As I commented earlier, cats aren’t dogs and dogs aren’t cats. People acquire dogs to have them as pets and servants. Dogs will travel anywhere their masters travel. On the other paw, cats acquire people so they can grace their host’s accommodations, get food and be stroked. Cats will travel on foot, but they refuse to be transported by car, truck, train or plane.
Until something that took place in a Florence, Italy in June of 1974, I had never woken up in the morning saying to myself, “I’m going to get up really, really early today so I can get a cat.” The only reason we decided to pull our Westfalia van into a campsite was to take a shower, do some laundry and top off our water supply. We had left the sliding side door open to ventilate our vehicle. Not only did a cool breeze come in, so did a little cat. Barely more than a kitten it was.
My “Shoo! Shoo! Out! Out!” was of no avail. I had to lift the little fellow out. Back from the shower, back into our van was the little fellow. (To me, all cats are feminine, dogs are masculine.) She had decided to do what Russia is trying to do in Ukraine: occupy, with no permission. However, unlike Mr. Poutine, her manner was sweet, endearing and amusing. We decided to extend our day use visit into an overnight stay. Yes, we even allowed ‘Little Kitty’ to settle into our already cramped sleeping quarters. But only for one night.
Come morning, it was time to pack up and find a parking place on the belvedere that overlooks the Ponte Vecchio, the Arno River and the domes of Florence itself. Then we’d bike downhill and explore the city. We said good-bye to our little friend and shooed her out. As I was paying the campground operator, persistent Little Kitty managed to once again climb into our van. “Who does that thing belong to?” I asked.
“Nobody. She’s a gatto randagio, just a stray.”
That’s right, she was no longer a stray. We couldn’t have her bike with us and we couldn’t leave her in the van. It would soon become too hot. We had her take up residence in the coolness under the van and provided her with dish of water. That evening, and the next, she was there, waiting for us.
Until, the evening of our third return. There she was, but no greeting from her. Dead! No sign of an injury. We cried, buried her, and set off for Vienna.
Even though these events took place over 48 years ago and 5,662 km afar, the feelings and details are still fresh in my mind. However, that was just the beginning of my association with cats. Stay tuned, more to come.