PRAYERS AND VERSE FOR FERALS AND OTHER POEMS ABOUT STRAY AND ABANDONED CATS
A PRAYER FOR ALL THE STREET KITTIES
Copyright 1997, S L Smith
From kittenhood you lived your life upon unforgiving streets,
Tough existence for a cat, though you never asked for peace,
And now all I can offer you is the needle's final peace.
Think of a world where every litter's planned,
Where every cat is wanted in every town and land,
Why are so many homeless? It's hard to understand
Why every shelter in the land is full of surplus cats and strays,
Praying for adoption within their seven days,
Accusing us of negligence in each compelling feline gaze.
If I took you to a shelter you wouldn't stand a chance
When even cuddly kitties don't get a second glance;
And you just growl and hiss and spit while they all purr and prance.
I hope the goddess understands why I cannot offer more,
Than a filling bowl of cat food placed outside my door,
And a blanket in the garage so you can rest your weary paws.
You are too wild a spirit to live inside with me,
You need my protection, but you still need to be free,
To neuter and to nurture, that is my responsibility.
And now you're old the time has come to bring you final rest,
That you let me pick you up at last, I feel that I am blessed,
Though I know it's just because you're too weak to resist.
I pray that God has mercy on me and will understand,
That for his wild creature I've done the best I can,
And loved you from a distance, my wild street kitty friend.
For all the other kitties that live upon the street,
I pray someone will neuter them and give them food to eat,
And a helping hand right at the end to ease them into sleep.
THE OLD STRAY CAT
(G W Williams)
Please open up your home and let me in
For winter's fingers claw the autumn air
I have no strength to search for food and warmth
My limbs are heavy and my fur is thin.
You shrink away from me and I from you
You hate me as I starve and foul your soil
You blame me for my mange and for my fleas
And do not deign the reason to construe.
The worms and parasites still find me host
At least those unseen creatures need me still
When even research poachers sneer contempt
While poking me with boots to judge the cost.
The bags of trash are sealed with twisted wires
As safe from me as diamonds in a vault
Nourishment that, useless, rots and waits
For transport to the local council fires.
I search a neat dry lawn to wet my tongue
I ache with cold and yet my mouth is dry
A child laughs loudly as it aims a stone
It is the elders who instruct the young.
I hiss with anger and howl and try to run
I drag myself away in streams of pain
The moon is full and hurls its crystal light
That offers me no warmth as does the sun.
Tonight I know that death will surely win
Giving to me, the vanquished, final peace
But, please, I do not wish to die alone
So open up your home - and let me in.
Each night I have a visitor
Timid, small and thin,
Cautiously the cat-flap lifts,
Two golden eyes peer in.
My cat, I think, remembers,
When he too was a stray,
Struggling to stay alive,
Day after weary day.
For this wee waif he welcomes in,
To eat his fill, and more,
While other cats who venture near
Are swiftly shown the door.
Couldn't you be like my cat
And help a stray in need?
Just let a lonely wanderer in,
You'll be a friend indeed.
A CHRISTMAS DREAM
A plate of fish, a cosy lap
Perhaps a lick of cream
To sit and purr before the fire
Well even cats’ can dream!
I’ve never had a proper home
No door has opened wide,
Or friendly voice called out to me
‘Come on puss, come inside’.
But now maybe I‘ve found a friend
Though I’m not really sure,
I dare not eat the food she brings
Until she ‘s closed the door.
But there ‘s a nice big wooden box
Put just inside the shed
With cosy blanket tucked well in
To make a lovely bed
Tomorrow I shall take a chance
(She seems so nice and kind)
To get myself inside that door
And leave the dark behind
That friendly fire I’ll sit beside
My lonely days all past,
A real belonging cat I’ll be
And have a home at last.
But there are other lonely ones
Who ask themselves ‘Why me’,
If only they would have my luck
A real Christmas it would be.
A STRAY CAT'S PRAYER
Dear Lord, it is so wet and drear,
The icy wind is beating round
The archway where a carter here
Has dropped some straw upon the ground.
I curl in tight against the cold
And wash the leg that got a kick,
I used to be so spruce of old,
But now I have no strength to lick.
