The dictionary defines courage as, “the quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc. without fear “bravery.” Simplistic in its meaning and mostly attributed to people…soldiers, policemen, firemen, or women, as the case may be, but hardly ever to a kitten the size of the palm of your hand.
The stray cat business had been slow this particular spring, with only the regulars making their appearances at my outside feeder I call The Hovel. One day, a short-haired, grey, tabby, sporting only three quarters of its tail appeared. After observing the cat for a day or two, I noticed that it was definitely a “she” and that she was nursing kittens.
The usual procedure with stray mother cats is that when the kittens are old enough to eat real food, the mother cat will lead them to The Hovel. Since this mother cat came on her own, I knew her kittens were too young to travel.
It was spring, so I named my new dinner guest, Lily, after the quintessential spring flower. I knew it was useless to search for her kittens, as I was sure she had hidden them well, so that when she left to eat, they would be safe. But, I ventured a guess that they were not very far away.
It wasn’t long after Lily arrived, that my neighbor, Joe, who lives across the street, informed me there were kittens in the yard backing up to his. One, he said, solemnly, was particularly mean as it had hissed at him.
I followed him back to his house and into his backyard. It was separated from his neighbor’s yard by a solid six foot fence. I peeked through the crack, and saw three, very small kittens playing in the tall grass.
Now I know where your kittens are, Lily, I thought, but, how to get them? The backyard they were in belonged to a vacant house, surrounded by this six foot fence and whose gate was locked. This would take team work. So, I enlisted the aid of two neighbors, who conveniently owned stepladders.
I went back home to get my large cat carrier. On my way out the door, I encountered Lily sitting on my front walk. She looked at me as if to say, “I know what you’re doing.”
“It’s time to bring the kittens inside, Lily,” I said to her, because knowing cats as I do, I knew she would understand what I was saying, “where you and they will be safe. Come on, let’s go get them.”
Lily took off and I gathered my cat rescue team and entered Joe’s back yard.
Using the ladders provided by my neighbors, I climbed over the fence and went about looking for the kittens.
“Be careful!” Joe warned. “One of them is mean.”
I didn’t have to look far. There in the tall grass were the three kittens. None of them were bigger then the palm of my hand. Two of them were dark brown, long-haired tabbies with white markings. They were huddled close together. It was clear they were scared to death.
In front of the two stood the third kitten, this one was also long-haired, but it had beautiful blue-point coloration and startling Mediterranean blue eyes and it was clearly in charge.
How big do you think a kitten the size of your palm, with a tail the length of the first digit of your little finger, can blow itself up to be…not too large, you say? Really! In spite of my huge frame looming over him, I sensed that he pictured himself the size of a mature lion facing off a gladiator in the coliseum. The only way to the two kittens cowering behind him was through him. And I was daft if I thought that was going to happen.
He hissed his best hiss, growled his best growl and leaped forward in defiance and distain.
What, I ask you, does one do in the face of such out and out heroics?
First, I smiled and marveled that something so small, so young and innocent was willing to give it his all to save his siblings. I had never known a greater feat of bravery. Then, I scooped the feline Sir Lancelot up and held him close and said, “My brave one, I assure you that you and your family are safe.”
I turned and saw Lily standing a short distance away. I scooped the other two kittens up with my other hand, kissed them all gently on the head and placed them in the carrier.
“Time to take your family home, Mama Lily,” I said, and she followed the kittens into the carrier.
When I got home, I showed the Lily family to my husband, Gray, and told him how brave the blue-point kitten had been.
“I’d say he’s Special Forces material,” he said, having been a US Army Special Forces soldier himself, he new one when he saw one. “I think we should name him Tuff Tuff, for double tough, because that’s what he was.”
Over the years, Tuff Tuff made sure he did not miss any meals. Rather than being double tough, he grew to be 26, not fat, just big, pounds of double sweet cat.
But don’t let that sweet demeanor fool you. The other day, a security system’s salesman came to my door. He argued, and I do me argued, the benefits of installing his security system in my home. Despite my telling him repeatedly my house was already well guarded, he continued his sales pitch.
Suddenly, he stopped mid-sentence and said, “I guess you don’t need a security system. That cat’s bigger than most peoples’ dogs.”
I looked down and there sat Tuff, Tuff, in his full Sir Lancelot mode.
“I laughed and replied, “He’s just the backup.”
The salesman turned and walked away.
No one knows when they will be called upon to act with courage. It is instinctive in all creatures to defend what they love without regard for their own safety or well being.
Tuff Tuff, at 14-years-old, is still Special Forces material, for sure!