I call him “Peeky,” a short name for the Italian word “Picolo” which means tiny, and the Spanish word Picaro, which means mischief-maker.  He used to be tiny, but is now a plump, orange bundle of love that weighs over seven pounds. Picaro still fits him, however, as he loves playtime that often includes a number of “no-nos” in a cat’s repertoire. 

Peeky the Wonder CatHe came to our home in the dead of winter, because of the cruelty of someone obviously not an animal lover. Barely past his “wean” stage, the tiny ragamuffin was almost buried in the fresh snow of a late February evening. Somehow, after he was dumped off at the end of our driveway, he found his way into an opening in black plastic sheeting that skirted our porch. Out of the wind and cold for the night, he miraculously survived the bitter temperature of ten above zero.

I spotted his tiny tracks in the snow the next day, when I went to mail some letters, and they led me to the porch and the above-mentioned conclusions. Though I was aware of water freezing in a short time on a day like this, I placed a pan of it just inside the opening in the plastic, and a dish of dry kitten chow alongside this. When I went back to the mailbox, at noon, and checked on them, half of the water was gone, and all of the kitten chow. I talked softly into the opening under the porch, and was answered immediately by plaintive mewing, but the terrified creature was not about to venture out and possibly back into another traumatic situation.

This feeding and watering and speaking softly to the kitten went on through nearly a week of extremely cold temperatures, modified for him only by the plastic windbreak and a folded up quilt I slid inside for him to sleep on. I say “him” although it would be months before I discovered that this was a male kitten.

Each day, I came and talked to him, and he answered with mewing that sounded less and less frightened.  Somewhere near the beginning of the second week of Peeky’s residing under the porch, the weather moderated, and he decided to go “exploring.” On one of these occasions, I had just shovelled a path to the woodshed and noticed him sitting atop a stump that stuck out above the snow line. He was preparing to flee, but changed his mind when he heard my familiar voice saying all the silly coo-cooings that females generally say to cats. Of course they understand only the ‘tone,’ not the actual words, and that tone relaxed him, I guess, because he tucked his tail around his feet, hunkered down, and stayed put. I set the shovel aside, and went to the house to get him some warm milk and more ”crunchies.”Peeky the Wonder Cat

When I returned, he was still sitting there on the stump. Rather than walk towards him with the dishes in hand, possibly frightening him away, I set the plates down on the wood steps to the house, and quietly went back inside. In less than a minute, he was lapping up the warm milk and wolfing down the kitten chow, even though he’d stop every few seconds to warily check the door for ‘threat’ to his welfare.

An animal that is dumped off in the middle of nowhere is at a pitiful loss as to the whys and hows and wheres of his existence. Worse yet, a tiny kitten, torn from its warm mother and tossed into frigid winter snow is the most confused and frightened of all. Most of these abandoned creatures, die. Someone whose heart beat only to keep his selfish body alive, I thought, did this act. It certainly had no compassion for helpless creatures like this tiny kitten.

Because Peeky was less than six inches long (not counting the length of his tail) when he came to me, I gave him that name Picolo. He is now almost two feet long (not counting his tail length), and has pale green eyes the colour of an ocean wave with the sun shining through. They almost seem to smile at me when I call him his other name “Ocean Eyes.”  His purr climbs up another two or three decibels then. I gaze fondly at his healthy orange coat, his sturdy frame and perfect feet, and I think (like the ad says) “you’ve come a long way, baby.”

He is a lover; first class, and can’t get enough hugging and petting. If cats can think, I imagine him wondering what he did without all this cuddling and coddling. He has a warm home in the way of a heated garage; a thick quilted bed-in-a-box, and fresh food and water twice daily. Five months previous to this, I had only imagined a thing like this would come to be.

The most difficult portion of his life story (aside from his getting dumped off in a snowstorm that February night) was tricking him into getting caught, so that he could be neutered. It was ‘time.’ Yet these were still the days before the heated garage came into being, and he a wild streak in him yet. There was no way I would be able to catch him with my bare hands, and put him in a carrier to take to the Vet in town. Natural instincts helped me here.

Since he had been an outdoor wanderer for someone prior to his taming, he had been accustomed to getting his own dinners in the form of wild, raw meat such as mice and chipmunks. I utilized this culinary fancy of his to coax him into the carrier.

Every day, for about three days, I put a bit of raw hamburger inside the carrier (with it’s door left open), and observed him from the house. He had no problem with entering the confines of the cage, taking his snack, and leaving again.

On the 4th day, I put the meat in the carrier, and sat down on the porch steps, about two feet behind it. Hesitant, at first, he finally came and ate while I sat behind the carrier, out of his sight. The next day, I slightly heated some chopped chicken livers in the microwave, and set them inside his ‘snack-shack.”  This was too irresistible for him to let up on for even a second. While he ignored me and gorged on the livers, I quietly stood up, leaned over, and clicked the door shut. He banged himself against the carrier door (as I knew he would) but this was ‘tough love’ in the making. Within the next hour, he was at the veterinarian’s, getting neutered and receiving all the necessary shots. It was as rough on me, as it was on him, yet it was a necessary pain in order to keep him from rambling in future, fathering more unfortunates, and possibly ending up like so many of the road kills we see each week.

The Peeky I took home from the clinic, a few days later, was a docile, trusting cat that seemed to view me as his “second time around rescuer.”  I put him gently in his quilted garage bed, and remained close at hand for him for the next week, reassuring him, checking on his sutures, with no argument from him. He ate very little the first few days, but then became accustomed to his usual amount, and to the garage, with all its cosy creature comforts. Getting petted frequently, while being called “ocean eyes,” was a sensation he dearly loved.  He looked up at me as if to say: “So this is what I have been missing all this time.”

He is a top-rate mouser, as well as a loving pet, and in this alone earns his keep. Yet if he were only the snuggling, purring, bundle of fur I hold close to my heart each day, he would still be worth all the trips through the snow, wind, and ice … to save him.

Copyright 2003 by Anna Marie Fritz

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