Friday, November 14, 2003

I just finished watching some high drama involving squirrels and a cat. I was drinking coffee at my kitchen table and noticed a cat, a huge gray tabby with a silver ID tag on its collar, hanging out next to the neighbor's garage. Then a big, fat fox squirrel (N. Illinois has some of the biggest squirrels I've ever seen, anywhere, owing to the oak savannah habitat that still dominates the urban landscape) strolled into the scene along the fence line. It crawled right towards the cat and when it got within three feet kitty pounced. The squirrel leaped away on a tree, one that apparently was the territory of another squirrel, and was chased around the tree by another squirrel as the cat looked up expectantly. The first squirrel finally got away, leaping off the tree out of sight of the tail-twitching sentinel of death.

My favorite moment was when the cat made its initial attack, all muscular leap and fur, spread legs and claws.

The friendly kittens out at the in-laws' farm aren't doing so well. Up to 10 cats from three or four generations mob us whenever we come to the door. One kitten had a real bad eye infection -- its eye almost closed by a big ball of pus. Another kitten went into a body-shaking coughing fit for five minutes before it settled down to eat its food. Such is the life of a farm cat deprived of pampering vet care. Nature is brutal and efficient. Those kittens have to adapt to new life in the onset of winter. It won't be easy.

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