Hunter because we’d often see her trotting down the driveway with a field mouse or gopher in her mouth while the other cats sat around waiting for us to dish out their twice daily feed of prepared cat food. Hunter had a small litter of cats and would sit in the sun, kittens suckling, while I milked the goats. A patient mother, Hunter would lie in the sun and ignore the growing kittens as they played tag around and over her. She’d even slide her tail back and forth, teasing the kittens.

Hunter’s kittens grew into adults and had kittens of their own. One morning, Hunter’s daughter, kittens trailing behind her, joined us in the morning sun. But instead of stopping, Hunter’s daughter ran outside and disappeared around the corner. Her kittens followed but stopped at the door. Soon, they turned around and ran over to Hunter, their grandmother, and snuggled under her. As if it happened all the time, Hunter shifted so the kittens could suckle. She gave me this bored look before lolling her head back on the cement. I was amazed she would accept her ‘grandbabies’ without a murmur. Hunter was the best hunter, mother and grandmother.

And like other cats, the male didn’t do anything but eat. Rarely did we see him hunt for itself, yet he always showed up at feeding time and usually tried to snitch ‘treasures’ from the females.

So barn cats are like the fabled amazons, only needing the males for procreation purposes. Why would God create a matriarchate society where one gender is over-worked and the other lies around licking himself all day? I really don’t know.

But I’m not worried about JJ seeing a society where the father lazes around all day while the mother does all the work because his own father does his full share around the house as far as laundry and running a household is concerned.

And that’s not how God operates, either. He is a loving Father who takes time to care for us. He protects us. He feeds us. And He patiently waits while we play at His feet.

JJ would like to know if you like cats, and why.

26 comments:

  1. Funny that. I've never been a huge cat person. More comfortable with dogs. But I do like some cats... From a distance, where they don't effect my allergies. Man, I feel like a curmudgeon!

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  2. I've been allergic to cats all my life as well, but not to Siamese. I do like cats and enjoy having one around the house. One small dog and one cat have their own society! I never saw two animals play such 'mind games' on each other as these two.

    What dogs make up for in companionship, cats make up for in ease of care. (okay, no one likes cleaning a litter...) (okay, so I don't really like it when she tries to sleep on my hands while I'm typing either.)

    Nice Job JJ and Anita!

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  3. I wrote a long comment for JJ about how I love to watch the different personalities of my little male and female dogs, but it didn't go through. Grrr.

    Sadly, I'm also allergic to cats, but I would enjoy watching their antics around the farm. And for some reason, I'm a cat magnet. Maybe because they know I don't want to get too close. Cats are contrary like that.

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  4. Hi Anita! And guess what JJ? I'm not allergie to cats and we have 4 at our home. We've got 2 dogs too.

    I grew up on a farm and I remember the two barn cats I named when I was about 8: Smokey and Twinkle Toes. :)

    Oh those kitties in our lives do have their personalities and pecking order. Have you noticed that? Our big, black, long haired cat, Lucky rules the house. Then there are the two in the middle, Thelma and Louise is what I named them, but my girls renamed them Yuma and Snow. My youngest brought home a kitty she rescued in Indiana. Of course I named him Indy for Indiana Jones, but she named him Holden. Go figure.

    Our cat Snow hates Holden. The jealous thing. Lucky and Holden wrestle when ever they get the chance, very playful, and Yuma, just trys to stay out of the fray. :)

    Do I like cats? Yep.

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  5. Great post, Anita and JJ! I love what you said about how God operates: He's a loving Father, protector, provider and so much more.

    JJ, my mom is really, really allergic to cats so I never had any. Still can't. I told my kids that we can have a cat or grandma. Even Grandma admits that there's not much cuter than playing kittens, however. Thanks for providing such excellent research for us today.

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  6. Sorry I'm late here but we're going through the first thunderstorm of the season and internet service is sporadic.

    Lisa, Deb and Dina, sorry about your allergies.

    We took a kitten home from the Animal Shelter when our eldest was 4 because Daddy was going away for a couple months and we thought it would help take her mind off him. It did and we had 'Trouble' until just a couple yrs ago when we had to put her down at the age of 20.

