An Unwelcomed Visitor to the Homestead

By , December 16, 2009

The other day we saw an animal on our property we hadn’t expected: a small, black, long haired house cat.

Currently, none of our neighbors have house cats, so a cat is a rare sight, at least outside. We called the local animal shelter and confirmed that there were no pet cats reported missing. They told us that feral cats are more visible at this time of year, when water sources begin to freeze, driving the cats closer to houses.

We love cats, but this feral intruder presents a problem for this very reason. We have cats of our own, Lissa and Spice. They are strictly indoor cats, not allowed outside at all.

Indoor cats are territorial, whether they can freely patrol their home property or not. A strange cat presents a challenge that must be met. Unfortunately, if a pair of cats can’t defend their territory from strangers, they’ll transfer the unrequited aggression toward each other. This used to happen when we lived in Juneau. A neighborhood cat would walk across our lawn within view of one or both cats. They would then turn on each other and fight viciously. One sighting could create problems for several days. We disliked this in our Juneau home; in our small cabin, this sort of behavior could be very disrupting! So far, Lissa and Spice do not seem to have seen the trespasser, they seem to sense it, as they have been quite squirrely lately.

The trespasser seems to be male, and he appears to have sprayed our screen door thoroughly. That hasn’t earned him any warmer welcome from us.

An outdoor cat wouldn’t be such a bad thing were it not for the disrupting influence in our home. We certainly seem to support enough voles and field mice to feed all comers. The minks, weasels, owls and hawks do their part. We’d welcome more help in the matter, but preferably not from a feral pet. For that matter, the local niche for predators of that size is well filled, we don’t need wild cats to compete with them.

We have seen cat tracks on Mud Bay before, and assume that this black cat centers his activities over there. We have only seen evidence of him here over a few days. With luck, the pickings are too thin for him here. If he gets too comfortable, we’ll have to figure out a way to make it clear he’s unwelcome.

But then, we may not have to worry about it. Crossing the ridge the other day, we saw cat tracks on the trail. Another trackway, from one of the local coyotes, followed it closely. A cat of that size would be a larger meal than that coyote has had in our area in many months. It would not be an easy meal, however; ideally, the encounter would encourage both animals to change their territorial range.

You may find this attitude callous, but for us, it’s purely a practical matter. While we may admire this feral interloper, and momentarily consider cultivating his presence as extra rodent control, we love our cats, and they must come first. And if it comes right down to it, we favor the natural neighbors over feral pets from off peninsula.

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