Lessons I Learned From the Cat
Curiosity never killed anything, except maybe a few hours
Variety is the spice of life: one day ignore people, the next day annoy them
Climb your way to the top, that’s why the drapes are there
When eating out, think nothing of sending back your meal twenty or thirty times
When in doubt, cop an attitude
Make your mark in the world, or at least spray in each corner
Always give generously, a small bird or rodent left on the bed tells them “I care”
Cats make us laugh but they can also touch our hearts in ways that defy explanation. Nakita the bobcat is one of those cats. The first time I saw Nakita she was sharing a small rabbit hutch with Czar, a cat of uncertain parentage, but who appeared to be a cross between a Canada Lynx and a Bobcat. It was a cold day in November of 1992 in South Carolina and the cats had only a couple of boards on top of the cage to protect them from the elements.
Both cats were hunched down, as close as they could get to each other, as if in a combined effort to look bigger and more formidable to the two novices who stood before them. They knew, all too well, all about the exotic pet trade and we knew nothing. We were being told that they were rare creatures who would only survive if we bought them and bred them for future generations. We were ignorant as to the deception of that advice, but we could clearly see that these cats would be much better off with us than in this rickety chicken coop of a cage, so we paid the ransom and took them home.
As the years passed we learned that none of these animals are genetically traceable for use in any internationally sanctioned Species Survival Plan and even if they were, there isn’t a re-wilding program in existence for any of the exotic cat species due to man’s encroachment on their habitat. We learned that paying their ransom just enabled the drunk who had sold them to continue his dirty trade. We learned a lot; more than these pages can hold, but for now I just want to share two precious lessons learned.
In the wild bobcats and lynx are solitary and only come together for mating. Nature has equipped them to be self sufficient and to look out for number one. One of the things I love most about bobcats is that they draw a line in the sand and are quite content to live and let live as long as you stay on your side of the line, but the second you cross over, the fury that is theirs to unleash is a fearsome thing. They are that way with us and with each other and almost every scar on my body is from breaking up bobcat fights. (This should come with the warning: Do Not Try This At Home!)
|“Their love was the stuff of legends.”
Czar and Nakita never fought and I was thankful for that. I don’t know if I could have survived breaking up a fight between a hybrid the size of Czar and a cat as sure of herself as Nakita. Their love was the stuff of legends.
When Czar was in his teens he succumbed to both deafness and blindness, but he lived on for years because his unwavering companion put aside all that is instinctive in her to only provide for herself. They would lay close and groom each other throughout the day. At dinner time, Czar could not see the volunteers with wagons full of meat coming. He could no longer hear the excited chirps and calls of all the other cats that alerted everyone down the path that the glorious hour of the day had finally arrived.
All of the other cats would be excitedly pacing in and out of their lockouts where they are fed, but Czar would sit, staring with eyes that no longer see, into the darkened silence that surrounded him. What happened next would bring tears to the eyes of everyone who ever witnessed it and still brings tears to my eyes today.
Nakita would nudge Czar to stand and leaning against him, as one might steady an elderly person, she would slowly walk, shoulder to shoulder with Czar and deposit him in his lockout where the staff would place the food before him. In his last days, all he did was sleep all day, but at supper time Nakita made sure he got up and made it into his feeding area. Nakita’s devotion to her loved one was far more than we often see in human families and it taught me that real love never fails.
Czar died in the spring of 2003 and I wondered if Nakita would survive it. They were so old, having been born in 1988, and had never been apart. Nakita taught me about being strong and resilient in the four years that have lapsed since then. Now that she no longer had to serve the role as constant companion and friend she seemed to take on a renewed interest in the world around her.
She has a high vantage point in her cage from where she watches the song birds and seems to draw herself just a little closer to the heavens that shower her with morning sunbeams. A lizard darting by would have her full attention and the butterflies seemed to dance out a message that only she could translate.
In recent days though, age has taken its toll on her tiny little body. She eats as much as before, but is becoming thinner and more fragile every day. She still lives for the sounds of the food carts and at feeding time I will see her sitting up as tall as she can stretch herself looking in the direction of the path where her caretakers will emerge with the day’s delicacies.
It is painful to watch her go and when she signals that she is ready we will ease her to the other side, but she has done what she came here to do. She has taught us all a lot about what it means to really love someone and how to keep finding joy in the little blessings after losing all that you cherished most.
August 2, 2007 Carole Baskin
If Nakita touched your heart today, take a few minutes and show her that your love is unfailing by sending a letter to your lawmaker asking for better protection for the cats here: www.CatLaws.com