Goodbye to Our Scratchy Bitey Farm Cat

November is a fine month on our vegetable farm. In November, both our Farmers' Market and our CSA harvest days are over for the season, and we revel in the feeling of so much time. Now we have time to finish putting up the last of the vegetables for winter eating, and time to put the machinery away, and time to return our draft horses to their winter paddock.

We even have a little time to bask by the wood stove with our stripey kitty, Cricket, who stretches out on the rug and chirps occasionally at us. Cricket is a fine kitty, and we give her lots of pets, both for her own sake, and for the sake of other fine cats, such as our scratchy-bitey black kitty, who, at twenty years old, left us this past summer.

It was the end of an era here on our farm. Our black kitty has been with us longer than our New Hampshire farm and our draft horses and our daughter. We, along with friends, relatives, neighbors, and CSA members, all have funny stories about our scratchy-bitey kitty. Most of them, of course, involve scratching and biting.

Happily, as our kitty got on in years, he did mellow a bit, tending towards hissing, spitting and violent cursing rather than scratching and biting. He also developed several fine-old-kitty quirks.

This last summer, for example, he only wanted to lie on hard surfaces, such as the table or the counter top or the pile of cucumbers we were getting ready to pickle. The day we found him curled up in the frying pan on the stove top was the day we instituted the spray bottle.

Our black kitty did not like the spray bottle at all. He would glare balefully at the spray bottle and at the person waving it in his direction, and then leap down. In a few minutes he would be right back again, moving from counter top to stove to sink, looking for the ideal resting spot. He had a strong will, our kitty.

In fact, as our kitty got older, he exerted his will on the household by refusing to drink out of any ordinary vessel, be it glass, ceramic, metal, wooden, or plastic. No, he wanted to drink out of the sink. Or he wanted to lick the tiny drops of water on newly washed supper vegetables. Or he wanted to drink from the shower floor, especially when a person was mid-shower, and didn't especially want a cat to hover in the shower curtain, letting the cold air in and the water out.

But our black kitty's favorite was the water that he liberated by tipping over vases of flowers on the kitchen table. We tried various vase tricks, such as weighting the vases with rocks, or jamming several vases into a big basket to make them kitty-proof. With the determination of the strong-willed, our kitty knocked over the entire basket of many vases. Then he had a lot of water. We learned to enjoy our vases of flowers displayed on the top of the refrigerator.

Our scratchy-bitey kitty was looking pretty rough his last few months, thin and bony, his coat a mess, despite our efforts with brush and comb, and despite many treats of eggs and nutritional yeast and other savories. Like many very old cats, he was partially blind, and completely deaf, and had an enormous howling yowl to express his opinions at odd moments. If it wasn't the crashing vases that woke us up at midnight, it was the ear-splitting yell, which he kept practicing until the end. We never could tell what he was saying, but he said it good and loud, as he made his way around and in and out of the house.

His whole life, our black kitty spent a lot of time outdoors, and this last summer was no exception. Our daughter, who was born into the household of the Scratchy-Bitey Kitty, was the last to see him. “I gave him some cream,” she said, “and four different bowls of water, and he drank a little out of every one.”

Sometime in the night our kitty let himself out of the screen door, a talent he had perfected. We think he must have found himself a good spot to die, in the woods or the fields, and we think of him often. We think of him, and are glad he lived with us, and glad for his help in our sustainable-farming-rodent-control program, and glad he had a good, long, healthy kitty life.

We can keep our vases of flowers on the table again now. But we miss our scratchy-bitey kitty. He sure did love that rug in front of the wood stove on a cold November day. He defended it tooth and claw.
Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, Nov 23 - Nov 29, 2016