An Old Soul Named Gray Kitty


Cognitive Dissonance


We have a feral cat. Or, more accurately, a feral cat has us. We’ve named him Gray Kitty for the most obvious of reasons. The thing is……we already have a house cat, a huge twenty pound Maine Coon cat we call Tramp, the other half of Lady and the Tramp. When Mrs. Cog walked into my life nearly five years ago, in tow was the child unit, now soon off to college, and Tramp, a permanent resident.

Gray Kitty, on the other hand, is a relatively recent addition to our family, having graced our lives two years ago this past April. He doesn’t live here; he just visits to partake in the endless buffet and some lively before dinner conversation. Rarely does he stick around for long after gorging on the tasty repast. I suspect from his point of view that would be oafish and crude.

We crossed paths by accident, though I am wondering if it was ‘on accident’ for I have learned much about life interacting with Gray Kitty. Maybe the Gods were being kind to me when they dropped Gray Kitty into my life. If so, I’m grateful for the gift.

It began with me dumping some of Tramp’s stale moist cat food off the edge of our back deck, which back then was flush up against very high grass with the woods close by. Several hours later I realized my stupidity (we live amongst Mother Nature and all her critters, including bears, bob cats and coyotes) and peered off the deck to check for……whatever. I’m still not sure what I was looking for.

To my surprise the food was completely gone. Upon closer inspection, even the tiniest morsel was removed without the slightest disturbance to the grass and soil below. To me this indicated a small animal had passed by and found the gift from the sky, manna from heaven one might say.

Over the next few mornings I experimented, dumping Tramp’s overnight remainder off the deck in the same spot and then returning several times over the next few minutes to see if I could catch the interloper in action. On the third day I struck pay dirt when I caught a glimpse of a small gray figure slinking away as he walked the gravel path that runs under the deck and past the outbuildings.

For some stupid reason I hollered after him. Not knowing I was there, he startled and glanced back, then quickly scampered away. Stupid is as stupid does I once heard. As I walked back into our cabin I hoped I had not scared him away for good. Thankfully next morning’s offering was quickly gobbled up. And this time, when I walked out and looked over the edge, he was still eating and didn’t run when he noticed me overhead.

Now I had a mission. I was going to lure the cat, who Mrs. Cog officially named Gray Kitty, up onto the back deck and eventually into the house. Stupidity runs deep in my side of the family, therefore I gave no thought to how or why I was planning to corral essentially a wild animal for what could only be described as my pleasure.

Gray was clearly feral and not easily seduced. The only advantage I held was the power to produce food at a moment’s notice and a creature that was obviously desperately hungry. At that point he was still a kitten (we still weren’t sure if ‘it’ was a he or a she and would not know for more than a year) most definitely less than a year old, maybe even less than six months. And he was extremely skittish, wanting nothing to do with being held or even pet. His claws were always ready to let us know his displeasure.

Over that summer I slowly trained him (thought I suspect he was training me) using food as bait to lure him up on the deck, later the front porch, and eat at my feet while I sat talking to him. I treated him as an equal and never as an invalid or stupid. It was an extremely slow slog and the process reminded me of when Tramp and entourage came to live with me.

At that time Tramp was an indoor cat. I convinced Mrs. Cog to allow me to convert him into a free soul so he could explore his universe. Over a period of several months, on a daily basis I babysat Tramp at the back sliding door as he ventured further and further afield. Only it wasn’t Tramp I was training, but rather Mrs. Cog and our teenager, both of whom were convinced Tramp would be run over by a car or eaten by ravenous and uncivilized neighbors. At that time we were still living in our townhouse, with ‘interesting’ characters to the left and the right…..not to mention further down on the end.

Anyway, we suspect Gray was abandoned when he was very young or was born one of a litter of another feral cat. Regardless, Gray didn’t act exactly like a cat, at least not as we think cats who are domesticated act. He never mewed or cried. In fact there were no vocalizations at all, not even purring. It was almost as if he didn’t know he was a cat, nor how cats were supposed to act.

Mrs. Cog says when adopting a kitten you must get two, otherwise the lone individual won’t know it’s a cat. Somehow this wisdom had escaped me my entire life, but upon reflection it made complete sense when considered in the light of the nurture and nature discussion.

