Updated: Mar 23, 2018
According to the system of earth astrology Sun Bear and I wrote about in The Medicine Wheel, I was born under the Budding Trees Moon and my animal totem is the Red Hawk. Standing directly across from me on the wheel are people whose birth totem is the Raven. Direct opposites complement each other, and, standing back to back, can see the entire wheel, the whole earth view. Maybe that is why I adore watching ravens when I’m in their territory, and crows, their smaller cousins. The Northeast is definitely crow country. Normally my husband feeds the birds who need a nutritional boost when they can’t get enough to eat. This summer I began giving leftover bread and other treats to a family of crows who were raising their fledgling around our home. Each of the three crows who came most frequently had a different personality. One was the guard who would watch for the food and then “caw” its presence to the others. Another would come and stuff as much food into its mouth as possible then fly away. The third delicately ate one small piece and then another. Rarely would they take all of what I put out. They left some for the smaller birds, squirrels and chipmunks. I fed them and, in return, they helped me feel my connection with nature.
One day, shortly after the crows ate, I looked out and saw a small ginger-striped cat up on the feeding wall eating the bread. Soon the cat became as constant a visitor as the crows. She and I would make eye contact but if I went too close to the glass door she would bolt. She was skinny and I knew bread would not correct that so I bought a bag of dry food and began to put that out for her.
We had lost our dear Little Kitty at eighteen years old in February and had vowed, “No more cats.” My daughter got a rescue chinchilla, Tiko, a pet she had wanted for years. I figured that chinchillas and cats would not mix well, thus insuring we could not get another cat. Koko, our eleven-year-old standard brown poodle, and one of the most loving dogs I have ever known; Fred, our large and handsome fourteen year old aquatic turtle; Theta Beta, VIII, a beta fish; a large Pleiko, three catfish and a pretty stable tank of tetras completed our family.
Ginger kitty and I established our staring/feeding routine through several bags of cat food. She began to look a little less scrawny even though I’m sure she inadvertently shared some of the food with the red foxes who also live in the neighborhood. Then it began to get colder and rainy. I had emailed all my neighbors when I first saw the cat asking if anyone had lost her. No takers, although another neighbor said she also hung out on her porch and teased her two indoor cats.
I began to inquire about options for helping ginger kitty from some friends who work with rescue cats. Turns out, not surprisingly, that there are a lot more cats needing rescue than people who are willing to foster or adopt them. One artist friend who has taken over 500 cats off the street and either found them homes or had them spayed or neutered, inoculated, and ear-docked (the universal sign that the cat has had such medical care) then returned to their territory, agreed to help me. She brought over a humane trap and I began to put the food in it without having it set, to hopefully acclimate kitty to the trap. But ginger kitty was pretty smart and would get the food and take it out of the trap to eat.
One evening my neighbor phoned and told me she had seen ginger kitty in a parking lot, had sat down and looked at her and been surprised when she came over and sat in her lap. She took her to her porch where she stayed. My daughter went to see her and ginger kitty walked to her, rested her paws on her arm and licked her. My artist friend came and got the kitty into a soft Sherpa case. Off she went to one of the vet clinics who take care of rescues. I said I would pay for her care. Then she went to my friend’s home while I made another try at finding good foster care until she could be adopted. I had no success which was not a surprise.
I knew the deal had been sealed when she licked my daughter. This was no feral cat who would attack dear Koko. In fact, it turned out she was a spayed female, and surprisingly healthy despite her summer outside. We agreed to take her into our home, and, after trying a number of names, began to call her Emma. We started her in a large dog crate, graduated her to a hallway and bathroom and soon gave her the run of the house. She and Koko immediately struck up a friendship and spend time playing each day. Last night she licked Koko’s face.
She was probably a little under a year old when we took her in last October. She is full of young cat curiosity and energy. I call her “monkey” sometimes because she can climb anywhere. Other nicknames have included “the organizer” because of her habit of knocking anything she can off counters or tables, thus encouraging us to tidy up; and “the destroyer” because a number of those items were stoneware we had made. Apart from “the destroyer” part of her character, Emma is a very gentle soul. In play she attacks my feet, or my hands. But she has never broken through my thin skin with either nails or teeth. She wraps her paws around me and then licks me. She is addicted to chasing a laser light although I am trying to retrain her to a “cat fishing pole” to be sure the laser does not strain her eyes. Her vitality and playfulness has pepped up Koko and all of her humans. She needs her play time each day and knocks down a book or a tablet to remind us of that fact.
She is curious about Tiko and we let them sniff each other. Emma doesn’t seem interested in pursuing Tiko but Tiko, who is a male ninja chinchilla, gets ready to fight off Emma whenever he sees her so we are currently keeping a door between them.
Those three crows, and a couple of their friends, are still coming over most days to eat at the Wind outdoor café. I’ll keep getting food for them because I enjoy their company and because I appreciate the feline gift they brought into our lives. We have adopted a number of animals before but Emma is the first one who adopted us. We are so glad she did.
"Marlise with Koko" photo by RJ Walter.