Friday, September 27, 2013

A backyard sanctuary...

Thank you all so very much for your kind words...
... regarding the loss of one of our backyard Chips to the cat next door yesterday afternoon.

As anyone who stops by my blog, even on a semi-regular basis, knows, I/we have a serious love affair with the little critters who grace our backyard with their presence.

All the birdbaths with fresh water... 

... and all the peanuts & bird seed we set out...

... are meant as a thank you to these sweet little friends, because they truly do brighten our days.

All of the shrubs and flowers we plant are done with butterflies and birds in mind.

(The red lucifer crocosmia is a favorite of the hummingbirds!)
We've tried to create a little sanctuary where all of God's little creatures can visit on their way through, or even set up camp and make their homes here.

(Dad and Chip, 2010)
I know these are outside animals and not our pets, but I come from a long line of animal lovers...

(Me feeding Chip, Summer 2013)
... and the little Chips who live in our yard have wormed their way into our hearts big time.

(Hubby and Chip relaxing, Summer 2013)
They are gentle little things who love nothing more than to scamper about the yard looking for food. And they are more than happy to sit with us and enjoy the backyard when we bring the peanut basket outside.

Naturally, there is always the threat of predators. This spring, a hawk came out of nowhere and landed on one of our Chips. As the hawk flew away, I was amazed to see Chip peek out from under the stairs, right next to where the hawk attacked. He had apparently been close enough to the stairs to escape underneath.

Some of our Sammy squirrels and backyard birds have not been so lucky. I have been out in the yard and witnessed them being swooped down on and carried away by the hawks, who also visit our yard.

As sad as that is to see, it is nature's way. The hawk must kill and eat in order to live himself.

But that is not the case with what happened yesterday. The indoor/outdoor cat from next door did not need to kill the chipmunk in order to live himself. It was purely for the thrill of the hunt/kill. This is our Baby, one of our two cats. They are indoor kitties, for their own safety and for the well being of the creatures and birds who reside in our yard.

(Baby and Sammy Squirrel in the window feeder)
Baby would love nothing more than to get at one of the Chips, Sammy's or birds who visit our yard. It is, indeed, her instinct to hunt them down and kill them. Were she a stray cat, this instinct would be necessary for her survival, but as a house cat, it serves no purpose. She is a well fed and well tended to (dare I say even spoiled?) kitty, as is our older 20-year Tiger, whose 'thrill of the hunt' days have given way to wanting nothing more than a warm bed to nap on.

We have one neighbor who knows her cats like to be outside sometimes. She built a nice screened in area, enclosed on the sides and the top, so her cats can go outside for a while. She did that for her own cats' protection as well as the fact that she doesn't feel that her neighbors should have to put up with her cats wandering into their yards, doing their business in kids' sand boxes, spraying, or just being a general nuisance. I wish everyone felt like she does.

Where we live, there are laws that control dogs. They are not allowed to roam free. Dog owners are responsible for their dogs' whereabouts. They must be kept in their own homes/yards, or if out and about, they must be on a leash. I personally wish these laws pertained to cats as well.

And believe me, I am not trying to be the "cat" police. If people want to let their cats outside, there is no law that says they cannot. I must respect their right to do so, whether I agree or not. (I personally wouldn't want to take the chance of our our cats being hit by a car, stolen, eaten by a coyote, getting rabies, etc.)  

But where it does become my business is that I feel that my very own yard should be "cat free" if that's what I want. And therein lies the problem. Even though we have a 6' stockade fence around our entire yard, cats have no problem scaling/jumping over the fence or climbing a tree to come into the yard. So I am at the mercy of the cat owners who choose to let their cats run free.

I know that many will disagree with me, but I feel that this little 1/3 acre of land that we own should be for our enjoyment (God knows we pay enough taxes on it). If I want to feed the birds and chipmunks and squirrels without them falling prey to a neighbor's well fed kitty, I feel I should be able to do so without worrying about somebody's cat hiding in the bushes next to a chipmunk hole, or laying in wait for the mourning doves to peck at the ground around a bird feeder, or for a robin to land on one of our many bird baths.

Anyhow, I guess I feel that Nature is part of the overall plan, the bigger picture, as hard as it is to watch sometimes. But a fat and sassy, well fed neighborhood cat, that's another story.

Another thing that makes this subject touchy is that I LIKE these particular neighbors. They are GOOD people. We are so blessed to have them next door to us. This is our only issue. We have talked to them about it, they know how we feel, and they say they will try to keep their kitty inside, but with little ones opening the door constantly and a kitty who just loves to get outside, they say there's just not much that they can do about the situation.

So in the end, I can only hope and pray that their cat stops coming into our yard. It's ironic, there were two cats down the street that used to constantly be in our yard, for the very same reason (the wildlife). As they have gotten older, they've taken to staying closer to their own home. I thought we were finally going to have a respite from the neighborhood cats... until Mr. M came along (not using his real name to protect his true identity :)




Susan said...

Hi Donna....I really do agree with you that neighboring cats coming into the yard are a real pain.

I keep Honey Cat in a LOT because of two nearby cats. Still, I let her out one afternoon and now she has a big scratch on her nose.

The two cats from nearby peed on my little granddaughter's small wicker loveseat. Hubs sprayed it and cleaned it to get rid of the putrid urine smell.

Honestly, when I see those cats in my yard, it makes me MAD. Go away, cats! GO AWAY.

But, like you said, it's part of life and all we can do is let the visiting cats know they are not welcome. Which I do, trust me. Susan p.s. Sorry out the chippie. You helped him to have a nice life while he was alive.

Marta Pardo said...

Hi Donna;

My best wishes for you. It's hard losing best friends. I know these feelings.
I like your photos with your beautiful animals.

