WARNING: If you believe cats should not be allowed outside, you may take offense to this post (as one reader did when it ran as my weekly column in the local newspaper). We choose to let our cats outside, mostly to save our furniture (not that it's that nice... in fact, I really want a new sofa. Oh right, cats...) and because the cat that is the main subject of this post tends vengefully find something to pee on if we don't. Okay, that's the disclaimer. I think.
One morning last week I was getting ready for work when I realized Spouse was in our backyard, slowly circling our fire pit in pursuit of a terrified, fleeing chipmunk. He was trying to convince the little critter to climb into a peanut butter jar. The poor little thing’s heart must have been fluttering a million miles a minute, thanks to his (or her) near fatal altercation moments before with a great big, furry bully - Second Born’s cat, Sophie.
Sophie, a short-hair tuxedo cat, is a top notch, stealth hunter. We spend a lot of time checking her mouth before we allow her to enter the house. We learned that lesson the hard way, after three mice, a chipmunk, and - almost - a bird entered our house via the cat’s jaw.
|Sophie the hunter, resting up.|
It is a cat’s instinct to provide us, her surrogate family, with a donation to the table… not that any of those ‘presents’ are going to end up on my table. Even though she is catered to with canned and dry food, not to mention spoiled with extra treats, it isn’t enough to assuage her instincts. We can’t get mad at her for doing what comes naturally, but we’ve adjusted to her varying meows. Some are simply meant to signal that she wants to come inside, while others are slightly muffled with a struggling (or stifled) woodland creature.
A while back, we were baffled at how Sophie was catching birds. After all, they fly – she can’t… at least not that we are aware of. One day we witnessed her stalking the birdfeeders Spouse had attached to a backyard tree, then pull a high jump that would any Olympian would envy, and snatch a poor, unsuspecting bird out of the air.
Spouse moved the bird feeders higher up in the tree. Now we have no idea how she’s getting her flying fix – perhaps jumping off the garage roof.
Sophie has not tackled a squirrel yet, thankfully. I’m sure she would not come out on the winning end of that particular pursuit. Mice and chipmunks are constantly on her hunting radar, and their little corpses are constantly being tossed into our driveway for us to find at the end of our workday, or even before we have our Saturday mug of coffee.
It’s important to remember that dogs have owners and cats have staff. When a dog does something that fails to meet the approval of his person, he will tuck tail and hide in a corner, muddled with shame and confusion. Cats have no shame and, in fact, act the opposite of confused. When Sophie was shoved inside the house while Spouse tried to convince the chipmunk that a peanut butter jar would be a safe haven, she stood at the kitchen door with ears back and tail swishing. This is what is known as her “If you don’t let me back out, I may pee in an undesirable area” stance.
Spouse can be incredibly patient, but I didn’t hold much stock in his method of saving this little chipmunk. I had gone back to getting ready for work when I heard, “Got him.” What? He caught this tiny, lightning fast animal with a peanut butter jar? He had indeed, then deposited it back into the woods.
The chipmunk lived to frolic another day, I hope. Sophie was eventually let back out, and within a half hour had delivered a bird to the driveway. We had a cat once that brought home a garden snake and left it under our bed, so maybe mice, chipmunks, and birds aren’t that bad… except maybe to the mice, chipmunks, and birds.
For a cat who is affectionate and sweet, loves to rub her face against yours, and whose purr rivals the sound of a boat motor, you may not suspect that Sophie has a less gentle, more ninja-like side. But she has us wrapped around her little paw, even as we groan at her offerings. We can’t help but love her and also be fascinated, in an occasionally grossed out way, by her many feline facets.