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  7. Lisa, don't feel like that because really, I don't even like cats that much. I tolerated Trouble because she was good for the family, but she didn't get her name 'just because'.

    I used to do a lot of knitting/crocheting back then and too many times, I'd come to the end of my yarn where there should've been lots left. I'd look down and Trouble would be rolling the ball around on the floor after biting my part off.

    She'd wake us up at dawn by either sitting on my face or using her front paws to 'pad' or 'make a nest' on my chest or tummy. I guess I was the one to feed her so she always woke me up.

    Deb is right... cleaning out the litterbox is not a pleasant task. And then hubby took over that job whenever I became pregnant so I wouldn't contract that toxioplasmosis disease which would harm the fetus.

    And really, having a cat sit on your fingers when you're trying to type just isn't fun, either.

    Maybe that's why I don't mind the barn cats... they stay in their world and I stay in mine. LOL

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  8. Rain and thunder has stopped but there's a horrible windstorm going on out there.

    Dina, I have some more pics that JJ took and they plainly show the cats while they're sleeping, playful and angry. I am going to try to upload later on. I had trouble the last time but we'll see.

    Jill, JJ has named the cats in the barn and knows who they are but I haven't a clue. We'll see if he'll tell you after he gets home from school.

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  9. Anita - This may well be my favorite of your posts thus far! I'll be chuckling all day over the Amazonian society description. I'm guessing most human males would love the opportunity to lie around and lick themselves all day, too. Thank goodness they aren't that limber. : )

    JJ - Cats are not my favorite pets, but I don't dislike them, either. We had a wonderful tom named Dandelion who used to catch full grown rabbits and bring them home for his dinner!

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  10. Susie, JJ knows all about really bad allergies because he and his brother were allerice to anything with the cow milk protein in it for years. (Hence the goat milk.)

    God cured them from their allergies although the doctor said they'd have them forever. God is so wonderful!

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  11. Niki! That's too funny because the first thing I thought of - well, ok, the second thing - when I read your comment was 'hairball'. I mean, I don't know about your husbands, but the older my guy gets, the darker the forest on his back. LOL

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  12. Thank you Debra.

    Dina - I think they might like you because it's rather they want to put their scent on you or you smell like something they like to eat.

    Jill - four cats wow! and two cats fighting where have I heard of that before?

    susanne - so your grandma likes kittens but she's allergic to them?

    Niki - so you don't need to feed him when he caught a full grown rabbit?

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  13. Anita and J.J.
    I love the way you two have shared your cat stories with us today. Oh, and J.J. I wanted to tell you that if you were to stand in the basement of our home and look up into the rafters you'd see two golden eyes looking out at you. Before I was aware that our kitty Yuma, who is a very big calico, was sleeping up there, she scared me out of my wits one day.

    I was washing clothes and walking by a table and she jumped down from the rafters, onto the table, and I screamed and almost fell over a box. Then as cats will do, she gave me that look of sheer disgust as if to say, "Whatever."

    Our basement is a mouse free zone. :)

    Have a great week you two!

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  14. Anita and J.J. - great post! I grew up with cats and they are lots of fun. Where I live now cats have to be kept inside at night. I understand why but it still feels mean to keep them indoors so much. If I lived in the country and could let them roam, I'd definitely have barn cats :-)

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  15. Jilly - I read your comment to JJ as he was lying on the sofa, almost in sleep mode. But he started giggling. He raised his head and gave me this huge smile. :)

    Narelle, I've already spoken above about bringing Trouble home from the shelter. We also had another cat - Fluffy - which we found as a kitten in a box on the side of the road. We declawed both Trouble and Fluffy when we decided to bring them in the house. We don't believe cats should come and go as they please. They are either inside cats which means they own the house. Or they are outside cats and have the run of the farm. It wouldn't be fair to send a declawed cat outside without a means of fending for themself. But I don't believe a cat should be allowed to rip my furniture apart just because they can. Our indoor cats never huddled by the door and tried to race outside which showed us they were content to be inside and pampered.

    So Narelle, I don't think it's mean to keep them indoors - unless they've been outside most of their life and as an adult you're now keeping them inside 24/7. But then it depends on the cat, doesn't it? They may not mind giving up their freedom for shelter and attention.

