Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Owl and the Pussycat

We love our cats. We love our Great Horned Owl, too. But they don't love each other. Well, one of them does, but not for reasons we particularly are fond of. This was brought home to us this week.

A couple of weeks ago, Tinker Belle, the latest stray to find its way to Our Little Acre, and who is normally the sweetest, most loving kitty you'd ever meet, was ouchy. Downright grumpy and growly. As near as we could determine, she was hurting in her hind quarters, but she wouldn't really let us investigate things very well without protest.

She seemed to be eating okay and getting around all right, so we kept an eye on her until a couple of days later, she went missing. That wasn't like her, since she was always around, once she'd chosen this as her home.

When the second morning dawned with no Tinker Belle, the thought went through my mind that perhaps she was really ill and had wandered away to die, as cats have been known to do. But later that afternoon, there she was, right on time for the afternoon feeding. This time, she let us pick her up and she seemed to be back to her normal adorable self.

Not quite.

We found an inch-in-diameter open sore on her back, near the base of her tail, that was starting to scab over. Since we'd been meaning to take her in to find out if she'd been spayed by her previous owner, this seemed like a good time to get her to the vet. (She showed up here several months ago, with a collar, and in asking around, no one knew who she belonged to.)

He looked at her and said it looked like she'd probably had a puncture wound and that it had abscessed, burst, and was trying to heal. A round of antibiotics were in order and we left the office with an appointment for about ten days later to have her spayed.

I arrived to pick her up after the neutering yesterday and Vicky informed me that I'd be surprised when I saw Tinker Belle. While she was under the anesthetic, the doctor had shaved the wound area and cleaned it out. As he did so, he found many more puncture wounds. When Tinker Belle was brought out, my only reaction was, "Oh  my..."

Poor little baby. What on earth had she come into contact with?? I took her home and Romie and I discussed it. A dog? Perhaps, but with the number and nature of the wounds, that didn't really seem right. But there are any number of things out there that can be dangerous for little kitties.

This morning, I believe Romie put his finger on the cause of all those wounds. Our resident Great Horned Owl was hooting in the front oak tree and suddenly, it made sense. Talons. Talons could make wounds like Tinker Belle's.

Raptors are known to snatch cats for food. There are reports of cat collars being found in eagles' nests. (I couldn't find any substantiated reports of this in a quick Google search - only hearsay.) Owls are raptors too, and are apparently much more likely to grab cats than eagles, from what I could find out.

We'll never know for sure if it was our owl that did this to Tinker Belle, but given the fact that Hootie hangs out here on a regular basis and we've heard him quite a bit lately, it's a distinct possibility. We'll never know what happened to Jilly either - yet another of our cats that was not known to wander.

We're calling the feral cat Bandit. If I hadn't been inside the
house, taking this photo with my zoom through the front
door, I could never have gotten this photo.
Before any of you take us to task for not keeping all of our cats in (three of them never go outside), I'll give you the shortest answer possible. We have ten of them. All rescues, except for the one we've had the longest (Simon), whom we got from a cousin. Only two of our cats were chosen by us. The others chose us. Yet another stray (feral) has been hanging out here for many months, but only for a bite to eat. So we're feeding 11 cats at present.

We do what we can for them: neutering, vaccinations, flea medication, feeding, medical care when they need it. It's expensive. But we choose not to take them somewhere that we know they'll be euthanized in three days. The no-kill shelter is always full. Several of our cats spray. You wouldn't want cats spraying in your house either. So we provide a place for them to get out of the weather outside.

We do the best we can. But sometimes things happen. What we really wish is that people would take responsibility for their animals, because sometimes they end up being that of someone else.


Alison Levey said...

Oh poor thing - looks so sore - hope she recovers quickly

B DOODLES said...

Our neighborhood hawk has tried to fly away with my large chicken, a neighbors terrier dog and I'm suspicious he has taken my small cat!
Yes we saw him with talons in the chicken and a near miss on the dog. Our hawk is not nearly as big as that owl!

Jennifer said...

A friend of ours lost her pet rabbit to a raptor a few years ago. The rabbit was about 8 lbs, about as big as our cats and just hanging out in the yard. Then they had a Bald Eagle try to take off with their puppy. It would not surprise me if an owl tried to take the cat, she looks small enough that it would be tempting. Bet that owl was surprised she fought back!

Erin @ The Impatient Gardener said...

Oh that poor baby! I'm happy she's ok though because, frankly, I'm a little surprised she won that fight. I hope she's better (and maybe faster) soon.

Chiot's Run said...

No words from me about keeping them in (I have people saying things like that to me too). Like you we get a tremendous amount of strays that show up here. We fix them and feed them and do what we can - but they simply can't all become indoor cats. We too have a big owl, a hawk & an eagle that lurk around.

The reality is that cats, like gardeners, are much happier/healthier when they can be outside. I like to let my cats be cats and for me that's letting them outside to catch chipmunks and mice and on a rare occasion become food for another wild animal. I'm at peace knowing my cats lived the happiest cat lives possible here at Chiot's Run. We have yet to lose a cat to an owl, we did lose one to poison thanks to a neighbor who decided that was the way to deal with chipmunks.

Hopefully she's back to her loving self soon!

Julie Kroske said...

