Happy Mother’s Day to all moms, human and feline!
Even those of us who love cats often joke about how aloof they are, and then they go and do something that shows such a profound understanding of human behavior that we’re left thunderstruck.
That was the case in Turkey’s Izmir province, where a ginger tabby dragged her two babies into a health clinic this week one at a time, according to a report in the English-language Turkish news site Daily Sabah:
The official said that they noticed the animal while they were attending to patients as she started “constantly meowing.” When they saw something was wrong with kittens, they took a closer look and discovered the kittens’ eyes were closed tightly. “We gave them some drugs and they started opening their eyes and later, we transferred them to the veterinary department. It was the first time that an animal walked into our clinic, and it was a very emotional moment for us,” the official said.
Both kittens had eye infections and fully recovered.
This isn’t the first time cats have asked humans for help, nor is it the first time a mom cat brought her kittens into a hospital or clinic.
On April 27, 2020, a female cat walked into the emergency room of Kucukcekmece Hospital in Istanbul while carrying her kitten in her mouth, then deposited the “mischievous” little one right in front of a group of hospital employees who were chatting.
Hospital staff gave the mom food and water while they examined her baby.
And in May of 2020, a cat in Mexico shocked a woman with his understanding of how the human world works. After she saw him in front of a store and bent down to pet him, he led her into the store, guided her to the pet food aisle and pointed to the exact type of food he wanted.
Not only did this cat understand that he had to be accompanied by a human to get into the store, and precisely where to direct her, but he also knew the packaging of his favorite food and understood that she had to buy it for him. He may not understand the concept of currency, but he does know a human has to get him the food and he can’t just tear into it.
The woman was so moved that she adopted the smart little guy and named him Rabbit.
These examples not only show how astonishingly intelligent and observant cats are — or can be, when they’re motivated — they also make it difficult for anyone to cling to old beliefs that cats and other mammals are unthinking, unfeeling automatons. Or the dreaded, all too common “it’s just a cat.”
If cats understand hospitals and health clinics are places where the sick and injured are treated, and they understand abstract social concepts like “a human must obtain this for me,” it makes you wonder what else they observe and fully understand in those furry little heads.
One of the most compelling cat stories I’ve ever heard involved a reader of this blog, a woman who took in a white stray she named Snowy.
Snowy was a street cat who was always with a male cat, and the woman fed them both whenever they came by. Soon it became clear Snowy was pregnant, and her trusting tom — the father of her babies — nuzzled her goodbye as Snowy accepted the woman’s invitation to move inside at least temporarily so she’d have a safe place to give birth to her kittens.
In the three weeks that followed, Snowy raised her kittens in the woman’s home, and the tomcat would come by daily to see her and their little ones.
Snowy died when a pair of dogs climbed the porch steps, snapping at her kittens. Snowy fought the dogs off while her babies escaped, but she died from her injuries.
The poor tom who had been her constant companion came by the next night and meowed for her. He showed up again and again, meowing mournfully each night, distraught at her disappearance.
The story shows cats are capable of extraordinary empathy and love: The love between Snowy and her mate, who was protective of Snowy and loving with their babies, an unusual trait in toms. The love Snowy had for her babies, sacrificing her life for theirs. And the love the crestfallen woman had for those kittens when she returned home and found Snowy dead and the kittens hiding.
Another story of a mother who gave her life for her kittens reinforces the idea that cats are capable of great love and empathy.
When a mobile home in Pasco County, Florida, caught fire this week, the man who lived there was able to escape but his cats were trapped and firefighters couldn’t reach them.
The mother cat covered her kittens with her body, laying on top of them and remaining there even as the fire scorched her.
When firefighters poked through the debris, they found the cat and her kittens. The mom and one of her babies died at the veterinary hospital, but one kitten survived.
“It seemed as if mom did everything possible to protect her kittens, even risking her own life in their defense, but the flames and the smoke were too much,” said Rick Chaboudy, executive director of the Suncoast Animal League. “But mom managed to protect one of her kittens from the blaze, enough to give that kitty a chance at life. Other than her whiskers being burned completely off and a slight odor of smoke, she is doing well with her bottle feeding and her cuddling.”
Staff at the shelter named the kitten Molly after Molly Williams, a former slave who became the first black female firefighter in the US. Molly the kitten is expected to make a full recovery.
What’s that? A tear, you say? Absurd! Buddy and I do not cry. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to toss a football around, talk about trucks and fix some things around the house with power tools.