Hugs from Girona (Spain)


Terra said...

Your yard and gardening look similar to mine with the tall fence and planting for wild critters. A young skunk walked in our kitchen this week, now that is too friendly. Sorry to hear about your little chip. I agree, when hawks hunt, that is beautiful, but sad to lose your little buddy to a cat.

Betty said...

I can understand what you mean. A city close to ours now has a cat leash law. If they don't keep their cat on a leash when they are out of their yard they get fined. I wish they had that law everywhere. I love cats and dogs, but owners need to take care of their pets when they get out of their yards.

NanaDiana said...

Donna- It is sad. We have the same thing here with a neighbor's cat..AND we have an ordinance that says you can't let them roam free. However, once it's dark-all laws seem to be lifted for some people. We lost 3 nests full of baby birds that were right on our porch this year.

Love your pictures here. I can tell you love all those babies that visit your yard and home. xo Diana

Andrea said...

"So I am at the mercy of the cat owners who choose to let their cats run free."

Oh no you're not, my kindred spirit animal-loving friend. If a cat comes in MY yard, it's considered homeless & into the humane trap it goes. End of story!

And when someone asks about their cat & if I've seen it, I say: "Why no, I haven't. I'm sorry... but I'll keep my eye out for it."

Our home backs up to 15 acres of woods (not ours) and so the wildlife are abundant. A personal friend of mine works for the famous Best Friends Animal Society:

I called her one time, crying on the phone when yet another hawk got one of "my" squirrel friends. She said: "Andrea, what are you DOING feeding wildlife? Animals in the wild need no intervention from humans. You are simply setting them up to be eaten in record numbers. It's not natural for a hawk to find such an abundance of wildlife in one place so you're causing their death, not helping them live!!! Watch them but watch them in their natural habitat, doing the things that come naturally to them. Don't interfere... not even with their feeding!!"

It made perfect sense to me & from then on (about 3 years ago) I stopped feeding the wildlife on my acreage altogether. The massive carnage has stopped too.

But each of us has to do what we feel is best. As for that cat next-door, he/she would be MINE the next time it came into my yard. I'd be in contact with a cat rescue group in my area beforehand & would have arranged for the transfer before I even set out the trap. And I'd act dumb as a box of rocks if the owner came around one day, looking for her cat.

But that's just how I roll. :-) My wildlife don't have to worry about cats getting them... the hawks and owls and coyotes and possums are enough for them to watch out for.

God bless you for caring~ Andrea

Melanie said...

Wow, so much to comment on from this post. :-) As I was sitting outside on my patio this morning with my book, coffee, and breakfast, I was smiling at the little chipmunk who kept poking his head out of the hostas and looking at me, but then quickly darting away. I left him an almond and a grape from my breakfast, but he never came out to get them while I was there. I don't know how you get your chipmunks to be so tame! As far as cats - I have 3 of them. All indoor cats. Like you, I don't believe that cats should be allowed to roam free - for all the reasons you mentioned. However, my oldest cat, Zippo LOVES to be outdoors. We never purposely let him out, but if you aren't totally on your guard every single time you open a door, you can pretty much bet that Zippo will fly out that door like greased lightning. You wouldn't believe how fast a 14-year old cat can run when he wants to!

Hcolton said...

Hi Donna, yes I too have had the same issues with other people's cats. I used to have 4 cats and kept them indoors as much as I could. Now I have 2 dogs but still miss my kitties. Hugs to you!

Anonymous said...

I have 2 kitties, both indoor residence, but they do have access to a bit of the outdoors via our upper deck, 12 feet off the ground. We also have neighbourhood cats that come through our yard, checking out the birds that visit the feeders and baths. We also have dachshunds, who will chase them and the dogs scent is in the yard, which seems to stop them from being regular visitors. I know its hard when Mr. M is next door. Perhaps a few sprays from a hose would deter him?

Elaine said...

So sad about one of your chippies. Your yard truly is a sanctuary and I am sure all of the outdoor critters enjoy their respite in your yard.

I keep my kitties indoors for their own safety and my peace of mind. I am so sorry you lost your little friend. I hope your neighbor keeps better watch on her cat.

......Michele @ Portlandia Vintage said...

Love that you honor your neighborhood wildlife including predators. Predators can get a bad rap! It is true our beloved cats kill wildlife and really should be kept indoors. Keep up your devotion to these lovely creatures you are able to have in your life!

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

I love your chips and your Sammy Squirrel stories are what started me down the path to trying to tame my squirrels somewhat. No chipmunks around here that I have seen so I enjoy yours so much !!

This seems to be a dog neighborhood. My cat and others are indoors and the only one that is seen outside has been a stray of sorts for years. ( that stray conquered my neighbors and my vole problem last fall though! :)

If a cat is USED to being outside I know it is hard to keep them in...if your neighbors have kids they probably pay little attention / I hope the neighbors can try harder or teach the children to do so :(

Donna said...

I agree with you 100%. I hope that your neighbors do a better job at making sure that the cat doesn't get outside again. Perhaps you ought to get a super soaker to give it a jolt of cold water the next time you ever see it in your yard.

Terri said...

I'm so sad to hear about the chipmunk. Was he the only one in your yard? I don't know why cats are like that. They are truly the ultimate predator.

Ellen Hite said...

So sad to hear about little Chip. The ways of nature still prevail - even for indoor animals. Sad but true, cats kill for the sport of it. It is just the way it is. I keep my cat indoors for his protection. But I know that if he ever got out - no creature would be safe.

RIP little Chip. I know your Dad is taking good care of him.

Merlesworld said...

I enjoyed my visit to your back yard.
Merle.......... ............. ..........