Every morning I follow a ritual. I make my coffee and look out the back yard to see my feral cat. She lives in a cedar box I found on the Internet. To keep her warm, I made a nest inside with a cat pillow. Who knew cat pillows existed? She’s had a tough life scrounging for food, so I’ve made it easy for her. I place her kibble in a porcelain dish on the platform of a double wooden swing. It has a roof, which gives some protection if it rains.
My neighbors hate multiple cats running around, so I have tried to trap her. A few years ago I discovered her with a litter of kittens in freezing cold weather. Animal control trapped the weaned teenage kits, but not mom.
Kitty, as I call her, is too darned smart for her own good. I’ve tried to catch her on the front porch and back deck, and even placed the trap in bushes for privacy. I’ve put gourmet food and fresh tuna inside the cage – she won’t touch it. Kitty seems to know the ropes. Unless she can reach her neck in without stepping inside the open cage, she won’t budge. After two weeks of this game, I gave up and returned the trap to the animal shelter. Other unsuspecting felines needed to be spayed.
Because she’s feral, I can only get about 6 feet near her before she runs. She knows she’s got a good thing going and waits in the morning on the roof of her house to be fed. She’s got me trained. If I’m a half hour late, she sometimes peeks in the glass slider on my deck. It’s as if she’s saying, “What took you so long? I’m hungry.”
The Audubon Society wants cats kept inside to give the birds a better chance. I am a bird lover as well, but realize we don’t live in a perfect world. This is not a scientific treatise and I won’t defend birds versus cats in a natural setting — my back yard. I try to give all wildlife a fair shake. There’s the yin and yang of squirrels gorging on birdseed, which drives most bird lovers crazy. I tend to give the “Pudgy” on my property a pass as he only appears infrequently to feast.
Sammy the gull is another character in this story. I like to name the wildlife in my yard. He is smart like the cat and shows up every morning when Kitty starts to eat. Like clockwork, he appears on my garage roof to survey the situation. He paces back and forth, waiting for the cat to finish. His timing is impeccable, but he won’t swoop down until she leaves the area.
Often she just sits there and stares up at the garage roof. Could it be out of spite? The gull is patient and waits until the cat leaves. She is definitely in charge. Sammy flies to the platform, picks up her dish and moves it a few feet from the feeding area. Why the bird does this I don’t know. He doesn’t break the bowl and seems happy eating the last few morsels.
If I’m away my neighbor serves breakfast for Kitty and Sammy. This standoff has been going on for over a year, avian versus feline. I look forward to this scenario every morning It’s a delightful way to start the day. Like cat food, I hope it lasts all of “nine lives.”
Kathleen Donnelly lives in Beach Haven Terrace.