By Mike “Duke” Venturino
Photos By Yvonne Venturino
A few issues back I did a column on dogs and many readers enjoyed it, sending in dozens of “their own stories” about their dogs. This one is about cats and I’ll bet in advance fewer readers will comment on it. For some reason many people view cats with a prejudiced eye; mostly men, but some women too. I just read — on a social media site — a man saying, “I got a cat today — but had to swerve into the other lane to get him.”
Yvonne and I do not see humor in such stuff. We have both been cat lovers since childhood and agree it doesn’t take too much of a man to pick on a 10-pound animal. Oh sure, I know cats kill birds and that gets a lot of peoples’ attention, and most assuredly there is a problem with feral cat populations. We get that, but the problem is caused by people, not by cats.
People around here are forever dumping unwanted cats in rural areas despite the fact our town of Livingston, Montana, has the wonderful, non-government owned, no-kill (unless diseased) Stafford Animal Shelter where Yvonne has worked for many years. Cats or dogs, and even mice, guinea pigs and (yuck!) snakes can be surrendered at no cost.
We have a small place in the country here of about 70 acres, and more than a few dumped cats have wandered in over the 30 years we’ve lived here. Every single one, without exception, we trap and have spayed or neutered as the case might be. Then we turn them out. If truly feral they are free to live in and around our barn. If actually socialized they will gravitate to our house or outbuildings, becoming one of the herd. They are fed and have inoculations. Never, not once, have we allowed kittens to be born here.
This cat was named Bobbie and she graced Duke’s life for over 17 years.
She had the comical looking habit of resting with her tongue sticking out.
Duke and Yvonne’s most helpful cat is Fluffy the Terrible. If they
are doing something outside he’s sure to be in the middle of it.
White Fang — the kitten that Yvonne brought back to health.
Panzer & Bobbie
We have had kittens though. Several times, sick or starved waifs have been brought to the shelter on the very edge of death. Yvonne has an almost uncanny ability to bring them back from the brink so they grow into healthy, beautiful pets. Several I had a hand in naming are Nambu, Spud, Fluffy the Terrible, Lady Star, Stonewall, White Fang, etc. One — named Panzer — is the most responsible dog owner I know. He is my collie Brady’s constant companion.
In 1990 Yvonne found a starved, approximately six-month-old female kitten on a city street in mid-winter. Most of its tail and a couple of right hind foot toes had been traumatically amputated. Likely this happened in a car motor when she was seeking warmth. I named her Bobbie due to the short tail. When Yvonne came into the house carrying her the first day, I walked over to look. The kitten reached for me with both front paws, starting a 17-year love affair.
There was never any doubt Bobbie was my cat, or perhaps it could be said I was her person. She usually hung with or near me in the house and at night liked to sleep between Yvonne and I. In winter when the sun was coming through our picture window I admit she would abandon me in favor of sleeping in its rays on the back of the couch. One evening when Yvonne’s father was visiting for a few days, he saw Bobbie sound asleep draped over my shoulder as I watched TV. His comment was, “That cat sure is stuck on you.” It was a mutual thing.
In 2007, exactly 17 years and seven days after Bobbie arrived I had to let her go. She was so ill that last morning she literally crawled across the floor to get to me. I held her in my arms while she got the final injection. No one would have taken me for some macho, kill-crazy gun-guy then. I miss her every day.
Our cats are not just freeloaders. As one photo shows, Fluffy the Terrible is always trying to help with our photo shoots. More practically, I would not have known a rattlesnake was near the house on seven occasions had it not been pointed out by one or more cats. They have enough sense to stay out of its striking range until I arrive with a shot-loaded revolver. They leave then, as if they know they’ve done their part. I’ve come to realize a cat or cats sitting staring into the grass means there’s a snake there.
I’ve said before and will likely say again, “You’ve never truly been loved by an animal until you’ve been loved by a cat.”
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