It was early morning a week before Thanksgiving. I glanced at the indoor, outdoor thermometer beside the back door, 67 degrees inside 4 degrees outside. I pushed open the door. The dogs saw it before I did. Something little and black streaking across the yard and into the barn. The dogs were close behind but the barn door was partly closed and the dogs were too big. It took me a few seconds to identify what I’d seen. No squirrel, or rabbit, or possum or raccoon. A kitten.
What was a kitten doing more than a mile from the nearest house on a bitter cold November morning? I searched the barn but the kitten was well hidden and wouldn’t come out. I found the live trap and set it up in the barn bated with cat kibble. An hour later the trap was sprung and a frightened kitten was inside.
I doubted if the kitten had walked across a mile or more of frozen corn stubble to get to my farm so the only explanation was that some good and kind animal lover had dumped her out of their car to die alone outside in the cold.
You can’t just bring a stray cat into a house of healthy animals so we went to the vet. Ear mites, fleas, skin problems, worms and malnutrition, but no upper respiratory. The blood tests showed no FIP, FeLV or FIV (the dreaded alphabet diseases as my friend Judy calls them). The kitten came home and lived on the porch, dosed with Revolution, until I was convinced she had no disease that could be transmitted to Toby or the dogs.
Because of the coming Thanksgiving holiday, I began to think of the kitten as a sort of pilgrim. The dictionary says a pilgrim is a wayfarer, or a wanderer. I know most of us think of pilgrims as part of a religious journey, and of course this does not qualify in that sense. But in her plain little black and white coat, alone in a strange and hostile world, I can't help but see the similarity. Today, she is healthy and gaining weight. A little like the Pilgrims we celebrate on Thanksgiving who came here seeking a better life, she made a hazardous journey and, at the end, found her new beginning.