OPINION COLUMNS

The tale of Crash: A cat, who despite all odds, keeps on keepin’ on

By Kristen Tribe | Published Saturday, February 11, 2017
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How long do cats normally live?

I only ask because I feel like the Tribes may be headed for a record with our Crash.

He will turn 17 this year. This is especially remarkable because he’s not a coddled, spoiled indoor cat, but a feline of the great outdoors.

Kristen Tribe

Kristen Tribe

He regularly fights off stray cats, kills rodents and birds with precision and appears to be a dog-whisperer, somehow befriending our canines and eluding the neighbor dogs he hasn’t yet charmed.

Of all our animals – the cat, three dogs and two goats – he’s the only one that considers me his favorite. But hey, we have history.

Crash was so-named because he caused a car accident.

We were living in Fort Worth at the time and were going to Lake Bridgeport for the weekend when we came upon the scene. The wreck didn’t seem too serious, a car ran through a barbed wire fence, but as we passed, I recognized the driver of the wrecked car, so we turned around to see if she needed help.

She wasn’t hurt, but we stood with her on the side of the road while the tow truck driver prepared to load her car. It was drizzling rain, and she said she swerved to miss a kitten in the road. When she did so, her car slipped on the rain-slick road, and she lost control.

About that time, the tow truck driver handed me a tiny bundle, wrapped in a greasy shop rag.

It was the kitten, rain-soaked and lifeless.

“Ma’am, can you hold this?” He planned to take it home to his kids.

I stood holding the little guy while he loaded the car, and as he approached again, he announced he couldn’t take the kitten.

“I better not. I’m afraid my hound dog will kill it,” he said. And he turned and walked away. I looked at the kitten, then turned to my husband. I didn’t even have to ask.

“C’mon. Get in the car,” he said.

I found out many years later that the only reason he agreed was he was sure the cat would die.

As we resumed our drive to the lake, I worked to warm the kitten up and dry him off, but he still wasn’t moving much. We fed him milk with an eye dropper, but honestly, by bedtime it was still looking pretty bleak. We made him a bed in a small ice chest, went to sleep and hoped for the best.

At daybreak we awoke to loud mewing and repetitive thuds as he hit the side of the ice chest while trying to jump out.

He was alive! And hasn’t slowed down since.

As it turns out, the name Crash fit him well. As a tiny kitten, he was always up to crazy antics, crawling inside the dishwasher or getting caught in the mini-blinds. When he joined our household, we already had one cat who was around two years old, Cinder, and they got along great. She took care of him as if he was her kitten when he was little, and then they became the best of friends as he grew up.

We moved from our Fort Worth apartment to Decatur in 2001 and brought the cats with us. They continued living indoors until our first child was born, and at that time we decided they would become outdoor cats.

Crash’s mettle would be tested again.

About a week after my son was born, we heard Crash yowling. But we couldn’t find him.

We finally located him high in a tree in a wooded area behind our house. We weren’t too worried: he got up there, he can get down, right? (You would think.)

As it turns out, he couldn’t. I think he was afraid to climb down.

As I cared for our newborn, my husband and brother-in-law stood at the base of a tree in the backyard, trying to coax Crash down. They even cut down a branch, propping it against the limb on which the cat was sitting, hoping he would use it as a walkway, but he refused. I think my husband even threw a rock or two at him, hoping to scare him down. It didn’t work.

As they stood, brainstorming, the cat actually peed from his post high in the tree. My husband gave up.

“If he won’t even come down to go to the bathroom …” (I get it. I get it.)

Of course, I was worried, but there wasn’t much I could do. We were convinced he would meet an early death. He was too soft for the great outdoors.

But we were wrong. One day my husband spotted him wandering toward the house, wobbly and dazed, but overall OK. All we can figure is he got dehydrated and finally fell out of the tree.

After that Crash made friends with our dog, Goliath, a treaty which allowed the cat into the safety of our fenced backyard every night. He became more proficient at tree-climbing and actually thrived in his new environment. (The other cat didn’t last long, but that’s another story.)

Fast forward 10 years, another kid and three dogs later, we sold our house and were preparing to move across town. I warned the kids: Crash may not stay at the new house. I assured them we would move him with us, but older cats often go back to their previous homes.

I wasn’t sure he would adjust to the new surroundings. I was wrong.

Once again, his rugged nature prevailed. He immediately established a new agreement with the dogs, allowing him to come and go from the new yard, and he developed a new hunting routine at the barn and neighboring pastures.

Over the last year, we’ve catered to his old age a little more and tried to make his life easier. This winter we gave him a little house on the back porch, and we treat him to soft cat food in addition to his dry.

He “thanks” us by leaving dead gophers and rabbits at the back door. He’s proud and wants to let us know he’s still on the prowl, and although it’s gross, I also find it reassuring.

He’s not giving up yet.

I think he’s long past nine lives. Here’s to many, many more.

Kristen Tribe is editor of the Messenger.

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