The Cat Who Lived (#371)

Our Boss Cat was determined to use up every single one of her nine lives. We thought she should be an indoor cat; she thought she was a big game hunter and bolted outside at every opportunity. We grew adept at using bags and purses to shield the doorway when entering. Thwarted, Boss Cat would hiss at us, assuage her rage by beating up our rescue dog Woofie, and plot her next attempt. She learned to lurk under Woofie and our other rescue dog Fey as they stood by the door. When we let them into the backyard, she’d streak out and over the back fence. The neighborhood got used to seeing me wandering around the block, calling: “Here, kitty, kitty!”

Sometimes she came back quickly (i.e., if she hadn’t eaten and I had chicken). Sometimes she didn’t. Then I’d usually find her on our morning dog walk, stalking other dogs on their morning stroll or chasing racoons down the sidewalk and up trees.

Juvenile raccoon in our orange tree. Beneath feline notice.

These fleeing racoons? They were twice her size.

In the evening, I’d once had to rescue her when she got stuck on a telephone wire.

Every neighbor with a dog had a story of Boss Cat terrorizing that dog. Including dogs who outweighed her by seventy pounds. Yellow Labradors fled from her. The famously aggressive terrier? She cowered.

Boss Cat once disappeared for an entire day. We put signs up all around the neighborhood and feared she was gone forever. Boss Cat returned at 1 AM, covered in grass and looking pissed as hell. There wasn’t a scratch on her. She ate three helpings of food and then slept for sixteen hours.

Boss Cat’s one injury came after she tussled with the lanky brawler cat Blackie. She wound up with an infected abscess. Which was getting off easy, since all the other cats Blackie attacked “looked like they’d been run over with a lawn mower,” according to one mauled cat’s owner. Boss Cat refused to accept defeat. After we’d spent hundreds at the vet and she’d healed, she snuck out and lured Blackie back to our yard just as I was setting out with Woofie. Blackie’s initial attack pounce turned into a scrambling, inglorious retreat—with both Boss Cat and ninety pounds of canine backup hot on his heels.

Blackie never bothered Boss Cat again.

So it wasn’t the neighborhood cats or dogs that worried me when Boss escaped.

It was the coyotes.

California was coyote territory long before white folks started shooting and poisoning them. I was thrilled to see them finally return. My neighbors? Not so much. Many of them had outdoor cats. “Missing Cat” signs began popping up. Our semi-feral cat colony disappeared. More than one napping cat was snatched off a porch on our block. Some cat owners brought their cats completely inside or built “catios.” Some would only let their cats out during daylight hours, with supervision or a leash.

All the other outdoor cats? Gone within a year.

Yet Boss Cat was still determined to escape. At dawn one morning, Boss Cat shot through my legs when I went outside to water plants. She paused on our front steps, giving me a triumphant, taunting look. She knew I could never catch her. If I tried to chase her, she’d just run across the street. Since our newest dog was in the backyard, I left the front door open as I hurried inside to dig up chicken scraps. Within thirty seconds, I heard an unfamiliar canine snarl. I sprinted for the front door.

Boss Cat was in the doorway, SLASHING A COYOTE IN THE FACE.

A hard right, a solid left, repeat. Because she had cleverly positioned herself in the doorway, the coyote could only snap at her from one direction. And because cats are unbelievably fast and Boss Cat never paused, the coyote was getting hammered.

I imagined Boss Cat’s internal monologue thusly: “Come at me, bro! You think you can take ME, motherfucker?! Think again! You are nothing to me, coyote! Nothing! I’ve made canines three times your size CRY and I will fuck you up!” BAM. BAM. BAM BAM BAmbambam!

Mr. Coyote fled. Boss Cat not the easy prey he expected and there was a big, loud human charging in (I was yelling, albeit incoherently). As soon as the coyote disappeared, Boss Cat stalked back inside. Her tail had puffed up to three times its normal size and her pupils were huge, but she’d taken no damage. For once, she refused food.

Boss on sentry duty that morning

Instead, she jumped up on the kitchen counter and glared out the window in the direction Mr. Coyote had fled. She lashed her puffy tail repeatedly before settling down to clean her paws and claws.

I guess the blood of her enemy was tastier than chicken.

I’ve yet to see a coyote on our block again.

