Monday, November 2, 2009

Teasel: The Kitten Who Came to Stay

November 3, 2007
Teasel, moments after we caught her in the hav-a-hart trap.
A very small kitten in a very big bed.

Growing into a pretty girl. Her fur is now soft and thick, her spine no longer feels knobby.

"My eyes are NOT crossed. I'm...errr... just looking this way at the moment."

"I am displeased. I think I will climb onto the bed post and launch myself at you when you walk past. Then you will have to notice me!"

"Something is in the entry! I am TEASEL! I will frighten it away! "

"I am Momma's Darling, therefore I am allowed on quilts."
As twilight crept down from the foothills and the last warmth of an early November sun ebbed away, I suddenly put aside the book I had been reading for several hours. Obeying some unidentified urge I walked into the bedroom and reached to close the curtains on the east-facing window. A slight movement in the lank green grass along the base of the house caught my eye. A tiny blue tabby-point Siamese kitten, seemingly bewildered, took wavering footsteps toward the garage.
I called to J. who made it outside in time to see the kitten scoot into the garage and disappear. While he stood guard to make sure the kitten didn't leave, I resurrected a large hav-a-hart trap from under the cabin porch. I scooped tuna from a hastily opened tin, slid the dish into the trap past the spring laden hatch. J. set the lever and we placed the cage on the garage floor near the pile of stacked lumber. We thought the kitten had run behind the stack.
Within moments, drawn by the smell of fish, the kitten peered from behind the boards and picked its way into the trap. Nothing happened. It's bony weight was too slight to trip the spring. We took a step and the kitten shot behind the boards. "Mew," I said, in my best mother cat voice. "Mew, purrr-oww!" The kitten, invisible, replied in a tiny lost voice, "Mew."
"This is going to be a bit of a waiting game," I told J. He nodded and went inside, while I continued mewing to the kitten. For about 20 minutes we played a game of counter-moves. The kitten scurried into the trap, snatched a precious bite of tuna, then vanished again behind the lumber. Each time it disppeared I cautiously eased closer to the trap. Unable to resist the food, the kitten returned to the trap, and tense with the need to move quickly, I darted forward and shoved the flap closed. In triumph I lugged my prize into the kitchen and set the cage on a bench. We crooned to the kitten. J. reached a gloved finger through the bars of the cage. The kitten spat and bunched itself into a corner, back against the wires, forlornly hissing.
I phoned our son-in-law M, who came from next door with D. at his heels. M. picked an unsharpened pencil from the mug on the counter and quietly inserted the eraser end toward the cringing kitten. He began rubbing with the eraser around the small grey-blue ears, down under the little whiskered chin, then back to the ears, all the while making a soft clicking sound with his tongue against his teeth. The kitten stopped hissing, sat mesmarized. A tentative purr sputtered forth. Quietly J. opened the cage, reached in and removed the kitten. A she-kitten. We passed her gently from hand to hand, stroked the too prominent ridges of her spine, smoothed her fuzzy rough fur. We fed her, held her while she settled to an exhausted sleep.
I named her Teasel for the spiny grey seed heads which stand along the roadside.
The next day I searched the dooryard, the horse pasture, around the outbuildings, looking for a sign of a mom-cat or siblings. There was never a trace. Our area is haunted by several pairs of great-horned owls. We have all seen them busy early of a winter morning tearing the flesh of the wild rabbits they have caught. Small kittens, or even a skinny mom-cat would have been a mere morsel for the large owls. On a wakeful night a few weeks later, I stood by the living room window staring out through the starred darkness toward the old cottonwoods that line the ditch. The hoots of the owls made a muffled, menacing call and answer from their respective branches. Teasel the Kitten shivered a bit as though at remembered terror as I held her snuggled into my shoulder.
Teasel has grown to be a beautiful and intelligent cat. She is not a lap cat, but she likes to be picked up and carted about for a few minutes. She comes to greet me when I have been out, a ritual of bouncing up on her back legs so that her raised stripey head meets my outstretched hand. When I stretch and move under the covers at morning's first light, she pounces on my feet, her purr rumbling.
I tell her [and anyone who will listen] that surely an angel scooped her up from some dangerous place and plunked her, dazed and lost, in the grass outside my window. Just as surely the same angel nudged me and whispered, "Look and see what I have brought for you to love."


  1. Hullo MM,

    Thanks for such a beautiful moment for the early morning here. What a nice wee post.


  2. Looking at her tail "in bloom", she is well named MM! Her story reminds me of Ban's, who I found at around the same age, on the side of the lane when I went out to get the papers one morning. She seemed used to people (or had never met one) as she was totally at ease, though she made driving VERY difficult as she insisted on climbing all over me, the steering wheel, racing up and down the dashboard and generally being a PEST!

  3. What a fantastic account of her capture and now I see why she aquired her wonderful name which has grown with her and so suits her.

    I have some whose names so suit them ... Felix (out tuxedo cat) , Bilbo Baggy Pants (who looks like ballo the Bear),Smudge who has such uneven marks and Willow whose hairy jowls and whiskers arch like a weeping willow .... yet Lucky just does not fit hers and neither does our once slim Nahla who now looks like a terrior and we call her afectionately 'puppy' instead

  4. We have had a number of heart-wrenching episodes with cats over the years, but we are always ready to rescue another. Our last rescue ws 4--a mom and dad pair and two of their kittens brought to the pet shelter from the reservation.
    Thank you for sharing the names of your cats. It always seems important to me that a dog or cat gets the name that fits.