Assistant professor of English Michael Begnal owns a 12-ish-year-old cat named Poppy. Before Begnal took in Poppy, the cat was a wild homeless cat that was living outdoors. Michael Begnal // Photo Provided
'Warrior' cat, Poppy, shows sensitive side to owner
Editor's note: Teacher's Pet is a Ball State Daily News series featuring university faculty/staff and their pets. If you have any suggestions as to who we should feature next, send an email to email@example.com.
When one thinks of the word “homeless,” an image of a cat is not what immediately comes to mind. However, one particular cat was exactly that.
Poppy, a 12-ish-year-old cat, was a wild beast that was king of an apartment complex. That is, until a Ball State professor opened his door.
Teacher's Pet is a Ball State Daily News series featuring university faculty/staff and their pets. If you have any suggestions as to who we should feature next, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“He was wild. He was homeless, living outdoors,” assistant professor of English Michael Begnal said, “so he was semi-feral. I was always a cat person so I had no problem letting him in. He clearly knew how to be inside a house. Fairly quickly, he latched on to me.”
Poppy’s wild nature has never truly left him. As the saying goes, you can take a cat out of the wild, but you can't take the wild out of the cat. Or something like that.
The name “Poppy” doesn’t really describe his personality. Begnal said that this cute name popped into his head and now, it’s almost ironic.
“He doesn’t know how to just play,” Begnal said. “He goes all in and when he bites, he really wants to try to sink his teeth into you. You can kind of see the wild look creep into his eyes, and you know to kind of move your arms out of the way.”
Poppy is also true to his fierce warrior cat reputation as he loves to hunt.
“He was a very good hunter. I have seen him kill a number of animals,” Begnal said. “I’ve seen him catch a number of birds, a squirrel; it was not very pleasant. He even had a frog once.”
One of Begnal’s favorite stories about Poppy is one from his hunter days. Begnal frowns upon Poppy killing small animals. Still, the story of Poppy catching the squirrel was a noteworthy one.
“It was fall, and I saw this squirrel coming down. I thought to myself, 'Of course, the squirrel sees him there,' but I was wrong. I guess the squirrel didn’t see him at all, because there were so many leaves or something, and he just sprung and caught him," Begnal said. "There was a tussle. He suddenly sat up and lifted his head, and he was holding the squirrel by the belly with his jaws. He looked over at me with the squirrel, and I said, ‘Poppy! No! Put him down!'"
Unfortunately for the squirrel, Poppy didn't listen to his owner, and instead darted to the bushes behind the house to finish his snack in peace.
Begnal’s colleague, English professor Emily Rutter also knows Poppy.
Rutter's favorite Poppy story is a little different than the squirrel massacre.
“[Begnal] and I once took him on a long trip, and he was yowling a lot. We put in a CD of the comedian David Cross and that pacified him for the rest of the time,” she said. “So, we surmised that Poppy loves loud, often abrasive — but nonetheless hilarious — comedy!”
Although the fierce Poppy has had many days fighting squirrels and frogs as "Protector Cat of Michael Begnal’s Yard," he also has a bit of a sensitive side.
“He’s been a boon companion. He’s a good guy, even though he can also be a jerk sometimes,” Begnal said. “We’ve forged a close relationship over the years, even though he doesn’t always like to acknowledge it.”