"Prissy Sissy With The Sassy Tail", queen of the Known Worlds, had taken possession of the home I once, unknowingly, considered to be mine, just a year ago at the time of this tale. Over the course of this year she had scouted out the entire neighborhood (this was back in 1975 when we lived on a dead-ended country road with no traffic, so she was allowed out whenever she so desired). All the dogs were properly cowed into subservience to her majesty, all the other cats bowed and scraped when she deigned to visit their poor abodes, graciously sharing their food and toys.
Just behind her house there was a stable which catered to race horses from around the nation, brought here to compete at the race track in nearby New Orleans. On the stable grounds was a pond which served the needs of the local fowl-life. Prissy, being a fastidious feline, never stooped to such crass behavior as chasing or attacking these visitors.
Instead, she would sit on the back fence and watch their antics with a superior cat smirk, laughing to herself when a clumsy bird made a crash landing into the water.
One day she noticed a mother duck walking around with seven little ducklings following along behind her. Now, Prissy had never seen a baby duck before and decided to go and check it out for herself. The foolish mother duck mistook Prissy's interest as the stalking of a hungry predator, let out a horrible, discordant quacking noise, fluttered her wings in agitation and chased her youngsters into the water. In her haste, however, the mother duck left one of her ducklings stranded on the shore between Prissy and the water. Prissy walked over to the tiny bird and sniffed a bit to define and catalogue the new scent. She gave the duckling a few licks about his head (his mother must be awfully neglectful to leave one of her younglings so smelly and ungroomed!).
Having once had kittens of her own, who were now grown to fine specimens of cat-hood, she was most disturbed by this obvious negligence. Prissy decided that this little being needed a proper mother - her own superior self! Since she no longer had the ability to produce kittens of her own (after a visit to TED, which is another story), she thought this would be a fine substitute.
Prissy gently lifted the young bird in her mouth and carried him back to her home. She brought the duckling over to her favorite napping nest, set him down and gave him a proper grooming. She lay down next to her new foundling and waited for it to snuggle up to her for a nice nap.
Imagine her surprise when the errant youngster waddled over to her water dish and climbed in! Oh, this poor wretch was not only uncared-for and ungroomed, but was also woefully lacking in proper cat-like behavior.
The idea of splashing around in one's water supply! Prissy got up and gently swatted the babe out of the bowl and back to her nest where she had to groom it all over again.
After a while Prissy began to feel a bit hungry and, being a conscientious mother cat, got up to go and find something to bring back to the nest for her new baby. She told the youngster, in the firmest tones of voice, to stay right where it was until she got back with some lunch. However, when she started to walk away the young scamp got up and followed along behind her! She turned around and head-butted him back into the nest and started to walk away, but the stubborn little thing just got up and followed her again. Oh well, she'd deal with this misbehavior another time when she was not quite so hungry.
I heard a familiar tapping at the back door, put down the book I was reading, and went over to let Prissy in for lunch. I was quite amazed when I saw a tiny duckling trailing her into the kitchen and over to her food bowl. Prissy stopped at the bowl and patiently waited for her adopted son to take his fill before she herself ate. She seemed quite perplexed when her new babe did not even give a sniff at the food.
Prissy had never had to cope with a kitten who wouldn't eat (quite the opposite, in fact - all her kittens had been voracious eaters). She walked over and swatted a morsel onto the floor in front of the duckling, thinking that he might be used to live food and would want it to be moving before he feasted upon it. When this didn't work she looked up to me for help. I grabbed some bread from the pantry, broke it into bits, and put some into Prissy's water bowl. Prissy gave out a disgruntled meow and looked at me as if I had lost what little sense I'd had, but was even more astounded when her new kit gobbled up the bread from the water. After watching him eat for a while, she gave a little cat shrug and ate her own lunch.
After they'd eaten I decided I'd better find the duckling's birth-mother and return him. I picked up the little fellow and started out the back door, Prissy at my heels meowing furiously at me to put down her kitten so she could give him a good after-lunch wash. I proceeded to the pond and spotted the mother duck on the opposite shore with her six little ducklings. After putting the little fellow down, I picked up Prissy (she was anxiously trying to reclaim her lost kit), backed off quite a bit and waited to see if the mother duck would reclaim her lost son.
Sadly, mommy duck was not too swift in the brains department and had forgotten all about her missing child - she would have nothing to do with the youngster even after more than an hour of waiting. I gave a sigh and returned home with Prissy in my arms, hoping that the little fowl would be reunited with his family after I was gone. Prissy, however, was not that dismissive of the situation. As soon as I'd set her down she start running back towards the pond. I chased her down and brought her inside, hoping she'd forget about the duckling (oh how foolish I was!).
After listening to two hours of pitiful mewling and howling, I picked Prissy up and headed for the pond to see if our little visitor had found his rightful family. No such luck, the tiny foundling was hunched down at the edge of the water all alone. Who was I to try and mess with fate?! As soon as I put Prissy down she made a bee-line for her new baby, picked him up and ran back home to her nest. I walked over and looked down at her as she groomed "Quackers" (don't groan, my kids were only 3 and 4 at the time - they're now 22 and 23 - and were not very inventive in the naming of pets, witness Tigger, Fluffy and Muffin, Prissy's previous litter). Prissy looked up at me accusingly and gave a small huff. When I bent down to get a closer look at Quackers she put her paw over him protectively and gave a little growl of warning that I'd better not try to take away her new kit again. Well friends, it seemed we had a new addition to our family - one with feathers.
Prissy reared Quackers as carefully and lovingly as she had her own birth-kittens and he grew to be a fine, healthy duck. It was quite the talk of the neighborhood to see Prissy sashaying down the sidewalk with her new kit waddling along behind her everywhere she went. Tigger, Fluffy and Muffin easily accepted their new brother and taught him how to tussle and run with them during playtime. They never could quite figure out why he wouldn't share in their feasts of field mice, but what the hey, different strokes for different folks! They loved him in spite of his weird ways and always include him in their grooming and cuddling fests. There were times when I could almost hear Quackers purr!