This is the first comprehensive field guide to the mammals of Central America, one of the most diverse and species-rich regions in the world. Generously illustrated with 48 full-color plates and many drawings, the book is designed for use both by amateur naturalists and professionalbiologists. The guide provides accounts for all mammals native to t …
Europeans, on their arrival in the West, saw the buffalo as dull, sulky, and of no benefit except to the Indians. Early governments believed the huge, free-ranging herds were an impediment to enforcement of newly signed treaties. Enterprising pioneers recognized buffalo hunts as first-class sporting events, sure to appeal to wealthy and upper-class …
Humans share a long history with carnivores. We fear them as predators, revile them as competitors, exploit them for their fur, or admire them for their grace and beauty. This book, the fifth of six volumes on the mammals of BC, provides comprehensive, up-to-date information on the 21 species of wild terrestrial carnivores in the province.
Who would have guessed that one of the great historian’s passions in life is cats? Over the course of his eighty-two years, and from his birthplace in Dawson City, Yukon, to his home in Kleinburg, Ontario, Berton has known and loved many cats. In this charming collection of stories, he has chosen his best cat tales to share with us.
Pierre Berton …
Cats are the ultimate survivors. They truly have nine lives, and they are careful to use them up sparingly. Once they have ceased to be kittens they are on their own and they know it. Their mother becomes a stranger, totally disinterested in their welfare. Their credo is simple: Look after number one!
We know all those dog stories -- the faithful canine standing guard over his master’s body, refusing to eat, resisting all efforts to pull him away. Such fealty is not for cats. The master of the house may topple to the kitchen floor clutching at his heart, but the family cat will walk over his prostrate form to gobble a saucer of milk. And all the while he is watching over his shoulder in case some predator is lurking round the corner. That’s why cats survive.
My favourite cat survivor story comes from my neighbours, the Gordons, next door. Next door? Their home, on the rim of the Humber Valley is actually several hundred yards from our own. They look out, as we do, on a small forest of pointed Christmas trees -- white cedars that clothe the slopes leading down to the river. Here, the Humber Valley stretches off to the north, a misty, evergreen realm, the home of wild coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and small herds of deer who follow the river and use the valley as protection. Sometimes they venture up the slopes to gnaw at the bark of newly planted birch and poplar trees on my front lawn. I forgive them, for the sight of a delicate little doe and her two speckled fawns is worth the grief.
It was in this environment that the next-door cat performed his vanishing act. He was, in many ways, a crazy, mixed-up cat. He had two names, which suggests the two distinct sides of his personality, a not-unknown quality in cats. Lying on the living room couch, slobbering away and purring loudly, he was a feline Dr. Jekyll. Creeping through the undergrowth below the house and pouncing savagely on small mice, voles, and even chipmunks, he was Mr. Hyde -- the terror of the neighbourhood.
He was already a survivor when our neighbour’s daughter, Julie, found him abandoned in a ditch, a lost kitten mewing hungrily for room service. Julie, who was stabling her horse in a nearby barn, turned the kitten over to an accommodating mother cat, who licked him down furiously and looked after him as well as she did her own tribe. There, the cat bonded with Julie’s horse, Sydney, snuggling up to him for warmth and putting his nose against Sydney’s, almost as if he was kissing him. Later on, the memory of that would help the cat to survive.
The kitten eventually grew to adulthood and moved into Julie’s parents’ home. She called him Killer, a name that reflects his hobby of ripping the hides off small furry animals. But when the family moved to their new house near us on the rim of the Humber Valley, her mother balked at the prospect of having to shout “Here Killer, Killer!” across the fields. She discarded the outdoor name and opted for an indoor name: “Pousse-Pousse.” That too presented a problem. In our area, if you shout “Here Pousse-Pousse” out the door, half a dozen assorted felines turn up, expecting a handout. Everybody I know calls their cat “Puss” more often than not. The cats don’t know the difference because they think “Puss” and “Pousse-Pousse” are synonyms for lunch.
