For the Birds Radio Program: Kasey the Cat

Original Air Date: Sept. 8, 2006 Rerun Dates: Sept. 17, 2009

When Laura enticed a feral cat into her car for an 800-mile journey, she wasn’t sure what she was in for, but as someone who always says to keep cats indoors, she had to put her money where her mouth is.

Duration: 4′33″


Last month, I had to bring my daughter Katie to Oberlin, Ohio, where she has a research grant for the year. She was staying with a friend for a few days, and when we were there, I noticed an extremely thin black cat hanging around. Katie’s friend Stacey said it was a stray that had been there all summer—Stacey had already tried to find out if it had an owner. The poor thing was VERY hungry. Stacey was about to move from Oberlin permanently, and Katie wasn’t going to be in a situation where she could keep a cat, so the girls gave me a few pleading looks, I petted the cat and could feel every rib, and I knew it was up to me to do what had to be done. So I headed to the grocery store for some cat food and tried a little experiment—if the cat was willing to be in my car while it was moving, I’d try to take her home with me. That of course seemed like a pretty unlikely prospect. But when I opened the can of food and held it near her nose, she followed me right into the car and started pigging out. I closed the car door and started the engine and the cat kept eating. I drove out the driveway and back again, and she finished the food and started washing her feet. She kept grooming herself as I opened the door and got out. So I figured, what’s 800 miles in a small car with a cat? We set up a makeshift litter box, and just in case it really wasn’t going to work, Stacey and Katie followed me to the Ohio Turnpike. But the cat was perfectly quiet and well behaved, so I ventured forth on my own.

I was genuinely shocked at how sweet and accommodating she was, sitting on the seat beside me or on the floor under my seat, but giving my feet and the pedals plenty of room. When I stopped at a rest stop or had to fill up on gas, I was scared she’d try to make a run for it, but she didn’t. En route I was headed to Chicago for a night at my sister’s. Mary has advanced breast cancer and can’t be exposed to germs, and her husband is allergic to cats, so there was no question that this one would have to stay in the car all night. When I headed to the car in the morning, I braced myself for problems, but she’d been sleeping on my seat, and when I opened the door, she stood up and took a long, leisurely stretch, not even trying to run out the door.

The last 500 miles were just as easy as the first 300—she turned out to be a rather exceptional cat. I combined Katie’s and Stacey’s names to christen her Kasey.

Unfortunately, she was a lot easier to manage in the car than in our house. At first she kept stalking our poor old Miss Kitty, and swiped at Photon every chance she got. After three weeks, she’s let up on them, pretty much. But far worse is when she sneaks into my office and leaps onto Archimedes’ cage. She’s skinny, but extremely muscular and fast, and would make short work of my little owl given half the chance. Fortunately, she seems to be learning that she simply isn’t allowed in the room at all, but unfortunately when she does get into it, it takes less than 2 seconds for her to leap up on the wooden dowels that form the cage bars and climb up to the top. When she sits at the window, her whole body tenses when a bird is near, which is pretty much all the time. During just the three weeks we’ve had her now, we’ve probably saved at least two dozen little birds of Oberlin, Ohio. And overall she seems very happy to be here, not trying to escape and being wonderfully friendly to us humans. And really, her terrorizing of Photon and Kitty seem to be a kittenish playfulness—she’s the youngest cat we’ve ever had, and her spunkiness is charming and disarming in a brutal predator sort of way. I’m always saying we’re supposed to keep our cats indoors and get stray cats off the streets, and this time I’ve put my money where my mouth is. Kasey’s here to stay.