Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cat Tales

We have a feral cat who lives in our backyard. He is a yellow tabby cat, a fat roly-poly thing. He spends most of his days and nights between our patio, where we put food out for him, and the purple sage in the corner of the yard. We named him(and we don't really know if it's a 'him') Lalo, because at the time my niece had difficulty with pronouncing the /y/ sound and that's how she said 'yellow'.
As we were eating our supper tonight, I happened to look out the window and I saw a gray cat by our fence. No one had ever seen this cat before, so we watched him. Lalo was on the patio, stretched out on his back so his belly could some sun. I looked again, and the gray cat was turning away. I grabbed a cup of cat food and walked outside and filled Lalo's bowl, and he immediately began chowing down while keeping an eye on me. I went back inside to watch the gray cat. It sat there for a long time, just watching.
The next thing I know it was creeping and slinking through the grass/weeds toward the patio. It was obviously hungry to be so bold! The gray cat, which was smaller and thinner than I originally thought, moved up to the patio near the food and then just hunkered down and waited. Lalo finished his meal and then took a couple of steps toward the interloper with his back arched. The gray cat remained hunkered down.

There is an entire ritual of nonverbal cat behaviors laid out to replace actual fighting. Cats are the ultimate conservationists; fighting takes energy better left for hunting and other activities. The festivities opened with Lalo’s back arching; he was trying to make himself look bigger. I expected the gray cat to up the ante and arch his back as well, but it didn't. It just sat there and stared, but remained in a submissive pose. The little cat didn’t want to challenge Lalo. He just wanted to eat. Lalo got the message. He moved a couple of steps away and parked himself for a bath. The gray cat got up and moved to the food bowl and began eating. When it was finished, it loped off and found a place under our peach tree for a nap. And all was right with the world. At least in my backyard.

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