Domesticated Predators, Part 3: I Miss You, Scootch

This is sad. But it’s a lesson. Certainly to me. Maybe to whoever else reads this.

Scootch liked me. And I liked her, despite my general indifference to cats. She was more like a dog than a cat. She would stay close and watch me when I was working outside, pounding on this and that, building the chicken coop, even felling trees with the chain saw. She didn’t like the louder, larger equipment like the lawn tractor, but she inevitably sat or napped in its seat when I was sawing wood, building shelves or tinkering in the garage. If I did something scary, she would run off to a safe distance, but sit and watch whatever I was doing from the safe distance she had defined. As time passed, her definition of safe distance shrunk.

Scootch during chicken coop building.

While I was building the chicken coop, she would jump up on the saw horses for attention while I was trying to saw a board. She was increasingly fearless around me and apparently knew I would do her no intentional harm.

I didn’t really want a house cat. This place was supposed to be a little farm, with OUTSIDE, not inside animals.

Scootch stalked wild birds sometimes, but she was a wonderfully incompetent hunter. I wanted her and Nico to remain incompetent, but knew that was unlikely to last. As much as I preferred to have outside cats and didn’t need a “mouser,” anybody with senses, a modicum of experience, or a marginally functional mind knows that birds are unlikely to cohabitate with outside cats for long without some loss of bird life.

She was a sweet cat. No getting around it. Better to have her in the house.

Scootchie. I’m so sorry.

Scootch had changed my mind. I was a ready to have a house cat. But, since I have 2 cats, it didn’t seem fair that Nico, the still somewhat feral cat, so closely bonded to Scootch, should be outside all on her own. And, after I let Scootch stay a few hours with me in the house one night, she slipped off and pooped in a corner upstairs. It took 2 days to discover it, after the smell became a bit too much. If I had put a box with litter in the house, I imagine Scootch would have used it. (Potty training is a definite upside of cats over dogs.) But I hadn’t yet committed full on with a litter box.

Scootch and Nico

I felt bad closing the door behind me with Scootch just a few feet behind me, but I was trying to consider her bonded buddy, too. I didn’t “like” Nico all that much, but she liked Scootch so much, that it seemed sorta mean to let one abide inside without the other. Over time, I thought, both cats would stay in the house primarily, if I slowly worked it into their routines. So I started putting food, water and a litter box on the sun porch and, unless it was too cold, I left the door between the sun porch and the kitchen open.

Sccotch would come in to the sun porch readily. She would eat, drink, poop and come in to the house. Nico would dart in to the porch from time to time for food, but always lit out when she saw me. I kept this up for a few days. Scootch would always come in, all the way into the house, every day for several days. I didn’t let her stay too long by herself before I went outside, and she eagerly followed. (She really was more like a dog, in my experience, than a cat.) Only once, in those few days, when Scootch was all the way inside the house, did I catch a glimpse of Nico. She was just inside the door to the kitchen, but skitted quickly away outside when I moved just a bit.

The last time I saw Scootch alive was two days later when two good friends came to visit from the city. My male friends like to bring their guns when they come out to visit me in the country. The place is laid out like a perfect shooting range. No harm, no foul, no charge. I’ve never been a gun owner, have no interest in hunting (or killing anything or anyone, really), and had never shot a real gun until I shot another friend’s gun at a makeshift target on this nascent farm. It’s fun, I guess, more or less. Guns are LOUD! Absurdly loud. You have to wear ear plugs or muffs before shooting the ridiculously noisy things unless you want to blow your ear drums out and pick up all the metal leftovers when target practice is over. It’s kinda stupid, really, like shooting off fireworks, something I’ve never been a fan of. You spend a lot of money on the fireworks for a few seconds of blowing something up in the air and watching some sparks. Big deal. Never interested me. Even when I was a young kid. Guns are similar, except you’re trying to hit some target and there are no “pretty” patterns of sparks or explosions.

I have nothing against guns or hunting, mind you. I hit the target a few times, not spot on, not the bullseye, but not bad, for a novice. I’ve just never been too interested in owning a gun or killing anything with one. I had even thought about buying an inexpensive, simple gun. I would try to shoot a coyote that might pose a threat to an animal (like Scootch or an eventual chicken, goat or sheep) that lived here, but I wasn’t in any hurry to buy any weapon. Guns are scary to hold and shoot and much too loud. They’re designed to kill. They spit out metal waste. And if you have to wear ear plugs to use them without deafening yourself, well… Maybe it ought to be a sign.

Scootch was on the concrete pad behind the garage, a few feet away from my friends as I stapled the paper target to a board nailed to a stump about 30 feet away and walked back to the concrete. One friend fired the first shot from a .44 pistol and Scootch took off like a low furry rocket.

That was the last time I saw her. I don’t remember seeing her that evening. She definitely wasn’t around the next morning to greet me when I went out to the porch and garage to feed her and Nico. She ALWAYS came running when she heard the sliding door open, without fail. Nico was mewing like never before. She seemed worried. I was worried. Scootch had never been out of my sight for more than an hour or two. She had a way of being near me, even if she didn’t like what I was doing (sawing trees, wood, mowing, loud stuff).

I’m not blaming this on my friends or the gun shooting / target practice. But the sound is frightening to an animal (or person). I won’t have guns here again. Even if my friends want to shoot out across the natural range of the open pasture. Even though it’s the country and do what you want. I’ll have to say no. They’re too loud. Wasteful. Lacking in purpose. Frightening to animals.

I found Scootch about 1/8 mile away 2 days later, dead along the side of the road, where the speed limit is 55 and people generally seem to go at least 5-10 miles faster.

I’m so sorry, Scootch. You were the sweetest cat I’ve ever seen. I should’ve let you be the house cat and companion you wanted to be.

The lesson learned?

If you like the cat, and the cat likes you, bring it into the house, let it stay, keep it safe and happy, there and by your side. Domestic it fully, happily. Clean the litter box. Let the birds fly freely without domesticated predators stalking them.

Now I have Nico, a young, lonely, mewing, semi-domesticated predator who still won’t let me get closer than 6-8 feet away. A cat I only kept as company for Scootch. She camps near the bird feeders most of the day. For company. Or sport.

We both miss Scootch.

Published by joesmithreally

Slipped away from increasingly stressful, disordered, random, and violent urban life after 4 decades to live in peace and attempt to steward a small farm that eventually helps pay the bills.

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