The Nine Lives of the White Spotted Cat, Book 1

In 1919, a black kitten with a white spot on his flank was born near a small town. A year after his death, a cat who looked almost exactly the same was born, and a year after his death yet another cat was found. This happened nine times. Was it one cat, living out nine lives? Or nine separate cats? Could it be proof that cats really do have nine lives? It all started in 1919...

Puma had a mostly normal life at first as a kitten. His mother taught him and his sister to hunt and climb trees, just like any other cat. But his life is shaken when a mysterious white cat from his mother's past begins stalking his family, appearing everywhere like a ghost. Puma seems to be the only one to notice. Why won't this cat leave them alone? And what happens when he finally attacks?

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6. Learning to be a Cat

“Go ahead, eat it.”

Puma and Rain stared at the corpse of the small, furry brown animal. Puma sniffed it. “Come on, try a bite of the squirrel.” Rose took a bite to show them. “See?” she said, mouth full of meat. “It’s good!”

    The young kittens stared at it. Puma bent forward and sniffed it, and Rain did the same. It smelled kind of good. Finally, Puma dared to try a bite. He nipped off a very small piece of meat and chewed it slowly. It tasted...strange. He spit it out. “That’s good, that’s good,” Rose said patiently. “Try another bite. This time see if you can swallow it. You too, Rain.”

    Rain and Puma were about four weeks old when their mother first started to wean them. Rain stepped forward tentatively. She took a bite. It was even smaller than Puma’s bite had been, small enough that she could’ve swallowed it whole. But she chewed it anyway. Rather than spitting it out like Puma had, though, she swallowed it. “Good, good!” Rose said. “Now try a bigger bite. Puma, see if you can swallow one.” The two kittens each got a bite. Rain got a very large bite, and had to spit it out. Puma chewed his again, and reluctantly, he swallowed it. “Good job! That’s all I’ll make you try for today.” Rose said. “But you can have some more if you want.” Puma backed away. He wasn’t sure if he liked the meat. It felt strange in his mouth, and he liked milk much more. Rain stepped forward and chewed and swallowed four or five more bites until full, she backed away.

    Every day after that, little by little, Rose had Puma and Rain try more meat. Most of the time it was squirrel. One day Rose caught the kittens some fish, which their father had taught her to do. It took several days for Puma to learn to like the squirrel, but he loved the fish after the first bite. In that first week, though, each time they would try the meat, in the end they would either get full or get tired of the meat.

    Then came the day they would begin to learn to hunt. “The squirrels might be big, but they are stupid and easy to catch,” Rose said. “So that is what we’ll start with. First you crouch down like this.” Rose crouched down, and her kittens did the same. “Good, Rain. Puma, keep your tail low to the ground, without touching.” Demonstrating as she spoke, Rose continued. “Now creep slowly, and try not to make too much noise. Good!” She made Puma and Rain do it several times. Finally, when she was convinced they had it, she let them stop. “Now for the pounce.” Rose demonstrated. She crouched down and crept forward like she had before, eyes locked on an imaginary squirrel. Then after going a few feet, she suddenly pounced and landed a few feet from where she had leapt, scattering a pile of leaves. “Now you try.” She hooked two leaves on her claw. She placed each one about three feet away from Puma and Rain. “I want you each to pounce on these. Don’t forget to crouch first, and have your claws out so that you don’t lose your prey.”

    Puma went after the first leaf. He got over excited about pouncing though, and didn’t crouch and creep up but instead just went for the leaf. He landed just short of the leaf. “When you’re hunting, you’ll rarely start out close enough to your prey to just pounce on it,” Rose said to her kitten. “You’ll have to stalk your prey first and get closer.” Rain tried next. She remembered to stalk first, but then didn’t leap far enough to land on the leaf. Rose continued to encourage her kittens and make them try until they got it right, and eventually they did. “I think it is time for you to practice on a real squirrel,” Rose finally said. Looking around, she spotted a fat squirrel sitting by a large tree. She crouched and crept forward as she had shown to her kittens and then pounced on the unsuspecting victim. She didn’t kill it, though. She picked it up gingerly with her mouth, to keep hold of it without biting its neck. She walked back over to her kittens and put the squirrel on the ground and held it down with a paw. It struggled, but could not get free. Rain and Puma stared at the rodent, which was about the same size as them, wondering what they would have to do. “I’m going to let this squirrel go, and I want you to try to catch it,” Rose instructed them. “It will get away fast though, so I’ll let you come closer before I let it go.” The kittens came closer, just inches away from the squirrel. It gazed at its predators in fear. Rose lifted her paw and let the animal go. Surrounded by cats and unsure where to go as well as surprised that it’d been set free, the squirrel stood confused for a moment before trying to run past the kittens. The kittens both reacted differently. When Rain saw the squirrel barreling toward her, she lifted her paw defensively for a moment as if to try and fight it, but then ran away in fear. Puma looked as if he was about to crouch and stalk as his mother had shown him, but, knowing he wouldn’t have time before the squirrel got away, he went straight for the pounce. His paws only brushed the fat squirrel’s bushy tail. The squirrel kept going, and he sprinted after it, but it quickly scrambled up the nearest tree. Puma, who did not yet know how to climb, was left to gaze up irritably at the freed squirrel, running away in victory.

