Where the Wild Things Are

I've left food on the back terrace for stray cats for years. This summer we haven't had strays hanging around the house, but it didn't take long before all manner of other critters sniffed out the kibble and learned to take advantage of this 'terrace restaurant.'

We had regular possums and a skunk, which I wasn't thrilled about (my husband accused me of being an animal bigot, because I really did not care to feed possums -- the skunk was fine, as long as it 'behaved' itself and didn't get excited) -- but mostly our patrons are raccoons.

At the moment we are holding count at nine. One juvenile is becoming so tame I can go out and shake the food can when I see him in the yard, and he'll come running and let me sit on the chaise and talk to him while he eats. I call him "Juvie." Two others are "Scaredy" for his shyness, and "Sergeant," for an interesting-looking tuft of a hair that resembles a buzz cut around his head and ears. Then there's mama coon and her gang of babies. Now about the size of 3 month old kittens, the gang also likes to dog paddle in the koi pond (thankfully fish-free) on hot days, and stare back at our house cats on the other side of the glass walls. To prevent digging in my potted plants, I sprinkle the soil with cayene pepper.

Every night around midnight the babies play-fight on the large skylight over our bed while our cats balance on their catwalk and under a beam just inches away. We all watch the mock battles until mama coon steps in and calms down a sibling dragging another by the ears across the surface or nudges someone off another who has been pinned down. You can almost see her shake her head and say, "kids will be kids."

Lately a young red fox has been coming up to the terrace day and night to eat the cat food. Given their diet of meat (mostly small animals such as mice and rabbits) and some fruit, this has really surprised me, but the fox seems to enjoy the cat food, and for the most part, it hasn't bothered the coons. The adult coons aren't upset, but the babies get a bit freaked, and either hide or try to climb the glass walls, which seems prudent. It definitely explains why I haven't seen any stray cats this summer!

Rating: 21 paws up

Amy Gray Light
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