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Photos and text Copyright 2012 by Art Rosch
The Cat Without A Purr
"Oh no! ANOTHER cat!" David said this to himself as he looked at the big furry animal that had jumped over his fence and landed in his yard.
In David's neighborhood he was called "The Cat Man" or "Mister Zoo" because he adopted lost and hungry animals.
David wanted all creatures to have good homes and plenty of food. He had six cats, four dogs, a parrot, a guinea pig and a pony. They all lived in the house except for the pony, who slept under an awning in a fenced patch of grass. He was only about the size of a little boy and spent the day wandering around with the other animals.
David watched the cat quietly. The animal was sitting like a king in his garden. He had long black and white fur. His ears were torn from fights and there was a scar on his nose. His paws were so big that David already had a name for him. He was Paws!
David knew that trouble was coming. The wind changed direction. It carried the smell of a strange animal. Six cats, four dogs, a guinea pig, a parrot and a pony caught the smell of the new cat. Their heads turned at the same time, eyes and noses searching for the stranger in their garden. They saw him, sitting calmly in the middle of a patch of red flowers.
It was as if someone had blown a whistle to start a race. Tweet! All of David's animals went zooming across the yard at top speed, barking, flapping, neighing and hissing. Attack attack! A stranger is in our midst! Drive him away!
That's how animals treat strangers. Animals think about food a lot, and strangers might eat their food. So their first idea is to chase away new animals.
Paws didn't run away. The animals came to a sudden stop in a circle around the new cat. Wait a minute! What's going on here? This cat should be running for his life. Instead he's standing straight and tall and telling everyone, " You don't want to mess with me. I'm a pretty tough cat."
Sniff sniff. Sniff sniff. The animals circled the stranger, sniffing his nose, sniffing his toes, sniffing his ears and sniffing his other parts. Paws sniffed back. In animal language this sniffing is like seeing a movie or reading a book. The sniffing says everything. After sniffing, animals aren't strangers any more. They decide by sniffing who's going to be their friend.
This time David's animals decided that Paws was going to be a friend. They turned and walked towards the back porch, escorting Paws like a super hero. They let him go up the steps first. The food and water dishes were on the porch. The pony waited for everyone else to get up the steps and then he followed. His hooves made sounds like drum beats on the wooden deck.
Paws was hungry and thirsty. The animals stood back while the cat drank a long drink, his tongue going "flup flup flup flup." Then he ate all the kibble in one of the dishes.
He was a big cat and he was really hungry!
David went into the house. The animals followed. Even the horse went into the house.
David had never seen anything like this, never seen his animals make friends so quickly. They not only accepted the cat: they made him their leader, just like that!
Paws rubbed against David's legs with his tail going swish swish swish swish. David got onto the floor and gave Paws a scratch on the ears and a scratch on his tummy. The cat rolled onto his back while his tail went swish swish swish swish.
One thing was strange to David. Paws didn't purr. David could tell if animals were sad or lonely. He could tell if they had made a great journey across mountains and deserts. Paws was one of those cats who had traveled a long way. Today he had found a new home! He should be happy.
But he didn't purr. That was strange. Happy cats purr. Don't they?
David was tired from working in the garden all morning. He went into his living room and sat on his big soft chair. He was surprised when Paws jumped right onto his lap and looked straight into his eyes.
"I wonder," thought David, "what stories this cat would tell me if only he could talk."
It seemed as if the cat heard his mind. He's trying to tell me his story, David realized. Paws opened his mouth and said softly, "Yow?. Myow?" His voice was gentle, almost too quiet to hear. It was a sweet voice for such a big tough looking cat.
I wish, thought David, that I could speak the language of animals. They could teach me so many things!
David stared into Paws' eyes. As Paws said, "Myow?", a light slowly came from his eyes, a golden light that floated like a cloud around David's head. The cloud became so thick that David couldn't see his house any more. Instead, he saw people and places, he saw summer and winter, he saw deserts with cactus and high snowy mountains. He saw good people and bad people. Then David heard Paws' voice. Inside the golden cloud, the cat was speaking to him in a new kind of language, and he understood! There were words in this language but there were also pictures and feelings.
