Lots of action lately with the cats

Kid, petting the cat: “This kitten has fur growing between his toes. Why does he have fur between his toes? The other cats don’t have that.”

Me: “I don’t know, but I do know that it has a name. Do you know what they call that toe fur?”

Kid: “What do you mean it has a name? Why would toe fur have a name? Ok, what is it?”

Me: “George.”


It’s been pretty quiet out here lately. Maybe too quiet. That’s probably why Mitey the teenage barn kitten has decided to shake things up and insist that he’s an indoor cat. Every time the front door opens, he darts inside, trying to either locate the indoor cat food bowl or hide under furniture. Every time, to his great disgust, he’s nabbed and taken back outside. Perseverance, thy name is Mitey—he has yet to either learn his lesson or give up. Sometimes he even brings his brother Sumo with him.

Mitey (short for Mighty Mite) is one of this year’s barn cat crop. Ever since we’ve been out here, we’ve been graced by an ever changing gaggle of cats. Some are pretty, some are friendly, some are pretty friendly. Way back when, many of them were pretty inbred. Any one of them could have sung “I’m my own grandpa” and added extra verses which probably included cousin, sibling, AND grandchild. (Well, that is, if they could sing. Everybody knows cats can’t sing.) We realized early on that occasional infusions of new blood were necessary. Bot (Big Orange Tom, the original patriarch) definitely approved.

And yes, they must all have names. This year’s crop is a pretty good example of the range. Some sound pretty normal, like Otis, Smokey, Trinket, and Tuxie. Others make us laugh, like Sumo, Stranger, Bear (and his brother Naked), and Thor. We’ve had cats named Cow, cats named Chicken, and even one named Ninja. The kids have grown up naming and playing with their favorites, with or without toe hair.

Coontess was always one of my favorites. Technically, she was the neighbor’s cat, and her name was Nimbus. Every time I saw her, I saw her floofy rear end and almost mistook her for a raccoon. Her regal bearing (she looked like a tabby-point Himalayan) meant she needed a somewhat regal name, ergo Coontess. She loved to scare the living daylights out of me by pawing at the front windows late at night. At one point, I briefly considered letting her inside, until I realized that she’d be just as annoying inside while I was sleeping. Outside she stayed, but always got fed before the others. She hasn’t come around for a while, probably because she can’t stand Stranger, the current residing tom.

Occasionally, we enjoy bringing home a newbie to add to the gang. We have family who is good at finding us good additions. Usually we try to look for a friendly kitten, young enough to fit in with ours, or just old enough to stick up and hunt for itself. Slick, one of this year’s additions, is figuring out that we’re ok, as far as people go. Unfortunately though, sometimes we get some unwanted additions. At least once a year, someone decides that their cat is too much trouble and just dumps them out in the country.

This year, someone dumped Jerk. He’s not bad looking, but he’s not friendly to any living being. He does not play well with others. He’s constantly growling at anything that moves, and we wonder if he’s had head trauma or something. Whoever dumped him didn’t do him any favors—cats just don’t last long out here. Sure, we feed the barn cats, and they have places to sleep out of the weather, but trying to fit another cat into the existing structure (especially when he won’t make friends) doesn’t give him good odds. We expect our barn cats to work, too. They’re supposed to keep the rodent population under control so the snake population also stays low. Most dumped cats just don’t have the skills. And no, I don’t bring barn cats inside. We learned our lesson on that a few years ago.

We love our barn kitties, but please make no mistake. Dumping your unwanted pets near a farmhouse will not guarantee that the residents will take them in. Nor will it guarantee that they will be able to survive living outdoors. My barn kitties have grown up outdoors and know how to survive. Your indoor-raised pet does not. Please surrender to a shelter if you must. Don’t just dump your pet on a country road. It doesn’t make for a happy ending.