OK, this is going to be kind of a chick column, so I ask for your forgiveness right off the bat.
For the last year, I have been observing the games kittens play. It all started when we adopted a litter of kittens: three barn cats, which have since become indoor-outdoor house cats. Whether you like cats or despise them, there are lessons to be learned by the way the three feline siblings interact: their athleticism, their camaraderie and believe it or not, their sportsmanship.
Our trio consists of a long and lean yellow tomcat named Punkin, and his two female sisters: Trouble, a small skittish calico, and Munchkin, a grey tiger-striped cat who started life as the sickly runt of the littler, but is now more like a bull in a china shop.
Cats, by nature, are free agents. When they head out into the world in the morning, they each depart in their own direction: like a cross country runner heading out on a solitary pursuit, they take off toward the cornfield, the flower garden or the barn.
The cats compete with one another for a spot along their food bowl, for butterflies that taunt them just out of reach above their heads, or for a comfy spot in front of the fireplace. They scrap like rugby players, wrestle as though a PIAA gold medal is at stake, and tackle each other with the spirit of an NFL linebacker. They battle as if the world depends on it, then they race each other into the house at night like Olympic sprinters heading for a gold medal across the finish line.
However when it comes right down to it, these cats are also tremendous team players. Like good teammates, they have each other's backs. Punkin is the team captain. When the sound of a truck or a tractor frightens them, the cats race toward a small opening in the barn door. Punkin stops to make sure his sisters are safely inside before he himself follows behind.
When Munchkin gets caught up a tree and is afraid to come down, Trouble lets us know her sister is up there and tries to coax her down. Like college athletes out for a night on the town, they try to keep each other out of mischief.
Of course, animals behave predominately by instinct. Still, for these competitive felines, as for most athletes, there is a joy in the hunt, the battle, the race. At the end of the day, they don't seem to remember who pinned whom, which littermate tackled the other, or which got the biggest share of the cat food. They just snuggle up for a cozy night's sleep, recharging to hunt, battle and race again tomorrow.
If only some human athletes could behave more like animals.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.