“Ha, a lot they know about cats!” Thus was interrupted my peaceful after-breakfast sunbathing on the window seat in the living-room.
“What do you mean?” I inquired.
“I mean you are totally dependent on us, you could never make it on your own.”
Now that really annoyed me.
“You are my person because I adopted you, not because I need you. We live in the mountains. Just leave me out for a month and I’ll be fine.”
“We live in a “village” in the mountains. You’d get food from the neighbors, which I think you already do.”
I let that pass.
“Of course I could put you out in the real wilderness for a month. It would be a win/win situation: You get to prove you can go feral and I wouldn’t have to pay for your stay at the cat-keep while we’re on vacation.”
I jumped down, stretched and wandered out into the garden. It’s August, the weather is good, they never take me with them on vacation, and evolution has made me the perfect predator. My person’s remark was most vexing. A lot HE knows about cats. Naturally I’d do well on my own in the wilderness.
“See you in a month,” he said.
As I watch my person’s car fade into the distance I’m incredulous. This must be some kind of human practical joke. The scenery is mountain-like with pine trees and all, there is an uphill and a downhill, but wilderness? I’m sitting on the side of the road; you know, asphalt with a gravel edge and then weeds. Not at all what I had in mind. Wilderness to me is beyond the back yard, no fences, no houses, no barns, not more than a day’s walking distance.
Get a grip I tell myself. My person will be back soon, in a few minutes, in the hour, before dark. I sit for awhile, then hunch down on the side of the road, easily seen by car drivers, more specifically my own person, and wait. Some cars go by. I investigate the weeds a little, the embankment is steep. I settle back on the edge of the road and watch the ants, very busy, going where? Still no sign of my person. Ants are kind of mesmerizing and the afternoon sun warm, I doze off. I hear a car slowing, oh cool, my person, I stand up and start walking towards the car, but stop short, not my car.
Oh, I get it, they’ve sent a taxi. Double cool!
Hold-on. Doesn’t look right. Two dogs in the taxi. Holy cow. I streak across the road, to the other side where there are clumps of bushes and dive out of sight.
The car moves away.
I’m stymied. I’m in information overload. How many new sights, sounds, smells can a cat reasonably be expected to handle at one time? Safe under a bush I mull things over.
The first part of my wilderness holiday is mostly confusing and uncomfortable. Either this is a very unfunny human joke or my person has taken my suggestion, “just leave me out for a month”, seriously. Either way I have to be at our rendezvous spot when he comes back to get me. Water I can smell and hear it close by. Game is another matter. Not my turf. Wilderness grasshoppers are abundant and delicious. Wilderness mice and birds are very uncooperative. Tourist picnic scraps disgusting. Kibble unfindable. And the area is catless. Not normal.
Lean days if ever there were. Not surprising so many cats opt for adopting a person and taking over people habitat. Loss of feline dignity to be sure but what a payload food wise. Plus luxurious sleeping accommodations.
Time rolls by, cars roll by but not the one I’m hoping for. I fraction my days into one third exploring/hunting, one third finding a safe place and resting, one third on the road waiting and one third thinking black thoughts about my never reappearing person. I’m losing weight and strength. Where did evolution go wrong?
Sunny late afternoon, I’m reclining on the road edge, feeling a little low. And here begins the worst day of my life, no not of my ‘outward bound’ wilderness life, of my whole entire cat life.
The dog taxi from hell is back, stops, out comes a woman stalker heading straight at me. I don’t have much energy but each time the stalker gets too near I move, nonchalantly, show no fear, and lie down again, keeping one ear always riveted, tracking every sound. Then a second woman stalker arrives.
Damn and blast. The rest of the day and well into the night is a game of cat and mouse, or more precisely stalker and cat. We do scrambles in the brambles, uphill downhill, along a dirt track, cars going and stopping, cat basket, blue cat dish, run down through the forest, dash along the road. Needless to say, I win. They lose my trail. I’m exhausted.
