Yoda was our cat. He lived outdoors in the barn and took care of the mice and rats for us. He not only looked after our place, but took care of the rodent problem at our neighbours as well. He was an interesting animal and would often go for walks with Dorothy and me. He was so consistent in joining us; we would refer to him as our cog, (cat/dog). He was well known in the neighbourhood and most of the young people that came on the yard had had some experience with him, pleasant or otherwise. He was getting quite old, being somewhere between 12 and 14 years and starting to slow down. He became quite mellow in his old age.
We have just come through an extreme cold spell which lasted about 10 days. Old Yoda had a warm nest in some straw bales, and I would only see him when I brought water and fed him in the morning. When Yoda was younger, and a feral cat showed up, he would drive it off or kill it. This winter we had a couple of strays move in to the barn and although I was able to shoot one of them, I was never able to get the other even though I tried a number of times. The stray was bigger and stronger than Yoda and although that wouldn’t have stopped him from taking care of things in the past, he was getting old.
My sister-in-law found Yoda abandoned by his mother when he was a tiny kitten, just a day old. Her daughter had a doll with a baby bottle and Phyllis warmed up a little milk and honey and managed to bottle feed the kitten and keep it alive. As happens so often with orphaned animals, as Yoda got older, he became more and more aggressive. He had no one to teach him how to be a cat. Phyllis had to tightly wrap him up in a towel to feed him without him scratching and biting her. Finally it just became too much and she asked me if I would take him. We were between cats at that time and although I knew his history I said I would give it a try. She brought him over in a cage and I released this nasty little cat in the barn with a good supply of food and water.
The next morning when I went to the barn to do chores, he came tearing out of the door and started biting and scratching my ankles. I kicked him away, but not before he gave me some good scratches. This went on for several days until finally I had had enough. That morning I was carrying two empty five gallon pails and there were about 8 or 10 more standing at the entrance to the barn. As I approached, Yoda came tearing out of the barn with his beady bloodshot eyes firmly fixed on my ankles. Without even thinking, I wind milled one of those empty pails and it connected with the cat. I don’t know if you have ever played baseball, but it was like one of those grand slammers that you know immediately is destined to leave the park.
Yoda went flying through the air, smack into that collection of empty five gallon pails. There was a tremendous crashing, banging and howling and the little cat tore off at high speed. I wondered if that would be the end of it but no, he showed up after about two days. We had come to an understanding; he never attacked my ankles again and settled into his role as an eliminator of rodents. As time wore on, he tried to be affectionate but he would crawl up your body, sinking his claws into your flesh. His goal was your neck, which he would deceptively start licking and when you were deceived by this show of affection suddenly, like a vampire, he would bite. We had to caution visitors to the yard about this friendly cat.
He always had some respect, or perhaps fear, of me and I could scare him away from any intended victims by hissing and making threatening motions in his direction. I also found the garden hose was a good deterrent and would use that when it was available until my daughter told me if I used it on Yoda one more time she would use it on me! And so life with Yoda went on. He became quite famous among friends and family and I delighted in telling his story to anyone who would listen. I would always say to people that Yoda and I had a hate-hate relationship and invite them to run over him if they saw him on the road. Dorothy would tell me I shouldn’t say those things.
Dorothy saw him as a needy little orphan, trying to show his love by scratching and biting. She tried to teach him by cuddling him, stroking and patting him until the claws came out. Then she would quickly set him down and withdraw her affection in true behavior modification style. He learned a lot but was never able to be cuddly for long. He was amazingly slow to learn some things. Our woodshed had a threshold that was raised above the ground about three inches. Yoda thought he could get under it into the woodshed and he was right, he could. But all too often, maybe once too often, he’d come racing down the path from the barn, veer off to the woodshed, and smash headfirst into the wooden threshold.
As time went on my relationship with Yoda started to change and I began seeing him in a different light. I’m not sure affection would be the right term but it was something close to that. Yoda was changing in my eyes from a weird cat that was hard to get along with to a valued and respected fixture on the farm. He reminds me of myself and in many ways we have followed similar paths in our life journey.
I knew when those strays showed up this was not a good scene for Yoda and I did my best to get rid of them. One morning during the cold snap Yoda did not show up for his food and water. I didn’t worry too much as this was not that unusual. When he wasn’t there on the second and third day I became quite concerned. Finally on the fourth day I went looking and I found him in his nest in the straw bales. Our old cat had left us and we are all saddened and miss him.