She is ever present. And ever faithful.
Wherever I go in the house, there she is, not far away.
A small, black, furry presence.
My hubby says if he wants to know where I am, he just looks for the cat.
For Princess.
She chose me.
Of all the boarders who visited the barn where they kept their horses, she chose me.
She tried to follow me home one evening, carrying in her mouth a yellow feather she had found. An offering perhaps? I chased her back to the barn, not wanting her to be run over in the street.
She always followed me around the barn as I did my chores: mucking out the run; putting out the hay; feeding the carrots; filling the watering tub.
Perhaps it was because it was I who first found her.
First heard her little kitten cry up in the hayloft.
I saw a small black face looking back at me one afternoon.
I brought some wet cat food – and she licked a bit off my finger.
That may have sealed the deal.
I always brought a treat for her after that. And she came to expect me.
It was another boarder at the barn who had the courage to grab her one day and bring her down from the hayloft. There was no other way down. Her mother had either given birth to her up there, or had carried her up a vertical ladder, the only way in or out.
We named her Princess.
Princess the barn cat.
It seemed fitting.
And after that, she was everyone’s Princess.
Everyone played with her. She was up for anything. She got those wild eyes when she was ready for a game of “toss the straw”.
And she played with everything. Balls of manure were a great cat toy.
And even the horses played with her.
Once she was walking carefully across the top of a fence rail, when a horse named Buddy picked her up by the scruff of her neck with his teeth.
I screamed, and she screamed, and then she was unceremoniously dropped by the horse.
Not many cats can lay claim to that experience.
We have a photo of her riding on the back of another horse.
She was the only cat at the barn at the time who would let a human anywhere near her.
We all made a fuss of her, and fed her. She was well socialized.
That was in the Summer and Fall.
By Winter, as the temperatures plummeted, I began leaving blankets and towels around for her to curl up on inside the barn. She seemed to appreciate that. And when she wasn’t curled up in a straw or hay bale, she was pawing a soft towel and trying to keep her body heat.
In January and February, she was calling for a mate. Barely six months old, and already she was seeking out the companionship of the male tom at the barn. We called him Tom. A long, grey-haired beauty who was definitely not a people cat. Who stared you down with derision from the top of the hay bales if you dared to come close. He had a white patch on his chest. He was a beauty.
By March, the temperature was forecast to plummet to -27 degrees one night. I thought I could not let Princess be subjected to that.
I brought a cat carrier in my car to the barn that night. After seeing to my horse, making sure he was blanketed and would be warm and well fed, I scooped up Princess and put her in the carrier. She came willingly and without protest. She barely blinked an eye. She must have known I was going to help her. She trusted me.
She sat silently staring at me from the carrier I had placed in the passenger seat as I drove.
When I got her home, I set her free in the master bedroom bathroom, and closed the door. I sat with her awhile, and set her up with some food and water, and the all important litter. I didn’t know if she would even use the litter. I wanted to make sure she would. To make sure this little wild cat, this little feral creature, would use the litterbox.
I kept her in that bathroom for a full 24 hours. And she found the litterbox and used it. How smart is that!
Then I opened the door to allow her access to the rest of the room. What was to be her home for the next few months. I didn’t want to let this little wild creature roam the entire house just yet. I wanted to make sure she knew her manners. And wouldn’t tear the furniture and the birds to shreds.
The first night she slept at the end of the bed with me. I woke up in the middle of the night to pet her. And she tore into my arm like the little wildcat she was. She drew blood. My arm was slashed with a big, red, deep welt.
She seemed to instantly know she had done something she shouldn’t have done.
I picked her up, calmly and lowly saying “No”. She let me. Realizing I wasn’t a terrible predator at the barn that was out to kill her.
I cleaned up the deep scratches, poured on some hydrogen peroxide, and went back to bed.
It was only a few weeks after that I noticed she was gaining weight.
I thought, was I overfeeding her?
Then, in the early morning hours one Sunday, she jumped up onto my chest and neck and started meowing like something was wrong.
Well, something was happening alright.
She had started labour.
First, a small grey kitten was born on the carpet on the floor. He would be known as Ivan.
Then, four more kittens made their way into the world.
I made a safe, cozy home for her and them by removing the two bottom drawers of the dresser, and laying towelling all across the bottom.
I kept Ivan. And another one I called Peanut.
I found good homes for the other three.
One was a twin look-a-like sister of Peanut. The other two were long, grey haired fluffy cats, just like their father.
Ten years later, Princess is still the ever present, ever faithful cat.
Nine years later, Ivan and Peanut dwarf her by at least twice in size. She doesn’t recognize them as her sons, I don’t believe. I read that sometimes animals don’t recognize their offspring. I personally think it’s because Peanut was still nursing off her when he was several months old, and had very sharp teeth. She has never forgiven him for that.
Ivan is a very sensitive soul. A one person cat. If anyone else but me is around, he is off in a favourite hiding place. He did not inherit his mother’s social nature. He is more like his dad, Tom.
Princess is the greeter of the house. When we arrive home, she is always there to meow her “Hello” and welcome us back home.
She is always bringing us little toys with a tell tale meow – a gift of some sort.
She always answers us back when we speak directly to her.
She is a rare and precious cat, a good cat ambassador.
She sleeps a lot now. And actively seeks out my lap for a nap on a cool winter’s day.
She has no desire to ever be outside – EVER – even when we leave the screen doors open for a few minutes while we retrieve whatever is on the barbecue.
She has had her fill of living outside in the first nine months of her life. The cold. The heat. The dangers. The predators.
She is a sensible and ever grateful housecat now.
She loves a bit of cheese now and then. A tasty morsel of chicken meat. (Tastes like mouse!). A lick of margarine or butter.
She will take her place on the seat beside whoever is eating at the table and ask politely for a taste. Sometimes extending her paw to ensure the person knows she is there.
And she loves her morning breakfast. She races ahead of me into the kitchen and does a cheerful gallop around the centre island before arriving at her breakfast dish which will soon contain a serving of cat kibble.
And despite her petite size, she does not shrink away from chasing after her offspring if she feels they deserve it, even though they are twice her size.
She hastily dispatched several little field mice that found their way into our house through the dryer vent one autumn. She gifted us their little bodies, nearly completely skinned, on the living room rug for us to find.
Needless to say, she rules the roost.
She keeps the peace.
She keeps the other cats in line.
She likes order and routine.
She doesn’t like it when we leave the house.
She loves it when we come home.
Our little Princess.


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