ANN BAILEY: Cranky, one-eyed cat prefers the company of dogs and humans

Fifteen years ago this spring, Rocky, a stray cat that took up residence at our farm, had kittens in the back of an old Chevrolet farm truck. The box of the '53 Chevy had a few bushels of oats in it, and Rocky figured it was a good place to give ...

Ann Bailey
Ann Bailey

Fifteen years ago this spring, Rocky, a stray cat that took up residence at our farm, had kittens in the back of an old Chevrolet farm truck. The box of the '53 Chevy had a few bushels of oats in it, and Rocky figured it was a good place to give birth.

We left Rocky and the kittens, two gray and two black, in the truck box for a few weeks, and then moved them to the bunkhouse where we litter trained them. Each day, we opened the door so Rocky could go hunting, sometimes with and sometimes, without the kittens. When the kittens left the bunkhouse it was always in pairs; the two gray males and a black male and black female. They came back at night still in pairs.


That fall, we gave the pair of grays, which we named Tiny and Tim to my mom and the pair of black kittens to my husband's brother and sister-in-law in Minneapolis. Over the years, Tiny, who was small as a kitten, but grew to be a very big cat, and Tim, remained good friends. They sometimes went their separate ways when they were outside, but curled up together when they were inside. Both were good companions for my mom who was alone on the farm after my dad died.

A few years ago, Tim died, leaving only Tiny. He was even more affectionate after Tim's death and nearly always was sitting on my mom's lap, purring, when I went to visit her. Last year, when my mom moved into town for the winter, Tiny came to live with us, where he joined our menagerie of dogs, Maggie, Minnie and Rosebud, and cats Jessie and Smokey. We were surprised that Tiny seemed to much prefer the company of the dogs to the cats. He rubbed against the dogs, sniffed noses with them and often shared space with Rosebud on the couch.



However, it was another story when it came to Smokey and Jessie. Tiny let no opportunities pass when it came to tormenting the two, whether it be merely growling and hissing at them or engaging in a knock-down cat fights. No one suffered any physical injuries from the fights because they involved more fur than flesh, but Smokey, especially, was wary of her every move when Tiny was around.

We did our best to keep the cats separated as much as we could, putting Tiny in the basement or in the upstairs bathroom during the day when we were gone and keeping him near us when we were home.

I think all of us, Tiny included, heaved a sigh of relief when spring came and we could take Tiny back to my mom's. We expected her to be spending time at the farm during the summer and figured Tiny would again, be good company for her.

My mom's plans to come home changed, though, after she had congestive heart failure that left her too weak to live on her own. We decided, however, to leave Tiny at her house because my family, and my brother, Terry, were there frequently and could feed him, let him outside to hunt mice and give him some human companionship.

Tiny seemed content with the arrangement, so I decided that we may as well continue it during the winter. After spending last winter trying to be a peacemaker last year, I was ready for a break this winter.

Back again

However, by the time December rolled around, Tiny seemed to be lonely in the big farm house by himself with no trips outside for diversion. My earlier resolve to leave him there weakened after seeing how desperate for attention he was each day when my husband, Brian, or I went to feed him. One day, I couldn't stand the guilt anymore, so I asked Brian to bring Tiny home with him when he stopped to feed him that evening.


I naively hoped that perhaps this year, Tiny, now 15 would have mellowed a bit more and take less of an aggressive approach with Smokey and Jessie. He hasn't. In fact, now that he is blind in one eye (the result of an inward-turned lens) he is even more territorial. He patrols the house many times daily, his one eye searching for a feline enemy to conquer, while pausing to sniff noses and rub on the dogs when he passes through the kitchen. If we put a patch over his bad eye, with his ruffled-up fur and burly body, he could carry off the pirate look very effectively.

After learning last year how to keep cats apart, we're pretty good at it now and the opportunities for fights are fewer. Meanwhile, Jessie and Smokey, for their parts, have learned to be watchful for Tiny and each has found good hiding spots. Smokey likes to sit on top of a bookshelf, behind a picture frame, when she knows Tiny is roaming about. Jessie prefers sitting nestled among the hats and mittens on the radiator, probably figuring she blends in quite well.

Fortunately, for as much as Tiny dislikes other cats, he loves people and the attention we give him. My three children give Tiny extra affection because they know he misses Grandma and they feel bad about his blind eye. He has a special place in my heart because I know what a good companion he was for my mom, and Brian is simply a kind guy who has compassion for humans and animals, alike.

Our situation still isn't ideal, but it's the best we can do for now. Come spring, though, Tiny will go back to my mom's and patrol for mice instead of our kitties.

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