Inside the house, the killer cat turned into a bit of a wimp. When he wasn’t creeping through the forest, he was stretched out on the living room sofa, yawning in his sleep. No hint of a killer instinct there. When he had nothing else to do, he padded down the hall and into the bathroom, sat in the empty bathtub, or even curled up and went to sleep. Cats, as we all know, seek out confined spaces. It gives them a false sense of security. Later, in this memoir, you will encounter Ruby, my tabby, who likes to curl up in a wooden salad bowl that seems to have been especially designed for her; and also Spooky, who snoozes in my in-basket, a move that plays havoc with my personal papers. Any cardboard box, filing cabinet, cupboard, drawer, pail or tub is fair game for house cats. Surrounded, on at least three sides, safe from fancied predators, they feel protected. We have had several cats who, on arriving at our place, check out the bathroom, discover the bidet, and immediately climb into it. It’s not just that they seek protection; they are also insatiably curious.
Pousse-Pousse, a.k.a. Killer, didn’t really have to hunt for food. He would leave the bathtub, stroll into the kitchen, and mew for a handout. A stubborn cat, who wouldn’t take no for an answer, he had learned to get someone’s attention by nosing them, as he had once nosed Julie’s horse, Sydney, back in the barn.
He was a special cat because, unlike your average tabby, he had six toes, complete with claws. His feet were like snowshoes, and that came in handy in the winter, when he would slide across the ice on the driveway or pond, or pad over the crusted snow. He liked to show off by using his extra toes to pick up a ball, a trick at which he became especially adept.
The extra toes, I think, convinced him that he was not really like other cats. They gave him an edge in the mouse-catching business, and Pousse-Pousse, in his killer role, was one terrific mouser. He maintained an enviable collection of mouse tails, which turned up in chinks and crannies and also baskets and sofas about the house. Of that collection, the six-toed cat was justifiably proud. I suspect that he considered himself indestructible, a dangerous assumption as it turned out.
Vain? You bet he was vain. One day a partridge struck the Gordons’ picture window and fell to the ground. Pousse-Pousse pounced on it, carried it proudly into the living room, laid it at Julie Gordon’s feet, and pretended he’d killed it. Julie insisted that he believed he had killed it. Her mother gave it to us, and Janet and I had it for dinner.
There are three types of house cats: the inside cat, the outside cat, and the in-and-out cat. Pousse-Pousse belonged to the last and most crowded category. He would stand at the front door and meow to be let out. A little later, having been released, he would stand outside the same door and meow to be let back in. There is no ignoring in-and-out cats; they are totally in charge, and you must indulge them.
When he was outside, Pousse-Pousse would creep through the tall grass and explore his way through the forest below the house, past the wild apple orchard and the new crop of fiddlehead ferns beneath the cedars until he roamed as far as the banks of the river itself. The river was high that spring, a rushing torrent fed by the melting snow pouring in streams down the slopes. In my garden the Nanking cherries were in bloom -- a soft pink cloud against the cloudless sky. The first daffodils were popping open, and in the woods the perfect white flowers of the big-leafed bloodroot could be spotted. Across the river, a vast meadow of white trilliums, interspersed with their darker red varieties, enlivened the pathway.
So now we come to that fateful April day. Exhausted from his prowling and taking his ease on the Gordons’ patio, Pousse-Pousse was a cat without a care in the world -- a cat so sure of himself that he would lie stretched out, eyes shut, soaking up the spring sunshine, oblivious to the world around him.
The view from this spot is exquisite. In the morning, soft mists rise from the hidden river, clothing the cedars in a filmy mantle. In the evening, the dying sun briefly anoints their upper branches with a film of gold. Not that Pousse-Pousse gave a hoot. He slept with confidence, secure in the belief that he was safe.
""In Cow: A Bovine Biography, German musician and author Florian Werner delivers an in-depth and surprisingly thoughtful piece of non-fiction...Werner reminds us that bovines are inextricably linked to humans, and that thinking more deeply about our relationship with them can give us a new perspective on our own humanity." -- Winnipeg Free Press