In some dim way I think I knew,
A gentle hand that stroked my head,
And spoke kind loving words and true
And made a warm and cozy bed
And laid down plates of milk and meat
Before a warm and glowing fire.
Today I only had to eat
A fish-head lying in the mire.
I am a little frightened, Lord,
The world is very cruel and wild,
You love the little children, Lord,
I also am your loving child.
Father of all the tiny things
(The fallen sparrow in their plight
Are sheltered by your heavenly wings
Care for a little cat tonight.
KITTEN IN ROME
A tortoiseshell: orange, fearful,
Two months, at most, of fragile life behind her,
Motionless sits amid traffic,
An aeon past (some few brief weeks away)
Was goodness, maternal bracing tongue, and liquid
Of love from gladly-yielding glands released
In vibrant rhythm by instinctive paws
In silken siblings' happy rivalry.
The separation; brash, irrevocable,
Was she by a mother's sign dismissed,
The vital stream by dint of time exhausted?
Or was she seized capriciously - a pet?
Somehow, she's sitting there amid the traffic
For from the Colosseum's chancy catering,
(A place her weakened limbs will never reach)
With thirst unslaked in a cityful of fountains,
(How many days since that last soothing sip?)
With hunger ignored at the hub of Christianity.
What can her short-lived future hold? I know
The end when come it does will bring deliverance,
But what must she, before this, undergo?
The agonising touch of lethal wheels?
The torturing, unhurried hands of Youth?
Her hours already are a living death.
Still frightened, she will soon no doubt be mindless,
And possibly not conscious to the last,
May God have mercy on you, Roman kitten,
Appealing and unclaimed - just one of most.
THE DEATH OF A STRAY CAT
(S L Smith)
I found your body sodden in the cold rain,
Curled up on leaves beneath a hedge,
No signs of illness, injury or blood,
You must have been asleep when claimed by death.
Did anybody own you, little cat?
Does anybody miss you, call your name?
Had you somehow strayed from those who loved you
And does somebody search for you in vain?
So thin and fragile, cat, beneath your soaked fur,
Skin and bone, so old and so alone,
You'd curled upon some leaves against the cold wind,
I wonder, old cat, did you even have a home?
Maybe you lived feral all your life, cat,
Maybe you lived wild, away from man,
Or maybe lost and lonely you sought comfort,
Seeking somewhere safe before death came.
Perhaps you found yourself unloved, unwanted,
Perhaps someone in sorrow seeks you still,
I cannot leave you lying there like garbage,
A cat deserves some dignity as well.
Maybe no-one loved you in your lifetime,
But now you'll find some dignity in death,
I can't change your lonely way of passing,
But I will lay you gently in the earth.
Is there anybody mourns your passing?
Anybody waits for you at home?
Were you just a lonely feline wanderer,
Or did you cry in vain outside some door?
Maybe no-one cared enough to love you,
But you'll be treated gently now in death,
Sleep tight, small cat and I will mourn you
And grieve for all the unloved felines who are left.
THE STABLE CAT
When Christ was born in Bethlehem
So many years ago,
Ox and ass and gentle lambs
Watched there by lantern's glow.
The stable cat would surely be
Crouched curious and shy
Adding her contented purr
To that strange lullaby.
Kits close huddled by her side
Half-hidden in the hay
The stable warmed by mother love
On that first Christmas Day.
Would that love could overflow
So that, on Christmas morn,
All lonely cats could have a home
And none be left forlorn.
But till that happy day, dear friends,
Our plea we hope you'll heed,
Please send a gift that we may give
A hand, to cats in need.
AN OLD CAT'S STORY
Always passed over, eighteen years old,
I was loved by my owner, then dumped in the cold
When he died and left me, scared and alone,
And his relatives didn't want me in their home.
Scavenging dustbins is not very nice,
When you've no teeth to speak of and when all the mice,
Run just that bit faster than an eighteen year old cat,
Who once chased dream mice on a fireside mat.
When cold and bone-weary and soaked to the skin,
And I couldn't find neighbours who'd take me in,
A kind person took pity and I went to the vets:
"She's eighteen and she's hungry - but she's not finished yet."