"I remember," the cat said, "I remember the first time I opened my eyes. I was being fed by my mother. My sister and two brothers and I were drinking milk
and purring. All I knew of life was a giant purr, the sweet taste of milk and the sound of my mother's heart beating.
Mother had given us our names. These are special cat names that a mother gives to her kittens when they're born. There is no way to say them in human language. I may have many names in my life but nothing is more important to me than my first name, the name my mother gave me when I was born.
As I got older, huge hands picked me up and held me in a warm place where there was a giant heart beat. My mother told me that these were the family that we lived with. They gave us names, too. They called my mother Violet. They called my sister Fanny, and my brothers, Manny and Lanny.
My name was Claude. Don't ask me why. I thought I might be Danny or Sammy, but someone named me Claude. Maybe it was because of my big paws.
When I was about a month old I found out that I was different. We had just stopped being a pile of kittens at mama's tummy and were getting picked up by people, one at a time. The family's kids picked up Manny and I could hear him purring all the way across the room. Lanny and Fanny didn't have any trouble purring. It was just me. When I got picked up, my tail went swish swish, swish swish, but there was no purr. When we were all together I thought I was purring but now I knew I was different and it made me very sad. I tried to purr. I rattled the bones in my throat, blew air through my teeth, wiggled my tongue as fast as I could. Nothing I tried sounded like a purr.
My mother was worried. Late at night she took me to the computer and used her paws to Google the word "purr". We read all kinds of things, but it seems that no one really knows how a cat purrs. It just does. Or, in my case, it doesn't.
"I'm sorry, little one," my mother said. "Without a good purr your life might be harder than most cat's lives. Just swish that tail of yours and you'll find someone to love you."
I hoped she was right. Another month passed and Manny found a home.
Then some people came to the house and fell in love with Fanny. She went away with those people. I missed my brother and sister but this is the way things are with kittens. They have to find new homes or pretty soon there will be a hundred cats in the house and in my opinion I would not want to live around a hundred cats. Not even fifty. Or twenty. Two or three is just about right.
Pretty soon I was the last kitten. A very nice lady came to the house, smiled at me and picked me up. I swished my tail as fast as I could.
"You are very handsome, little kitten," she said. I was thinking THIS IS IT THIS IS IT! Someone will love me and take me home.
A strange look came over her face. It was a look I would get to know. I would know that look on a hundred faces in a hundred places. It was a look of disappointment. It was a look of rejection. That's when someone sends a feeling at you that says, "No, I don't want you!" That's what rejection is. And it hurts. It hurts really bad.
"What a shame," the lady said. "He doesn't have a purr. Not even a little vibration. I'm sorry but I can't take him. Who wants a cat without a purr, a cat that can't tell you when he's happy?"
"I can tell you!", I yowled desperately. "I swish my tail like this, see? Swish swish. Swish swish. I'm happy I'm happy, see? See?"
She didn't see. She couldn't understand my language.
The next day my family put me in a box and took me to the grocery store.
The kids sat with me out front. They had written words on the box: FREE KITTEN.
People picked me up, stroked me, my tail went swish swish, but always that look came, that look of disappointment and rejection. The look that said NO I DON'T WANT YOU. People put me in the box and walked away
Then a man came along. He barely looked at me. He didn't pick me up. He asked the kids, " I have some mice in my apartment. I need a good mouser. Is this cat a good mouser?"
The kids didn't want to lie. They shook their heads kind of up and kind of sideways and said "ummmm, welll....there aren't any mice in our house. Not a single one."
"All right, I'll take him" said the man. He picked me up, tucked me in his jacket and drove me to his place. I was filled with joy. At last, I had a new person, I had a home! It was sad to leave my first family but that's how nature works. Kittens get adopted. And now I was too. I was, at last, adopted by a new person.
The man gave me food, water, a scratching pole and a box to go in. Then he went to work and he was gone all day. The windows and doors were closed. There was no fresh air. The place didn't smell good.
I was terribly lonely. The hours went by so slowly that I wanted to cry.
Then I heard a tiny sound. I looked under the couch. A little creature with a pointy nose and a long tail was looking back at me.
