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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Turtles and Butterflies, Despite the Cat

I have been feeling a little uneasy about this cat who won't go away. It is not mine, and I will not claim it. But it is an invasive species, and it doesn't exactly belong here, and it looks as if it wants to be a domestic cat, rather than a feral one.

On the advice of a friend, I put out some milk in the barn, to let the cat know that this is an offer to be a barn cat, but we have no opening for a house cat here, and if it has its heart set on being a house cat, it needs to go elsewhere to look for a position like that.

Something stung me when I entered the barn, probably an insect. It hurt for a while, but then the pain passed. I feel bad for the cat. I know what it is like to be rejected, and I am afraid that the cat might be thinking that it is so pretty and cute and adorable that it deserves better and  that I don't appreciate beauty when I see it.

The fact is that there are many unclaimed treasures on this earth. Sometimes it is sad that something is not used to its highest potential. But isn't it a good thing that we don't just have to curl up and die when others turn us away? That cat is free to live.  And whether it recognizes it or not, it has its freedom, which is something the owner of a house cat usually takes away.

The unemployed and the homeless are also free in ways that employed people with mortgages will never know. There are two sides to every coin. So enjoy your freedom, cat!

When Lawrence came back from his vacation, he saw a dead mole on the lawn. That was the cat's doing. I began to fear that I would lose all my wildlife just because of the unwanted feline presence. Would there be no more rabbits or turtles or even butterflies, and all because of that cat?

In fact, I have been seeing all sorts of animals lately, despite the cat. On August the 9th, I saw a toad in the back yard.

That same day, I spotted a bumblebee in the pasture by the twin cedars.

And while all the large, most beautiful butterflies in and around my fields kept passing me by, I did get a close look at one of the smaller species.

But would I ever see a turtle or a rabbit again, now that the cat was on the prowl? I wondered. On August 17th, I saw a bigger, more impressive butterfly close up.

It stopped to take a rest on the maple in the rock garden. I think it is an Astyanax red spotted purple. But still it had been a very long time since I saw my last turtle. Was the cat responsible for that? Would it ever leave? Would that incessant meowing ever cease?

And yet yesterday after lunch, there was no sign of the cat. I did not see it on the porch, nor on the lawn and I did not see it in the barn, when I put out the milk and got stung. So I went on my walk, and I spotted some mushrooms. Except that one of the mushrooms, on closer inspection, turned out to be a turtle.

I was so happy to see that turtle!

Surely the presence of this turtle out in the open meant that the cat had finally gone away! It was a reddish-colored male three-toed box turtle, but much smaller than the other reddish males I had seen earlier in the year. My friend Pam, the turtle expert, thinks it is between twenty-five to thirty-five years old by the marking on the shell.

I felt very lucky to have seen that turtle, and I thought maybe our cat problem was over. Maybe the cat had found a more receptive household to join.

But later in the day, I spotted a very beautiful butterfly, much bigger than I had ever seen close up, fluttering in the grass in the front lawn. It was a male pipevine swallowtail. And just as I was losing myself in the enjoyment of the butterfly, I heard a plaintive meow behind me. The cat was back!

The butterfly needed protection from the cat. It did not seem inclined to fly away. Possibly it was so brand new that its wings were not quite dry.

Would the cat get it, as soon as I turned my back?

The pipevine swallowtail kept fluttering its wings, but it showed no sign that it was prepared to fly away, and the cat was meowing behind me.

 I decided to give the butterfly a lift to a safer location.

It happily climbed on my hand and from there to the fence of the pasture.

From atop  the fence it flew into the pasture. But when it landed there, it was still fluttering rather aimlessly, the cat meowing in the distance.

Of course, if the cat had really wanted that butterfly, it could have gone into the pasture and gotten it. But the cat seemed to be more interested in me than in the butterfly.

And what about rabbits? you may be asking. Did the cat chase away all the rabbits? No, not really. I spotted quite a few rabbits last night. They just seemed to be keeping a greater distance, that is all.


  1. Aya, your pictures of the Pipevine swallowtail and the Red spotted purple butterflies are beautiful! How fortunate you are to have such beautiful butterflies visiting you. You're right - the swallowtail was probably newly hatched and trying to harden & dry its wings. If you search around under the leaves, you might be able to find his old chrysalis (it will be surprisingly small!). You were right to move the butterfly away from the cat. Eventually, he/she will take a few.
    As to your turtles they are well protected against the cat. And, cats won't eat toads as its poisonous for them (most know that, but I'm sure some cats try it anyway):
    Where you will eventually see the impact is in your local bird population, butterflies, voles, moles, etc. Since we have removed 17 feral / domestic cats from our property, we have seen an increase in those populations, especially in the voles / moles and now the coyotes and northern harriers that hunt them.
    The cat is obviously a former house cat - it just looks too healthy and acts too friendly towards you to be otherwise. It's probably also a less than 1-year old kitten. By putting milk in the barn, it will probably never leave and since you probably don't store any grains / food in the barn, she will not stay there or be happy there. She's too domesticated and wants to be with you inside. I hate it when people dump cats. As an avid bird-lover, cats are our worst nightmare. It's not the cat's fault, but the humans. Nevertheless, the cat will suffer. It may eventually catch some disease from flea bites, ticks, mange (mites?), etc. and its life will be shortened. It will probably have to outrun a few coyotes, dog packs and the occasional owl. That is so sad for the cat. It will pay a price for its freedom.
    By the way, if you do see it with a case of mange (we've seen a couple here with missing hair, scabs, etc.), be careful about sitting in the chairs where it rests. You can easily get the mites on you and carry them in - don't know if Bow might be susceptible to them too. Just something to be aware of...and watch for.

    1. Hi, Kathy, I keep hoping that maybe the cat belongs to one of our neighbors and is only visiting us. We have not been feeding it, yet it seems rather plump. I don't want to turn it in to the authorities, but if someone comes by who wants to give it a home, I will welcome that. I put out some anti-tick and flea spray for cats outside, so every time it approaches it gets sprayed with that. It also is a good way to shoo it away, as the cat does not like the spray.

      I am very grateful for those beautiful butterflies and the chance to see them up close. And I am glad to know the turtles are naturally protected from the cat.

  2. Irina had mange, and we cured it with frontline. No one in our house had ill effects, and since you are not touching or going near that cat, I think you should be fine. I have had many cats in our life, and the irony is some do not even like rodents. This one might, so if you do not want it to kill rodents or small birds, perhaps you can find someone who will take it off your hands. We never had cats disturbing butterflies or turtles, but I guess it depends on the cat. It just sounds like this little cat is causing more problems than you want, and perhaps finding someone online who could take it elsewhere would be a good solution. I do not mean an animals shelter, but perhaps there is someone who would not mind it living outside on their property.

    1. This cat does seem to like to kill rodents, but to some extent that could be a blessing. Yesterday, on my walk, I did not see the cat, but I did see a giant male rat who was dead by the tulip tree. It had died a violent death, but nobody ate it, so I had to dispose of it. I had no idea I had giant cream colored rats on my property!

      As for the cat, while I do not touch it, my daughter does pet it. She is not allergic to cats, while I am. The cat made a special point of saying goodbye to her when she was boarding the school bus yesterday, but when she came home from school it was not here, and we have not seen it this morning yet, either.

      The good thing about being free is that you can choose when to come and when to go and where you want to live. If the cat has found a better place on its own, that would be a good thing for all concerned.