The sticky from the hackberry tree dotted the freshly painted decking. My house shoes made a peeling-snap sound as they stuck and unstuck each step. I was not thinking of the bob-tailed cat as I escorted the little dog around the porches to the yard. It was just breaking day after one of the first calm cool nights of autumn.
And then I heard him calling. It was not the normal spoiled “Meow” with which I was familiar nearly every morning, as he would cross the yard or road from the adjoining forest. “It was a Help Me I Am Dying Call”.
It had the element of weakness. It noted distress and fear. It was a cry of pain.
I knew something was immediately wrong and he needed assistance now, or may not ever again need it at all.
I cut the little dog’s running short and called her back to the house. She would only be an added worry if she were allowed to “help” me in the coming rescue. She would be safe and out of the way inside the house.
Pajamas alone are not appropriate attire for rescues, so I hastily re-entered the house myself. Changing shoes and acquiring a coat, I exited in route toward the frail cry.
Dual ears are amazing. We are blessed to hear in stereo naturally. And by having two ears we can follow a noise to its source. I followed the continuing cries down the driveway and across the highway toward the mass of trees and colorful thick underbrush.
I thought at first he was in the forest. But as I approached a large oak tree in the open before the forest I realized the bawling was above me. There the bob-tail laid across a limb half-way to the top looking at me.
He was not sure if I was help or to be feared. He moved his head about quickly looking. I talked to him. He was searching to see if he recognized me as his own. He became convinced enough to begin descending awkwardly down. Something was wrong with his usually elegant climbing.
Almost falling, but hooking a claw at the last opportunity, he swung downward, paused in mid-air and then dropped onto the ground. He instinctively crouched and prepared to bolt. I talked to him and he relaxed and straightened his legs.
His left hip was stiff. But on closer examination I saw no blood or open flesh.
He was jumpy. He was too jumpy to hold. When I tried to help him he moaned and hissed….not as to threaten, but to say “Oh man, I am hurting.”
I encouraged him follow me to the house and then made him a comfortable bed for the day inside the safety of the house. Over the next few days he recovered into his regular arrogant self.
We will probably never know what happened during the night. The neighbor told us she heard a scuffle during that night. We wonder if a passing car clipped him. Here at the foot of the Smoky Mountains there could be all kinds of predators present who would love to snack on a cat. Sightings of panthers, wolves, coyotes and foxes have been reported. It could have even been a raccoon. They can be vicious. Nine lives are handy. And so are claws for climbing trees.
We will probably never know what transpired, and the bob-tail is keeping the answer to the mystery to himself.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if they could speak in human?
Well, yes…..except some of what cats had to say we might not want to hear.
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