How Rian Became A Swamp Cat
When I brought Rian from Rose Hill to the edge of Mingo Swamp, he didn’t have a name. I declared him to be rather wild, along with about eleven others like him; but my brother Johnny will correct me on that. He thinks I took him after Daddy died, maybe just to have something Daddy used to feed. He might be right. Anyway, I had noticed a bunch of orange cats and charcoal cats around Daddy’s barn. They always ran into the woods when anyone came near them. I knew Daddy had been feeding them during his cancer treatments when he felt like it. Johnny probably helped him. After Daddy died, I set a metal trap with milk inside and waited to see which hungry cat would enter.
Late one afternoon I brought an orange dreamsicle-looking, frightened kitten to Mingo Woods, thinking I would tame him and have a pet. I decided to put him in the greenhouse at first so I could keep watch and he wouldn’t get lost. I had already placed food in there for him, so I just released him under one of the tables. I never saw him again for weeks. I knew he was still in there because the food was eaten when I can home at the end of a day of teaching. Then one day, I saw that the food had not been touched. After calling “Kitty, Kitty” and searching under pots and behind soil, I spotted a hole in the corner through the gravel to the outside. He had dug beneath the wall of the greenhouse to get outside. He was gone. Having more than nine acres of swamp and woods for him to roam, I didn’t expect to see him again; although I continued to search and call a little each day.
One evening at dusk a few days later, I spotted a pair of eyes down at the edge of the swamp near the pump house. When I walked toward them they turned back into the swamp. I started leaving food beneath the dogwood which he, or something else, would eat when I wasn’t around. Each time I left food I brought it a little closer to the house. After a few weeks we had a cat in the back yard, on the porch of the shop and the house, though he wouldn’t hang around if we came near him.
I’ve known Stephen to tame feral cats before, and he took over the taming of this one. He named him Rian and slowly began to get him to trust him. There came a time when we knew we needed to take him to the vet – rabies and no neighborhood baby cats to come. I was the one to grab him on the neck and lift him into the cat carrier, and Rian remembers. He now follows Stephen around the yard, to the dog kennel, to the chicken yard, even the mailbox, his tail brushing Steve’s pants leg as they walk. He doesn’t bother the wild birds much, but I have known him to damage a baby rabbit in its youth. Now that he’s nine he doesn’t seem to care about much except his food, his resting places, and his fur brush.
Stephen can ask, “Rian wanna brush?” and the cat goes to the bench on the front porch and waits for Steve to brush him. The brush stays on the bench behind one of my plants. If I’m sitting with Steve on the porch and the cat is coming toward him, Rian will jump down from the porch before he gets to me and jump up again when he has passed me. You’d think I had hurt him or yelled at him or something; but the only thing I’ve done is snatch him away from too many siblings vying for food in Rose Hill, to give him a good home at Mingo Woods, take him to the vet every summer, and buy him good cat food.
Recently I have noticed Rian at the back steps outside the screen door, waiting. Steve will ask, “You want some dinner?” as he opens first the kitchen door and then the screen door. This cat runs through the house to the front door and waits for Steve to open it so he can go on the porch where his food is. If I’m in the kitchen, he runs faster. I’ve never frightened him; I even sometimes say very sweetly, “Good morning, Rian, how ya doin’?” Now and then on a very cold morning, Steve will open the front door; and this cat that nine years ago ran from everyone, will come inside, sit on the sofa and watch television, as long as I’m not in the room. If I come in the room, he scoots off the couch and stands at the front door, ready to go out again.
In spite of the fact that he’s not really my cat, Rian seems to enjoy the things that belong to me. He sits on the hood of my car, climbs into my plants on the porch rail, and lazily looks out from my rattan chaise lounge in the corner of the front porch. When it’s very cold, the chaise lounge becomes his hideout. He creeps into the cat carrier that sits there covered with beach towels and layered inside with blankets. Even my heating pad has kept him warm on a cold winter night. I’ve wondered why he doesn’t run away when I take his picture. I think this cat is smarter than he wants me to know.