There’s something about a farm cat

Farm Forum

We found a stray kitten under a bush in June. It was very tiny. It would have died without being fed. We named him Rocky, got him vaccinated, and then ended up back at the vet’s emergency room a few weeks later. Rocky was playing in the garage and a multi-barbed fishhook got stuck in his left thigh and right paw.

Taking a distressed animal to the vet can make you feel guilty for things you didn’t even realize you ought to feel guilty about. Anyone who has witnessed a cat being gassed (it was necessary to remove the hooks) knows the kind of guilt I’m talking about. The dramatic experience really cemented the cat’s place in our home. Although I am a still a little shocked that we are now ‘cat people.’

We have always been dog people. We’ve had a Yorkshire terrier in our home for over ten years. Toby is small, with big attitude. His breed is great for people who want a housedog without allergy-inducing dander. Growing up I had many pet dogs, all with dirty-dander hair. Toby would do okay inside a farm house but he certainly would not survive long on a farm.

If Toby gets fed table scraps, dairy products, or eats his favorite outdoor find: an amphibian (dried up or fresh), he throws up on the floor, the couch, or your lap. Aside from the large amount of vomit, everything else about Toby is little, including his bladder. Which means he needs to go outside to relieve himself often.

And the few times we let him off his leash while outside, he ran off, ignoring commands to stop, stay, sit, or come back. At some point in his flight he quit running, froze up, and began to shake (realizing he was lost). I know this because I or the kids often ran after him to his stopping point. Other times a kind person on the far edge of town spotted our paralyzed dog in their bushes and gave us a call.

Overall, though, our dog is a good fit for town life. More importantly he provided the kids with the experience of taking care of, and bonding with, an animal.

So when the kitten showed up I was hesitant. I didn’t think he would be happy living in town with a tiny dog. Rocky clearly has a farm cat lineage. His disposition is the same as the favored ones I adored as a kid. Rocky is an even softer, tamer version of the fluffy cuddlers who hung around the front porch all year long, purring and arching their backs against my shins. He is certainly nothing like the hissing barn cats that scared the mice away.

Rocky is a bit of a crank to Toby, though. He torments him with ‘hide and scare’ games. Toby then counter attacks. Even though Toby is tinier than he is, Rocky retreats and ultimately lets him win the provoked attacks. So it’s all good. The food, however, is an ongoing battle.

Toby likes to eat the cat’s food (and then vomit) and Rocky likes to eat the dog’s food (which causes Toby to launch a defensive assault). Which is why the cat and its food stays in the garage and the dog bowl is in the house.

Whenever I go into the garage Toby sneaks by my feet to get out while Rocky leaps inside. The other day Toby had already gulped down several swallows of cat food by the time I reached him. His back went rigid as I came closer, scolding him. As I picked him up under his stomach, he took a final lunge into the bowl, filling his tiny cheeks plump with kibbles that immediately began to fall to the floor.

Likewise, I found the cat by the dog’s bowl. The cat behaved just as the dog had.

Each one has his own bowl filled daily. Yet he desires his rival’s forbidden food. Each animal knows he is breaking the rule. He even sees the repercussion coming for the action. But instead of yielding and walking away on his own, he digs in and gulps up as much as he can before being forcibly removed.

Instead of loving one another, they both thrive on picking on the other. The cat and dog battle reminds me of relational lessons I learned the hard way; back in high school.

True friends aren’t catty. They don’t pick on you. They don’t covet, or try to steal, your stuff. And if I want to have true friends, then I better quit acting like an animal myself.

But I’m not going to kick the cat out of the garage. For a cat, he sure is a nice one.

Andrea Beyers lives in Roscoe. Contact her at