Thence to the shelter, but I could not compete,
With bumbling kittens tripping over their feet,
Who wants a cat that might not last a year?
Doesn't any one want the oldest one here?
Now I'm loved and I'm cared for and secure once more,
With a warm bed to snooze in and my own little door,
But sometimes I think, why put me through hell,
When they could have telephoned the CPL?
[CPL: Cats Protection League]
Sleek and silent,
In dead of night,
They prowl the rain-soaked alleys,
To where the toppled trash bins lie
Sidelong in the gullies.
The pungent, putrid waste spills out
O'er wet and stony ground,
As one by one six half-starved cats
Begin to gather round.
Each with wildness in its eyes
And hunger-hollowed belly,
They spring upon the pauper scraps
Scattered in the alley.
Investigating empty cans,
With ragged, jagged lids,
Impatient paws send them clattering
Into the gutter grids.
Feasting on the glass-eyed heads
Of skeletal bodied fish,
They fight and scratch for every morsel
Of their meagre supper dish.
Excluding a one eyed tabby,
Who goes by the name of Jack,
Not one would dare
To touch the fare
Of the leader of this pack.
And as the pale and milky moon
Slips behind a cloud,
These half-fed, half-bred felines wander
'Neath the midnight's shroud.
THOUGHTS FROM A STRAY
Will she be waiting when I call?
Sometimes I come in vain,
And sit for hours with folded paws
In sunshine and in rain.
It's not that I have other things
To do but wait and yet
I sometimes feel unhappy
In case she should forget.
For many years I've called each day
With hunger, thirst and hope,
She is the only friend I have
Who gives me strength to cope.
Although I've always lived alone,
And sleep beneath the sky,
I need to know that someone cares
If I should live or die.
THE ABANDONED CAT
It was raining that day,
They went away,
Yes they went away and left me.
I scratched the pane,
But nobody came,
The house, it was all so empty.
That night the frost,
So lonely, so lost,
No friendly voice to call me.
What had I done,
They should leave me alone?
Oh, what a fate to befall me.
Please give me a home,
I wouldn't roam or leave you alone,
You need never to say,
Remember that day,
That rainy day,
He went away and left me.
*Dedicated by the author to a friendly cat, abandoned by his owner, too ugly to be wanted, injured while a stray, destroyed because no-one wanted him
Only one eye, ears tattered and torn,
A thin little body, all forlorn,
Nobody wants me, that's plain to see,
Whatever is going to happen to me?
A lady is kind, she feed me bits,
And on the back step she lets me sit,
But oh for a home and someone to love,
To that someone, my true love I'd prove.
I was injured and they took me away,
I clung to the lady who fed me the scraps,
Does nobody want me, this lovely day?
Please somebody love me, perhaps ... perhaps?
But nobody does and away I must go,
To sleep a long sleep so they say,
It does not good for me to say "No",
Never mind, it's all over, this way.
THE KITTEN THAT NOBODY LOVED
He sat beside the factory door,
And I thought that I would cry;
It seemed the world and maybe more,
Had looked and passed him by.
So small and weak, and oh so thin,
Just bones in tabby fur;
But when I stroked him, he'd begin
To roll and softly purr.
His eyes were green as leaves in Spring,
His heart so big and bold,
Oh how I loved that little thing
That shivered in the cold.
I turned and slowly walked away
As the rain began to fall,
But through the bleak November grey
I heard his plaintive call.
I gathered up his tiny form
And clutched him to my heart,
I held him there so soft and warm
And vowed we'd never part.
His little life soon ebbed away,
And on my lap he died,
A tiny ball of black and grey;
My tears I could not hide.
Now by the cherry tree he lies,
Safe from the rain and storm,
Oh pray the hand that closed his eyes
Will keep him safe and warm.
(H Leslie Griffiths)
Sleep on in peace, my gentle cat,
Beside the brook, 'neath laurel green,
The leafy hollows where you sat
Are gone, as though they'd never been.
Could you have bided here with me,
Or I have made that journey, too!
Mean Summer gushed fertility
Yet had not Life to spare for you.
