Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Feral Cats

When I first met Giovanni, our neighbor farmer, four years ago, he told me there was a feral cat living in the old farm shack on our property. He advised me to feed it occasionally because it kept the vermin away. I've left it food for the last four years and caught glimpses of it now and then -- a beautiful tiger-striped silver-gray female with an almost oriental face.

This year when I returned to Tana Lepre, she did not show up, but this cat did. I am sure it is one of that older cat's kittens, Three years ago, I was walking down from the olive grove when I heard a strange sound from the bole of a hollow tree where the feral cat had given birth. She was presumably off hunting, when a tiny kitten had climbed out of the bole and fallen down the 4-foot earthen bank from which the tree juts. I picked the tiny thing up and put it back in the bole. There were two other kittens in there mewing away. Two were silver like their mother. One was a "quilty cat," which is what Sally and I call the ubiquitous patchwork feral cats of Tuscany.

Like mother like daughter ... except this cat is much less aloof, probably because she showed up as an adolescent. She has two ways of speaking, meowing and hissing. Mostly she meows, but she sometimes hisses at me when she's hungry. She especially seems to like the sound of Sally and me talking. It's taken 3 months for her to inch closer and not run away every time we move. She joins us for meals and gets all kinds of tasty snacks, including cat kibble. Lately, she's begun to eat right under us at the table, inside or out. And when she's still hungry after emptying her bowl, she tells me by running under me and rubbing my legs with her back and tail. I reach down and try to pet her sometimes as she eats, but she always starts and jumps. The first time I tried, she bolted into the woods, now she just pulls back and looks up at me like she's going to hiss.

This morning I woke up to find she had climbed up our roof, onto our balcony, come into our bedroom through our open french doors, and slept on the floor just below me. She still won't let us pet her but, like the fogs around here, she's creeping closer on little cat feet.

Her home is under our solar panels, which shelter her from sun and rain. The locals think it's funny when I call the panels a cat house in Italian. Here she is on "Cat-henge."