On top of liaising with my person who will surely be here soon and obtaining food which seems to be very scarce, now I have to deal with women stalkers. The wilderness is certainly not all that it’s chalked up to be. Why in the world are humans so keen to preserve it!
I sleep a lot because I am tired and also to pass the time. I’m feeling more and more dejected and hungry. Even slugs are beginning to look like they might be edible. I still have to be up on the road watching for my person but I immediately hide if an approaching car doesn’t sound like mine.
Now you are not going to believe this, it does sound like something impossible, but one night it rains kibble. Amazing. I rush up on the road and gobble up every tidbit I find. Gets even more amazing. I raise my head towards a lovely smell, a cat food type smell, and there walking in my direction is one of the lady stalkers. In one hand a cat food dish, in the other a packet of cat food. Dilemma. Hallucination? Trap? I withdraw. The smell makes me almost swoon. I creep back. The dish is now on the ground closer to me than to the stalker. I go for it.
I eat hungrily but cannot finish. I move lower down to the lying-on-the-ground tree trunks, stretch out and fall asleep. I think the stalker stays for some time but the night envelopes me. Later I awaken and go back to finish eating the cat food and the kibble rain. I also find a pile of kibble. Kibble rain must be like hail and can pile up except hail melts, kibble doesn’t.
I like this spot because of the lying-on-the-ground tree trunks, because it’s close to the road but not easily visible. And now cat food, real cat food. The stalker lady was also real, not discrete at all. Cats have excellent sense of smell, hearing, eyesight, night and day. It’s easy to know where a human is, but what goes on inside their heads is another matter all together. And there is of course that old saying, “Beware of stalkers bearing food”.
The following day the food dish has migrated to a sheltered spot and is again filled up. The day after there are two dishes, both full. Being very very hungry I’m not bothering much with details. I return frequently. Still I must remain mindful. The cat food dishes, the whole feeding place reeks of stalkers. And they keep popping up all over the place, usually with food. At other times wandering around, looking for me of course. Or messing around with tree trunks, trying to put the bark back on them. Or sitting on a stump, doing nothing. I’ve never thought my own person was particularly bright but these stalker ladies are worse. Mental.
I’m regaining strength and my smarts are returning. My position is clear. Get as much food as possible, sure beats hunting, but treat stalker ladies like dogs, foxes, any other potential enemy, avoid them. We get into a routine. I still keep my eye on the road for my person. Otherwise I eat, rest, explore the wilderness, think about where the mice and birds might hang out and what would be required to catch one, watch butterflies, meditate. The stalker ladies provide food plus some light entertainment.
I’ve just finished my meal and am sitting on a boulder washing my face. Sometimes the food is tastier than at others and I wonder if there were any way to let the stalker ladies know about preferences.
Hello, I hear a car that sounds like mine. I jump down and rush to the road just as it goes by. Further along, near where I was deposited some weeks ago, the car slows and lo and behold, my name rings out. It is my person calling me. I don’t want to show too much excitement so I meander up the road as fast as I can go looking slow. Ecstatic with joy? Jump into my person’s arms? No way. A cat has his dignity. Besides that lick lick pawn all over a person is a dog thing. Yuk.
“Wow, you look good!”
“You expected not to find me?”
“Not at all, not at all.”
“You expected to find me dead?”
“Heaven forbid! But I mean, man, you’re fat and sleek. You seem to thrive on living feral.”
“I’m a natural born killer.”
“Outstanding. Just that at home we never really noticed your predator skills. How did this all come about?”
“You act surprised. I told you I’d do well in the wilderness. A rodent has no chance when he’s in my sights. Do you want all the gore details? How delectable a warm, just dead liver tastes? How it melts in your mouth?”
“Later. Into the car you go. You can tell all about your hunting prowess tonight over a nice piece of grilled chicken breast. Unless of course you now prefer your chicken breast raw. Or even still alive with feathers?”