Counting Cats

I’m sure your opinion of me will be lowered by the following essay: so be it.

Linda and I like cats.  This is not to say that we don’t like dogs: we’ve had dogs and liked them, but over time we turned to cats as our chosen companions.  But this little essay is not about being owned by cats but rather counting cats.

Yeah, you heard me correctly: counting cats.  Through the years we’ve driven around our little town in the evenings between six and seven.  We slowly roll through the neighborhoods noting the changes that have occurred since the last time we made our inspection.  Perhaps a new home is being built or an old home is being torn down or even better remodeled, saved from the scrap heap.  Perhaps it’s just noting that someone has built a side walk or painted their fence.  Perhaps it just noting some street work being done or not done.

In recent years, our supply of deer which hide on Corps of Engineers’ property throughout most of the day come into the town to graze on greener grass and flowers and other plants in yards as the day begins to close.  They are really a pest to those with nice well-tended yards: Lynda, a good friend of ours, spends a lot of time mowing, watering, planting, and pampering plants in her yard.  She has a nice hurricane fence surrounding much of her yard.  The deer view this fence as an advertisement for yard fresh grass and flowers.  Despairing of the hope that the deer might develop a conscience about purloining her buds, she added conduit poles and wire and strips of cloth atop all portions of her fence.  So far, so good.  Although they come into town, they are still wild animals and are consequently wary of humans.  Wary, but not afraid.  The Corp property is about ten blocks from Highway 36 which runs through the business district of our little town.  I don’t think the deer have crossed the highway yet, but they’ve begun to get right up to its edge.  We live within a block of the highway, and they visit our property each evening.  When we drive around making our inspections in the early evenings, we anticipate seeing herds of fifteen or more.

The deer are but a sideshow to the main attraction of the evening drives.   We’re essentially cat people and, of course, take note of cats as we drive through the ville.  We take note of the dogs also, but not with the interest the cats have for us.  Many years ago, we began to count the number of cats we encounter each evening.  I’m sure Linda was the one who first began keeping tab of the number of cats we see.  At any rate, cat counting has become automatic to us as we make our town’s inspection.

At the present time, we expect to count from twenty to forty cats on our fifteen minute drive.  Of course, where you’ll find cats changes from month to month: people move, people get tired of feeding and caring for cats, a male cat jumps a fence in pursuit of a likely female and causes a population surge.

Our evening drives give Linda and me a chance to refocus on subjects we probably wouldn’t think of discussing at home.  It gives us a chance to laugh at each other, mainly Linda at me, as I momentarily misidentify a little dog, or a chicken, or an odd shaped object in a yard as a cat.  Perhaps I need to caution you about a potential faux pas when counting cats.  Some times in our enthusiasm for spotting a cat in a yard and pointing with enthusiasm at our find, we fail to note the people in the yard which we aren’t looking for.  They look puzzled as though they are wondering why we are pointing and staring at them.  Try not to do this.

Although there is no extra credit for spotting a cat staring out of a window or one in a tree or one quickly disappearing under a bush, these usually bring praise on the lucky spotter.  The term most common is “good spot.”

The most we ever counted in one evening is 100, not 99 or 101, but 100.  As I recall, my brother and his wife of the moment was with us that evening.  They were at first derisive of the very idea of counting cats, but found themselves participating enthusiastically as the numbers mounted.  They should have counted themselves lucky to have been with us that evening.

There are not a lot of rules for counting cats, but we do have one rule I take credit for: we can’t count our own cats.  That’s like shooting fish in a barrel. 

So, laugh if you wish to, but I can guarantee you that if you have a fertile place to ride around to count cats, you’ll find it harmless and ultimately satisfying.


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