And this is where Tramp comes into the picture. Tramp grew up with Lady, as well as several other feline friends, sharing a food bowl and human attention with the others. While he outweighed Lady two to one, Lady was a terror and nearly always got the best of Tramp. In truth, Tramp is a patient and loving soul and not aggressive in the least.

There is a saying I find rings true. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. It actually works the other way as well. When the teacher is ready, the student appears. Tramp was basically indifferent to Gray, neither hostile nor attentive. Since Gray was not yet entering the cabin, Tramp’s ‘safe space’ was not threatened.

Gray, on the other hand, was immediately taken by Tramp and followed him whenever Tramp was out and about surveying all his domain. What followed over the next two years was an affirmation of Mrs. Cog supposition about cats needing others to ‘know’ who they are. Soon enough Gray Kitty started to meow and cry as well as carry the body language of a domesticated cat. But even more amazing was his other vocalizations.

Gray and Tramp

Tramp ‘talks’ to us. There is no other way to describe the tonal inflections in his ‘voice’. And Gray quickly picked up on this and began to mimic, then utilize, this to his advantage when interacting with we mere mortals. Two years later, Gray engages in spirited and comprehensive conversations with us, and to a lesser extent with Tramp.

He comes and goes as he pleases using the same cat door I installed for Tramp, but he’s on his own schedule and not ours. He may decide to hang around the outside of the house all day, coming in a few times to eat. Or he may disappear for days, even weeks at a time, then show up looking rough and disheveled.

Surprisingly often he arrives newly injured, limping and bleeding from fresh wounds derived from who-knows-what encounter. When we first met him he limped severely on his right front paw, an impediment which remains to this day. Recently he came back with the right rear leg injured which produced its own complementary limp.

We have no idea where he goes and what he does while gone. He knows the cat door is always open, revealing a place to eat and sleep if he so wishes. During the worst of last winter there were times when he stayed overnight and slept on the rug in front of the fire place. But this was a rare occurrence and never happens when the outside temps are above freezing.

Which brings us to the point of this article.

We fully understand Gray is ‘food friendly’, meaning it’s the food that is his primary purpose for visiting. He is friendly up to a certain point and no further, though every now and then he surprises us by taking another step closer physically and emotionally. He is by nature and nurture feral, a wild beast so to speak, born and raised in the great outdoors where you survive by your instincts, wits, determination and quite a bit of luck.

We have always treated Gray with open arms and a soft voice. Mrs. Cog and I speak to him like he has always been a member of the family and an equal to us all. Though truth be told, in private she reassures Tramp he’s a magnificent beast and remains king of the mountain and first in her heart.

Gray clearly wishes to connect to us. After he has come in and finished off whatever food remains in Tramp’s dish, Gray Kitty generally remains hungry and wants more to eat. This is usually when he is most communicative. It is his custom to plop on the floor in the kitchen outside the entrance to our office where we usually are and patiently wait for us to feed him.

He’ll meow to let us know he’s there (of course, we are already aware of his presence) and then waits for a response. When we move closer and talk to him, he begins these remarkable vocalizations which cannot be mistaken for anything other than his attempt to communicate, to ‘talk’ to us.

And does he ever, sometimes to an amazing degree. His ‘speech’ is complex, varied and not repetitive. He responds directly and immediately to our spoken words and inflections with his own. He varies his ‘voice’ up and down while opening and closing his mouth several times in one breath. His voice will grow louder and softer in the same ‘sentence’ as if he is emphasizing a point he’s making with emotion. I’ve heard other cats and dogs attempt similar vocalizations, but never to this degree or extant.

For five, ten, even fifteen minutes or longer there is an ongoing and interactive discussion between different species. And while there is no explicit understanding, there is an implicit knowing and acknowledgement between ‘us’. To a certain extent we understand each other without really knowing how or why, nor does it really matter. At the very least there is an effort to try by all parties involved.

Gray ‘hears’ our words and the underlying and varying vocal tones we use, as well as sees our body language. He responds in kind and very often takes the lead. Here is a feral cat splayed across the floor, often rolling on his back to expose his underbelly as he converses with clear emotion and intent. We are constantly surprised and amazed by the effort Gray Kitty invests into each interaction. There is far more going on here than just a hungry kitty asking to be fed.

