Wednesday, September 21, 2011

#99 - Stray Cat Attacks Chickens

Halloween hasn't arrived yet, but our neighborhood has a spooky black cat that roams around and it causes everyone trouble. Several neighbors have new cars and the cat will be laying across the hood of their $40,000. vehicle with its claws protracted in a long stretch as it lazily gets up to move along.

The neighbors who put out their trash in a plastic bag have found this cat ripping the bag to get to the goods, leaving a mess strewn all over their yard that they must clean up. Being a little devil, the black cat literally walks against our house to pass by low level windows directly in front of the dogs who are inside the house, but barking in a frenzy to get at the cat.

If our dogs start barking furiously, we know the black cat is nearby. Lately, we've been calling this cat's bluff by letting the dogs race outside the front door to chase it off our property boundary. It's a bit amusing to find the cat, who mistakenly thought it safe outside while it tormented the dogs as they were stuck inside, discover two big snarling dogs to suddenly be on its heels. Fair is fair. You come for a visit, you will get an introduction. Since the dogs know that the front yard is THEIR front yard, it is great to let the dogs do their thing. Howdy and Lyla will whip out the front door, head around the corner in a flash and that sly feline becomes a screeching scaredy-cat as it races away. Our dogs are content to stop at the yard boundary, as long as the cat is not in their yard, they are happy. The cat can be across the street pacing and our dogs will not care, they do not want to give chase, but the minute it steps a fuzzy paw in our yard...the peace treaty is off.

Since this cat is a destructive booger in our neighborhood, it is understandable that it is on several neighbor's "hit" list. One of our neighbors has even set out a trap to try to catch this cat and to probably take it to the neighborhood animal shelter, but he has not been successful.

So far, we have been very fortunate that our free-ranging chickens in the backyard have not been confronted this cat. I knew it would only be a matter of time before the cat discovered the chickens and became tempted by their juicy bird goodness. That matter time expired this past Monday evening.

Deputy Dave, Stefie and myself were all upstairs watching "Two and a Half Men" which was debuting this season without the colorful Charlie Sheen and we had the surround sound cranked; we were laughing and having a great time. It was about 7:20 pm when, suddenly, I faintly heard a chicken make an odd screeching sound. It could barely be heard over the show we were watching and being upstairs put us at a farther hearing distance, but I guess my Mama-Ears are forever in tune to those I watch over. Deputy Dave sat in the recliner near the window and I said, "Do you hear that?"

Both he and Stefie looked at me as if I were nuts. But, since he'd been alerted, he listened for it, then heard it too. I grew alarmed and said, "The chickens don't ever make noises at this time of day, something is wrong, that's a weird chicken sound I've never heard."

As far as chicken sounds go...speaking of those Mama-Ears, I have chicken sounds down to the greeting clucks, then, there are the warning clucks they give the Yorkie that she'd better watch her back because they are holding a chicken-grudge, and I am well aware of the distinct loud clucking you can't miss as they lay an egg, and lastly, I recognize their squabble clucking during tense pecking order moments, however, this new sound was more of a long, continuous high-pitched screeching.

Deputy Dave leaned over to look out the window at the darkening sky; he glanced down into the backyard from this window in our game-room upstairs, then he raised the remote and put the show on pause, jumped from his seat and yelled at Howdy, "Come on boy, there's a cat in the backyard."

They raced down the stairs.

Stefie and I gave each other the wide-eyed Oh-My-Gosh look and we rushed to the window to look out as Deputy Dave quickly made his way to the backdoor with Howdy. It was eerie for Stefie and I to look down and see a motionless black cat sitting on the grass, within two feet of the chicken coop, in our backyard. Miss Speckles had flown to the top of the chicken coop tractor portion and was screeching along with a couple other chickens. The cat was scrunched up, as if it was preparing to pounce and it looked evil. It's eyes were nearly glowing while focused on my sweet Miss Speckles.

Stefie and I were on the loveseat positioned against the game-room windows, our knees were on the cushions and we were leaning against the back of the loveseat so that we could look out the window and suddenly the loveseat tumped, but we put our hands up in a flash to keep ourselves from doing a head-bang into window. We looked at each other and cracked wouldn't be so great for us to make a crash landing through the windows from the second story into the backyard. Then, we realized how eager and nervous we had been because we were too far away to help.

I knew I wouldn't be able to get there as fast as Deputy Dave and I couldn't tear myself away from the window because I wanted to see what was happening. Besides, I don't run. The last time I ran was this past weekend in the Denny's parking lot as I spied a $10 bill lying on the ground. Deputy Dave laughed as I raced toward the lonely money needing a friend and he said, "Geesh, I haven't seen you run like that in YEARS!"

