Wednesday, May 14, 2008


The small cat has discovered the raptures of running water. He learned from sitting on the floor and watching the big cat in the bathroom sink, which is what he still has to do every day while he waits his turn. This is because the big cat is the alpha around our house, and because he had the idea first, and because the little cat can’t jump all the way to the sink without using the toilet lid as a staging area, so not only does he have to wait for the big cat to finish but he has to wait for me to finish, if you get my drift, since that’s usually what we’re all doing in the bathroom together in the first place.

But boy, as soon as I’m done and the big cat’s done? The small one will squash my fingers while I’m putting the lid down because he can’t wait.

He doesn’t have the action down very well yet. The big cat is practically a tool user – he puts his paw in the stream and laps up the water that sluices off. He barely gets his whiskers wet. The small one puts his whole face in the water and then sneezes, slips and slides around the sink trying to get just the right angle to put his flat little face in so that he doesn’t get any up his nose, and somehow, even though the big one is the outside cat and he stays in the house, he gets the sink absolutely filthy.
It’s fun to watch, though. And nice to think he learned a trick from the big cat, who is the coolest creature on earth and could give lessons in just about anything that involves cat behavior. The small one also, it turns out, is a hell of a mouser. It’s baby mouse season around here and I’ve been finding lots of surprises when I come home in the evening. Surprises that look just like all the cats’ furry mouse toys and you go to nudge them out of the way with your foot and wish you hadn’t, or half mice stuck to the floor with their guts so that their little hind feet and tails are pointing ceilingwards and they look like some weird art student made a little sculpture of a mouse diving through the floor.
No mind, though. My boys are earning their keep and I’m proud of ‘em.
Not only is it baby mouse season, it’s baby raccoon season. The mama in our hollow tree has four little kits, and they’re criminally cute. They’re just starting to want to explore, usually all at the same time, and she’s constantly having to collect them, licking their heads roughly and stuffing them back in the hole. There’s sort of a porthole below the main entrance of their lair, just big enough for a baby head to peek out every once in a while. More often I look during the day, when they’re asleep, and there’s a little tail hanging out, like a teeny tiny Davey Crockett cap.
Then to supply the necessary interface between wildlife and domestic animals, there’s Shakey. He’s a sweet orange and white cat who comes around and begs for food, having figured out around the end of the winter that he could play us like a couple of violins. We feed him twice a day at this point, and he hangs around the back porch longingly. At some point we’ll probably end up taking him to the vet to have him fixed and wormed and treated for the ear mites that he scratches till he bleeds, but we’re not so sure about taking him in. He’s a big cat, and I think he and our big cat would clash in the house. Out in the yard everyone gets along pretty well, although he’ll take a swipe at the dog if she goes for the food we put out. The two cats will stare at each other and wave their paws in the air a little bit, but then everyone relaxes and goes to separate corners. But I get the feeling those separate corners are kind of crucial to their getting along. And we wouldn’t rock our big cat’s world for anything. He’s our main man.
But Shakey comes around pretty regularly, yowling loudly if no one sees him. I can be upstairs and know when Shakey’s around, looking for a meal. And really, it’s not like I can say no. He’s a nice guy, and there’s obviously some secret hobo cat signal in the neighborhood indicating that we are the biggest suckers in the world for a pair of big eyes and a head butt. We’ll see how this one plays out.

The mama raccoon is very pleased that Shakey is around, because once he’s done eating the food we put out for him she’s right there, doing her grocery run. She’ll even come out in the morning, when she’s supposed to be sleeping – hey, she’s got four hungry mouths to feed. I don’t blame her. This morning, though, I walked outside with the dog and there was the mama raccoon, standing in the middle of our back patio eating catfood. And that was scary. The dog is half coonhound and I swear she has this deep-seated animosity in her blood – squirrels don’t really bother her, or birds, and in terms of interest even Shakey rates below his food. But that raccoon, all the raccoons that come around, drive the dog absolutely fucking NUTS. Which is fine when she’s up in that tree, not so great when she’s in the middle of the yard. The dog got to her, she turned around and put her claws up, but then took off and somehow outran the dog and made it to a tree. That big lumbering girl could move, and that was a good thing, because the dog was inches away from taking a big bite out of her back. And aside from not wanting the raccoon to get hurt, I don’t want my sweet dog running up against a hurt mama raccoon with a nest full of kits she intends to get home to. Those are big claws and those are big teeth.

So that was our excitement for the day. I swear, it’s like a freaking circus around here. But I do love them all, and even if not a single soul reads this far because your eyeballs have rolled up in your heads, I’m all pleased to have a little slice of critter life all written down so I can read it when I’m old and gray and my grandchildren don’t want to hear one more story about the damn animals, Grandma, please, can’t you tell us another story about the ladies’ room in CBGBs?

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Blogger Maia said...

Excellent wild animal post. I am glad the mother raccoon got away- mainly because I can imagine that you would then be raising four little orphaned Raccoons - and that would be hard work.

11:54 PM  
Blogger Kitt said...

What a great post. Critters just make our lives so interesting.

Love the glowy-eyed coons!

3:08 AM  
Blogger nbm said...

Shakey's getting not just catfood, but literary immortality.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Miss T said...

You're the only person I know who can write about cats and make it interesting!

9:11 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Miss T, that is a serious compliment, thank you. Thank you all, in fact.

Maia, when I read that I had a sudden flash of four baby raccoons in a towel-lined Amazon box getting fed by baby bottle. It's a scarily plausible scenario.

What's funny is if you click on that last photo to enlarge it you can see that Dorrie is totally giving Shakey the stink-eye.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Rooie said...

Great post!

In our house, it's the young cat (aka Monster Duncan...he's huge!) that taught the old cat about water and sinks. And it's the old cat, who is getting to be a less adept jumper every day that goes by, who has to use the toilet as an intermediate step. They both beat me to the bathroom and are waiting patiently for me to turn on the water, so I am the one waiting. Once they're all done, I can get my day going.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Kaethe said...

Were there critters in the ladies room at CBGBs?

In their advancing years the Van Pelts aren't too interested in climbing to running water. They're content with a just-turned-off shower.

Love the pictures, love the animal stories.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Were there critters in the ladies room at CBGBs?

There were many, but most of them of the two-legged or six-legged variety.

Still, it was a hell of a place.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Kaethe said...

When you're a grandma you're going to tell great stories. I hope you'll publish them, with drawings.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Well when I'm a grandma I'll probably need the money, so I hope they're great stories.

And happy birthday! 5/15 is my favorite date, even though it's not my birthday.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Kaethe said...

Thank you! I'm all about those numbers ending in 5.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Alecto said...

Your cats sound much better behaved then mine. One of mine, the one too old for such nonsense, thinks she ought to be eating the baby mice whole and then when they come right back up or she chokes, she stalks off in this incredible sulk. The other is still stoned out of her ever loving mind in what remains of the catnip patch.

The dog though, I am always so afraid that the dog will corner a racoon (of which I swear we have hundreds) and that will just be the end of him.

1:17 PM  

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