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Dec 6, 2013

life lesson from a barn cat

About 6 weeks ago, a kitten showed up at our farm. She was a bigger kitten. Maybe 5-6 months. She didn't have much of a winter coat and I swear, was the friendliest stray kitty I've ever encountered. I think she was someone's indoor pet at one point. I took the usual "steps" when it comes to strays showing up. I fed her. Waited a day or two to see if she stuck around. She did.

Then I named her. I was in trouble.

I named her Gourd. I don't know why. I think partially because I had gourds outside in my fall d├ęcor and partially because I had an indoor kitty named Pumpkin. I had high hopes that my husband would allow Gourd to be an indoor kitty as well. Then I'd have Pumpkin and Gourd.

But, I was told she'd have to be an outdoor kitty.

I wasn't really ready for barn cats but I didn't want to give her up, either. I took her next door to see if she belonged to anyone there. Nope. I didn't try very hard after that to find a home for her. Deep down, I knew that I wanted to keep her.

Things weren't working out well in the barn. She kept running up to the house, clawing at the windows and wanting inside. I felt horrible. Nothing worse then cute, beady little eyes looking inside your warm cozy house. I decided that if we were going to have a barn cat, we might as well have barn cats. I brought a few of my parents early summer kittens down. Tippy and Blazer. I thought maybe if Gourd had a few friends then she would stay in the barn. I didn't want her to be lonely.

We built a fort out of straw, insulation and fuzzy blankets for the trio. I bought one of those fuzzy pet beds and a heat pad. Gourd always acted like she was cold so I thought maybe that would help her feel better during these cold winter days. She loved her bed and the heating pad.

Every morning I would go out and feed/water the trio. Gourd was always the last to come out of the "fort." She always came to me before she went to her food. I'd hold her and listen to her purr as I ached for her to be inside with us.

Recently, Gourd became lethargic. Sometimes not coming out of her fort. She came up to the house a few times when she had a burst of energy. I just thought she was tired. I didn't think much of it. She looked healthy.

Yesterday morning I went out to the barn to feed the trio once again and Gourd didn't come out of her fort. I called her. Usually she would come out if I called. No Gourd. I peeked inside and there she was, staring back at me. I could tell she wasn't acting right and she looked like she was in a lot of pain. I knew she was dying.

I didn't know what to do.

I came inside and as I washed my hands out in the shop, I was sobbing. Trying to hold back the tears, I told my husband what was going on. We decided to bring her inside and make her comfortable. After talking to my mom on the phone, I rushed her to the vet. Her vitals were not good. 91 degree temperature and they could barely pick up a pulse. The vet and I both agreed that she deserved a chance to live and that they would do whatever it took. I was told to go home and hang out. They would give me a phone call with an update after they ran some tests and got her vitals up.

I went home and tried to keep busy. I had that tingly feeling in my nerves that you get when you're left in limbo. I didn't know what to do with myself. I was a mess over a barn kitty. I was embarrassed. I kept my mind off of things for a while and chatted with Kellie on Facebook as I managed to try and get some cereal down. I didn't have much of an appetite.

Eventually the phone rang. I jumped up to get it. It was my mother in law. We chatted and I heard the other line beep in. I politely told her I had to go and I clicked over hoping it was the vet. It was. My heart raced as I was ready for some good news. Maybe she was up and moving around. Hopefully her temperature was back up. Maybe she was even eating.

"I'm so sorry Kelly. But we lost her. I believe she came down with a really bad case of pneumonia and we just didn't get her in time."

I thanked the vet for doing everything he could as I fought back the tears.

Then, I lost it.

I don't know how but I fell in love with a barn cat that was gone now. I was so mad at myself. I should have done more. I should have known she was getting sick.

No matter what I tried to do, I'd think of Gourd. And my eyes would well up.

Gourd was a part of my world but I was her world.

I was the most depressed I had been in a long, long and I mean long time. I laid on the couch and just sobbed on and off all afternoon.

Over a barn cat.

I drove to my parents for my dad's birthday last night crying and just felt very down in the dumps all night. Gourd was in the back of my mind the whole time.

I woke up today and was doing better. I drove into town to pick up our cat carrier and pay our bill.

The receptionist gave me the total.


One hundred and thirty nine dollars. For a cat that's no longer alive, I thought to myself. It's not about the money.

It's about the if only.

If only. If only I would have had the chance to put that money into getting her vaccinated or maybe on some antibiotics when I first met her. Maybe she'd still be alive.

I hate to beat myself up over this but it's all I can think about.

I know Gourd came into my life and left so quickly for a reason. And that's why this is all affecting me so much.

There's something special about going out to the barn and spending time with your animals. The fresh air. My soft old barn coat. Seeing the excitement of your critters as they greet you.

Everything you ever need to know about love, you can learn in a barn.

I believe that's why Gourd came into my life. To reconnect me with the barn. And unconditional love.


  1. Gourd knew she was loved Kell. And having you as her owner is making every other animal jealous. You have a huge heart when it comes to animals and trust me....she knew you loved her. You have two other barn cats who have your love as well and they know how lucky they are too:)

    1. Thanks Nicole! Why do they have to tug at our hearts so much? Oh, cats. We are crazy cat ladies! :)

  2. Sorry for the loss of your kitty :( We tried to take a barn cat into the house once (our dog ate its mother and siblings), but it didn't work out so well for us.

  3. I hadn't read this until today. Poor Gourd.... only an animal lover, scratch that, only a cat lover could truly understand the love you had for Gourd. Keep on loving those barn kitties! They have so much love to give :)


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