Friday, November 23, 2012

Inky the Barn Cat

It was twelve years ago this month of November that we first met Inky. Construction on the barn was about complete and we were busy filling the hay storage area with 400 bales of hay for the winter. We noticed a black cat on the ridge above the pond, about 100 yards from the barn, keeping tabs on the activity. As soon as the hay area was full he moved in. Occasionally we’d see him at feeding times either disappearing into the hay stack or scampering back to his watch post by the pond. It wasn’t hard to come up with his name from his coal black appearance.  For Christmas we left him an opened can of cat food. Otherwise we didn’t have much interaction with him. 

By spring he was starting to tolerate our presence and would sit on an upper layer of hay watching us as we went about the horse chores. Sometimes after feeding we would sit on a lower layer of hay giving him the chance to view us from a closer perspective. It wasn’t long before he would sit just above us and I swore I could hear him purring. Finally I gave it a shot and put my hand up where he could sniff it. Instead, he rubbed up against it and we were friends from that point on.  To solidify our relationship we started feeding him and made a nice bed of hay bales in the haystack. Later Don made him an actual plywood bed nestled into the hay. 

It was obvious that Inky was an intact male and every March he would head out in search of love. He would return in a week or so a little worse for wear.  Three years of this behavior was starting to take its toll on him. When he disappeared for nearly a month and then showed up in really bad condition we decided it was time for a visit to the vet for neutering. He’s been a homebody ever since.

Inky struggled to recover from his last trip abroad and even by late fall he still wasn’t in the best of shape. We decided that maybe it would be better if we moved him to the old cabin for the winter. He would be safe, warmer than in the hay, and would have plenty of food he didn’t need to share with the raccoons or birds.  He wasn’t particularly happy about it right off the bat but settled in within a couple of days. Come mid to late April, we packed up Inky and his bowls and he headed back to the barn. 

That became the routine until this spring when we realized that our last horse, Mandy, would not be with us much longer and that would leave Inky at the barn by himself. Without horses to feed twice a day we would have no reason to visit the barn and him. So we decided to make the cabin his permanent home. We came up with a way for him to go in and out on his own during the day and be inside at night.  Inky is an incredibly smart cat and he quickly figured out the new schedule even waiting for me on the front porch when it is time to return to the cabin for the evening.

We have no idea how old Inky is. When he arrived twelve years ago he was fully grown. He may have started his life alone but he is part of the family now and he won’t end his life alone. Who could wish for more than that?