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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Macavity Cat

My first glimpse of Macavity was back in February. I was puttering around outside when I surprised a large tabby cat slipping under the deck. My best falsetto "Here kitty kitty kitty kitty kitty. . ." had no effect. Joy. A new stray was here to prey on birds at the feeder.

Two days later the same cat dashed out of the garage when I surprised it gulping chicken parts consigned to the garbage. I had left the door open for only a few minutes, but Macavity had been watching and made his move. This cat clearly knew far more about us than we knew about him. When I didn't see the cat for a couple of months I concluded it had moved on.

Then one day about three weeks ago I was putzing about the garden, and I kept smelling cat piss. Wherever I went I would suddenly catch a whiff. I was on hands and knees sniffing for a scent post when the redhead casually observed that a cat had urinated on the polar fleece I was wearing.
"Isn't that the polar fleece you left hanging outside for the past few days?" she asked.
(How come women are so perceptive?)
She was correct, of course, and offered to wash it right then and there.
My woodsy codger musk had offended the cat, and my wife advised me not to leave it hanging outside anymore.

A couple weeks passed before our next encounter with Macavity. My wife needed help in the garden. An unknown mammalian herbivore had started to nip buds off the plants. I assured her that the codger could solve the problem, first by identifying the offender, and then by prescribing appropriate measures in behavioral modification. I set a camera trap in the patio.

The only mammal photographed (above) was Macavity on his nightly beat, strolling down the garden path to the back gate, looking confident and in fine fettle. The herbivory ceased and the plants started to recover.

Finally, yesterday I went to the potting shed and noticed a trail of blood and rabbit hair on the ground. I followed the drag mark through the leaves to the water tank. In the narrow space beneath the platform was a dead fully-grown black-tailed jackrabbit.

I put a camera trap under the platform, and this morning found 6 photos. Macavity returned to his prey at 8:12 PM, and apparently fed for 25 minutes. In the last photo at 1:18 AM he had moved the carcass closer to the camera. In the morning there was no trace of it.

The felid body plan is a design for killing warm-blooded vertebrates, and even a house cat has the equipment to take down prey as large as itself.


Jace Stansbury said...

I guess now we have to worry about feral cats killing more than just birds. :-)

zhakee said...

I love the name you call that cat. Heck, I loved the musical too. Seems like you can answer all sorts of questions with that collection of camera traps you own, and the Red Head sounds like a knowledgeable woman.

Castellanosm said...

The Blonde Headed one (my superior) and I are very intrigued with Macavity Cat. From the looks of his coat we expected that he was probably a blue-blood. The portrait confirmed it, see http://www.marcgunn.com/images/painting/Tnt_Tabby_Cat_Family_Portrait.jpg.

From the look on his face he seemed very unhappy with his City lifestyle and his arranged marriage to his second cousin "Rebecca". I am glad to see he has chucked everything to return back to nature and become a real salt-of-the-earth Tom. I look forward to more stories (and photos) on the metamorphasis of Macavity.

The Blonde Headed one thinks I am projecting. - M. Castellanos and K. Ware

Castellanosm said...

The link was cut off in my prior post. I have posted the intact link for those of you interested.



Camera Trap Codger said...

Thanks folks. I have mixed feelings about Macavity's activities, but as long he's not nailing too many songbirds, I'll tolerate him. After all, as an old friend used to say, "he's only trying to make a living." He IS doing a service for the redhead, and that counts a lot.