Gray in Grass

I often wonder if what might be seen by some (and initially by me) as a deficit, being wild and undomesticated while always stressed and hurt, is actually a decided advantage and possibly an asset. Having been spared the imprinting and programming that occurs when immersed from birth with human contact, thereby experiencing life raw and unvarnished, Gray Kitty has fully embraced his true ‘being’ because that’s all he ‘knows’, all he knew to do. Now he is embracing humans with a similar drive, initiative and instinct.

Occasionally I toy with the idea not to feed him, at least not immediately, in order to ‘encourage’ him to stay and interact. But that would be breaking the unspoken bargain we have struck, the overriding and governing agreement that we both give and we both take. Value given for value received, with each of us, human and feline, determining how much we offer and what exactly we have received. And more importantly, what we ‘do’ with ‘it’ after it has been received.

I regularly experience a communication of sorts with the animals, insects, trees and even the land up here on the mountain. It is a constant and growing interaction that appears to be everywhere if only I am open and receptive to it. For me at least, this mountain is a magical place which defies description using anything other than emotional and spiritual words or phrases. But until now it has been an intuitive and unspoken communication which is sensed and expressed on a level most never utilize. Up to this point it has not been oral in nature.

In retrospect I’ve always been sensitive to “A Language Older than Words”, a wonderfully perceptive and introspective journey into inter species communication by Derrick Jensen. However I was not always receptive and, like my mother, pushed it away and denied it because it did not fit within social conventions and I lacked the courage to push against those boundaries. Not only did I listen to the lies of the programmed consensus, I chose to believe them. Now I choose not.

I have found it requires so much more than just looking away from the lies in order to discover the truth. Looking away is a rejection, a refutation of a proffered ‘truth’ or narrative which is actually alien to my true inner knowing. I embraced this skewed and distorted teaching solely because I was instructed to do so during a time in my youth when I was most receptive to conditioning and programming. We carry this conditioning into adulthood where it flourishes and grows.

But pushing away or rejecting something does not automatically make us receptive to something else. In fact, I would argue the courageous effort involved in rejecting a long held belief or conditioned ‘truth’ may actually dull or deaden our receptivity and capacity for true learning and a deeper understanding of the world around us.

For deep learning to occur, one must be ready to empty the heart and mind of preconceived notions and become willing to consider what was previously believed impossible to actually be possible, even probable or likely. But doing so exposes within us vulnerabilities and sensitivities we have been taught is not desirable…or worse, conditioned to believe they are a serious impediment to consensus learning and growth.

The irony is that the poison we ingest from the moment we are born is actually promoted as healthy and nutritious by not only those who wish to control us, but by our primary caregivers who genuinely believe as they were told, thus passing on the poison they too have swallowed their entire lives. The sick and blind therefore are leading the sick and blind.

Initially I wondered why Gray Kitty would consciously and deliberately walk away from food and shelter, from comfort and security. And from time to time I still do. He has pushed through that cat door and into our home literally bleeding from open wounds, fur a tangled mess, battered and bruised, limping across the floor, all skin and bones and pain and suffering. And still he wishes to communicate, to share, to give and receive as per our agreement.

Or at least I wish to believe there’s an agreement, for it’s the only thing that seems to make any sense. Of course I’m trying to understand what is not understandable when viewed from the perspective of my lifelong conditioning. How does one live in both worlds, one confined by rules and regulations, defined by science and physics, supported by hope and belief and blind obedience, the other natural, instinctual, holistic and utterly consensual at its most basic level.

The problem is I cannot be what I am not, only what I wish to be at that moment at that time. I am a human, Gray Kitty is a cat. We are different species, but made of the same matter in a similar manner, living breathing spiritually touched beings. We can reach across the void and touch, share and communicate……if we have the courage to let go and allow it in.

Gray Kitty, supposedly the disadvantaged lower intelligence entity between the two of us, consistently pushes across the barrier willingly and without reservation. He doesn’t hold back, he doesn’t hesitate, he’s patient and loving and attentive. This isn’t commitment; this is conviction without question, an instinctual response that springs from his inner being and is followed wherever it takes him. If Gray were human I would call this courage. I only wish I was half as courageous as he is.