But is cheer bestowed, fond memory bright
And love undimmed shall count for ought,
You dwell now on celestial height,
Your purring song fills Heaven's court,
Beside you in Eternity,
I hope you'll keep a place for me.
ON THE DEATH OF A SMALL TOMCAT
The wind mourns in the chimney, the rain weeps on the window,
And I lie warm and half-asleep,
Within these stout and sheltering walls enfolded.
In their accustomed sleeping places
The house-cats curl, tonight no roaming -
Soft stir of silken flank the only movement,
And dreaming twitch of paw and whisker;
Each in his ardent phantasm-world enfolded.
Small outside cat who died defending your maleness,
No more for you the wind's keen blade,
The icy searching fingers of the rain,
The hunger, and the longing unfulfilled;
You also sleep, forever safe enfolded.
He is battered and ugly, has fought in many battles,
And apparently lost them all - nobody wants him,
Nobody cares if a car reduces him
To a wet grey pulp to be cleared away and forgotten.
He is eternally wary, eternally hungry,
But food must be left in some anonymous corner,
Caresses repel him. Anything on two legs
Is hated and feared. Quite naturally of course,
He associates them with curses and kicks and stones.
I could weep for him. I cannot communicate -
The lines have vanished. To a cat, as to any creature,
A kindness may come too late - one kick too late.
Little black cat looking for shelter,
Running alone in the cold city street,
Look where you go for the street's full of danger,
And you are so small in the wide city street.
Danger it comes in a big four-wheeled monster,
Can you get through before it attacks?
Ah, the eyes of the driver have seen you approaching,
And deep in his heart there's a love for all cats.
He cuts down his speed so that you can find refuge,
In the wide open door of the all-night garage,
May the Guardian of Cats bless him who has halted,
And given fresh life to the little black cat.
It's evening and it's time to put my head down on my paws,
It's not the sort of night when I would venture out of doors,
From out the window I can see the garden turning white,
May Heaven help the feral cats out there on such a night!
May someone see them running across the frozen grass,
And put a little food that they might find it when they pass.
It only takes a minute and some pence to buy a tin,
And a little thought to put a box a feral can get in.
When people open doors at night, and see them scurry round,
Searching for any bits of food upon the frozen ground,
They say 'There's nothing wrong with them, they run around all right,'
But it takes a while to starve - it doesn't happen overnight.
Their silent forms slip past the door and nothing's left to see,
So who knows what they're suffering or how near death may be?
Then people say they're happy living rough. That isn't true,
They have no choice - I ought to know, for I was feral too.
For me, my luck was in; some caring folk came with a trap,
And a patient lady trained me into sitting on her lap.
At first I thought my pounding heart would burst out of my fur,
But now I love to sit there and never want to stir.
So things worked out all right for me, I'm someone's lucky pet,
But memories of the past are there and stir within me yet.
I pray before I fall asleep, beside the fire bright,
'May heaven help the feral cats out there on such a night.'
THE TRAMP CAT
(R H Markwick)
Straying free and fighting wars,
One eye and battered paws,
Scruffy fur - he's wild and fierce -
A growling tramp, with tattered ears.
Plodding on from day to day,
Sleeping rough or in the hay,
Stealing scraps from rubbish bins
(He's never tasted meat from tins).
I wonder if he had a home?
But, if he did, he chose to roam.
THE WILD ONE
If there be gods above whose care they are,
The primitive, the fallen and the maimed,
Grant him a gentle death, his pride intact,
His independence haltingly maintained.
Aggressive, yes, and beautiful he was,
With feline arrogance, he ranged alone,
Scorning alien ways, he yielded not,
Nor offered up his ego for a home.
Except for sustenance when nature failed,
Disdaining all our gifts - we offered much -
Repulsing, cruelly too, if we should seek
To breach his citadel with friendly touch.
Now that he falters, do not humble him,
Or force him, nearing death, to ask for aid,
Grant him a quiet passage, curling round
In solitude, unconquered, unafraid.
THE ROOFTOPS CAT
She steals across the rooftops as the sun is going down,
A shadow in the shadows with her coat of greyish brown,
She stops beside the fire escape and sniffs the evening air,
Then waits, a tiny statue on the cold and draughty stair.
