Darter shows off her new Christmas attire

As Christmas recedes into the background, and the new year looms front and center, I find that cats brought me my Christmas this year.

Firstly, Bengal found his forever home on Christmas Eve! A women who works at the senior center my mom attends has been mercilessly pestered by her young son to bring Bengal home. It seems that the young fellow had a loving bond with Bengal, and played with him when his mom was working at the center.

The hitch in the wheel was that this woman had accidently run over her beloved old cat not many weeks before, and after the horror settled in, she said she would never bring another cat home. Losing one in such a ghastly way rocked her to her core. Thank heavens for pestering children! Bengal spent his first night indoors on Christmas eve, and his new guardian told Mom that it was as though Bengal had lived with them forever from the first instant he set a paw down on their floor.

Needless to say, that news had me singing “Joy to the World” for days.

Darter demonstrates sleeping posture with her new bib

My second kitty-borne blessing came in the form of a silly-looking neoprene bib. Since Darter came into my world along with Carter, my husband, I have lived with the conflict of harboring the most effective, ceaseless, determined huntress I have ever known. Had I started stuffing every creature she has brought to my door these past two-plus years, I could open my own museum of natural history.

For over two years, much of my energy each day has been focused on a battle of wills between Darter and myself that I call “Where’s the Cat?” Dozens of times each day, you would find me uttering those and similar words. “Who let her out? Is she hiding somewhere inside? Where is she? Did YOU let her out? Did I let her out? Where’s the Cat???”

After listening to my tale of slaughtered birds, frogs, and much woe, Jan from WildCare said to me, “Have you tried a cat bib?” I had no idea what she was talking about. She explained that it was an apparatus she had recently found on the Web that was proven effective at keeping cats from killing small, helpless animals.

She gave me the website,, and I immediately ordered one of the larger “bibs.” It is a flexible, lightweight contraption that slips over a cat collar, and interferes with the highly precise maneuvers a cat must do to successfully hunt. The website claimed that the cats didn’t mind them, and that they worked. For only $12, I crossed my fingers and pulled out my  charge card.

Darter is not a mellow cat by any means. She will take your hands off one finger at a time if you mess with her. Clipping Darter’s claws could be classified as a suicide attempt. So when the purple bib arrived a few days later, I hung it around Darter’s neck expecting a bloody battle (my blood—never hers…). I worked fast, and as soon as the thing was clipped on, I opened the door and said, “Now you can go out as much as you like!” Every morning since then, I have a new routine of attaching her bib and opening the door. She knows that the bib is the only way she’ll be allowed to exit the house, and she has become accustomed to it surprisingly quickly.

Darter easily eats, sleeps, washes, runs, and plays in her bib. When she comes in for the night, I take the bib off, rub her neck, and drop down on my knees to thank God, because not a single shredded creature has appeared on my doorstep since the day the bib arrived.

Now, this is a true Christmas miracle as far as I’m concerned. Jesus is one thing, but Peace on my Porch is nothing to ignore. Perhaps they are one and the same.

Noah Christmas celebrates his new "cockiness"

My final Christmas blessing came through a chicken, actually, but birds sort of relate to cats—at least in this story—so I’ll share this last blessing with you. This fall, I brought a small group of tiny, young chickens home. It took awhile to sort out the pecking order wars, but the four little banties have been wintering very well.

On Christmas eve morning, just after I’d recieved the good news from my mother about Bengal’s new home, I heard a merry sound as I headed happily for the chicken coop. Noah, our little rooster, crowed (or squawked or croaked) for the very first time! I hurried to tell Carter and immediately renamed Noah “Christmas.” Carter now calls him by is full name, Noah Christmas. For all the carols I’d heard all season, none was more lovely than Christmas’s sweet song.

May your new year be wrapped in animal blessings of every kind!

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  1. Sue M. says:

    Dear Susan,

    Thanks for the testimonial. It warms my heart to know my invention is saving birds. The CatBibs are shipped worldwide, shipping is free.

    Thanks for caring about cats and birds.

    Sue M.
    Cat Goods, Inc.
    Bib the Cat & Save the Birds!

  2. Cindy says:

    Darter just needs a little pasta and a glass of wine with that bib! The little critters in the woods don’t have any idea what you have done for them Susan…or do they? Maybe some kind of communication is going on. You are perhaps now known as their goddess protector!

    • Susan McElroy says:

      Cindy, I am still stunned that this thing works so well. I can’t tell you how many cats I’ve had in my lifetime, and how many birds and tiny things I’ve rescued from their clutches (or buried…). It has always been a stress for me, living with these huntresses. Now, I open the door with a happy heart. Darter, who no longer gets her kicks munching birds and chipmunks, has taken to playing more with the dogs—chasing them around the house, then letting them chase her. She seems in better spirits for it all, and that, too, amazes me. Her big serves as not only a hunt-deterrant but a mood uplifter as well.

  3. Elayne Tingey says:

    What a great invention, I will be ordering one thanks for sharing. elayne

  4. Bett says:

    Wow! I had never heard of the Cat Bib — what a wonder! I wonder if it works with indoor cats’ territorial spats? Might have to give it a try!

    Many many years ago my dear Aunt Verna gave me a pair of banties when I visited Michigan for Christmas. We drove back to Colorado with them in a cardboard box in the back seat, and were given the names Tarzan and Jane. Tarzan would boldly crow at each rest stop during the night – those darned bright street lights! Chickens for Christmas – it’s a beautiful thing! Go Noah Christmas!

  5. The Cat Bib – what a great idea! I’ll certainly spread the news.

    Happy New Year, Susan, to you and yours!

  6. carter says:

    I am not a cat person, but Darter is pure cat. At 20 she is agile, quick and smart. She was born wild and adoptes by a neighbor and dear friend of my mother. When the mystery life led Lois to Alaska Darter came under the care of my mother, who tyoo was an animal lover. Susan was not the first to be heard to exclaim, “WHERE’S THE CAT”.

  7. Wendy says:

    Susan- SO happy to hear about Bengal. YEA!! That was on my heart over Christmas.
    Tonight. We made a new friend. Think I’ll write a little something about it tomorrow on my blog- but short story is- orange tabby. Cold, alone, very hungry, and peering through our front door (We have a french door). Went outside and she ran, but stopped when I started talking to her. Slowly came to me, and I got a HUGE kitty hug. We’ve got her in the trusty old dog kennel that had belonged to our Micah who died a couple years ago this March. Food, water, shelter, an old (but clean!) pillow, and several heated blankets from the drier. Anyway- makes me feel better to know she’s not out in the storm that is above us in Nebraska tonight.

    And THANK YOU for the introduction to the kitty bib. Our kitties are generally inside, except in the spring and fall when I’m out doing a lot of gardening work. I’m going to try this out.

  8. One of the things I love most about cats is that they read your emotions so correctly.Then they always make you feel so good:)Go Kitties!

  9. Foxface says:

    Carter and Darter… cool! And Go Bengal! Way to charm the right kid!

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