Filed under: Humor, Nature & Wildlife, Uncategorized
Mau-Mau, A Most Peculiar Cat
My wife and I have always been animal lovers (although I draw the line with snakes and spiders) and have always had pets in our lives. Dogs, cats, birds, and sheep… yes, SHEEP. While we owned several acres of old apple orchard in the mountains of northwestern New Jersey (yes, there are mountains in New Jersey; no, not the Rocky Mountains type of mountains, but maybe foothills to the Rockies kind of mountains), we decided that it might be nice for the kids to raise some farm animals. We chose a couple of Hampshire sheep lambs; Missy and Annabelle. But wait, I’m going off course; this is supposed to be about a cat named Mau-Mau.
Mau-Mau was left behind when a neighbor moved. The day of the move, Mau-Mau freaked out and ran off. The owners searched and searched and cried and cried, but finally had to admit that the cat was gone. A week after the neighbors left, Mau-Mau was seen roaming around the neighborhood, looking hungry and cold. As winter set in, some of the neighbors began putting out food for him in an attempt to catch him, adopt him, take him to a shelter, or at least keep him alive.
As nature took its course and Mau-Mau reverted back to his wild carnivore genes, he became the typical feral cat: hiding out during the day and prowling around during the night, not allowing anyone to get close. We were therefore surprised when, as only one of the neighborhood families that were putting out food and water for Mau-Mau, he seemed to be singling us out as his favorite food providers. He showed up more and more, even sleeping on our front porch. The fact that we have a dog didn’t seem to faze him in the least. He allowed our dog Merci to approach and even sniff his nose. He did draw a line at allowing Merci to sniff his butt, though, and gave Merci a swat on his nose when he tried.
Long story short, a couple of weeks later Mau-Mau moved in. Merci accepted him from the start; there was no growling or chasing, they even slept side by side. They ate their kibble, side by side as well, each trying the other’s food and agreeing that either was okay. We did have to hide the food after they ate, because, although Merci was allowed to free feed and never over ate, Mau-Mau would finish his bowl of food and then have Merci’s bowlful for dessert. Merci didn’t seem to mind. Perhaps he recognized that Mau-Mau was a veteran and had survived the wilds of the neighborhood and thereby deserved her respect.
Although this behavior convinced us that we had an unusual cat on our hands, it was what he started doing several weeks later that amazed us. Mau-Mau never seemed to forget the feral part of his past. He wanted to be outside for extended periods and even disappeared at night sometimes, only to turn up the next day looking for his food. Merci became very attached to what should have been her blood enemy. Whenever Mau-Mau went off on a walkabout, Merci would search our home for him and then sit at the porch door, waiting for the cat’s return.
During one of our walks, marked by Merci’s checking under every bush and car for his new friend, Mau-Mau suddenly appeared. He headed straight for Merci, giving him a sideswipe by way of saying hello, and then fell in with us as we continued our walk.
We made a strange sight during those walks, with Merci on her leash and Mau-Mau walking at her side, waiting patiently when Merci stopped to sniff or do her business, and then falling into step when we moved off. The cat usually left us at the end of our walks, disappearing under the bushes or a parked car. More and more often, though, Mau-Mau would return with us and split off to wait on the porch while Merci and I went in the front door. Merci would then run to the porch door and wait until I let Mau-Mau in. We got a real kick out of all this inter-species friendship and seeming camaraderie between a cat and a dog. We became the talk of the neighborhood. People would stop their daily activities to stand there shaking their heads and smiling as the three of us walked by.
One day, while I was snapping on Merci’s leash in preparation for her afternoon walk, Mau-Mau walked up and sat watching us. That was the first time he did that. As I opened the door to leave with Merci, Mau-Mau quickly joined us and walked out at Merci’s side. Another first, but from that day on, Mau-Mau joined us at the front door whenever we went out for a walk and stayed by our side when we returned through the front door. My wife and I agreed that we had an intelligent, thoughtful cat on our hands. This was made even clearer by what happened next.
Mau-Mau was out somewhere when Merci and I went out one afternoon for a walk. Merci checked the usual spots as we went along, but there was no sight of Mau-Mau. There’s an old cemetery in the middle of our village green across the street from our home. There’s a spot under one of the bushes where who we affectionately call the “bird lady” pores a 20-pound bag of wild bird seed every few weeks. Merci usually sniffs around under the bush when we walk by since the day she surprised some kind of critter feeding on the seeds. On this particular day, I stopped as Merci crept forward and, stretching her neck out, checked on what might be feeding on the bird food.
It took only a second for all hell to break loose. There was loud screeching and growling and some doggy whining as Merci tried to crawl backwards out from under the bush and escape whatever monster was attacking her. As I tried to help by hauling backwards on her leash, I happened to spot something flashing across the lawn behind the bush, heading our way. And that’s when double hell broke loose, as a two-headed ball of fur screamed, screeched and rolled around under the bush. Merci and I had backed off to a safe distance and stood there, amazed by the battle going on. It only took a few moments before a very beat-up looking cat; another one of the feral cats then making its home in our neighborhood, made its escape and dashed from under the bush and high-tailed it across the lawn to safety.
Up until this point we still didn’t know what had attacked what attacked Merci. We should have known, because out walked Mau-Mau, looking unscathed and unfazed by the battle he had just won. He walked right up to Merci, who seemed to flinch a bit when the cat he knew and shared his food and bed with turned out to be a raging ninja cat; all flying claws and teeth. But Mau-Mau gave Merci an affectionate sideswipe and looked up at me, as if saying, “All right, shall we continue our walk now?” Amazing!
As always seems to happen with pets, the great joy and unconditional love that they bring is often followed by loss and sadness. Mau-Mau was always a skinny cat. He always ate well and seemed healthy, but after several inconclusive checkups at the vet’s, we had to admit that he was wasting away. In the end, the vet decided that it was probably the cat’s liver that failed, maybe caused by his time in the feral world. We still miss Mau-Mau and wish he was still with us. We believe that Merci agrees.
Till Next Time,