Tumbleweed Smith

In his 50 professional years, Tumbleweed has interviewed some true Texas characters and assembled the largest private collection of oral history in the United States. He writes a syndicated weekly newspaper column and teaches broadcasting at the university level.

Joy Doss calls herself the crazy cat lady in the area. On her ranch near Sulphur Springs, she has a cat rescue operation and takes care of cats that are unadoptable because of medical or behavioral problems.

“They call me and ask me if I have room for this cat and I rarely say no, so we have ended up with 21 cats. One of them has a tendency to attack other cats so we have a jail for him. We take him out by himself, and he plays outside for a while, then we put him back in his cell, which is a roomy cage. He’s pretty content unless a cat wanders by, then he wants to kill it.”

Joy is a former biology teacher who loves to observe animal behavior. She has different eating bowls and sleeping arrangements for each cat.

“Some of them sleep in my tack room where my saddles are. Some sleep in the hay barn. We arrange the bales so there’s space between them and they’re just snug as little bugs in there.”

Some of her cats stay by a pond.

“I’ve got some really good frog catchers. They catch little frogs all the time. And we don’t have a mole within three miles of this place because they’re all good mole catchers. They’ll sit and watch a molehill so they can coax that mole out of there. We don’t have to have any mole traps set out at all.”

Only one cat stays in the house. It’s a big one that weighs 17 pounds. It has six toes and has learned how to shake hands.

“I’ll take him to a school or summer camp and hold him up to look at the person in front of him then he’ll stick out that right paw to shake hands.”

Six-toed cats are called polydactyl, meaning multiple toes or fingers.

“They’re very unusual and they can handle all six toes. They have muscles to them so they can actually grab things and hold on to them. They pull their food bowls over and sometimes pick up their food with their fingers. They can grab and hold your finger like a baby does. They’re very gentle cats and they’re comical, always wanting to play. We’ve heard that cats don’t like water but polydactyl cats for some reason like water. When I take them to the pool, they get in. They love to play in water.”

The cats with six toes are hard to find and when they come up for adoption, they go fast.

“It is a recognized breed by the cat association and if you get one that is a purebred polydactyl, those kittens sell for at least $1,500 a kitten.”

Joy Doss also has a cat with no tail called a Pixiebob. It looks like a bobcat, acts like a dog but purrs instead of barks.