Here is Caterpillar, the last of my lifetime of pets, cats, dogs and birds. Caterpillar as a kitten looked like a Japanese watercolor of a cat. She's a Maine Coon. Were she to reproduce, only one of the kittens would be a Maine Coon. She has all the temperament traits of a Maine Coon. Most characteristic of what I see in all the Maine Coons I've known. A time comes when you're petting one that the cat has had enough. A Maine Coon will give warning in a cat's body language way. If you don't get it and keep on rubbing, the cat will bite. Not a bad bite, but a cat's way of saying cut it out, exactly as it would do to another cat. That kind of bite is a communication, not an attack. It's often taken as an attack and Maine Coons are seldom understood. Once you get it about a Maine Coon, they're easy to get along with. At Willard's Front Porch Gallery in Woodlawn, he keeps a 20 year old white Maine Coon, Minnie. Her people tend not to like her very well because she's so temperamental. When I talk to her and pet her, I pay attention when she lets me know she's put up with enough petting. I stop and we're fine. We've become friends over the last 3 years and we have a good association of Friday nights. Sometimes I sit with her. The main rule is leave her alone. If I want to touch, touch gently. I pet the top of her head with one or two fingers. Cats love that. I suspect it is a subconscious memory of mother's tongue licking the tops of their heads.
I sang a song to Caterpillar when she was a kitten. It was her song that goes, Caterpillar pretty baby, pretty baby Caterpillar. I repeat it over and over in song. I made up a song for each one of the three kittens and sang their songs to them all their lives. Caterpillar's song sets her to purring right away. It calms her way down, relaxes her. She breathes deeply and listens with a contentment that takes her all the way back to being a kitten. I made the song simple with her name in it, because cats are not verbal and words are sounds. She has by now a good vocabulary of words she knows when I speak them. Like if she's looking at me a certain way, I'll ask, "Do you want out?" She goes to the door and waits for me to open it. In the mornings when she looks at me a certain way, I ask, "Does Caterpillar want some cat food?" She'll say, "Mao." I open a can and put the contents in her bowl and she's happy. It used to be when I used a can opener, cats came running from wherever they were to the sound of it. Now I use those little cans of Fancy Feast. The cans have a tab on top for opening the can easily. It hardly makes any sound. Caterpillar hears it from the bedroom and here she comes.
Caterpillar is 15 years old now. She waddles a bit, is somewhat heavy, sleeps a lot and makes a good friend to have around. I'm the only human she's known. She's my friend and it's important to her. She loves me way more than I love her. She loves me with her whole life, every minute of her life. I love her as my closest friend who is with me every minute I'm at home. She was born here. Her siblings and mother are buried here. Caterpillar's mother, Celena, a calico in a blender feral cat that took up under my house in winter when two inches of ice were on the ground for two weeks. It was a rough time for the four-leggeds. I fed her through the winter, gave her a home. I fixed a birthing box for her when I felt her belly growing and her babies never saw their mother. She died when they were two weeks old, the day they opened their eyes. The vet told me they'd die, but I knew better. I didn't mention it at the time, because I didn't know it for certain, thought their survival would be the all the proof I need that I aim to keep them alive. By the time they were weaning age, time to find them homes, I couldn't let any of my babies take a chance on having a bad home. I knew if they stayed with me, they'd be loved and well taken care of.
The greatest insight I've had in my lifetime has been how to communicate with animals that don't talk. I've learned that when I know one well, when I talk in sentences and paragraphs to the cat or dog, they understand what I've said. I believe they read what I'm saying by the pictures it makes in my mind that the cat reads telepathically. Among cats, when a mother dies or disappears, one of the kittens takes the role of "the nurturer," which became Caterpillar's role. She kept the other two kittens and herself clean. She was ravenous at feeding time. I fed them with a bottle for a while. Caterpillar was in such a frenzy for it, she'd push it away trying to pull it to her. I'd let her drink until she passed out. Often when I hold her and talk to her, I tell her I've loved her since the day she was born. This is her home where she was born and lived all her life. I give her seniority for decision making for what she wants, because she's lived her whole life here and I've just lived half my life here. She was a scrapper with the other two, Tapo and TarBaby. She'd pounce on them and dominate them. She was heavier and fast. They didn't like tussling with her, because she fought all out from the start. The other two didn't like fighting to the death every time they tussled. They tended to walk around Caterpillar. She'd pounce on them anyway.
I didn't have any learning in my younger years about finding the soul, the spirit, the personality of a life form pre human. School, parents, church all denied there was anything to an animal. I believed I saw personality in animals I knew. Didn't know how to communicate with them. Lived several years with them not knowing how to communicate. Then I came to the mountains and first dog, Sadie, taught me a very great deal. Next dog, Aster, was even a greater teacher, meaning I was more ready than before. Then the cats came along and taught me even more. I can't say I can carry on a conversation with one, but we communicate very well. I learned that when it comes to love, we humans have nothing on the four-leggeds. They know how to love with loyalty that is absolute. I'd been loved by all my animals in the past, but didn't get it, had no clue, believing the nonsense I was told in childhood that animals don't feel love. It's my four-leggeds that taught me about love. The love I have with Caterpillar now is about the best love of my life. By now I know they are embodiments of love, like we would be if we weren't so braced against one another.