Anyway, it was sweet revenge to hear the backdoor open and to see Howdy fly into the yard straight for the predatory cat. The cat saw Howdy appearing out of nowhere and it scampered up the back fence, scaling it without looking back, but Howdy was on its tail, literally. As the cat went up the fence, it thought it was safe, but Howdy had gained so much speed and he is so strong and is so athletic that he nearly climbed the fence himself.

Howdy jumping to get the rope from Henry who is 6 foot 5 inches tall.

My oldest daughter, who is nearly six foot tall is
playing and Howdy is nearly taking off her hand to get the rope.

Howdy's strength is sometimes shocking.
I would not under-estimate an Australian Shepherd.

After Howdy nearly climbed the fence and nearly caught the cat, it decided it better leave the immediate area because Howdy was determined to protect his chickens.

Howdy watching over his chickens.

As we watched the scene below us, Deputy Dave bent down and picked up a handful of white feathers. My heart went into my throat. Miss Speckles was standing on the top of the chicken tractor, but she might be really injured. I could not believe that the cat had indeed attacked Miss Speckles and obviously had been able to pull out some feathers. Thankfully, the furry devil didn't get a good enough grip. I don't know how Miss Speckles got away. But, I had a feeling that this cat would not give up, not until it was introduced to Howdy.

Cats can be great pets. Once we move to our land, I'm sure we'll have some cats in the barnyard. My sister has the best cat in the world, Mr Kitty. We actually found Mr. Kitty on our acreage nearly ten years ago when he was a tiny kitten in the cold wilderness needing to be rescued. Out of nowhere, the cat ran up to us during our hike. Behind me, I could hear the brush crunching and could tell something was running our direction, and I totally freaked out. We'd had just purchased this land so I was still very nervous when on it, and as I heard the sounds of a creature running our direction I was picturing a cougar or a wild boar headed toward us. My daughters needed to be protected, but all I had was a stick. However, I was ready to do battle as this tiny, young kitten emerged from the dry underbrush to snuggle against our legs.

All that freaking out --- over a kitten. But, I learned that little things can surely sound huge as they traipse through dry underbrush.

She was desperate to be rescued. But, we didn't know that she was a HE until my sister took the cat to the first vet appointment. At that time, the embarrassed family quit calling the cat Miss. Kitty and instead began to call it Mr. Kitty. If you've read some of my previous blogs, you will understand that when it comes to animals, my family seems to suffer from "sexual illiteracy" (the condition dubbed by my oldest daughter, Heather).

Since my youngest, Stefie, has a severe allergy to cats, we have not been able to add one of these creatures to our animal kingdom. But, I'm always amazed at these cats who are allowed to roam the neighborhood at all times of the day and night. If Mr. Kitty escapes from the house, my sister is in a panic and she's ready to launch an organized search party.

So, it's probably not a huge surprise for my treasured readers to imagine my mindset after this episode with my chicken being attacked. After watching that cat intrude into my backyard and attack my chickens, I enjoyed a moment of warped amusement at the thought of my dog being able to roam over to that cat's house. Of course, I imagined Howdy roaming as if he'd suddenly acquired miraculous cat traits. I wondered how that roaming cat owner would feel if Howdy was able to scale fences and to follow that bundle of black trouble back to its own house? Hmmm, that would be a fascinating scenario. Beyond that, can you imagine a cross between a Hound-dog and a feline? Imagine the possibilities...

I wonder how it would feel if these laissez faire cat owners didn't know that Howdy, in his own blackness with big teeth and a powerful jaw, was crouched behind their shrubs...lurking and waiting for their cat to saunter outdoors unaware of his predatory state of mind? I wonder how they would feel as they watched my huge dog pounce upon their unsuspecting cat, in their fenced-in backyard? I wonder how they'd feel if my Australian Shepherd was digging in their gardens or marking all corners of their house or patrolling in a slow, slithering fashion against their windows, taunting their cat while it tried to rest indoors?

Better yet, I'd love to have him sit outside the bedroom window of this roaming cat owner's house at 2:00 am so he can start a howling marathon for the next hour. Yes, Howdy can put on the Howl better than a coyote.

Since my daydream will never be a reality, I must let Howdy be the shepherding dog that he is created to be and that means to let him loose on that cat whenever it creeps into my backyard. What happens is what happens. The cat is intruding while in predatory mode and my dog has every right to protect his backyard and his flock under his charge. If he gets a hold of that cat, I'll feel sorry for it, briefly, but I believe the chickens will be Howdy's cheering squad.

