A Christian animal lover, I have an office in my Kutztown wagon shed, where I research PA Dutch Folklore articles. Although my makeshift office is only heated at 65 degrees in the winter time, I have shared it with a Kutztown stray cat I affectionately call, “Twinner,” to keep him from freezing to death! Tigger, his soul mate lives in the main house, but Twinner, his feline friend, does not want to be confined in our home with Tigger, although they are bosom feline friends.
Twinner is very much an outside cat, and in spite of the cold and winter wind, he refuses to share our family’s home. Thus, I allow Twinner to sleep in the wagon shed office room with plenty of food and two dishes of water he can access. Although the wagon shed is locked, Twinner can access the office room by way of a small cat door in which he and Tigger use when they are outside in summer. However, since the February weather has been so cold, I find myself giving pity on Twinner being all alone in the office, so I spend additional time working out there to provide company.
A fully grown, furry cat, Twinner has become more domesticated, but still refuses to come in the main house with Tigger and “Sister,” two other strays I have befriended over the past few years. But this long, extended cold spell has made Twinner very affectionate to me, and so he curls up at my feet, letting me know he appreciates the warmth of the heated office. Even when my assistant, Rick Orth comes in for a reference book or to view slides, he respectfully acknowledges the skittish feline to let him know he’s coming in.
But, Twinner is the guardian of the office and does not look to be anyone’s pet; however, his warm abode in this wagon shed covered with icy winter snow is a better alternative than being outside. He checks on occasion outside to see how long it will take until spring will break. However, it does not take long for Twinner to realize the freezing air in the rest of the wagon shed is not as cozy as the office apartment. Now, if I can only teach him to type or answer the telephone, he would be of greater assistance but on mental writing blocks, he is a great respite. But he will not become a homebody.
After all, he is a stray cat that can’t wait till Mother Nature becomes normal again, allowing him to prowl the outdoors to meet some more friends, as soon as spring weather is here. As a long time stray cat that enjoys our wagon shed, Twinner has adopted my wife and me as his friends, but has respected the territorial right of Tigger and Sister being the only cats allowed in the main house.
So when the vortex winter hit in 2014, it was a natural courtesy for us to allow Twinner to live in part of the American Folklife offices. This routine of feeding times and indoor and outdoor chores he has come to enjoy very much and as the winter season has become unbearable for him to exist without us, feeding him and giving him a warm place to stay was essential for his survival. He is a clean cat and even knows how to use the kitty-litter tray!
Richard H. Shaner is director of the American Folklife Institute in Kutztown.