For years she's come at tea-time through the snow and sun and rain,
In youth and infirmity, in playfulness and pain.
At one time there were kittens, but that was long ago,
And now the slate clad rooftops belong to her alone,
But every day about this time, a window opens wide,
And just for half an hour or so, she dares to go inside,
She eats and sometimes rests awhile, then with her tail held high,
She climbs back to that lonely world beneath the darkening sky.
My life is hard, my cupboard bare,
I wander here, I wander there,
And oft I forage in a bin,
But no kind soul will ask me in.
To feel 'belonged' by only thought,
But all my wishes come to naught.
The old cat stiffly turns and then resumes his patient wait;
His eyes fixed firmly on the road outside the garden gate,
So many days he's waited here for his beloved mum,
Mornings dawn and evenings fade, but still she doesn't come.
In the house, her jumper's spread upon her favourite chair;
But, what's the use of comfort if your loved one isn't there?
A kindly neighbour fills his dish and rubs his tabby head,
'Tomorrow will be Christmas Eve - you'll have her home,' she said.
His head lifts as the gatelatch clicks and, joy of joys, it's HER,
Somewhere, deep within his chest, starts up a mighty purr,
Forgetting age, with tail aloft, he runs to meet his friend,
For him, it's Happy Christmas and fussing without end.
But, there are many homeless cats with no such loving care,
And for those lonely, friendless ones, I pray a Christmas prayer,
That each may have its share of love and shelter from the storm,
Sufficient food, a place to sleep in: somewhere safe and warm.
THOUGHTS OF A FERAL
* Dedicated by the author to all the kind and caring people who give the lonely ferals a little care, a little love, and a little hope.
I sit beneath the bushes as she fills my dish each day,
I only venture out to eat when she has gone away,
I know it will upset her when I turn away and hide,
As every day she tries her best to get me by her side.
I wish that I could let her know that I don't want to run,
And hope that she will understand it's nothing that SHE's done.
I'd like to have her stroke me and pat my weary head,
But fear will overcome and I'll run and hide instead.
For all the kindly people who feed the strays each day,
I pray the Lord will care for them as they have cared for me.
Close to the ground with jogging steps they run
Until they reach the safety of the hedge;
There, to observe how closely I will come
To where, feet poised, they wait with nerves on edge.
And yet, by now, they surely ought to know,
That I will only put the food, and go.
Each day the same enactment has to be:
They show themselves, then run with bobbing gait,
They trust my coming but they don't trust me,
Preferring, till I go, to lie and wait.
They choose discomfort, though their needs are clear,
Having no greater feeling than their fear.
Oh! If I'd had some means to bring them in
When first I saw them, when they first were small,
Why then, I could have helped them to begin
To lose their fear of man, once and for all.
I dream of seeing them in firelight glow,
Warm and content, not running through the snow.
When in the barn, on nights of storm
As icy draughts pierce every nook
The farm cats sleep the hours away
Snug and warm in their nests of hay.
When moonlight paints a tranquil scene
Abroad they prowl on hunting bent
In search of rabbit, bird or rat -
A welcome meal for a hungry cat.
In meadow warmed by summer's sun
They roam at ease by hedge and stream
To seek a fledgling or a vole
Or track a field mouse to his hole.
The vixen screams from copse afar
Her cries ring shrill on the wintry air
The farm cats raise their listening heads
They sink once more to their strawy beds.
Poor Tom sits in his lonely pen sadly wondering why
Folk say 'Hello' and rub his ears, but always walk on by.
Nobody ever takes him home; small kittens come and go,
While he is always left behind; just why, he'll never know.
Sometime he must have been a pet before he lost his home,
Was he one more abandoned cat left wandering and alone?
Poor Tom, it's sad for older cats when life goes badly wrong,
And facing an uncertain world they're left to struggle on.
ADVICE TO A FERAL FRIEND BY FELIX DOMESTICUS
You're thin and hungry yet again,
Your coat is rough and wet with rain,
And during Winter's frost and snow
You will have nowhere warm to go.
