Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Face-Off

Okay, I admit that my pups Lexie and Mystie aren’t as well socialized as I’d like. They shy away from other dogs that we meet on walks. They acted nervous when visited by my older son’s exuberant Puli, and when my younger son brought a friend over with her two dogs. Still, they both were essentially gracious, though reluctantly so.

We have a large backyard, and both dogs beg to explore it several times a day. That’s partly because neighborhood cats come in to explore, leave their scents, and occasionally kill mice, which I don’t complain about much, or birds, which bothers me a lot.

But the cats who come here seem to have an unwritten rule: When dogs chase them, they run away. They always leap over the fence back into their own yards.

Except earlier this week. One large, fat gray cat that I’d never seen before came into our yard. When the dogs ran after him, he stood his ground. Squatted. Fluffed up his fur until he looked big and nasty.

That scared me. I’ve always had concerns about whether some cat might decide to break their rule and attack. And I wasn’t sure what my dogs would do in the face of a persistent feline that didn’t run. Would they attack?

Fortunately, my pups acted wisely. They barked but didn’t attempt to physically force the cat to leave. I, on the other hand, decided to confront the recalcitrant kitty and get him to go away, so he wouldn’t hurt the dogs.

Hah! He stood his ground with me, too. And meowed in protest at my attempts to run him off.

I immediately wondered--What would Kendra Ballantyne do? My pet-sitting mystery protagonist would have an answer that would get that darned cat outta there fast. She always seems to be able to deal with any problem.

Not I, necessarily. This time, I decided not to attempt to touch the cat, but instead looked for a stick with which I could poke it--gently, of course, but it would hopefully get the idea that I wanted it to move.

I found an appropriate stick and returned to the spot, my dogs barking the whole time. The cat had stalked his way up a hill. He soon headed into a neighbor’s yard, so I fortunately didn’t have to try poking him. This way, he saved face, leaving on his own terms, so it was a win-win situation for all of us.

I haven’t seen him since, which doesn’t bother me at all. A neighbor said he was a feisty old tom cat she’d seen in another neighbor’s yard, also annoying the dogs.

If he never returns, I’ll be okay with it. The other playful cats are most welcome, but not him.

But he, or a counterpart, just might show up in one of my mysteries...!



Sheila Connolly said...

I've used a spray bottle of water and spritzed an uninvited cat--harmless, but it annoys them into leaving.

Monica Ferris said...

Isn't it fun when a real-life problem gives you an idea for a fictional one? And Sheila seems to have given you an answer your sleuth can use. I remember reading a book of advice for cat lovers many, many years ago that noted that once a cat figures out you aren't actually going to kill it, making it mind is nearly impossible. (IIRC, she recommended the reward method. But that doesn't work on strange cats, only cats that live with you.)

Linda O. Johnston said...

When my husband got home, he suggested a water balloon. I think he's been disappointed that the cat hasn't come back to allow him the fun of using one!

Betty Hechtman said...

My understanding was that when cats run, dogs automtically chase them, but when they hold their ground, there's a chance the dogs and cat will get along.

I have taken in stray cats twice and they got along with my dogs because they didn't run.

Linda O. Johnston said...

You may be right, Betty, but this cat seemed awfully unfriendly, even to me!

Julie (whose Chloe would hide under the bed) said...

A tough kitty, for sure! The best discouragement I know of is a garden hose. It won't hurt him to get wet, and you can keep him going until he's past the fence. Shouldn't take more than once or twice to convince him to stay away.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Good idea, Julie. I've got the hose ready to go, just in case!

Janie Emaus said...

No doubt this cat will show up in one of your great Kendra mysteries. That's probably why he showed up in the first place.

Linda O. Johnston said...

Could be, Janie...