"OH!" It was surprised and almost ran away. "OH!" I yelped and almost ran away too. Then the creature took a close look at me. "Whew, what a relief," it said. "For a minute I thought you were a mouser. But I can tell you're not the type. Right?"
"A mouser?" I said. "You mean? Uh..."
"See?" the creature said with relief. "Your mother wasn't a mouser and your grandmother wasn't a mouser and I'll bet your great grandmother wasn't a mouser either. It runs in the family. You either are or you aren't. And you're not!"
"So", I said,..."I presume that you are a mouse."
"That's right, I'm a mouse. My name is Duke."
He extended his paw and we shook paws and decided to become friends. All the rest of that day we talked and played. When we talked we used the language that all animals use. It's called Everything Language. All around the world animals talk to one another in Everything Language. For some reason, people can't speak this language. That's sad because if people spoke Everything Language maybe they wouldn't treat us like we don't have any feelings.
When the man came home Duke vanished under the couch.
After the man sat down with his newspaper I jumped up on his lap, swishing my tail. "Hello kitty," he said, "we haven't given you a name yet. What shall we call you?"
I rolled over on my back and stretched. I rubbed my chin on the man's knee. I was doing everything a happy cat can do. I was watching the man's face. I was praying that I would not see that dreadful look on the man's face.
"What's the matter," the man said. "Don't you like me?" There it was, the look that I feared. If a face could be a door, this one was closing.
"I gave you the best food," he snarled. "I got you a bed and a scratching pole. Why can't you give me one little purr, to say 'thank you'"?
"I'm doing my best," I said in Everything Language, which of course the man did not understand. "I'm swishing my tail! That says I'm happy, see?" Swish swish, swish swish.
The man didn't understand. At that very moment, Duke poked his head from under the couch and said, "Forget it, dude. The guy's a total loser. He doesn't have any friends, he doesn't do anything, he never goes out except to his job. He just watches TV all the time."
Then Duke ran scampering all the way across the room and vanished beneath the refrigerator. Talk about bad timing!
The man had seen my new mouse friend. His face turned red, and he picked me up roughly. "That's it! I've got a name for you. Useless! That's your name! Useless, Useless, Useless!"
He opened the door of the apartment and threw me into the street. The door slammed shut.
I didn't know what to do. This was supposed to be my new home. I had a new friend. I couldn't leave Duke. I scratched at the door and cried. When it opened I thought I had been forgiven. I was wrong. The man hit me with a rolled up newspaper and yelled "Get out of here you useless cat!"
I ran and ran until I came to a place with trees and a little creek. It was getting dark. I found a hole in a fallen tree and crawled inside as the night covered the woods like a blanket. I heard the flapping of owls' wings and the wind whispered through the moonlit branches. I was so scared that I could only repeat my first name, the name my mother gave to me, my secret cat name. I said it over and over.
After a while I was so hungry that I forgot to be scared. I went back to the place where the man lived. I saw people putting bags of good smelling stuff into silver cans. When I was sure no one was looking I jumped on top of one of the silver cans and tried to get food out. The lid was too tight, so I made the can rock back and forth until it fell to the ground with a big clatter.
There was food all over the place. There was chicken, hamburger and cheese. I was just taking a bite when something came running out of the woods and knocked me backwards so hard that I turned a circle in the air.
"Who...who are you?" I whispered. I was looking into a face full of sharp teeth. They belonged to a creature with a long ringed tail and a black mask over its face. Behind the leader there were four more of the animals, snorting and growling. I thought it was the end. I was done for.
The animal stood up on its hind feet and puffed out its chest.
"I am Raccoon Tour," it said. "And these are my brothers, Raccoon Bob, Raccoon Slob, Raccoon Knob and Raccoon Job. They are so stupid they wouldn't be able to find their own tails if I didn't help them along."
Raccoon Tour shrugged his shoulder. "What can you do? Family's family, right?"
The other raccoons muttered "Yeh yeh yeh yeh," as they chased one another's tails. One of them thought it had someone else's tail but turned out it was its own tail and when it pulled hard, it fell over and yelled "Ouch! Cut it out!"
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