Just a thought… A cat will do what it wants when it wants, and there’s not a thing you can do about it. [Frank Perkins]
I need to vent about nature and one animal in particular: the common domestic cat.
Now, before anyone gets their fur up, Rob and I have had the good fortune to share our home through the years with many cats: Toonces (named for the Driving Cat on Saturday Night Live), Billy, Kitty and George among them. When I was growing up, our sweet grey cat’s name was Pookie. Of these pets – every one of them a rescue – only one was an outdoor cat.
George was a gorgeous, fluffy grey male whom we found during a visit to the Humane Society in the early 1990s. What we didn’t know when we brought George home was that he was a cat who loved the great outdoors. He insisted on being a part of it, sundown to sunrise, daily. He would meow loudly and persistently at the back door of our little Ajax house until we relented and let him out, always worried for his safety until he returned for breakfast.
Now, nearly 30 years later, I’m finding myself seething over a neighbour’s outdoor cat. He or she is a lovely, fluffy strawberry blond(e), and we’re told by other neighbours that he just kind of showed up and was adopted by the family at the end of the road. He looks so much like Molly that once I stopped the car in the street thinking she’d gotten out of the house after we left!
Unfortunately, we’re seeing way too much of him lately. You see, we have a large tree- and bush-filled backyard. I’ve shared with you my delight at seeing deer (including this beauty and his new antlers)…
…as well as bunnies, the odd raccoon and oodles of hummingbirds that light every so briefly in the trees. The lovely Steller’s jay is the closest we get out here to the blue jays we used to see in Southern Ontario and once in a while one of these comes to visit.
But the creatures that I’m most worried for these days are these guys.
Yes, that’s a quail and lately we’ve been happy to see and hear a male, female and seven of their little chicks just pecking and chip-chip-chipping away as they explore the garden together. You can imagine how I felt yesterday morning when I saw the neighbours’ big fluffy cat sitting in the corner of the yard, watching the little family like a hungry man eyeing a bucket of KFC.
My view was obstructed from where I stood on the deck, but soon the cat disappeared and all I heard was a great cacophany of distressed bird sounds – quail sounds – as the family tried its best to defend itself. I tried clapping and shouting to scare off the predator; it didn’t work. I went inside the house and tried not to think of what was happening in my own backyard. A bloodbath, I imagined. And I tried to keep in mind the mantra that nature is not cruel, but it is indifferent.
Later in the day, I was relieved to count the same number of chicks and two more adults. Maybe they were combining families; I’ve no idea. Quails are not known to be extremely smart, but nature has to have built in some kind of survival skills!
Just when I was ready to let go of the trauma I’d imagined, I went to get the mail across the street. There on the ground lay a severed wing – bone and all – in mottled greys and browns. It looked pretty clearly to me to be that of an adult quail; possibly one that had died defending its little family.
I’m trying not to anthropomorphize too much here, but it’s hard. Babies and parents – whether birds or deer or that terribly sad story of the orca and her three weeks of swimming with her dead calf – touch something primal and nurturing in us all. I realize that some people are unable (as we were in the case of George) or just unwilling to keep their cats inside the house. But would putting a bell on its collar be so much to ask, so that their furry friend could give a bird a fighting – or flighting – chance?