Kootenay Grey - an almost "wild" cat tamed in a Camper!

by Brian Coldwells
(Merritt, BC, Canada)

Kootenay Grey held by Debbie

Kootenay Grey held by Debbie

It was back in the early '70's when we set out from the British Columbia Lower Mainland in our new GMC 3/4 ton pickup and 8 ft Okanagan camper on a trip up to Kootenay Lake country. We piled in our three children, the necessities for life "in a box", and headed out for what would be an unforgettable trip. You see, we had no family pets when we left, but that ceased to be true along the way!
When you approach the Kootenays from the West, you are most likely to reach Nelson, BC, a picturesque old city set in the heavy timber that typifies the Kootenay Lake scene - first impressions often remind visitors of the BC West Coast more than the Interior of our province. From Nelson, we set off to cross Kootenay Lake at Balfour on the BC Highways Department (as it was) ferry MV Balfour which crosses to the settlement of Crawford Bay, thence down-lake a short distance to Grey Creek where we found a lakeside campground of the same name. It was a lovely setting where we offloaded our camper, toured with our truck, and fished the Bay from our 12 ft. aluminum cartopper boat. The Kokanee (landlocked Sockeye salmon) were plentiful, although the ones we found were considerably smaller than their sea-run cousins. What a wonderful resource for healthy fresh food, and virtually at our doorstep.
While there, we heard the mewing of a small black kitten that seemed to be on its own... we put out a little milk which would disappear overnight, although the cat would not allow us to approach it. We started watching more carefully and soon found it disappearing into a hollow log nearby. Our young son was still slim enough that he was able to crawl into the opening and reach the kitten with his outstretched arm. She in turn swatted and scratched him, but he was able to retrieve her from this makeshift lair. We then proceeded to convert a plastic dish-basin into a dirt box for her loo, and kept her entirely inside to order to tame her, for it was apparent to us that she had been dropped in the wild by her mother who may or may not have been with another camper. The park management had not received any enquiry about a missing cat and so we decided we would become her caregivers - the kids of course fell in love with her immediately despite her initial hostile attitude and wildness in the confines of that little space and later, in our home. We all agreed that she deserved to be named in honour of her host area, and thus was Kootenay Grey welcomed to our family.
That little kitten turned out to be at least partly Siamese, and as she came to accept her new digs, she never once made a mess as she rode home with us, or since. She never had to worry about food - no more begging and relying on the kindness of strangers. Kooty, as she was nicknamed, was examined by the local veterinarian and pronounced sound, then at about six months of age, she was spayed. What a turn-around that proved to be, she became more docile and even started to lap-sit like so many other cats, in a relatively short time.
She adapted well to us all and lived outdoors as much as most house-cats, where she tree-climbed and ran to her heart's content, maintained a sleek coat, never becoming a truly fatted cat. But she always slept in the house with us at night. Kootenay Grey lived a full 14 years before she came down with feline leukemia that eventually claimed her. She was missed for a long time by her family who loved her so very much. We have never personally had another pet since we had learned that certain family members including the writer had developed allergies that include cat and dog dander as irritants. Fortunately though, we have all learned since about the availability of hypoallergenic pets and our overall family now includes two poodles and two cats, one of which is another young partly Siamese black cat that reminds us so much of our dear Kooty, may she rest in peace.
Our grandchildren are almost all grown up now, and will always have the care and love of animals as a guiding principle in life as they move forward, even as their parents already have. And, it all started with the chance finding of one little black kitten in the wild many years ago.
October 17, 2012
Brian Coldwells

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