We have just acquired a rabbit cat. He’s big and dark and handsome, dark brown-grey tabby I think but I’m only allowed to see him from my bedroom window. He’s feral and has come to our garden because we have zillions of rabbits!
To do some back story … I’ve lived here, in the back-of-beyond on the Welsh Borders for the whole of this century, it’s gorgeous, no neighbours for half a mile, views of Hay Bluff from my bedroom window, and a quarter of an acre of woodland-edge wildlife garden.
But we have rabbits! Bunnies are lovely creatures and this one is especially cute … but … they eat and dig up the plants needed by the other wild beasties who live in the garden. There are lots of songbirds – wrens, finches, blackbirds, thrushes and robins, to name just a few, as well as butterflies, dragonflies and lots of other wonderful insects. They all need the plants. And, actually, so do I. They’re my life, one of the delights in living here, so close to the natural world that I truly feel a part of it.
I live here with my two cats. They’re rather elderly ladies now, rising seventeen years old. Up until a couple of years ago they were still excellent hunters, keeping the rabbit population in check as all apex predators do. But not now, now they’ve told me they’re retired, they want the gentle twilight of their lives lying in the sun, watching and listening, but no more work. That’s fine with me but … the rabbits do now get out of hand, spoiling things for the rest of the wild folk who live here.
I came here because the spirit of place called me. Since childhood, I’ve always felt so connected with the genius loci of all the places I’ve lived and here is no exception. We get on, we’re friends, I planted and now care for the garden for her, she guides me in what needs doing and what needs leaving alone. So I asked her, I said, ‘we need another cat, a younger cat who is happy to live out in the garden and eat the rabbits.’ It didn’t take long. Within three weeks I saw this dark shadow creeping amongst the shrubs near the hedge, and Izzy and Olly were both bottling their tails and growling gently. They knew precisely who was out there and were making the point that this is their patch, their home, and the new cat could stay as long as he stays outside.
He’s been here about two months now. This isn’t a pic of him – not managed that as yet – but it sort of looks like him. His colouring is wonderful, like a black tabby, like this …
I call him Gwyll, it means “twilight” in Welsh, and you pronounce it “Gooeth” … I know 🙂 but Welsh is like that, really hard to work out how to pronounce it! The three cats have worked out their relationship, Izzy and Olly only growl if he comes a bit too close to the door. And now, instead of seeing twenty or thirty young bunnies digging the grass and the plants in the garden when I go out for my twilight walk each morning and evening there’s only one or two. The grass is growing, the plants are growing, the bees and butterflies have flowers to feed on, the birds are content, and the robins sing me their evensong each night as the sun goes back under the Earth.
And Gwyll is happy too. He has his own place with warm dry spots to sleep and shelter in, and a good regular supply of food.
For me, it so much shows me how our Mother Earth works. She knows how the cycles of life and death work so all creatures are happy, live well and contentedly. We all share, we all give and we all take … but only what we need. It also shows me how good it is when I work-with the natural world and the spirits of place as well as with the Mother Earth. When there’s an imbalance in nature, allowing nature to deal with it, rather than calling in human help, is so much more effective. It’s kinder too. Gwyll is a good hunter, he kills his dinner quickly and only takes what he needs. His very presence in the garden, his scent and sound, all show the bunnies that this isn’t a good place for bunny-kind to stray into too much so they stay out, in the fields, where there’s plenty of bunny-food.
Life and death, the cycle of life, I learn so much from watching the natural world. I learn not to put my human preconceptions onto everything and that, sometimes, my human views are completely out of kilter with the natural world. And so I grow.
Life has so, so much to teach us all if we will only allow her too.