Shortly after I moved to Texas, I met Lilly, a formerly feral cat who was living a luxurious farm life as the resident barn cat at the Manor, aka, Tender Acres. She arrived by way of Barn Cats, Inc., based in North Dallas. I didn’t know (probably because I never spent extended time in the country) that organizations exist with a mission to save the lives of wild cats, strays, and throwaway domesticated cats and kittens by placing them in safe, barn homes.
Hanging out at the Manor offered opportunity to watch Lilly prowl the grounds and to spend time pondering the life of a barn cat. It’s a pretty sweet gig for Lilly, considering she was rescued from a life of abandonment or abuse.
Hmmm. Sounds an awful lot like the stories of many folks sitting around recovery tables.
Like the recovering alcoholic or addict, Lilly’s new life wasn’t an easy one. Her adjustment period
included being caged for a couple of weeks after arrival at her barn home. Can you imagine her fear of the unknown? Everything in her world was different and she had no say or control in her initial care. And, because she was caged, she was powerless to care for herself.
Sights, sounds, smells, her former way of life was gone and although she may have been grateful (if cats feel gratitude), it was probably hard to not resent her circumstances and the hands that were there to help her.
For two weeks, all she did was wait for something to change. She probably gradually, and slowly, relaxed but remained anxious, knowing intuitively that she was waiting for something.
Finally, her cage door opened and she was free to explore her new world. Did she bolt out and disappear or tentatively ease out of the cage, wary and wondering but curious and willing to give it a shot?
Over time and with human voices and interaction, she began to build trust and to adjust to her new kingdom.
Lilly was a queen at the Manor. She might be spotted sprawled across the round rug at the front door, curled up on a chaise lounge by the pool, weaving her way through the vegetable garden or sauntering across the barn floor meowing for her two-a-day Fancy Feast feedings.
I’m pretty certain that Lilly didn’t care whether she had the label of barn cat; in fact, she probably didn’t care about much of anything. I’m also fairly certain that Lilly had no idea that she had a purpose; she just went about her business. Her contribution to life at the Manor went far beyond that of keeping the rodent population at bay. She had an easiness about her, a sense of peace that was enviable.
Lilly comforted me many times when I felt inconsolable. She befriended me and welcomed me into her world with no complaint or judgment. At a time when I knew few humans in my new home state, she was a companion who let me just be me. I learned a bit of the ability to just be by watching her.
You may notice that I’m writing about Lilly in the past tense. I learned not long ago that Lilly now has a heavenly barn home. She disappeared one day, presumably taken by a raccoon or a coyote.
Death by a predator is an inherent risk for a barn cat. I miss her when I visit the Manor. She lives on, though, in the hot summer breeze and the star-tossed sky and in hearts in need of healing.
To learn more about barn cats, visit http://www.barncats.org/index.php.