Milo Yield: Feral (and unwelcome) cat cozies up to dog
June 10, 2016
Folks, I've got a practical and a moral dilemma at Damphewmore Acres.
Here's the situation. First, I love dogs — I always had one or more dogs as pets since I wuz a wee, toddling lad. Second, I hate cats — never have had a cat for a pet in my life.
So, what am I to do when the dog I love becomes buddies with a cat I despise? That's my dilemma. Let me explain a bit. My new Brittany bird dog pup, Mandy, is an absolute bundle of energy. Anything that moves she wants to either chase it, kill it or play with it. She happily spends her kennel days pointing and trying to ambush the chickens clucking and scratching near, or under, her off-the-ground kennel. Let me assure you, Mandy would chase down and kill a chicken in a heartbeat — also rabbits and I'm sure squirrels.
A few weeks ago, a mongrel gray cat showed up at Damphewmore Acres. It's wild as a March hare around here, but it might belong to the neighbors across the road from us. I've tolerated the cat up to this point because it hasn't hung around the house and I'm sure it's doing what I admit cats do good — catch rodents. Unfortunately, I also know that house cats and feral cats alike are big-time predators on song birds and game birds. Plus, I've had the occasional stray cat snatch a baby chicken running around with it's mother hen.
Adding to the situation, my brooder house — in which I'm raising 25 chicks — sits right beside my dog kennels. So, after I got the chicks, I started to worry that the gray cat might kill them when I start letting them outdoors.
So, imagine my surprise when I looked out the picture window a week or so ago and spied the gray cat INSIDE the kennel with Mandy, eating dog food from Mandy's dish while Mandy was simply trying to play with the cat. The cat easily crawls through the cattle panels of the kennel walls.
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As I watched them, they played together and then the cat slithered into the adjoining kennel that houses my old decrepit bird dog Annie. When Annie awoke from her nap, she immediately charged the gray cat and chased it from her kennel.
Now the cat is making daily visits to the dog kennel for a free meal of dog food and a round of playing with Mandy.
I don't know what I'm going to do about my dilemma long term, but I found a short-term solution. I build a small pen out of chicken wire — with a top on it — where the new chicks can get outside into the sun and grass.
The gray cat doesn't know it, but it's figuratively on a short leash. If it bothers the chickens, it's gotta go. If it just eats a bit of dog food and provides a source of amusement for Mandy, I guess I'll stomach the cat's presence.
Ol' Nevah and I cut a lot of grass here at Damphewmore Acres, probably four or five acres on a regular basis. She usually mows the expanse around the house with her new riding lawn mower and I handle the grass, clover and weeds around the chicken houses, other outbuildings, the lagoon and out around the pond with my old mower. The point I'm trying to make is that I cut enuf grass to make it boring.
Well, this morning while I wuz mowing around the clover plots, I had something interesting happen. I wuz mowing right along when I spied a pair of killdeers and four newly-hatched killdeer chicks. The little guys were so fresh out of the egg that they hadn't perfected that fast killdeer run that they'll have by tomorrow.
The parent killdeers were having a regular fit at the roaring monster of a lawnmower and doing all they could do to shepherd their new-born chicks to safety. Of course, I wuz never going to let them come to harm, so I kept a close watch on the group as I mowed round and round.
Finally, the parents were running out of room in the uncut grass and gathered up their unsteady brood and made a breakout for the pond. They made it safely.
It's amazing how Mother Nature builds into her creatures the protective instinct for all young animals. I'll enjoy watching the baby killdeers grow up around the pond.
I'll stick to chick stories. I've a dear old friend from Iowa, Ms. Lottie Tipps, who's done a lot of living and gained a lot of wisdom in her 95 years on the farm. When I lived in Iowa, we both raised chickens and swapped chicken stories and chicken management tips.
When Lottie found out I had a batch of new chicks, she sent me a letter to tell me a new way to sex baby chicks. She's serious about this. She said I need to tie a piece of popcorn to a length of string and hold it over the chick's head. If the chick sways it's head back and forth looking at the popcorn, it's a baby rooster. If the chick rotates it's head in a circle, it's going to become a hen.
I've no doubt that Ms. Lottie's chicken-sexing trick works with some chicks. But it won't work with mine becuz they're all too wild to let me get close enuf to them to give the popcorn trick a try. Guess I'll just have to wait until the chicks start feathering out to determine their sex.
My good bud, Willie Jay, at Mt. Vernon, Mo., sez when it married his wife decades ago, she wuz a raving beauty. Now he says she's just half of that — still raving.
Enuf! No more ranting or raving. No wisdom either. So, have a good 'un. ❖