Anyway, as Stefie and I stared down into the yard while Deputy Dave held those feathers belonging to Miss Speckles, I had shivers go down my spine. Later, after the chickens were put up into their safe coop for the night, I said, "That cat will be back; it looked too determined and too predatory minded; it will come back and keep coming back."

The following next morning, in the light of day, I took pictures of
Miss Speckles feathers from the attack the previous night.
There were feathers everywhere, but this must have been where
she was initially attacked because most of the feathers were in this spot.
I felt kind of sick inside. What if Howdy didn't go outside in time? He is outdoors frequently, but he does not live in the backyard, he lives inside. However, he is quiet content to sit outside on the back patio for a few hours with the chickens surrounding him. His chickens are his babies.

So, after I mentioned that this cat WILL be back, we all looked at each other and agreed that Howdy should be outdoors more often so that he could do his business protecting the chickens. Still, that night, even though the chickens were safe in their coop, I had a hard time sleeping and when I did sleep, I dreamed that Deputy Dave and I were walking our land at night with rifles in hand because danger was near. I could not distinguish the kind of danger, but we kept moving through the forest with our guns and remained vigilant. It was nightmarish. I'm sure the bad dreams were prompted by the chicken attack.

And the cat did make a return. With very little sleep, I was slightly BEYOND ticked off when at 6:45 am, that cat was making another appearance in the backyard. It was perched upon the top of the back fence-line and glaring at the chickens. Quietly, I stood at the backdoor and gave Howdy a specific order that alerts him to trouble; he tensed up...his muscles were flexed and his focus sharp with his stance in a starting gate mode with his nose pointed in the crack of the door so that when I opened the door he CHARGED outside full speed. Howdy knows when there is business to do and he gets to it. That dog hits 0 to 60 in record time. He amazes me.

Again, he nearly caught the distracted cat and nearly grabbed it with his teeth. I think the cat was beginning to understand that the chickens have a guard dog on duty. But, I'd wager that it will make more attempts to kill a chicken, or five.

Another pleasant surprise on the night of the cat's first attack upon Miss Speckles, we were so happy to see the little Yorkie take Howdy's lead in protecting the chickens. She has been closely following Howdy's herding activities, such as circling the coop every morning in fierce rounds while barking warning sounds and laying down to watch the chickens eat their feed. She takes a cue from watching Howdy and does the same exact thing. It is hysterical. I didn't think she'd be able to be around our chickens without attacking them after her first weekend here because she'd had a shocking chasing episode with the chickens and ended up catching one in their butt by her teeth, but she ended up gagging and choking on a mouthful of feathers along with hearing hard reprimands from all of us, including Howdy. But, she's come a long way at a rapid pace.

Daily, she now goes outside with the chickens and no longer needs to be supervised. It's been about a month now and she's been converted to a chicken lover instead of a hater. It's a beautiful thing. Sniff, sniff.

Me and Belle, the Chicken-Loving Yorkie.
Still, the night that Deputy Dave let Howdy outside to chase the trespassing cat was especially great because Belle the Yorkie stayed on Howdy's heels, as if she were a Rottweiler and ready to do battle with her buddy til the bitter end. She picked up on his sense that something was wrong. Howdy also could hear the chicken's distress call as he and Deputy Dave were running downstairs, and I guess the animal world has their way of understanding that danger is present once they hear such sounds. But, it was a delight to see tiny Belle charging behind Howdy. There's no doubt that she had his back.

So, cat drama has arrived. Farm Life Lessons will surely involve more predatory animals once we move to our land full-time. I guess we're getting a few "soft" lessons right now in the suburbs. I know the black cat with his sinister plans to shred my chickens will be back. That cat could take out our flock with ease. Then again, Howdy could take out that cat with one bite.

The animal world is not full of pink tutus and sweetness, it's full of chasing the other in a fierce battle to be top dog. And in this backyard, top dog is Howdy. He's doing his job of protecting our home and our extended family.

So far, when allowed, he's done an excellent job. Oh yes, Belle is pretty nifty herself. And below you'll find a video of Howdy and Belle playing tug of war with a rope that is symbolizing the very nasty cat that is attacking my chickens.



Charade said...

I'll put my money on that little Yorkie getting a piece of that black cat. One of our Holy Terriers, as we called them, caught himself a squirrel by sitting for hours in mottled shade in the backyard, never moving a muscle until that dumb squirrel got close. I screamed and cried when the fight immediately moved under the low deck, and I was sure those squirrel teeth were going to kill my five-pound Yorkie - but he came out from under there with blood and guts all over him and a huge squirrel in his mouth. Go Belle!

LindaG said...

Hope this means that Miss Speckles is okay.
Sadly, the black cat is very likely a stray-even a collar isn't proof of ownership any more.

Have you notified the Houston SPCA? Perhaps they can trap the cat and take it away for you.

