Feline Premonitions

Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Becasue Cats Just Know Things . . .

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Between us, my spouse and I have well over one hundred years of experience living with cats. Yet we are still often amazed by the influence our felines have on our lives.

We were celebrating because we had both just landed dream jobs at a NATO air base in Europe. We would be working in Aviano, a small town in northern Italy with a large military presence. The climate was warm and pleasant enough that cats easily thrived there, often seen in the back alleys slurping spaghetti, fed to them by kindly local grandmas.

While house hunting, we stayed at a quaint hotel in town, where the delicious food was amazingly cheap, the staff was cheerful, while the espresso coffees and cappuccinos from the café gave us a delightful jolt to perk up our day. A sultry glass of wine, after evening dinners on the restaurant terrace, was a wonderful way to end our workdays. It was paradise.

We were so enchanted with the hotel, that we were thrilled when we found a house to live in right across the street. Living so close by, we could continue to enjoy everything that the hotel had to offer within easy walking distance from our home. We rarely made coffee at home after that, preferring to enjoy the fine brews at the café instead. We loved getting to know the local folks as we eased into the Italian lifestyle.

It wasn’t long after we had settled into our new home that we quickly accumulated a band of felines at our house. Cats can readily identify cat people, so when a pregnant female had her litter in our woodshed, our kitty family was born. Other ragtag strays rapidly joined them, so before long, we had a dozen cats in our family group.

The stray cats soon became extremely attached to us, with several of them tagging along as we crossed the street to the hotel to have a coffee and a croissant in the mornings, or a pleasant dinner in the evenings. The animal friendly staff welcomed our cat escort, while spoiling them with snacks and insuring they had plenty of fresh water to drink. The hotel guests found it all amusingly fascinating and joined in by pampering the felines, as we all began to bond.

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Soon afterward, the cats enjoyed the attention so much, they started taking the lead as we went through our daily ritual of having meals and snacks at the hotel. It was while they trooped in front of us that we noticed that they were taking a curved route to traverse the street, instead of going straight across. At first, we didn’t realize what they were up to, so didn’t really pay much attention. But as time passed, the curved pattern they walked became more pronounced, so was far more noticeable. Instead of walking directly across the road, they would walk off to the left or to the right, curving back in to finish up at the hotel terrace. Going home, the same thing happened in reverse. We were stumped, but intrigued, so chalked it up to feline idiosyncrasies.

Time passed, and the route that the cats took to the hotel terrace became even more circular. They walked a half circle outline going across the street to the cafe and another half circle going back home. It was becoming very odd. We kept trying to figure out why the cats wouldn’t go straight across the road. Soon we made a game of it, giggling as we followed the spherical route that the cats took to the restaurant terrace, and then back home again.

Over dinner one evening on the terrace, we were relaxing and enjoying ourselves watching the world go by, when we were shocked by an unbelievable explosion as a passing car disappeared into a cloud of dust, right before our eyes. Running to the road with other dining guests, we found ourselves looking upon a huge gaping hole in the street with the car crumpled inside it, about six feet deep, down from the road level. It was a sinkhole, collapsing in the very spot our cats had been circling for months. We now realized that they had detected the anomaly and had been leading us around it to keep us from harm.

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The emergency services personnel later told us that a leaking water pipe had caused the earth to erode under the street, leading to the sinkhole that collapsed the road. Somehow, our brood had sensed the danger and sought to warn and protect us. Happily, no one in the car that fell through was gravely injured, though the car itself looked like it needed considerable repairs.

Once back home, we verbally congratulated our feline family as we rewarded them with extra treats, occasionally receiving knowing “we told you so” looks from them. They reminded us to trust our own instincts as well as theirs, as they demonstrated to us once again, what matters most.

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Writer and university professor researching media psych, generational studies, addiction psychology, human and animal rights, and the intersection of art and psychology.

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