I grew up on a farm in Minnesota. Back then, all of the kitties lived in the barn and hunted for their food. That’s what you had cats for on a farm……to keep the mouse and rat population to a minimum. We fed them table scraps……whatever was scraped off of our plates went into their stomachs. When milking the cows, we’d pour a little fresh milk in a dish and let them lap it up. We didn’t know then that cats weren’t suppose to have milk. It’s probably the number one reason they all had diarrhea!
Our farm cats were not considered pets then. They were simply there to take care of the critters. They were a vital part of our working farm. Without them, the grain stores were not safe and the buildings would be over run with big and little rodents. My dad referred to a cat he liked as a “good mouser”. That meant she/he was good at catching and killing mice. This was the only way he measured their value to him. If they didn’t like to hunt or weren’t good at it, they were considered bad cats and should be gotten rid of.
There was one particular cat that struck favor with him……and with all of us for that matter. Her name was Spectrum. She was a multicolored cat….today we would call her a “Torti”. Spectrum was a great huntress…..she was also a good mom. I don’t know how many litter of kitties she had in her lifetime, but suffice it to say, she did her part in keeping the population of our farm cats at a maximum. Looking back on it now, I can only wonder how she was able to have so many babies and why her uterus didn’t just fall out of her! I think if she would have been able to talk to us back then, she would have begged to “be fixed.” But of course, taking a cat to the vet to have her spade was unheard of at that time……that was wasting money. In fact, none of our cats ever, ever saw a vet……..ridiculous! But I digress…….
We could always tell when Spectrum was going to have babies. Her belly would get so big, it almost dragged on the floor. We also knew when she was giving birth……she would disappear for a few days and then suddenly show up at the milk dish looking a lot thinner. Of course, as curious children, we set right to work trying to find her nest. We’d check in all of her usual birthing places, then we’d check in some of her more unusual ones. If we couldn’t find the babies, we knew she had made a new nest and really meant for us to leave it alone this time. But of course, we didn’t. Not being able to find those baby kitties actually made us search harder. Spectrum would have been better having her babies right out in the open………
If we did eventually discover Spectrum’s new nest, we would act very proud of ourselves for having figured out her “secret.” Spectrum couldn’t fool us, we were too smart. Inevitably. we’d have to scrape egg off of our faces. Because of our relentless pursuit of her kittens, Spectrum moved those babies to an even more secret location. How she did this was a mystery to us until we saw her rushing across the yard one day with a newly-born kitten in her mouth. She would make as many trips as she needed to in order to get them all safely tucked away in a new spot. Nothing could deter her…..she was on a mission. You’d think we would have learned something from this…….like….”leave those kittens alone!” But we didn’t. We just kept on looking and Spectrum kept on hiding. She was a good mama.
Spectrum would travel far and wide to hunt for herself and her babies. We’d find her all over the farm chasing whatever she was chasing. We never really worried about her….who worried about farm cats back then? Then one night, my dad was on his way to town. Not far from the farm, he came across a multicolored cat laying on the road. It was Spectrum. She had been hit by a car and was dead. Dad very carefully picked her up and brought her back home. It was the first time I remember seeing my father mourn a farm animal. But it was Spectrum……..she would be missed.
I’m almost 60 now and I still think about Spectrum at times. She taught me a lot about love, responsibility and hard work. I never hid my babies when people discovered I had them……but I think I cared for them a little better because of what Spectrum showed me……a mama does whatever it takes to protect her kittens and give them a good start in the world.
Blessings to you and your furry friends.