My Backyard Cats

I remember years ago, standing on our front porch in Illinois, watching the cardinals and blue jays flying from tree to tree. They would land in the yard and peck at the ground looking for any tasty morsel that they could find. The red birds would sweetly chirp, while the bluebirds squawked loudly and raunchily, trying to bully the smaller birds away from their self-proclaimed territory.

Nowadays, I laugh as I watch my cats hunker down in the desert sand outside of our Nevada home, trying to sneak up on the sparrows in our backyard. Living in a desert region means that we do not have grass in our yard, just small pea-sized gravel.

And, with the bird feeder strategically placed in the center, the birds have plenty of warning when Oogie, Buddy or Fluffy try to sneak up on them. As soon as they hear the crunch of gravel, they flit to the first tree in our yard, chirping a warning to their fellow flock members.

My “three amigos” were part of our feral cat community. However, for the last two years, I have gained their confidence enough that they have made our home their new territory. They use the “doggy door,” which we have aptly renamed the “cat door,” for obvious reasons. They are welcome to enter and exit anytime they decide, knowing we mean them no harm.

They stick around on cold nights and sleep on the cat stands, cat beds and wherever else they feel like taking a nap. In the warmer months, they love to lounge on the porch railings and under the trees in our backyard.

Being semi-wild, or at least semi-domestic cats, primal instincts have benefited these felines. I remember last year when I went to lean a broom handle against the cupboard, and it fell to the floor with a snapping sound. In a matter of a microsecond, I heard the cat door flap. By the time I turned to look, both Oogie and Buddy had fled outside.

This type of behavior is commonplace for any “street cat.” Their need to survive and flee from danger is in-ground in their very being. Using a calm voice and a tender hand will not keep an animal from using their “fight or flight” instinct when they sense danger.

And being semi-domesticated, my “three amigos” do not consider me a threat to their well-being. They know I feed them and care for them and will not harm them.

Fluffy is the newest member of our tribe. He found our house around March of 2017 and decided he liked what he saw. He is smaller in stature, with a thick, black, fluffy coat. And even though he is not a large cat, he thinks he is the boss of the house. He prances around, chasing the more feral cats away from what he perceives as his territory.

I have received my fair share of scratches from him when he gets in his “moods.” But, with patience and a calm voice, he has started to tolerate me. Now, when he is on the cat stand, he will allow me to touch him without fear of a swat from his claws.

A few weeks ago, I put together a three-tiered cat house in our backyard. It has a real tile roof which keeps the flooring somewhat dry on rainy days. And, I noticed that Fluffy had claimed this as his own, too.

He will lounge on the third floor, watching the sparrows and wrens pecking at the seeds that have fallen to the ground. Oogie and Buddy laze in the Oleander bushes, staring at the pigeons walking calmly through the pebbles looking for food.

The pigeons are big and plump, foraging for the seeds the smaller birds have strewn around the bird feeder. A wren squawks out a warning to all when Oogie tries to get closer, sending the birds fleeing to the nearest trees. Oogie stretches, yawns, and meanders back towards our porch, giving one last look back at the pigeons.

If a cat could talk, I bet he would say “tomorrow is another day.” He will eat and drink; sleeping for the next few hours. He is probably dreaming of the birds that got away.

Exercise and activity are healthy for any animal, domesticated or wild. My “three amigos” use their instincts to hone their skills at the hunt. With the bird feeder in the center of the yard of small pebbles, the birds have an early warning system in place, giving them ample opportunity to get away.

And, as Fluffy jumps down from his third-floor balcony, the birds fly to their safe perches in the trees. I watch the sparrows and wrens chirping among themselves, remembering the cardinals and blue jays back in Illinois.

Photo One of black shorthair by Raquel Pedrotti on Unsplash.
Photo Two of orange tabby by Iswanto Arif on Unsplash.
Photo Three of black longhair by Kari Shea on Unsplash.