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  16. Anita, I agree that cats are either inside cats or outside cats. I should have explained my thoughts more clearly in my last comment. Many indoor cats (including one I once owned) would be most put out if they had to go outside and leave their comfortable indoor home :-)

    We had stray cats who turned up on our doorstep and adopted us. We lived near bushland and assumed these cats were dumped by their owners, probably as kittens. They liked to be petted by those who fed them but would probably fail a temperament test. I have a soft spot for these poor, abandoned cats who loved the outdoors and only ventured into our laundry room to be fed. Cat laws here have become so strict that in many new suburbs cats are only allowed outdoors in enclosed cat runs. These cats aren't allowed to live as outdoor cats, with big fines facing owners who don't contain their cats. It would be hard to keep these cats indoors when they're used to the outdoors, and if they're caught and fail temperament tests to be adopted as pets then we all know what will happen. If I lived in the country I could happily have outdoor cats again.

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  17. JJ, I love your enthusiasm and admire you for spending so much time in the loft observing cats. I'm allergic to cats, but I have one. Sadly, she is very sick. We're doing our best to make her comfortable. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on cats with us, JJ.

    Deb, strange that you are allergic to cats, but not to Siamese. I am so allergic to Siamese, I can't even go in a house where they live even if they aren't in the room. They're sure pretty, though.

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  18. PS, Anita, thanks for sharing JJ with us. It was delightful.

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  19. JJ - I have had five cats in my lifetime. Edward was my favourite. He had personality plus! He would come to the door whenever anyone dropped by. He sat and held out a paw. If the person didn't shake his paw, he would stalk away annoyed. He was desperately in love with Cleo who had to be the dumbest cat in creation, but God sent her Edward to hold her in his 'arms' all night. We had to give them away when my husband devloped asthma. Several years later, I was on the street where Edward had gone to live. I called his name and he came streaking around the corner of a house and leaped into my arms purring. I never saw him again, but he will live forever in my heart.
    You have done some good research. Bravo.
    connie

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  20. JJ,
    We feed our cat (we only have one left now) in the winter, when hunting is scarce, because they are outside cats. But since we live in the country, there are PLENTY of rodents and vermin for them. In fact, as I'm writing this post, Zoe just wandered into the yard with a garrison squirrel (small prairie dog) hanging out of her mouth. And she had her canned food already this morning! LOL.
    Loved your input on your mom's blog post! You and my boys have similar tastes in books, I think!
    Niki

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  21. Anita - I think their hair migrates. At least in my husband's case it moved from his head to his body. : )

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  22. Hey Suzie - JJ's sad about your sick cat. He has a real affinity for them and really emphasizes with you.

    You're welcome, Suzie. JJ has his own blog and is interested in getting his thoughts out there. Usually he just talks 'gaming' though. LOL

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  23. Okay Narelle, I see where you're coming from now. Yes, a cat used to his freedom like that would't take kindly to being locked up.

    When we lived in the city, they came out with the same by-law where you had to keep your cat on a leash if it was outdoors. I have to agree with them on that point, however because I've had neighbourhood cats wreck my gardens while doing their business. And when a cat 'goes' in your soil, it's so strong, nothing will grow there for years.

    I'll be praying for this to be resolved with you, for everyone's satisfaction, including the cats.

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  24. Hey Connie, nice to see you here.

    I read your comment to JJ and he really liked it although he ducked his head under a pillow when it got to the romantic part. LOL

    He had lots of smiles for Edward streaking around the corner and an 'awh' for the end.

    JJ wanted me to thank you for sharing that story. He really likes those kind.

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  25. Niki - JJ wanted me to pass on that if your boys have similar interests, they may be interested in the new Warrior series that just came out. They are in addition to the original Warrior cat books.

    Also, he really liked the Seeker series, also by Erin Hunter. They're about 3 bears - a grizzly, polar and black bear - who go on a journey together.

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  26. I think their hair migrates. At least in my husband's case it moved from his head to his body.

    LOL Niki, isn't that the truth. I still can't believe that wedding pic of yours. Just goes to show you, you can't take it with you. :)

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