My large black and white tuxedo cat didn’t look happy. Sure, he still liked to stretch out and snooze in patches of sunshine on my linoleum kitchen floor, but there was a pensiveness and hesitation in his posture when he sat on the back deck. At six-years of age, Flicker was used to spending wonderful, adventure-packed hours along the small river where we had lived up until six weeks ago. My husband Arnie and I had moved Niki and Tammie, our two children and pets to a farm, far away from a river and fallow low lands.
At first, after we’d moved, I was afraid that Flicker would roam away from our new home if we let him out of the house. When I finally relented and let him out, I discovered that he was reluctant to explore our new yard. The last place he wanted to go was to the barn, which was filled with huge, mooing, hoof-clopping cows. Mud found in the barn wasn’t at all like the clean, sweet mud on the river bank, either.
Every cow barn has a colony of cats to reduce the mouse population. Flicker wasn’t interested in making friends with the barn cats. As if just going through the motions, my big black and white cat dutifully made short trips into the oat and corn fields near the house to mouse.
My family lived on the farm for two years. Then, during the month of June, Arnie and I packed up our two children and pets and returned to our old, beloved house on the north bank of the river. A beautiful summer stretched ahead of us.
Picking up old habits as though he’d never stopped, Flicker returned to spending long, leisurely days on the river bank hunting and sunbathing on warm rocks. His eyes looked bright and happy. In the evenings he purred loudly while cuddling with Niki and Tammie.
One evening when I was out in the yard behind the house, Flicker came out of the tall grass that stood between our house and the river. He had something in his mouth. Stopping in front of me, he dropped a dead mouse at my feet.
When I told Arnie what Flicker had done, he said with a grin, “When a cat loves a person, they give them something they value.”
Surprised, I exclaimed, “That sounds like the conversation I had with the girls the other night! We bought a birthday gift for Tammie’s friend. Tammie cried because she wanted the little pony toy for herself. I told her that when you buy a gift for a friend, it should be something that she would like to have herself.”
Arnie thought for a while before asking, “Doesn’t Tammie already have enough little pony toys to fill a corral?”
I nodded. “She has several. They make them in dozens of different colors with different manes. The one I bought for her friend glows in the dark and is a different color than any of hers.”
Flicker ‘gave’ me dead mice five more times that summer. I’d be weeding a flowerbed or inspecting the garden when I’d see him jauntily jogging across the lawn towards me with a gray mouse flopping limply in his jaws. Once Flicker dropped his crazy love offering at my feet, he’d lay down nearby and purr.
One night as fall approached, I commented to Arnie, “Flicker gave me another dead mouse today. I’ve decided that the reason he’s been doing this is because he’s so thankful we left the farm and returned to where he loves to live.”
Leaning down to pet Flicker, Arnie said, “He does seem much happier since we moved back. Animals aren’t stupid. They can’t talk, but they find ways to let us know how they feel.”
Frowning, I questioned, “You don’t think I’m hurting his feelings because I don’t eat the mice that he gives me, do you?” My husband and I made eye contact and suddenly burst out laughing.