It was a few minutes before 5:00 in the morning when my eyes popped open. I was wide-awake. I hate it when that happens, especially when I’d prefer to sleep. With no hope of that, I climbed out of bed.
A quick glance outside indicated there were no visitors. I was mainly looking for the cats, Vazra and his lady friend Larenti. Sans external obligations, I stepped into the bathroom and brushed my teeth, put out fresh food and water for The Kids, and nearly leaped out of my skin when both Kako and Kazon literally flew out of the bedroom at warp speed. Both had been resting comfortably by the patio door, so I assumed they were frightened by something outside (not frightened of it specifically, but rather frightened by a sudden noise or movement).
I glanced in the bedroom and saw Vazra sitting outside. I was correct: Kako and Kazon probably were frightened when he leaped atop the fence, a maneuver that often makes a sudden and loud noise. I giggled to myself as both cats slowly came back to the bedroom door to take a peek at whatever must certainly be coming to get them. The sight of Vazra sitting patiently put everyone at ease.
I went to the kitchen and retrieved some bowls, put some cat food in one and fresh water in the other, and then stepped outside. Vazra, as always, was quite happy to see me. Before I had to ask if she was there, his lady friend came around the corner and spoke. Both would get some breakfast this morning (although I’ll admit she visited late the night before and got a midnight snack).
I placed a small handful of food outside the fence as she waited patiently. Only a few small meows from her punctuated the silence. Vazra was already too busy eating to speak. The moment the food was in place, she began munching as well.
While both felines enjoyed the first course of breakfast (the later courses would be during their return visits, if any), I stood and quietly spoke to them while petting Vazra. We all heard the noise at the same time, and all three of us snapped to attention. Something was coming. In the context of the wildlife in this area, it sounded like a herd of elephants trampling through the undergrowth.
In the darkness, the first thing I saw was some tiny little creatures scurrying around the corner, but they were following something large. Their approach kept them from being completely visible to me. All I could see were some faint shadows moving about in the darkness. Given the size of several of them, my first thought was that it was another cat with kittens in tow. I was wrong.
It was a mother raccoon with three babies. They were so small and cute, each probably no more than 6 – 7 pounds (2.5 – 3 kilograms). They followed their mother closely.
The female cat was on full alert by the time the raccoon family rounded the corner. Unlike Vazra and myself, she was outside the fence. And she was standing over a pile of cat food.
“Oh, hell!” I blurted out. She was standing over a pile of cat food… Uh-oh. While raccoons are terribly fearful of dogs (even though a raccoon can kill a dog), they don’t see cats as anything more than an odd curiosity. That’s true except when it comes to a mother and her babies. Under those circumstances, a female raccoon might consider cats a threat to her young. Specifically in this case, they’d also see her as an obstacle between them and the cat food.
I immediately reached into Vazra’s bowl and grabbed another small handful of food. I quickly tossed it over the fence directly into the path of the oncoming family. My hope was that it would stop them from trying to take the cat food before my feline friend was through eating her breakfast. It would also give me time to run inside and get something else to offer the raccoons lest this situation turn ugly.
My plan worked. I returned to the patio with some pecans, almonds, and a Fig Newton. The cookie is something sweet and can keep the raccoons occupied with diversity instead of focusing on the other food they smell. I tossed the nuts over the fence so the meal landed close to the mother and babies. I then broke the cookie up into several small pieces and tossed those over the fence as well. All four raccoons were quite happy and munched away.
Let me note that I absolutely do not like to feed the wildlife when they can see me. I do not want them growing accustomed to me, and I do not want to lessen their fear of humans. Despite that, this was an urgent exception to that rule in hopes it would protect the cat.
Vazra by that time forgot his own breakfast and was more interested in keeping an eye on the masked bandits. This was also true of the female cat. Because her location was far more easily compromised, I couldn’t blame her for not returning to her meal. She didn’t walk away from it, but neither did she continue eating it. It would be too much of a diversion when her attention needed to be focused on the four wild animals in close proximity.
Then all seven of us heard it and reacted in kind by turning our attention to more noise approaching from around the corner, although this time it sounded like a single animal. I believe it was then I muttered something akin to “Oh shit. What now…”
A large raccoon came around the corner and headed for the family of four. This time Vazra hissed and backed away from the fence. His lady friend stood her ground while she watched the raccoon numbers increase to five, two of whom were rather large with the mother being only slightly smaller than the new arrival.
The situation was getting complicated fast. The cat food outside the fence would certainly tempt them as soon as someone stopped eating long enough to smell it. How I wish I could get that cat to come onto the patio.
The most recent arrival ate a bit of the nuts and cat food I’d tossed out before turning his attention toward the female cat and her supply. I noticed this and stepped over behind her (obviously inside the fence). I know raccoons have no problem approaching a cat, but they would be more apprehensive with me standing there. I was right; the largest raccoon stopped his approach and looked at me.
It was then I realized the other four raccoons had finished the nuts and cookie and were now in search of other goodies, and they too smelled the cat food.
“Fucking hell!” I said, and this time there was no murmuring about it. The situation was rapidly spiraling out of control, and it was too late to go back inside for more food as that would leave both cats in danger.