People keep telling me there are two kinds of cat: feral cats and domestic cats. It's pretty obvious when you think about it. There's the kind of cat who's secured herself a cushy number and lives indoors with a family. Then there's the other kind of cat who's not so fortunate and lives the vagabond existence of an outdoor cat.
I can't help thinking about these differences. It's even more apparent where I live on the farm. You only have to look at the differences between my Pusia and the mangy black and white feral cats to know how lucky Pusia is.
There's a whole 'other' cat world going on, though. There are actually three kinds of cat. There are the domestic cats who live indoors with us. There are the feral cats who chance their luck hanging around in our gardens. And then there are the wild cats. These are the cats who have never had any consistent contact with humans and who don't aspire to it! They are perfectly capable of looking after themselves. Most of the time we don't even know they're there! But they are...
Rich Cat Poor Cat
Whilst the rich cat and the poor cat live side by side, the feral cat and the wild cat almost occupy the same space! Bearing this in mind, it's possible to see how there are actually only two kinds of cat. The feral cat and the wild cat coexist in the poor cat realm. They just have different designs on their close relative, the rich cat. They differ in as much as the poor feral cat covets rich cat's luxurious lifestyle. But the poor wild cat has no such aspirations. She'll always be wild.
I'm going to concern myself with the daily power struggle I see going on in my yard. Almost every day there's an uneasy game of politics acted out before my eyes. And this is how it happens.
The Rich Cat
Rich cat has a blessed life. She has a house for shelter. She has food and water on demand. She has a staff of humans who tend to her every need and whim. If she's really lucky then her house is surrounded by woodlands and fields.
If the mood takes her she can slumber for hours on end and then venture out for a spot of hunting, secure in the knowledge that she doesn't actually need to catch anything. At the end of the day the food bowl will be refilled like a mystical cornucopia that never runs dry.
Poor cat lives in a world where she's always on the lookout for the next meal. A poor cat on a farm is one of the luckier poor cats around. All the mice and some rabbits become fair game and appear regularly on the menu. Who can blame poor cat for becoming a lethal killing machine under these circumstances?
Poor cat is, however, an elusive creature. She'll hang around in the lanes and only usually comes out at dusk or night time. But if she senses there's the chance of easy pickings or the opportunity to move in on rich cat's territory then she'll start to get a bit bolder.
Top CatLife can be easy for the rich cat. She knows it and she's not about to let it slip through her fingers. That's why being a rich cat is a stressful business. Being a rich cat is a bit like being a wealthy land owner in feudal times. It's one thing to have a high tower to watch everything happening outside your fortress. It's quite another thing when it gives you a good view of the competition and their movements.
There's always some important job that needs doing. Rich cat needs to make sure the entry points to the house are well protected and marked. It's an essential job. She'll scratch away madly at a prominent upright structure, mostly the ladder leading to her cat flap. This leaves a visual clue ("I'm vicious!") and a smelly calling card ("This is my scent!"). It also clearly says "KEEP OUT."
Who could blame her? The feral cat is a cheeky creature. Once she senses there's a human around who may be a soft touch then she starts to encroach on rich cat's territory. Suddenly us humans sense we're being watched from every dark nook and cranny!
At this stage it's possible to slip poor cat the odd bit of leftover cat food. That's probably a bit misguided and only works if we're unobserved by rich cat. It only emboldens poor cat, however, to venture further onto rich cat's territory. It can be a bit confusing for rich cat, too! She can't understand why I'm not running around the garden banging saucepan lids. She tries to lead by example. I've read that cats hiss because it sounds like a snake. They don't possess the vocal capabilities to produce a truly frightening meaow! Eventually the time comes when poor cat starts to transform from poor cat to poor relation. One day, she appears nonchalantly perched on the very threshold of rich cat's domain whilst rich cat is actually sitting on the kitchen table!
And that, dear friends, is when rich cat's poor human has to start making cooing noises and assuring rich cat that everything is fine.
Cat Food Makes the World Go Round
Food appears to be the unmistakable currency of rich and poor cats' world. This is how I get around the problem. Pusia gets first dibs at everything. She has the best food, the best treats, the best milk. Almost inevitably she leaves roughly a third of everything presented to her. It's her prerogative as a rich cat. It's also pretty magnanimous of her to do so. Unwittingly she becomes the greatest benefactor of poor cat.
And now, in some bizarre twist of fate, I've witnessed Pusia catch a mouse, bring it to my door, drop it (at which point I celebrate and thank her wildly) only then to see poor cat walk up and take it away! Recently, when I followed poor cat out of curiosity, I found her sitting contentedly in the trees with the hind quarters and tail of said mouse dancing energetically from her mouth as she chewed on it delightedly!
Pusia doesn't seem to mind poor cat's company one bit now. Rich cat and poor cat have found the balance. Sometimes it can feel like the Gaza Strip with its uneasy standoff. Other times a lazy peace ensures that we can all live happily together. Goodness only knows when the really wild cats will start making an appearance!