Dec 10, 2012
Once, during a vineyard tour, primed by discussion of feral felines in our countryside, a visitor shrieked, “Cougar!” as a butterscotch tabby dragged a squirming rabbit past. This deadly predator was our mighty Beddo (now recently deceased, at age 17). Surely one reason people prize cats as pets is because they retain habits that link us, their domesticated masters, to wildness.
The flip-side is that many cats dumped in the country when young have a skill-set for surviving. Scarcely a week passes without hearing of a new litter showing up at the end of a neighbor’s driveway. Such are their number in our fields that surely some reproduce in the wild.
A few years ago, before the leg he broke jumping from the dining table was amputated, our pet Jaspurr contracted an infection when bitten by a wild specimen. And, the other day, it was Jaspurr’s three-legged “Halloween-cat” posture on the porch that tipped me off to a tiger cat’s presence.
Rounding the corner of the house, I encountered the massive tiger cat. Up close, its wildness is obvious: non-neutered males have puffy jaws and well-defined muscle structure, due to their active hormones and high-exercise, low-fat diets. I committed to memory the twigs in its fur, an astonishing scar on the bridge of its nose, and its strangely creepy, bushy, black tail.
Given his stature and experience, he was wary but not terrified. He eyed me for several seconds before turning and walking, not running, away.
Then there’s Beddo’s successor: In September, we heard a wailing in the woodlot across the road. When my daughter and I investigated, a smoke-colored kitten, maybe six weeks old, bounded from the weeds.
Its cuteness overpowered my 12-year-old but I resisted at first. Within days, however, its feisty spirit and wispy ears took their toll.
I love cats, especially wormed and vaccinated.
Biz Buzz Best Buy Red: Conde Villar 2010 (Alentejano, Portugal) – This blend of obscure, native grapes Vinhao and Espadeiro has a quality I adore, to defy exact description and be utterly delicious, with dense pomegranate- and mulberry-scented fruit and a mint-leaf freshness on the finish. Like many Portuguese “country” wines, this red Vinho Verde’s vaguely exotic, rich taste pairs well with curries. $9
White: Joseph Mellot 2011 Sincerite (Loire Valley, France). Made from Sauvignon Blanc, it is exactly as the name suggests: pure, direct, simple but not dull. Its light fruitiness, no oak, and bone dry finish make a fine foil to flaky fishes or herb-dusted baked chicken. $9.