Happy Saturday to you!
This morning I got up early to clean out my mailbox, send a few notes. As I was sitting up here in my control tower, staring out my window at Orion, I heard this weird noise outside. A raspy, weird growl. If you’d watched as much World of Disney and other “nature” shows as me, you’d have recognized it too – Big Kitty!
He/She/It has been coming around about every two weeks for over a month now. The first time, it sounded like two of them, but lately it’s just one. It starts over to the east side of our property and works it’s way, very quickly, down below our little shack. As it moves, the neighbors’ dogs go off in succession, all the way down the canyon.
The very first sign was a mauled deer, laying at the end of a neighbor’s driveway about a mile up the road. Ass chewed off – that’s not dogs. As we made our way back to Chico that morning we saw a Butte County Animal Control officer headed up the hill, and when we returned later in the day the carcass was gone.
But we knew something was out there. And sure enough, a few nights later, that weird raspy growling sound, moving quickly around the outside of our puny hogwire fence.
So of course we started patrolling our property during the day, looking out and around the neighborhood for signs. My gramps showed me a cat foot once at the river, where he used to have a license to mine gravel. We used to wander the river banks while he was loading the truck with his little tractor, until that day he found that cat foot. He came searching for us, in a sweat, showed us the foot print, then told us, dentures chattering, “Get in the DAMNED TRUCK!” “And STAY THERE!”
But foot prints are hard to identify, they get messed up. The print my gramps found was in wet sand, along the river. It’s so dry up here, the dust is at least 4 to 6 inches thick on the trails. In this neighborhood everybody seems to have a big dog and walks it regularly, so there’s footprints all over the place. What’s easier to distinguish is cat skat, and it’s surprisingly easy to find. They don’t try to hide, they crap right on trails. Sometimes they even crap on top of another animals crap, very clearly marking their territory.
So we weren’t surprised when we found a pile right on the road, right at the end of our elderly neighbors’ driveway, where the deer trails zig zag all along their property line. It was a big pile of hair, dressed in an outer layer of tarry black poop. To the casual observer, it might look like dog poop, but if you take a good look it’s not. When cat skat dries out, you can see, it’s just a big rope of deer hair, with little bones and teeth littered through. Like house cats, the big cats swallow a lot of hair, only it’s not their own. They also oftentimes scrape together a pile of leaves and dirt and then pee/poop on it. Dogs don’t do that, not even wild dogs.
We’ve known fox since we had this property – he eats a lot of manzanita and other berries, and you can see that. He also eats birds, feathers and all. But his turds are small, and they disintegrate within days. That pile of cat skat, bigger than any pile our dogs have laid down, has sat at the end of the neighbor’s driveway almost since we saw that mauled deer.
Scuse me – TMI? Well, up here, it pays to be an amateur skatologist. And keep a pig sticker on your belt.