Dave and I a white kitten disappear the same way. We had an owl perching on our garage. Within two days, Puff was gone. Thanks for being a friend to all the creatures out there. No wonder we get along so well. Love ya

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

I am SO glad that you were able to get her into the vet and have her wounds tended to so she can finally heal. You will be blessed for all the efforts you make to be a good steward over God's creatures.

Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

Lisa at Greenbow said...

You and Romie do a great job with those thrown away cats. They are lucky creatures...even if they have to dodge the resident Great Horned Owl. I bet that owl thought he got a hold of a panther when he nailed your cat. It must be quite the survivor.

Dawn said...

Nice owl! Love their hooting!

Prairie Cat said...

Aw, poor thing!

And, it is unrealistic for anyone to 'take you to task' about giving those cats a safer home. Stray cats are just so common, and from experience, trying to bring them inside to make them 'safer' tends to make them miserable.

There are many dangers in the world, and we know you are doing your best to protect them!

Aimee said...

Kylee, I am with you 100% and commend you for all you do for those cats. My husband and I also take care of a lot of outdoor cats. We have 3 of our own that do not go outside, but when we moved here our yard was full of ferals, semi-ferals, dumped strays...we try to find homes for those that we can, but every foster home and shelter in NYC is overrun as it is.

We've chosen to have them all spayed and neutered, and we feed them and provide winter shelters. I've had 12 cats spayed, and there were 6 that were already spayed when we arrived. 18 cats back here! Only 7-10 live in our yard permanently and eat here regularly.

Your poor cat - it's incredible that she survived what look like repeated attempts to nab her. You are probably right in thinking it was the owl. I love owls, but cats qualify as food to them. There is only so much you can do. If you were really concerned, it might be worth trying one of those big ugly fake owls (I know, I know.) Seriously, sometimes a real owl is put off by another "owl" being there and will back off, at least that's what I've heard. It couldn't hurt to try and might save this kitty and some of the others a lot of pain or even their lives. It would be sad not to see the owl around - they are such majestic beings - but tough to see cats go missing or getting injured too. Anyway, just a thought.

Bravo for all you do to help them.

Kylee Baumle said...

Papaver ~ Thank you. She seems to be doing just fine. Recovering from an attack and spaying all at once, even. I wouldn't have put her through that had we known the extent of her injuries.

B DOODLES ~ Oh yeah, hawks and chickens don't mix. We've got eight hens that stay in a covered run because of the hawks. Though we've never seen hawks hanging out in this exact spot, they're all around us and we see them all the time. I'm sure it's just a matter of time before we see them in our trees, too.

Jennifer ~ Oh rabbits and puppies - also susceptible to becoming food. :-( We had a cat once that killed a rabbit bigger than he was. I was amazed. Jinx was no match for a car though. :-( Yes, whatever tried to get Tinker Belle no doubt wasn't prepared for her putting up a fight!

Erin ~ I'm surprised, too. We are thinking that maybe the bell on her collar made her more of a target than normal. No more collar. She arrived here with it and that's how she got her name, but we've decided to chuck it.

Susy ~ Yes, unfortunately we can't just open a cat shelter, even though it seems like that's what we've got already. There are eagles here, too, although they aren't plentiful.

My husband feels the way you do - that cats belong outside and it may be true, although our inside ones seem pretty content to live the lazy, pampered life. LOL. I know that a cat's number one favorite thing to do is hunt, and inside, that's taken away. Conquering a stuffed mouse just isn't quite the same.

Sorry to hear about the poisoning. It's always said when that happens.

Julie ~ Oh yeah, I know we share a love of living things! I remember you talking about Puff. Love to you, too!

Cindy ~ That's one of the reasons we do it, Cindy. It's not ideal, but we try. :-)

Lisa ~ Cats don't have the reputation for having nine lives for nothing! Thanks, Lisa. We do our best.

Dawn ~ I love the owl, too, as I've mentioned before on here, but don't like them choosing our kitties for their meals.

Aimee ~ have a lot of them, too! Thank YOU for doing so much for them. I never though about putting up a fake owl. I'm going to check that out. If it saves even one of our kitties from what Tinker Belle went through, it will be worth it. Thank you for the suggestion!

greenlegs80 said...

Poor Tink! That does make perfect sense though. She must have put up quite a fight with Hootie. I love you guys for what you do with the cats. It takes special people to want to and to be able to take care of so many cats over the years. Love you!

CanadianGardenJoy said...

Bless you Kylee girl, for doing what you can for so many cats !
I am a cat lover .. we have two furbabies and they are indoor cats .. that is my "thing" and even though I think all cats near a city should be kept indoors .. obviously you are in the country and it is impossible with so many of them at your door step .. you do so much for them as it is so kudos to you for that.
I love to hear owls hoot .. and see them .. but I think I would have a heart attck if I saw one flying away with a cat in its clutches (honest to god girl !LOL)
Now after reading this .. eeuuww !
I don't want to think about it any more ! LOL
I truly admire what you do for these cats though .. a lot of people "talk" but don't do the walk .. you should be proud you do it ! : )

Anonymous said...

A lot of ppl are upset that they owl would try and eat the cat... but outdoor pet cats decimate small bird populations because there are too many outdoor pet cats in the ecosystem. It may not sound "nice" - but the big owl eating cats is actually a balance of nature.

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