Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Kitty, kitty!

It looks like Phoenix’s wildest dreams are going to come true.

He’s going to get a kitten.

Probably two of them.

It’s not going to happen until spring, though. They will be outdoor farm kitties, albeit spayed, neutered, vaccinated farm kitties, but farm kittens in the winter are not a good idea on any level so he'll have to wait.

Believe it or not, we have no farm cats right now. We just have Winnie, my antique cat. She is 15 or 16. I’m not sure I can really call her a farm cat, although she is a cat and she lives on a farm so technically she meets the requirements. She hangs out on old fleece crate pads in the garage or lays around in the sun and waits for meals to be delivered. Phoenix likes her. She likes Phoenix. This relationship is occasionally strained because Phoenix is sure if he pokes her hard enough, she will eventually run so he can chase. I do not think Winnie has run anywhere since 2008. But hope springs eternal.

The kittens were the Farmer’s idea. Twenty-one years and the man is still full of surprises.

We have been overrun by mice in the house this fall. When you live in a century-old farm house in the middle of thousands of acres of cropland, you’ll have that. But this fall has been worse than normal.

I run a trap line in the basement at this time of the year when it starts getting cold and the mice start trying to migrate indoors. Thankfully, they rarely get beyond the basement. We hardly ever see or trap  one in the upper floors. If we did, I suspect the Farmer might gift me a cat for Christmas. Or Thanksgiving. Or Halloween. Or tomorrow morning.

Every morning after breakfast, I clean up the kitchen and the Farmer goes down to the basement to put on his chore clothes. He checks the traps and calls up the morning’s mouse count: “We got two!” “Just one today!” “Two mice and one snapped trap!”

One morning last week, he went down to the basement and called back up, “We need a cat!”

I am fairly sure he did not mean we need a cat in the house but I could be wrong. Having farm cats prowling around outdoors does have an impact on the number of mice in the house and clearly Winnie feels mouse patrol is beneath her. When we had a large outdoor cat population, the number of mice in the house was much, much lower and we saw them hauling away the occasional rat, another occupational hazard of farm life.

So in the spring I will get a couple of kittens and start what I expect to be a long process of kitten desensitization for Phoenix. He gets along with Winnie because she is slow, quiet and really doesn’t do much besides try to wash his face. I am under no illusions that this gentle acceptance will transfer to bouncing, wrestling, spitting, hissing, leaping kittens.

I foresee kittens living in the safety of a kitty condo in the garage while Phoenix eats huge volumes of treats while remaining calm in their presence and learning they are not the elusive “git ‘em now!” novelty that cats have always been for him. I am the first to admit this is going to be a tight-rope jugging act and I also admit this is something I should have done almost 6 years ago when he was a baby but I didn’t realize the extent of his cat-obsessed prey drive back then.

To tell you the truth, I think all he wants to do is chase. When we DID have lots of farm cats (long story, much illness, many one-way trips to the vet), he DID chase them. For all his chasing he did zero catching and believe me, the opportunities were there repeatedly. I am under no illusion he would not kill a kitten simply by “playing” it to death. Or that he may never be completely trustworthy around small, furry, speedy, prey animals (okay, cats aren’t really prey animals but they are small, furry and speedy and three out of four is good enough for Phoenix.)

I haven’t told Phoenix he is getting kitties yet. By the time they arrive in the spring, he’ll be six years old. I’ve noticed a big decrease in his reactivity to other dogs. He’ll never be a dog who lets strange dogs rush up into his face without showing fang and he’ll never be a canine diplomat like Jamie, but he’s definitely more tolerant than he was even a year ago. I’m hoping this increased tolerance will carry over to cats. Cuz I’m really getting tired of emptying and re-setting mousetraps.


  1. Omg...phoenix and juno,would sooooo get along...cat wise. I think i could train hernto,ognore a house cat, but i could never trust her alone with one...mainly playing it to death like you said. Juno cant wait to readbabout phoenix's new kitteh adventures! Shes lookin forward to the action she could only dream about....

  2. I have already spread the word at work. You are on our "needs a kitten" list :-) Of course, this will be the spring that no ONE has any kittens!

  3. Congrats Phoenix! It will be worth the wait. lol

  4. Woo-Hoo!!! Phoenix will be SO excited!! :)

    Famke LOOOVES to chase our cat, Bagheera. She thinks it is THE most fun thing in the universe. Once she "catches" him the game is over. It is all about the chase for her. :)