By Sharon Lynch
It was when Jake turned his head that they saw the blood. A red streak smeared the side of the cat’s face, running down from the bottom of his ear. Mark saw it first, and then Karen’s heart sank. Suddenly she was back a few years ago when Jake came home with a large deep gash on his neck. At that time, Karen’s neighbour had saved the day, using her expertise to tend the wound. Jake recovered and went on to prowl the neighbourhood as per usual. As cats like to do.
Being a cat, Jake had made no indication that he was wounded. It was amazing to Karen that cats apparently did not show pain. She had been told it was a survival issue, since a perceived injury in the wild would indicate weakness, making the animal a target for predators. Karen could see how this made sense for lions but not house cats.
If she and Mark hadn’t seen the wound, they would never have known. And Jake was a scrapper. Mark had seen him take on a larger cat that dared to come into their yard and spray Jake’s favourite bush. The screaming that ensued as the two faced off could have been heard to the end of the road. Then, they had jumped on each other, rolling around while dust and dignity went flying. In the end the other cat high tailed it off leaving Jake with a torn ear and a victorious strut.
They’d always had cats. Nothing against dogs, but they were cat people. They liked the calm independence, the quiet way cats showed affection. But, they knew not everyone felt the same way about these self-sufficient felines. In the past, cats had been often associated with witches, the occult or just plain evil. Was it their impenetrable stare? Maybe the nine lives they supposedly possessed.
Karen didn’t know how many lives Jake had already used. Certainly his past injury could be counted in those nine. Cats lived a long time compared to dogs, and Karen wondered if that was part of the nine lives idea about felines. They just lived longer. At least sometimes.
But like all small animals that lived in the human world, cats could be neglected and abused. And despite their seemingly placid and aloof demeanour, Mark knew they wanted human company and thrived on affection. It always saddened him to see the homeless ones that had been abandoned or perhaps never been anyone’s pet. Those were the feral ones who ran from people and suffered in lonely desperation.
When she was a youngster, Karen used to visit the barn cats at a local farmer’s. There always seemed to be a new crop of these tiny fur balls, tucked in around the mother cat in the hay loft. Sometimes they hadn’t even opened their eyes, their mewing voices like tiny vibrating violin strings. She’d pick each one up, trying to decide which one she wanted to take home. But, she had not been able to choose because she liked them all. Besides, she would never have been allowed to keep one as her dad was allergic.
Now, she and Mark had to deal with Jake’s injury before it became badly infected. While Karen held him in a thick towel, Mark rinsed the wound with warm water, then squeezed antiseptic onto it. Jake just took it all without a struggle. Much like the time he was sprayed by a skunk and had to endure a tomato ketchup soaking in the bathtub. Stoic, accepting what apparently had to be done.
When they were finished, Jake jumped down and went to the backdoor. The sun was getting low in the sky, casting a rosy glow on the tree tops in the yard. Soon, the night creatures would be out and about and that could spell bad news for cats on the prowl. So Jake was not going anywhere except on someone’s lap. That is if he was in the mood.