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Oct 12 / Vick Mickunas


October 3, 2019

There’s a feeding station for five of the cats just outside the back door. These cats are a family, the mother, I call her Sweetie, is feral, she has tuxedo markings, and she has stayed around since giving birth to her litter. The only time I have ever touched her was when I had to capture her to take her to the vet after her kittens were weaned. She won’t be having any more kittens. She has never forgiven me for that day two years ago. I enticed her into the tool room where these cats spend the winter months. When I was finally able to grab her after a mad scramble she bit me so deeply through my thick leather gloves that she left a scar.

Sweetie and her four kittens, Junior, Wibbles, Dolly, and Patch, know that at the same time every morning and evening I will be feeding them at their feeding station. They rarely miss a meal, especially Sweetie. She gets all excited when I bring out their dishes. She swirls around expectantly and as I set her dish down she will often lunge forward grazing her whiskers against my hand. That’s as close as I ever come to touching her.

Her kittens are wonderful, affectionate creatures who love to be stroked and petted. I have been handling them and loving them since the day they were born. After the cats have eaten I’ll take up their excess food and put it in the refrigerator. I do not want to attract wildlife with the scent of cat food. They always have a bowl of water out there. It has been quite dry here for months and that bowl of water attracts passing opossums and raccoons. The opossums will lean into the water dish and drink until it is dry. The raccoons will drag the dish around and despite their spurious reputations, that they are clean and wash their hands, in reality they are filthy creatures. They leave muck in the dish. If they get inside the tool room, or heaven forbid, the attic, they befoul the area. They will defecate where they sleep.

I have had to remove raccoons and opossums from the house on a number of occasions. I don’t mind removing the opossums. They scurry about and just want to remain where it is warm and dry and where food is served regularly. Raccoons are a different story. They freak out when you try to remove them. They get really vicious, snapping, snarling, and after I catch them in a live trap they scrabble frantically in their efforts to escape. We drive these creatures to a local forest some distance away and release them.

I don’t worry about opossums harming the cats but the presence of raccoons is worrisome. When raccoons show up I have always assumed the cats avoid them. They let me deal with them. I do worry about the cats fighting with a raccoon. I have always been certain that a raccoon could really hurt my cats. However, as of this morning, I am not so sure of that assumption.

Last night it was hot. October has begun with record shattering 90 degree days. When it is cooler the cats are more likely to want to be inside at night. We have cat doors so they can go in and out. Wibbles, Dolly, and Patch will use the cat doors. Sweetie and Junior will use the cat door to the tool room but they never come inside the other cat doors that could take them inside to beds and food dishes. They are more feral in their behaviors. We have had raccoons and opossums enter through the cat doors and act like they lived here! Last night all the cats were outside. I thought I heard some fighting last night but it subsided quickly so I remained in bed.

This morning all five of the cats who eat at the feeding station outside were waiting for me in the front yard when it was time for breakfast. I got their food ready and opened the back door by their feeding station and was about to call them around for breakfast when I glanced over and noticed a very large raccoon next to the door. There are some small logs stacked there, firewood I am preparing for winter. The raccoon was lying next to a small log with his snout sticking under it. It wasn’t moving. None of the cats had come around to the back of the house yet. They were waiting. They knew how that raccoon got there.

I assumed the raccoon was dead but I needed to be sure. I touched the end of the log that was resting alongside the animal’s face. It didn’t stir. I went inside to put on some gloves. I grabbed the dead raccoon by one back foot and flipped it over. He had his front paws over his face. He had died with his face pressed under the log, his paws over his eyes. He had an expression of utter terror. There wasn’t a mark on him. No cuts. No bites. No claw marks. He was just dead.

I’m trying to imagine what happened? The water dish was full of water so the raccoon had not had time to drink any of it. These cats will kill chipmunks and squirrels and mice and voles but I have never known them to attack anything larger than that. Here was this dead raccoon and it was obvious that he had literally been scared to death!

Why didn’t he run away? Was he surrounded by all these black cats? After all, it is October. Did my sweet little cats encircle him last night and frighten him so badly that he had a heart attack and died of fear with his head burrowed beneath that log?

I removed his carcass and took it out to the bean field for the vultures to have their brunch. When I returned I called the cats and they slowly assembled at the feeding station. Their behavior was unusual. They had returned to the scene of their crime, a murder by fear alone, and this was causing some apprehension. Two of them would not eat. I inspected the four who will allow such a familiarity on my part. There wasn’t a mark on them. No bites. No scratches. Nothing.

This is my October murder mystery. A dead raccoon. Five cats who are not talking. As I am writing this Wibbles is asleep in my lap and Patch and Dolly are sleeping at my feet. Girls, what do you know about this? They continue to ignore me.

Halloween came early this year.

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