    Puma was about to go back to Rose when something white caught his eye. About fifty feet away, a white cat was watching watching them. It was Snowball. Puma looked at his mother and Rain for a moment, but when he returned his gaze to where Snowball had been, he was gone. Had he imagined it?

    Since he hadn’t come very close, Puma pushed Snowball to the back of his mind. He walked back to his mother, disappointed at his failed attempts to catch the squirrel. Rose had her kittens try to catch squirrels a couple more times until, tired, they went to sleep.

 

The next day Rose worked on teaching her kittens to climb. She brought them to a large tree that had one branch that was very low that would be easier to get to and rough bark which would provide more footholds. Before having Rain and Puma try it, she demonstrated. She sank her front claws into the tree, and pulled herself up and did the same with her back claws. One paw at a time, she slowly worked her way up the tree. Rose and her kittens both knew she could climb much faster, but she went at that pace so they could carefully watch her every move. She lay down on the lowest branch.

“You try now, Puma,” his mother said. Puma approached the tree and laid a forepaw on the rough bark. “No, you can’t do it like that. You have to have your claws out. There you go.” Puma worked his way up with his forepaws, then continued climbing with his hindpaws as well. It went just fine until Puma was about a foot up the tree. He turned and looked down at Rain, eyes big. He stopped and didn’t move. “You’re not going to fall,” Rose encouraged him. “Just keep your claws out and hold on. You can do it.” Looking away from the ground and facing the tree again, Puma continued to climb. He raised a forepaw, and pulled himself up, and then the opposite hind paw. He went on, one paw at a time, tense, claws dug firmly into the tree. Finally he worked his way up to the branch where his mother was. “Good job!” She said, scooting over on the branch to give him some room. “Come over here, and we’ll let your sister come up and then we can go down.”

Puma hesitated. He looked up at the next branch, which was several feet higher. “Can I go up to that branch?”

Rose looked surprised. “Sure, if you want to. Be careful.”

Puma climbed faster than before. Suddenly he was confident, no longer tense and afraid of falling, just so long as he didn’t look down. He was up to the higher branch in seconds, much faster than it had taken for him to get to the first one. He pulled himself up onto the branch.

After this new achievement, Puma felt like he could climb the tallest tree in the world. Excited, he ran the to the edge of the branch, which was much more narrow and full of leaves. “Be careful!” his mother warned.

“I’m fine!” Puma called back. He ran back to the other side of the branch. Filled with energy, he sprinted back to the edge again, not really thinking about what would happen if he fell again. But he saw something that stopped him in his tracks, so he stood there for a moment right on the spindly, narrow edge that could barely hold his weight, staring at Snowball who was gazing at him on the ground from about twenty feet away...

A moment was all it took for him to slip off the branch. Time slowed down. Panicking, Puma thrashed his paws desperately, trying to grasp the branch, but he found himself clawing only thin air.  He caught a glance of  Snowball, blue eyes staring hungrily at him at him as if he was enjoying watching him fall. Without thinking, he twisted his body around to land on his feet. Hard. Wind knocked out of him, he collapsed on his side. All his feet hurt from hitting the ground so hard, but there was a stinging pain in one of his forepaws.

Rose and Rain rushed toward him. “Are you okay?” Rose asked.

    “I’m fine, ” Puma replied.

    “Can you get up?” Carefully, Puma tried to get back on his feet. But the moment his left forepaw touched the ground, he flinched. He stood on three legs, his forepaw held up.

    “What’s wrong with your paw?”

    “I...I don’t know. It just really hurts to step on it.”

    “Are you hurting anywhere else?”

    “No, not really...just a little sore.”

Puma looked to see if Snowball was still there. He wasn’t.






 

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