My friend Martha is having trouble explaining to her pets the difference between outside toys and inside toys, as well as outside critters and inside critters. Sometimes, of course, toys and critters can be the same thing. Our current cat, Mystique, is a very good hunter and often leaves her contributions to the family dinner table stretched out neatly on the front porch Welcome mat. She never brings them inside. Teela, the visiting cat, hunts nothing but her food dish.
Spooky, the therapy cat we had back in our Sudbury house, was also a great hunter and liked to leave her donations on the front step—when they were dead. If they were still alive, however, she would try to bring them in, either for her further entertainment or perhaps for our enjoyment. I guarded against this by checking her out carefully before opening the door.
One night she wanted to come when the kids had friends over. The house was noisy and tumultuous and I opened the door without checking carefully enough. Through the sidelight I could see that she had something in her mouth but it wasn’t rounded and soft like her usual victims. Instead it was angular and, for some reason, I thought it was a stick or a piece of cloth. (Like such a fastidious cat would ever have picked up such trash.)
As soon as the door opened, she trotted in carrying what the hall lights now showed clearly as a bat. Spooky went directly to the brick platform in the sun room that held the (cold) woodstove and lowered the bat. Batgirl then put a paw on each wing, pinning it down before letting go with her teeth. I was amazed. We saw bats all the time on our evening walks and they never stopped darting around at high speed, much less landed. I considered how nimble she had to be to take a flying bat down out of the air.
While I was thinking this, our son came to see what she had. Before I could stop him, he grabbed Spooky by the scruff of the neck and pulled her off the bat. Bad move. The bat, free of teeth and claws, launched himself into the air immediately and began flying back and forth up by the peak of the cathedral ceiling where we couldn’t reach him.
The old shoo-it-out-the-open-window maneuver clearly wasn’t going to work with the bat so high up. Friends left, the house quieted down and Seth suggested the best move: we all go to bed with the doors closed and wait until morning when the bat, a nocturnal critter, would be sleeping. So that’s what we did. When we got up, the bat was sleeping quietly near the top of the brick chimney. About the size of a mouse, it could be plucked off and put back outside without fuss.
Another time I came downstairs and looked out the storm door to see Spooky and a fox lying facing one another with their forepaws tucked under their chests. They appeared to be having a silent conversation and getting along quite well. Tea and biscuits might have been welcome. When it saw me, the fox got up and trotted away across the front lawn.
I opened the door and Spooky came in. She paid little attention to my lecture on fraternizing with critters above her in the food chain so perhaps she knew better than I that the fox wouldn’t hurt her.
Shortly afterward our neighbors down the street did some landscaping work and I think they destroyed the fox den in the process. I had heard them barking frequently but things got quiet after the backhoe left.
The Great Chipmunk Hunt
Now that it’s summer again, Mystique has resumed her Great Chipmunk Hunt, sitting for hours above the hole near the hydrangeas, sometimes with her nose stuck down into it. She has nailed more than one chipmunk since we’ve been living here and I assume she’ll get this one sooner or later. With chipmunks, as with much else, perseverance pays off in the end.
As long as she doesn’t bring it into the house.