Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Copyright Ken Harris 2007

We have just returned from a sea kayaking trip off Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, Washington State. Since we live in Tucson, Arizona, we found the weather colder than a teacher's wit. However, I'm posting again. Here's a story about our Main Coon Cat, Babe.


Sometime around 1978 someone gave us a Maine Coon Cat. For the uninformed, Maine Coon Cats are larger than the average family feline, and very hairy. They’d have to be to withstand the Maine winters, wouldn’t they? Babe was so hairy that it parted down the middle of her back and tail and drooped to either side, much like a skunk’s. Also like a skunk, she was black with some white markings, her four feet, her nose and some chest markings. More like a civet cat, actually.

She was a grown cat when she came to us. She had lived with her former owner in an apartment for several years until that owner died. She brought her own bed, blanket, combination scratching post and climbing gym, and toys with her. Oh, yes, she also had her baby book with pictures lovingly collected by her previous owner. Babe was a precious jewel, an apartment cat, and she had never been outdoors in her entire life.

The bane of Babe’s existence, at least at first, was Tiger, our half miniature poodle-half Yorkshire terrier. The little dog was already in residence and it was his home. He did not buy into the concept of sharing. Babe, on the other hand, had no concept of sharing at all.

When they first met Babe didn’t really know how to respond. Then Tiger barked and ran up to her. Babe then made of up her mind. She ran. She zigged and zagged and juked and jinked but when she neared the counter separating the kitchen from the living room she looked over her shoulder and there was Tiger zigging and zagging and juking and jinking six inches behind her. She hadn’t gained a centimeter. In fact, she’d lost a few just by looking over her shoulder. She leaped high onto the counter, rattling a few pans in her unceremonious landing.

The dog and the cat soon came to terms, mainly because the dog was essentially a pleasure loving beast and fairly easy company for a cat. Also, Babe was considerably larger than Tiger and if he had actually come to grips with her he would have regretted it.

Having a cat that had never been outside did not meet our family traditions. And so one afternoon when we were sipping our brewskis on the back lawn, we saw Babe happily sunning herself in the window. Joanne went inside, picked her up and brought her out to the lawn. She put the cat gently down on the grass, a thing she had never felt underfoot before. Babe raised all four feet at once, with predictable results. She landed on her belly, literally bounced, did a 180 in mid-air, and ran back into the house. It was a week before Joanne could get near her again.

But she soon forgave us because we were, after all, the people who fed her. And Babe soon became a notable huntress. Deep in the DNA of a Maine coon cat lie certain imperatives. See small animal. Stalk it. Kill it. Eat it. Mee-oww. And while she was very good at night stalking, she could never entirely overcome the handicap of the white breast patch. Usually the small animal saw her in time to escape unscathed. But both Babe and the small animal got lots of exercise that way.

Babe and Tiger even became partners in crime once. It was winter in Upland, California, mild by Midwest standards but unpleasant by California criteria. I lay prone upon our water bed for a well deserved afternoon nap. The bedroom window provided the only sunny spot in the house. The only warm one, either, for that matter. When I woke up I found Babe asleep in my left arm pit and Tiger asleep in the right. Joanne said they’d been that way for half an hour. Of course, they weren’t supposed to be on the bed. Neither was I for that matter, not in mid-afternoon.

One night Babe went hunting and never came back. All we ever found was some hide and part of a jawbone. We reasoned that two coyotes got her, or there we would never have found anything. As you may or may not know, coyotes run freely through urban southern California. Streets, walls and fences don’t seem to mean much to them. We were sorry to lose Babe, but glad in a way that she died hunting, the thing she was literally born to do.

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