Not a Cat Person
Yet we have cats. Cats are annoying and useful, perturbing and beautiful, and well, cat-like. Can hardly live with them and certainly we don’t like living without them. We try not to get too attached because cats around here are allowed to express their catness to borrow a popular Salatin suffix. We feed them, usually milk or eggs, and we keep the offal from any poultry butchering projects for the cats, but we expect them to hunt rodents, especially voles in the garden. We keep a bag of kitty crack, store boughten cat food of dubious protein content just in case we run out of chicken gizzards or something. There is some co-dependency between us and the cats, we admit it, they don’t.
I got a little wistful, not a lot mind you, when I came across this photo in the archives while searching for cat photos to spin this blog post. It seems every once in a while, there is a cat that saunters through our lives and breaks our hearts. So we pull back and try not to get too attached, again. The little gray feline walking away from the group photo stole our hearts, every single one of us. Sweet little Claire, she loved us back too, she pulled none of the cat shenanigans like begging to be petted and then skittering just out of reach. She demanded we pet her, and pet her we did, until one morning she wasn’t in the barn. Mostly like Claire is an owl pellet now, her momma disappeared the day this photo was taken and Claire’s siblings have had to embrace us instead of being the aloof kittens they were on the way to being with their momma at the helm.
Now you can’t go anywhere much without one of these big spring kittens following and “helping.” The dogs think the cats exist to give them something to chase, and the cats probably think the dogs are evil monsters that go everywhere with us and share our food and sleep in the warm house. All true really, because we are dog people and we do let the dogs in the house, and ban the cats. A Flintstone kind of life.
The cat version of life here is probably told quite a bit different than our version. We usually take too long to get to the barn to milk. The tracks on the steps show how important our escorts are, a cute photo op we think. They think, get on with it woman and milk the damn cow, we’re hungry on the verge of hangry. I do tend to begrudge the cats the milk we give them. They drink a half-gallon a day…and they demand it. A half-gallon of milk! Sometimes less, but it beats buying much cat food and it evens out the gaps in their natural diet. But, still that’s a lot of milk. Raw milk is expensive, those buggers are drinking three and half gallons a week, and a cow’s normal lactation is about ten months, so if I do the math (bad idea) with raw milk going for about $10 per gallon, it would be 3.5 gallons x 40 weeks = 140 gallons @ $10.00 per gallon = $1400.00!
Not to mention I had to have Hangdog fashion a bucket hook to hang the milk bucket on just to keep the cats away from the milk bucket. If the dogs are present at milking time, the cats do not show up, and the dogs know to stay away from the milk but most of the time the dogs aren’t at the barn, so the bucket hook is cheap insurance. Now I’ve added a bucket lid for an extra layer of protection against the cats. You’d think they’re starving they yowl so for that milk.
Okay, don’t do the math. It’s never that simple on a farmstead, I’m not selling my milk, and have no intention of doing so, the milk is worth nothing really. Or you might counter with the tired old vegan saw, nothing but calves are supposed to drink cow’s milk…well, my cats do well on it, so well in fact with their hunting they really don’t like the cat food from the store. You know how a cat can get from zero to insulted in about 2 seconds flat? That’s what ours do when there is no milk, and sometimes that happens.
Besides milk math there is egg math. See this fellow “helping” me gather eggs? He knows I might find a dirty egg or a crack for him, so he magically appears at egg gathering time. Again the cats are getting short shrift they imagine, because our dogs eat about a dozen eggs a day, and sometimes I give the cats eggs. Again with the begrudging. I really need to curb my thoughts about the cats and the volume of milk and eggs they consume because there is no price per unit for the enjoyment we get with them around. Like many other things in life you can’t measure something that hasn’t happened. How many carrots can Jane enjoy this winter because the cats hunt the garden rows of milk cow roots? Maybe Jane and the cats have all this worked out. She is trading the milk for the carrot protection, and we are but the messengers, the middlemen so to speak between what goes on in the manger at night. The very manger near the straw bale “root cellar” that protects our potatoes from munching chipmunks and pack rats. That milk is looking more and more like an inexpensive way to keep our cats happy. And happy cats make happy farmers. Does that make me a cat person?