I am being offered a rare view, a guided tour really, into a being who knows things about the world and his ‘self’ I can only glimpse within my ‘self’ if I squint real hard. He has chosen, and continues to choose, us to interact with and quite frankly I am honored and entirely captivated. Indeed, the entire household is enthralled when Gray shows up.

Wouldn’t you if an old soul chose you to gaze into the abyss and span the gap?



Cognitive Dissonance

Sleeping with Tramp

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8 thoughts on “An Old Soul Named Gray Kitty”

  1. Great article Cog. We have a Maine Coon cat that is a real chatterbox too. Just a guess, but I would say he has a vocabulary of about 500 words in English, plus all the other forms of communication that we simply do not have words for. A communication beyond words, impossible to describe to anyone who hasn’t experienced it themselves.
    Watch out though. First it’s cats, next thing you know it’s deer, raccoons, birds, etc. Then you go falling down yet another rabbit hole with no end in sight.

    1. Kestrel,

      Once you open yourself up to what the consensus belief system says is impossible, all kinds of rabbits come hoping out of that bunny hole. ;-)

      Cognitive Dissonance

  2. Gotta say,when I first started the article I was thinking Cog is a city boy being a little touchy feely about the country life. Then it dawned on me that maybe as a country boy I have taken some things for granted. It’s interesting seeing you connect with the nature around you. Don’t get me wrong,I feel a deep connection and communicate regularly with wild and domestic but it’s still interesting observing your journey and I guess that may be the point all along. BTW,this is my first comment here,I hope for many more. I thank you and Mrs.Cog for sharing.

    1. Welcome Aces Full,

      Actually I’m a small town (New England) boy who spent most of my life living small town New England life. Even when I spent 15 years in Northern VA I was living primarily in a smaller town about 45 miles south of DC.

      As a young boy I had a connection with nature. When I became immersed in alcohol for 18 years I lost touch. The last 26 years of sobriety has involved, among other things, a process of reconnecting. Moving to the mountain 3+ years ago has accelerated that rebirth.

      Please continue to comment. We enjoy, and grow from, different points of view.

      Cognitive Dissonance

  3. Mr Cog

    Well done on the article!!!

    Being that I’m an “urban” pepper type guy, raw nature is a little harder to come by than you mountain folks. I do get my fill with the sanctuary that I built over the years in my back yard. Plenty of bird houses,bird baths and hiding places from the predators from the sky and on the ground and sometimes a stick or rock at said predators from me to changed the course of events, even if it’s for one day, I feel like I did something good and pure.

    I was my computer one day and all heard all this noise outside from the birds and squirrels for like 10 minutes non stop, I finally got up to investigate and their was a big hawk out there also and it bolted as soon as it seen me. I now know ( learned) what their cry for help sounds like, it might not be a cry at all, but to me it is. Now when I hear the call for help I’m there.

    Thanks for a great read,

    Mr Pepper

    1. Mr Pepper,

      Thank you for that. Over the last 3+ years up here I have learned to distinguish different animals sounds. I am certain they are talking to each other and to me…if I care to listen.

      I remember that image you posted some time back of the little chair in your tree for the squirrels. It has always come to mind when I see your presence here on TIF.

      Cognitive Dissonance

  4. Hi Cog,
    I really, really liked this piece. It has wonderful touches of the spiritual. Animals have spirits too. I love your awareness.

    You probably already have ready the poem “Intimations of Immortality from Early Childhood Recollections” by Wordsworth. (Interesting name for a poet!) If you haven’t you must. Absolutely must!

    1. Hi Purplefrog,

      Mrs. Cog often says we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but rather spiritual beings having a human experience. I find a greater awareness and understanding each time I remove myself from the center of the universe and allow my mind, and by extension my spiritual being, to rightsize and expand.

      When I carry that state of mind, most often when I am outside and interacting with nature, the natural world seems almost eager to interact with me. Lately I’ve been experiencing close encounters of the spiritual kind with bees. Previously deer seemed to click with me. Trees before that. And so on.

      It seems the only real requirement on my part is the willingness to do so. Imagine that. :-)

      Cognitive Dissonance

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