You might remember being introduced to Chewy and Yoda late last year. They’re the two new feline additions to the family farm. Since I visited there last weekend and had an opportunity to spend some time with the two young’uns, I thought I’d give you an update on them as well as introduce you to Smudge, their mentor.
That’s Chewy. He’s still the biggest lover of the group, although all three enjoy giving and getting affection, just some more than others. He’s the pathetic baby that follows you everywhere constantly rubbing and meowing and purring, and falling over for some attention at the drop of a hat. I hadn’t been at the farm for more than 10 minutes when he sauntered over and gave me all the leg rubs I could stand before leaning over and giving him a whole lot of petting and scratching. But when a bug caught his attention, off he went. He is still a kitten, you know.
Stretched out in a blanket of morning sunshine with an ear-to-ear grin on his face, Chewy just loves people. After chasing the bug for some time, and thereby providing hysterical comic relief for all of us, he came back, flopped over, and begged for more attention. Both his color and personality remind me of Kazon to a certain degree, although he’s normally frightened of strangers whereas Chewy appears to not know what that word means.
And then there’s Yoda. What a little spitfire this one is, all full of piss and vinegar when he wants to be, yet equally full of love and adoration when he wants to be. But one thing he is all the time is full of trouble. This cat doesn’t take anything from anybody, whether it’s a dog or a cow or anything else. The world is his playground and he intends to enjoy it—in spite of what anyone else thinks!
You’ll notice in that photo that he’s holding a Polyphemus moth between his front paws. It’s a large one like the one I showed you previously. All of the cats find the large population of insects to be a source of tremendous entertainment. I can’t tell you how often we laughed watching one or more of them leap and tumble and hunt whatever flying or crawling thing happened to cross their path.
But not too dissimilar from his brother Chewy, Yoda can also be a real lover. It rarely lasts long, mind you, and it happens only on his terms and according to his schedule, but it happens nonetheless. Still, he’s the wild child of the bunch, the overly independent, cantankerous, willful little boy who does as he pleases and doesn’t put up with anyone else’s nonsense.
Which finally brings us to Smudge…
He’s the eldest amongst the cats, the mentor for two rambunctious children who have yet to learn their place in the feline pecking order. But Smudge doesn’t really care. He’s all too happy to focus his attention on people, to give and get plenty of love, and to patrol his territory with the fierceness of a friendly predator, one who prefers to play more than hunt—but who can hunt with deadly accuracy and the sharp intent of a real killer. That is why they’re outside, after all. It’s a working farm in the middle of the wild East Texas woodlands, an enclave of wildlife both large and small, and it takes a predator to protect the homestead.
Smudge is Smartie‘s brother. You may well remember Smartie took ill last autumn. He was seen briefly acting quite unlike his normal self, but then he disappeared and hasn’t been seen since. It broke Mom’s heart to lose that brawny man of a cat. He was a true master of predation, a large feline that epitomized the very essence of the word ‘tomcat.’ No one messed with Smartie because of his size and fierce intensity, yet there could not have been a clearer dichotomy when it came to people: he loved them. As sweet as the day was long, his loss broke Smudge’s heart and left him lonely and alone, the sole remaining protector of a vast and wild landscape.
The loss of Smartie had two different effects.
One: It brought Chewy and Yoda into the fold. Smudge needed company as much as he needed help, so two younger brothers seemed the perfect fit. He’s done a great job teaching the younger boys what it means to be chiefs of the world. Whether it’s hunting the invading grasshopper or occasional rodent—or even challenging an interloping snake, or if it’s knowing the true pleasures of rowdy, high-spirited play, or even if it’s understanding the importance of a lazy nap on the roof where one can soak up plenty of morning sun with easy access to a bit of shade when it gets too hot, Smudge has proved to be a fantastic leader of the cat pack. He enjoys having company and the boys enjoy having someone to learn from. And oh how they all enjoy having friends to play with.
Two: The cats are no longer allowed to stay out overnight. Although this is a working farm, as I said, and having outside cats is a prerequisite if one is to avoid mice in the hay, rats in the shed, snakes in the chicken coop, and all manner of other mayhem, there is an equal dose of concern for the safety of the cats who are as much farmhands as they are family members. They have a job to do, yes, but they’re not disposable. It’s therefore now regular business for them to be kept inside from late afternoon/early evening until the first person steps outside in the early morning. Nothing can be done to ensure their complete safety; no one believes otherwise. Yet providing them shelter and security when they are most at risk is part of caring for them. They’re out and about during the day when they can hunt and protect their territory, and they’ve learned to keep close to people—something that keeps them close to home. As an avid cat person, I know it would be best to keep them inside all the time, and Mom would love that seeing as they’re her pets. But it is a farm and, like everyone else there—person and animal alike—they have work to do to keep things going.