Back to Nature (Published on - Nov. 3, 2004)
The tigers among us
Sunning on a shelf by the window, leaping down from the work bench upon hearing the refrigerator door open, grasping at the drawstring of my house coat, stalks my wild, slightly domesticated cats. Inside those lithe muscular bodies beats the hearts of hunters, dreamers along with distinct memories of surviving on their own in the wilderness.

If you’d asked me a few years back, “Are you a cat or dog person?” I would’ve been one of those people that admitted, “I’m a dog person.” I enjoy the companionship of dogs, hiking, canoeing, running and playing with dogs. I didn’t see myself as a “cat person.”

That all changed when a little starving, near death, black kitty came into my life. I carried her around for nearly three weeks, for she was too weak to walk on her own. I hand-force fed her. The vet knew I would be in promptly every other day for her glucose shot. Everyone said I must be prepared for the worst and one vet advised me that perhaps it was time to let her go.

Well, I figured as long as she was not willing to give it up, then I was not willing to give up on her. That theory paid off handsomely. One morning as I was eating my bowl of cereal with lactose free milk (for those that will scorn milk for Kitty) Kitty raised her head and gently licked at the bowl. That morning we shared our first bowl of cereal together.

Her recovery from this point on was rapid. Each morning I’d pretend to eat my bowl of cereal while a second bowl with strained chicken awaited me on the counter. Within a couple of weeks Kitty began thriving, filling out, actively playing, although rarely leaving my side.

Some people say cats simply tolerate humans. No one can deny that cats are certainly independent and could and live on their own. In fact, feral cats number in the millions in the United States alone. They revert to their wild instincts to survive. Statistics concur that free-roaming cats take a big “bite” out of native wildlife in North America.

Nationwide, rural cats probably kill over a billion small mammals and hundreds of millions of birds each year. Urban and suburban cats add to this toll. Some of these kills are house mice, rats and other species considered pests, but many are native songbirds and mammals whose populations are already stressed by other factors, such as habitat destruction and pesticide pollution.” (John S. Coleman, Stanley A. Temple and Scott R. Craven, 1997, Cats and Wildlife – A Conservation Dilemma.)

Other recommendations: Don’t dispose of unwanted cats by releasing them in rural areas. Cats suffer in an unfamiliar setting, even if they are good predators. This practice enlarges rural cat populations and is an inhumane way of dealing with unwanted cats.

Our house is home to two previously “unwanted” cats. We feel fortunate to share our lives with these warm, loving beings. As caretakers we’ve been affectionately afforded the opportunity to say with a smile, “We’re cat people.”

With wild hunter hearts, dreaming distinct memories of the wilderness, the tigers among us are only one cozy chair away from being back to nature.

Perhaps you own that special chair for a homeless kitty to curl up upon. There are numerous organizations that will help place a homeless cat such as: Humane Society of Pinellas County, 3040 State Road 590, Clearwater, FL; Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Pinellas County (SPCA), 9099 130th Ave. N., Largo, FL 33773-1441, 586-3591; Pinellas County Animal Services, 12450 Ulmerton Road, Largo, FL 33774, 582-2600, TDD 582-2636; Friends of Strays, 3660 Gandy Blvd. at U.S. 19 N., St. Petersburg, FL 33781; and Second Chance for Strays Inc., 1543 S. Highland Ave., PMB214, Clearwater, FL 33756, 535-9154.

Karen can be reached at

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