You really are a stupid cat,
To tolerate a life like that,
Take my advice, my friend and get
A really well-trained human pet.
I know they're thin upon the ground,
But, nonetheless they can be found.
And you would have a proper home,
With comforts you have never known.
Well-trained pets are quiet and kind,
Obey requests and never mind
How often you go in and out.
They wait on you and never shout.
Fresh milk and water, meat and fish,
Would be provided as you wish;
You would not need to hunt for food;
Only for fun, when in the mood.
Such luxury would turn your head,
Chairs by the fire; a soft, warm bed,
And God made humans with a lap,
Especially to nurse a cat.
So search the neighbourhood with care,
It may take time, but don't despair,
You'll find it well worthwhile to get,
A first-class, loving, human pet.
A FERAL FRIEND REPLIES TO FELIX DOMESTICUS
Dear Friend Domesticus, your message kind,
Is something ferals all might bear in mind.
In fact, the other night, before we slept,
Hungry, just as you say, and cold and wet,
We, in our colony, discussed this fact,
And wondered if we ought to try and act,
After the manner of your kindly note,
But the proposal lost the feral vote!
The main objection was, please understand,
That all of us are frightened stiff of man!
And these kind human pets which you discuss,
See more like demons out of hell, to us,
And by the way, your talk of food and beds,
Could possibly turn some young kittens' heads
So, have a care, it's hard enough you know,
To train the young the way they ought to go!
Felix Domesticus, it may be true
That human pets behave so well to you,
But all our deep and anti-human fears
Are far too strong and bred in us for years.
We know our case seems foolish to your mind,
Not based on rational thought of any kind,
The 'rational thought' on which our lives are pinned,
Is 'if you see a man, run like the wind!'
So, feline cousins, we appreciate,
Your most considerate interest in our fate,
And, that it was a very good suggestion,
Has never, for a moment been in question.
You're warm and fed and snug, day after day,
While we .... what can we add to what you say?
The life you advocate may be the best,
But take a human pet? My friend, you jest!
A LAMENT FOR OLD PUSS
(Old Puss was killed by a car June 1987.)
From my flat window oft I look,
Sometimes see a flying duck,
Bright butterflies and swallows show,
Blossom trees in May aglow.
One day, to add to my delight,
This Old Puss came into sight;
Limping he came and limping went,
To explore was his intent.
So many times he’d come and go,
Always limping to and fro.
A watchful blackbird calls alarm!
How could puss do any harm?
Gone were his days of hunting glee;
He could only limp, you see,
To watch him pass would make me glad,
Quite a harmless, dear old lad.
Sometimes he’d stop and look around,
Then limp on o’er nursery ground;
Another time he’d have a scratch,
Always on the same old patch.
To him not once I ever spoke,
Not so much a gentle stroke.
How much I wish I could have shown
How very fond of him I’d grown.
One evening found me out of bread;
To the corner shop I sped.
What is that shape up there, ahead?
Suddenly, I’m filled with dread!
I fear the worst as I draw near,
In my eye there is a tear;
Old Puss lies still; I know he’s dead;
From that place slow was my tread.
It broke my heart to see him there,
Glazed of eye and blooded fur;
‘twas from a car he’d tried to run;
His dash for life had not been won.
A favourite sight to me he’d been;
Curse the man and his machine!
What had he done to deserve that,
Poor old, limping pussy cat?
From my flat window still I gaze,
See the birds, the trees, the haze,
Geese on the wing, dogs on the run,
Sunsets when the day is done.
It’s very nice to see all this,
but one chum I’ll always miss
And, on occasion, breathe a sigh,
For Old Puss who won’t pass by.
THE STRAY CAT
If you could once but stroke my matted hair
The warmth and smoothness of your friendly hand
Could ease my way, and I might understand
Some of life's riddle, breathe a kindlier air.
I had no envy of my richer kind
Their fireside warmth was something not for me
For me, it was enough that I was free
To take what food and comfort I could find.
Where is that freedom now? And why no light
In this small basket with so little room
To turn about? Did you know cats could weep?
My day is done, I recognise this night
This sudden dark, for what it is, my doom
O God of cats, be with me in my sleep.