The story of Boss Cat vanquishing the coyote went down the street. Various neighbors and kids, especially those who had lost cats, came by to gawk and/or pet her. Some brought treats. Boss Cat lapped up the attention and the food, and rightly so. She was a local legend.

She was the Cat Who Lived.


A Question of Coyotes (#370)

While coyote sightings are pretty common in Southern California, we didn’t see any in our neighborhood the first decade we lived here. Which seemed a little odd, because there’s a huge, undeveloped hillside that looms over the neighborhood.

We had plenty of outdoor cats and wildlife, though. Folks would leave cat food on their front porches for their outdoor cats. When I walked before sunrise, I often saw skunks trot down the sidewalk, turn up the walkway to a house, climb up the front porch, and help themselves to a bowl cat food.

Dog food thief

Andy and I once found a possum in our garage, inside a large bag of dog food. When we opened it, all the possum did was blink and continue eating.

We relocated the bag and the possum to our side yard and got a large plastic container for dog food the next day.

We also had hawks, falcons, owls, and plenty of small birds.

In semi-wild life, our neighborhood hosted a huge cat colony. Asshole humans would dump unwanted kittens at the park on the top of the hillside. The kittens would make their way down the hill to the house of an older woman who was a hoarder. She fed them, but ignored all her neighbors’ suggestions about contacting Fix Nation or any other TNR groups. The colony expanded exponentially. The Boomer neighbors complained about the overwhelming stench of cat pee. The bird population took a hit. The city refused to intervene.

Inevitably, a pair of coyotes discovered that our huge, grassy hillside was the perfect place to raise a family…and get take out from the surrounding suburbs.

The first time I saw them was probably on one of their early recon missions. At sunrise, I was walking down the hill with one of my dogs. Ahead of me, I spotted a loping canine that looked like a small German shepherd coming up the hill and thought, “Crap! A loose dog. How am I going to catch it—”

And then another, almost identical canine appeared behind it—with the exact same easy, but ground-eating, stride. They had no collars and giant ears.

I stopped immediately and told the dog to sit. He obeyed, and we watched the coyotes pass.

They never even looked at us.

Since then, I’ve seen the coyotes on the hill numerous times (my Instagram account is full of them). I never get tired of watching them hunt for gophers or lope in the brush. I enjoy hearing the young coyotes howling with the fire engine’s siren late at night, or yapping excitedly to let a returning parent know where they are. Those coyotes make our little part of Los Angeles wild and wonderful.

A lot of folks in SoCal fear the coyotes. Numerous motorists have stopped to warn me if they’ve passed a coyote. Which is kind, but also kind of ignorant. I’ve never had a dog under 75 lbs, and I am much bigger than my dogs. Every sane coyote (and we don’t have rabies in our area) gives us a wide berth because coyotes are not stupid.

Coyotes are usually less than forty pounds. Wild animals don’t have an ER; like other predators, they calculate the odds of injury in every single encounter. There is zero chance they’d try to take on two other, larger predators unless their den was being attacked. They generally stay away from humans, although my MAGA neighbors refuse to accept this. (And, yes, the coyote haters are inevitably MAGA.)

The MAGA cultists put up signs about “coyote attacks” in our neighborhood, but of course they don’t mention that the coyotes are attacking other animals and not humans. Arguments have raged at many SoCal city halls, with the MAGA crowd insisting on the right to kill coyotes. One city actually pays a ton of money to a problematic trapper who snares and kills them. When a third-grade class wrote letters protesting killing coyotes, MAGA supporters doxed and threatened the teacher. The school and teacher hired security.

And yet the psychotic MAGA meatheads insist that it’s the COYOTES who are the real danger to children.

“They could snatch a child right out of the street!” one neighbor insisted.

“If a toddler is in the middle of the street, especially in the middle of the night, a coyote is the least of their problems!” I retorted. While small children have been grabbed/ attacked by coyotes, that’s often on the idiot parent isn’t watching their child closely and has ignored warnings about coyotes in the area.

What the coyotes really want is a matchup with something much smaller: a rodent, a cat, or a small dog. Small dog owners have responded by buying coyote suits:

Story & Picture from The Atlantic

There are no suits for cats, however.

And there is no longer a semi-feral cat colony in our neighborhood.

But you don’t hear the MAGA Boomers thanking the coyotes for that.