Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Murdering Cat No More
(this is not an especially great picture of Lila, but I think it emphasizes her ruthless side...)
Our cat Lila, who began life in a studio apartment in Manhattan with a working couple, then moved to Long Island to live in a house full of people and other pets, did fairly well for about four months. She was timid and wouldn't venture out of the basement family room, and I was the only person who could reliably get close to her, but for the changes she endured I'd say she was doing all right. Then, for reasons we never figured out, she stopped using the litter box--so she became an outdoor cat. That wasn't as harsh as it seemed, because when we moved in we inherited a dog house, and when she pulled this it was May (of 2007) and so it wasn't a shock to be put out. She also had ample time to get acclimated and grow a winter coat.
Surprisingly, she took to outdoor life beautifully, and to my great surprise, she became much friendlier. I was certain that once we put her out, she'd take off and we'd never see her again--something I was willing to have happen after what she did to our family room carpet! But instead, she stayed close to home and let the kids pet her almost every time they tried. She loved the flagstones on the patio when they warm from the sun, she loved her little house and would nest in the blankets and towels we put in for her comfort, and she knew where we kept the food and water. She spent her first year outside in perfect happiness.
This winter, it was unbearably cold around here. The eastern end of Long Island is generally quite mild; we always get less snow than the western end, and sometimes even the city gets more than we do. So this past winter was quite a shock, with frigid temperatures and snow that stayed on the ground from December till February. I pitied my now-favorite cat (think about it: she lives outside so there's no clawing at furniture, hairballs or shedding!) and brought one of our cat carriers up from storage and put it behind the front door. Lila still refuses a litter box, so she would come in and sleep by the radiator in her carrier, and when she meowed we'd let her back out till she would bang at the storm door to be let in again.
However, once it got to be April, she was spending most of her time outside again, and with that came the unfortunate influx of dead creatures. In her time outside, Lila has killed birds, mice and voles before--but this spring she turned into a serial killer of immense proportions. We were finding her offerings almost daily--which says nothing of how many there might have been in other people's yards or hidden among the ivy that blankets one side of our house. We found them in the grass, in the driveway, in her house and on our doorstep. We found them looking just like they were sleeping, gutted and bloody, and even headless. Aside from this being disgusting, it was getting traumatic for the kids. They got very upset at each fresh kill, especially when we would find robins. We love robins, for their cheery songs, their red feathers which the kids love to find, their exquisite blue eggs which are considered treasures, and for the simple fact that they herald spring. Emma cried at the thought of baby birds missing their mama, though Julia reassured her that daddy robins also care for the young, so at least they wouldn't starve (though she worried that only the mamas taught babies to fly....) The headless mice were a horror as well, and when a cat has ripped apart a bird on your doorstep, it's extremely hard to get rid of all the feathers, a grisly reminder of the crime scene.
So yesterday, I bought Lila a collar. She hasn't worn a collar in a while because she lost the last one and all our neighbors know where she belongs anyway. But we had to have bells on her neck so she couldn't be a stealth bomber any longer. I chose a red collar, studded with jewels, with a silver bell on it. But I was dismayed that the bell just didn't seem to jingle very well, so I asked the girl behind the counter, and she had extra bells in bunches of two that can be slipped onto the ring of the collar. Lila didn't really enjoy the collar going around her neck, but she tolerated it when I held her and scratched behind her ears a while, and just like that, the serial killer is collared...hahaha.
Just a note: I came home last night from running errands and Lila came over for some love. While I trundled back and forth from the trunk of the van to the garage with my purchases, she ran into our neighbor's dark yard--I couldn't see her at all, but I could hear those bells the entire time!