Harriet, a blue heeler who charmed her way into our hearts, made life miserable for an unnamed young feline I’ll call Persie. That’s short for perseverance, the defining trait of a little cat who kept trying.
Persie’s story is not as spectacular as some. She’s living proof, however, it pays not to give up too easily.
In November of 2021 I published a column titled “Dirty Jobs” about my mother’s childhood home. Renters had moved out and gifted us with two grown cats.
Alger and Benjamin were named for my late grandfather, A. B. Hill. Benjamin, however, turned out to be a girl. We never settled on a new name, so I’ll use Benja for today’s column.
Living at a vacant house near critter-filled woods was not ideal, but we fed the pair daily and hoped for the best. Alger looked tough enough to take care of himself. Benja’s demeanor suggested she could also.
Dr. Baker couldn’t tell if she had been spayed, but after several uneventful months we assumed that was the case. When three kittens surprised us, I learned that female cats arrange for their young to be born during warm weather. Some mothers make exceptions, but not Benja. Conflicting goals probably explain the strained relationship we noticed between the couple.
Before the kittens were born their father disappeared. We don’t know whether he fell prey to something in the woods or left home because he couldn’t handle parental pressures. Benja may have kicked him out, or maybe he went looking for love.
One morning as I was about to leave home, I saw Benja crouching under my truck. I had no idea she had hitched a ride the day before, a trip of about 16 miles. I put her in the passenger seat and slid under the wheel.
Benja had a history of peculiar behavior. She could be affectionate but at times seemed poised to attack, so sharing a cab made me a little nervous. I was hardly out of the driveway when she crawled into my lap, causing me to wish I had buckled her seatbelt.
She extended her claws a few times through my pants legs. It didn’t hurt but led to considerable anxiety about her further intentions. I’ve never spoken so tenderly to a cat. “You’re a good kitty,” I kept repeating in my most soothing voice.
I pulled into Grandmama’s yard, opened the door, and eased her onto the ground. The rest of the morning I spent working inside the house, and wondering why Benja had become a stowaway the day before.
After making sure she wasn’t hiding in my truck, I left Grandmama’s and drove to my mother’s for dinner. I went home after the meal, parked my vehicle, and let the tailgate down to get a paintbrush out. That’s when I saw something baffling.
Under the mounted toolbox was a dark furry mass partially obscured by leaves. I was shocked to find three black kittens. Benja had apparently put them there the day before, trying to find a safe place for her babies.
The kittens and I took a fast ride back. A pet carrier, already on the screen porch, was hastily converted to a bed. It concerned me that Benja might not want me handling them, but the transfer went well. Kids and mom settled in on a soft pile of rags.
We waited until they were four months old to take the kittens and Benja to the vet. They all recovered fine from the surgeries, but eventually Persie was the only cat left. One sibling I found in the woods, several days too late.
Our young cat was living alone when Harriet showed up in September and chased her off the property. We spotted her in the area a few times but couldn’t get close and knew the prospects of survival were unlikely. One day while Harriet was visiting neighbors, Seth saw Persie and made a quick rescue. A nice family provided a safe home and put her in charge of rat patrol.
That blissful transition followed a lonely month of hiding and scavenging for food. It was probably tempting to give up at times or at least become dangerously distracted by hunger or fear. Ability and instinct surely helped her survive, but there’s no doubt attitude played a vital role.
Persie’s story is not as spectacular as some, but her example of perseverance is worth remembering. Whether our challenges are mild or severe, temporary or enduring, Persie showed what can happen if we don’t give up too easily. Life turned out splendidly, much better than could have been expected, for a little cat who kept trying.