That is great to hear about Belle, too! :)

Kelsie From Our Country Home said...

So glad you have Howdy to take care of the flock...Our own old gal (12yrs)Nardia has been known to bring down one of the neighbors bird dogs when it went after our chickens....It was impressive to watch as she slammed the other dog to the ground and then stood over it snarling right in the side of her face, letting her know in no uncertain terms that our chickens are off limits.

Sadly we still managed to loose more than half our flock to a very persistent bobcat this past winter and I am kinda glad Nardia was safe in the house because the bobcat turned out to be about her size and I am sure would have not given in as easily to her as the birddog did....Fortunately our neighbor Peggy is a good shot and was finally able to shoot the bobcat after 2months of trapping attempts had failed....They also lost a good portion of their flock.

I hope the black villain gets the message not to come around with Howdy on duty really soon.

Blessings Kelsie

Vickie said...

Hi Lana - I love this story about Howdy - Good dog, Howdy! He's so pretty, too. I'm glad he is so protective, and Belle is learning to be so, too! I don't have my chickens yet (next spring) but when I do, I'll have to get me some farm dogs. We have coyotes where we are. We've had 3 cats - two were great mousers, and the coyotes killed the two mousers. The other one we gave to my daughter in law. Can't even keep cats out here until we get some dogs. As much as I'd like an Aussie or another purebred, I'm afraid that it would get stolen. I'll probably go to the humane society and get a couple of mixed breeds. They have great dogs sometimes. My daughter adopted a lab/pointer mix several months ago, and it's been THE best dog you could ask for.

I'm sure your Howdy is going to take good care of his chickens, and he's got Belle to back him up!

Thanks for stopping by! Have a wonderful weekend, Lana!

Lana from Farm Life Lessons said...

Charade, I think your bet would be safe, that Yorkie is one of the fastest dogs I've ever seen and she is intelligent to the nth degree. I am SOLD on Yorkies now and forevermore. I can only imagine the horrific moments you endured while thinking the squirrel got a hold of your baby, then to see the Yorkie emerge victorious after the must've been a moment to remember, that's for sure! Yorkies do seem to be determined boogers, indeed they can be "Holy Terriers!"

Linda, Miss Speckles did seem to be okay the next day as she pecked around, but she wasn't as spunky. I'm sure she was leery. But, now she's back to herself. And the dogs are constantly on guard, watching for a problem. Our neighbor called them, but our city outside of Houston has very minimal resources and the cat can never be found when they are around, so they gave the neighbor a trap, but he could never catch it. He is fed up because the black cat goes into his backyard and tears up his landscaping cause it likes his fresh bedding as kitty liter. It sat on his outdoor furniture, he saw it sitting on the cushion to his patio set and it had scratched it to shreds. He keeps trying to catch it. I guess our backyard looks more fun these days, so he'll get a break! haha

Kelsie, it is great to have a dog that will take on other predatory dogs. In the country, that seems to be a huge issue. I'm hoping we'll have enough fencing and cross-fencing to lower the chance of that happening. I need to work with Howdy on jumping, etc. so I can designate certain cross-fenced areas for him to be able to jump, if needed. I am concerned because our land does have tons of bobcats as well and the wild boar are prolific. My brother has tried to hunt them on our land, so we might have to learn how to cook wild boar! I will have to practice my shooting so I can take out a predator on the land without hurting other innocent by-standing animals. But, I think the hawks will be the huge problem on our land, they are constantly swirling overhead. Constantly.

Vickie, our Lyla is a rescued dog, she's getting older but has been one of the BEST dogs we've ever had, a mixed breed --- part collie and part boxer is what we were told, but we're not sure if that's true. Regardless, she's very protective, will guard the chickens as well and she is nurturing to them...a good mama. Once we live in the country, we might breed Howdy for a bit, but I do think that excellent dogs can be found through the SPCA. Mixed breeds are usually more intelligent and have great senses to rely upon. Once we are on our land, we will have some chickens that will be set aside with a rooster so that we can have a chance for home-grown chicks to be will be great to have fellow Texas buddies to swap with and we can encourage each other! I know you'll love your chickens. You've been so patient. I'd get a dog pretty soon though so you can start getting them settled. Once we got our chicks, we were very careful introducing the dogs and did so with only sweet voices, calling the chicks our "babies" and holding them up to the dogs' noses for them to smell, but we kept the chicks body cradled in our protective hand. Mostly, we would be worried about the dogs hurting the chicks on accident. But, they dogs did develop a close, protective relationship with the chickens. Coyotes are such a problem here in might need a couple of dogs that will work well together. I'll be so excited to read about each of these steps as you go along.