The tough cat

May 19, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Keith Schell

I don’t think we ever chose a pet in our lives; they always seemed to choose us. And what I mean by that was this: we lived out in the country, and stray animals sometimes seemed to pass by our house on their way to God knows where.

Usually they kept on going; but occasionally one decided to stay. Especially if we started feeding it. That’s how we got the second pet we ever had, a tough-as-nails old Tomcat we named Spike.

Spike came to us at our old house around the summer of 1968 as most of our pets usually did out in the country: as a stray. He was a big, dirty, smelly Tomcat, with a big head and a fat face and my little brother and I fell in love with him from the first time he let us pat him.

We started feeding him so I guess he decided he was going to stick around if there was food to be had. And when he started sticking around we asked our parents if we could keep him. Our parents agreed to it, but Mom had one condition that absolutely had to be met: he was allowed in the house through the day when he could be watched, but he was not allowed to stay in the house overnight. He was not a clean cat and could not be trusted not to do his business in the house overnight.

In the summer of 1970, we moved from our old house in the country to our newly built house a couple of hundred yards further up the road on a new piece of property. We had to hope Spike would eventually figure out where we had gone and find us again. And he did. Every evening we called him and called him, and eventually he figured out where we had gone to and came back to us and we were a happy family again.  

The same rules my Mother imposed on Spike at the old house were in effect at our new house. And even though Spike was still not allowed in the house overnight, we were not without compassion for his situation: winter was coming and we didn’t want him to freeze outside in the evenings. There were little nooks and crannies outside at the old house where Spike could huddle and be warm, but not so at the new house.

So my Dad built him a little cathouse, complete with insulation, in which he could stay overnight and be protected from the elements. We sat it up off the ground on a couple of concrete blocks and had it face the back door of our house right beside a giant stump from a big tree that had been cut down when our new house was being built. And that’s where Spike stayed overnight in the winter.

He was quite the cat. He would fight anything. And he would eat anything! I remember we had spaghetti for dinner one night and had a little left over. We put some in a little bowl and took it outside to Spike. He came over, sniffed at what we had, and then dug right in! When he was done eating he looked up at us, licking his chops. He had a red beard on his chin from the spaghetti sauce. As little kids we thought that was the funniest thing!

Because he was always outside all night, he would wander around the property, hunting for prey and looking for a fight.

He was always bringing home something he killed and putting it on the front step; Mice, chipmunks, and so forth. One night at the old house late when we kids were sleeping, there was a lot of meowing at the door. In fact, Spike wouldn’t stop meowing until somebody came to the door and saw what he had.

My parents opened the door to discover: SPIKE KILLED A WEASEL! He was standing over the body of the weasel just as proud as when Rocky beat the Russian.

Now that’s a tough cat!

Weasels are mean, vicious little creatures that kill to survive and give no quarter. And for a cat to have killed one of them, well, that says a lot about the fighting spirit of the cat! Even my late father, who grew up on a farm, had to admit at the time that “it takes a darn good cat to kill a weasel”. And even though I didn’t witness it personally, I sure heard about what happened from my parents the next morning!

Even though Spike loved a good fight, it didn’t always go his way. One night he fought a skunk. He lost. You can guess what happened. He got sprayed. Mom wouldn’t let him in the house for two weeks afterwards until the smell of skunk spray went away. I still smile about that sometimes. 

Having vanquished all the prey in the general area of our house, I think the wanderlust must have set in for Spike. He would wander away from our house, looking for a good fight, sometimes for many weeks at a time.

More than once, when he finally came back home to us after one of his far-flung adventures, he would be all beaten up. He would then stay with us for a month or two, letting us look after him while he recovered, and then be off looking for a fight again.

Finally, one day after resting up at our house for a few months, he went off yet again looking for a fight.

And never came back.

We always wondered what happened to him; I just figured he finally took on something he couldn’t beat and went out fighting.

Spike was a tough old bugger. And we loved him.

That was his epitaph. There was no other way to say it.

All the best,


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