21 September

Zip: Why Is He So Important To Us, And To People All Over The Country? He Is Bringing Out The Best In Us. The News Is Bringing Out The Worst.

by Jon Katz

Time spent with cats is never wasted.” – Sigmund Freud.

I woke up this morning wondering why Zip has touched so many people so deeply, including Maria and me and so many of our blog readers. Zip is more than a barn cat; he and his story have touched countless people all over the country. They admire his spirit and independence. It lifts their spirits to see him find a home. It has lifted ours as well.

When we treat animals well, we give ourselves a precious gift as well as them.

I’m getting record numbers of clicks, visits, and messages from people who love the Zip story and are urging me to keep writing about him. No problem there; I couldn’t stop if I wanted to.

His story has come just at the right time for us and many others in our troubled country. It’s an old story; animals have lived alongside people and have been a part of the human experience since recorded time and history.

At Bedlam Farm, Zip’s arrival is a big story, so much more fun than watching the news or complaining about life. I can’t wait to write about him.

Our nation is suffering because so many of us have lost touch with the animal world and turn to animals and pets to fill the holes in our lives. They are important to us, something Zip, who has only been here a few days, has shown to people on the farm and far away. Animals make is feel better.

Politics don’t.

There’s been a lot of noise and tension in our lives now – Donald Trump is back in the news every minute with his campaign to destroy our democracy, and the Republican Party has replaced Ringling Bros. as our national circus. Climate change and inflation are disrupting our lives.

It’s going to be crazy for a while. Zip’s arrival reminds me to focus on the good and the meaningful.

I spent much of the summer racing back and forth to doctors and hospitals, and millions of Americans have been battered and traumatized by drought, fires, and storms.

Thomas Aquinas was one of the first great Christian philosophers to write that treating animals with compassion and mercy was necessary because that could teach us how to be merciful to one another.

He did not believe animals were equal to humans. But I think it is a moral responsibility to care for and treat them well, equal or not. I love them for what they are, not what I want them to be.

Zip is proving that also.

He came crashing into our lives when Minnie died, and he has brightened up the farm as he works to understand his new home.

It’s a gift to my blog as well. It stirred me up.

Somehow, he is just what we need to challenge us, lift our spirits, and remind us and others of animals’ power to brighten our lives. We need them; we lose our humanity without them, as Aquinas warned.

We needed Zip.

I’ve argued before that if members of Congress could bring their dogs to the capitol, congresspeople would stop fighting and posturing and get work and accomplish something.

We had a tricky Spring and Summer; Zip has lit us up and brought warmth and laughter back to the farm.

In The Moral Animal, Philosopher Robert Wright helps me to understand why animals are so important in my life: “Altruism, compassion, empathy, love, conscience, the sense of justice—all of these things, the things that hold society together, the things that allow our species to think so highly of itself, can now confidently be said to have a firm genetic basis.”

Animals speak to all of these moral traits and qualities, even when people fail one another.

Part of this interest in Zip is that he is a  genuine and iconic character. He also has the most beautiful markings.

Zip is both assertive and vulnerable. He has the eyes and demeanor of a rascal and the heart of a loving pet. He is at home in the barn but is still treading cautiously outside,  too cautious in daylight to wander too far away from the barn.

He’ll need a few more days, even weeks, to get comfortable wandering around outside and getting used to donkeys and sheep.

To him, a donkey is like a dinosaur.

I’m very happy to have him here, and so is Maria. He has already brightened our peaceable kingdom and our own lives.

We are having a great time watching him, getting to know him (and writing about him). He has a lot of character. It’s been a while since we had a young animal here apart from Zinnia, and so full of life and personality.

Caring for him is something we are doing together and deepens our love.

Everything about Zip is fun. I’m going to chronicle his growing up.

When we enter the barn, he comes into sight and demands scratching and rubbing. He loves vanishing into the hay bale pile. Zip reminds me of the power of animals to lift us up, challenge us, and bring out the best parts of being human.

Zip loves Zinnia and was trying to play with her. She’s unsure about that; she’s happy to rub noses with him.

He’s a lot fiercer and more assertive than Minnie was. I can tell already that Zip is a hell-raiser with a good heart (unless you’re a mouse).

He spends some time staring at the donkeys, who are staring back at him. This morning, it was Fanny’s turn.

He loves the barn and has several cozy spots that feel safe and out of sight.

He’s clearly an intelligent cat, resilient and alert. He is also affectionate. I’ll write about him frequently, at least once daily for now. Thanks for sharing this experience with us, we are just getting started.


  1. It is fun seeing Zip explore and figure out his new home! Barn cats are definitely unique and our Hopper makes me smile everyday! I’m so glad Zip is with you and Maria, he surely will have a loving home!

  2. Zip story is heartwarming to us because of your gift of being able to share the story in a meaningful manner touching us your readers. You are the gift.

  3. Thanks for sharing Zip’s progress with us. He seems like a great cat! Do you know how old he is? You might have said , but I missed it if you did.

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