Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ring-Tailed Cats and Rock Squirrels

We were visited by the ring-tailed cat again, but this time it was at dusk instead of in the early morning hours. My husband walked out the back door and saw the cat sitting in the tree, watching him. It is a fascinating creature with a head like a chihuahua--including the big, pointy ears--body like a cat and long, raccoon tail.

My husband spoke softly to the cat and the cat sat and listened. He didn't seem the least bit afraid. My husband stepped back inside the house and called for me to join him, and when we returned to the yard, the cat was still there, watching us. I talked to him for a good long time and he seemed to be enjoying the conversation, even if it was rather one-sided. After awhile, he simply stood up and made his way back into the forest.

My husband thought he had seen the cat come down from the roof, so I sliced some apples and put them on the roof along with sunflower seeds and corn kernels that I feed to the squirrels. The next morning, the apples were gone. He must have enjoyed the feast. I read online that miners used to keep them as pets. They would cut a hole in a box and keep the box by the stove. The ring-tailed cat would sleep all day, then climb out at night to eat the mice and rats in the cabins. Unfortunately, raccoons will hurt these cats, so I am hoping they don't cross each other.

The animals seem mildly disrupted by the roof construction, but I think they're figuring out a schedule. They know the workers come late in the morning, so the squirrels and birds have been showing up at the food dishes earlier and earlier. This morning, I heard them outside at sunrise. I checked the dishes and they were completely bare--not even a shell, which means the ring-tailed cat showed up last night. He's the only creature that doesn't even leave a shell. So, I filled all the dishes and shut the door, turned around and the squirrels came scrambling down from the roof to eat.

We had a rock squirrel in the window a few days ago. It was a small baby and I think he was looking for a bird to eat. He was in our bedroom window. My husband and I spoke with him in soft voices and he turned and scratched on the window, which was unexpected. Chewy the chihuahua ran through the house and out the back door, then straight for the window. Suddenly, he stopped, turned, ran down the stairs and stood quietly on the front lawn. I think he realized that if it came down to a battle, the rock squirrel would probably win! I went outside to get the dog and the squirrel ran between my legs, down the stairs, down the driveway, across the street and into the forest that faces our house. He will be back, I suspect, like all predators. Now that he knows we feed the birds, he also knows our house is a good source for food.

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