Tiger in the Tall Grass

We have a watch-cat. Our relationship with Him is very simple, so simple in fact that I cannot say for sure whether He is actually male. Clearly we do not “own” him; cats are seldom owned but rather ‘run operations’ as it is, but in this instance we are talking about a cat whose relationship, if any, is with the people living about four houses down from us. But he patrols the neighborhood, and seems to take particular care checking the perimeter of our place, both house and property, daily, so he is ours in that way–or we, his. In any event, he has no name here other than Watch-Cat, because being a businesslike and vigilant gentleman he seems to require no other, and we have both grown quite attached to him.

My husband isn’t even a so-called cat person, since he has allergies to those of the feline persuasion, which makes this arrangement ideal for him, and seemingly so as well for Watch-Cat, because on those rare occasions when we see him making his appointed rounds while we’re outside rather than observing from a window, he prefers to halt in his path or step aside discreetly while we pass and then continue unperturbed on his way. He’s a compact cat, appearing younger than I think he is because he’s fine-boned and small and sleek, but has such admirable equanimity and steadiness of purpose that I cannot imagine but that he’s fully mature.

photoWatch-Cat has a fine domain here, as we live on a wonderfully peaceable road with no through traffic and our modest property is bordered, however closely, by the fenced gardens of very kind, if nearly invisible, neighbors at either side (all of them also rather fond of small creatures) and by an excellent small leafy ravine with a sometime-stream that bears both the city’s storm drain access and the more meandering waters of ordinary rain runoff. Additionally, the greenbelt there has an outstanding mini-forest of oak and soapberry and elm, some lacy variety of Mahonia that is almost visually impenetrable by virtue of its large-numbered community, and enough other friendly brush that the birds, possums, raccoons, rabbits, foxes (so I’m told), armadillos and the elusive-but-heard bobcat all find it exceptionally homey and inviting. There is plenty to keep Watch-Cat’s vigilant attentions at any given time.photo

[Disclaimer: This armadillo does not live in our ravine, but nearby, so I’m pretty sure he has cousins in our ravine.]

And while he apparently eschews suddenness or unpredictability, he is in fact a fine guardian for our place. I have observed his managing with a certain sang-froid a rather noisily growling stare-down from a much larger and more imposing stranger-cat that dared to come hulking uninvited into our territory. I’ve seen Watch-Cat zoom up a tree after a piggish squirrel nearly the cat’s size and tell it in no uncertain terms that it was not welcome to be quite so impertinent. My favorite indicator of his dominance over the wilds of his territory was when we had afternoon guests one day, and as we sat in the front room visiting I looked out the window next to us to see Watch-Cat sauntering by with a small dark snake in his jaws. The snake hung limply on either side, looking remarkably like a very impressive bandito mustache on the handsome little black and white cat, and it seemed to me a perfect representation in that way of his insouciant approach to running his universe here.

That said, I think it’s fair to guess that Watch-Cat has an admirably confident sense of his authority and value in the world, one indeed from which we could all take a lesson. I’m quite certain that if he happens to catch his reflection as he passes by our windows or if he should pause at the ravine’s tiny stream, what he sees looking back at him is a magnificent and unconquerable beast, the ruler of his marvelous territory (where, luckily for us, he allows us to live as well), and the beneficent master of all good things. Who are we to argue with that?


Who's the Kingliest One of All?

I curtsey now to our little king of the suburban jungle, because it is Thanksgiving Day, when I am particularly aware of how many people–and creatures–do their part to keep us safe and sheltered and loved and well attended in every way. Including you!

19 thoughts on “Tiger in the Tall Grass

  1. I am a cat person but I don’t actually ‘own’ a cat at the moment. I think you description as cats running operations is a very accurate description of the relationship between us humans and our feline friends.

    • I enjoy animals immensely but have never owned pets. It’s sort of like my relationship with children, come to think of it: though I’ve none of my own, I have connexions with wonderful people who have fabulous children I can ‘borrow’ and then hand off to their parents when the visit’s over. So Watch-Cat is kind to have adopted us this way. 🙂

  2. A Watch-Cat.. I love his name.. and your relationship with him and I a particularly impressed that he catches snakes, which he wears when he goes out, maybe he was in disguise that day.. c

    • Being such a suave character, he *might* feel the need to operate incognito on occasion. Maybe I shall try the droopy mustache thing too when I want to keep a low profile, but I think I’ll opt for something other than a little snake-snack!

  3. I click’d on the kathryn Ingrid link in The Valentine 4 – Desi’s post ‘Grasping for Sanity, or Text Therapy’. The trapped door swung open, an here I landed. Thankfully I did not fall on the neighbourhood Guard Cat. That would not have made a good first impression.
    At first I thought ‘Hey this sounds like my turf’ in so many ways. But we don’t have a armadillo out back. We kinda do. But they have fur and they call themselves raccoon’s. I better take a closer look.

    If this is a sampling of how your mind works and of the good vibes that emanate from here; then I will return and read along with everyone else.

    • I’m so pleased you came on over from the delightful Desi’s place, Mr. Hudson Howl! Hope you’ve had a nice visit and will feel welcome to return.

      We’ve got the raccoon gang here too, but they’re too busy visiting the lady next door who *feeds* them to give us the time of day/night!

  4. We have some of those around here. They keep the skunks at bay at our house- in return we leave them food on the deck in the morning. We call them Tom and Sister.

    • For some reason, despite Watch-Cat and a whole slew of wannabes that slink around here, nobody’s managed to fend off our occasional skunk visitor. Apparently they’re all pals! I guess that’s just good neighborliness. So much to learn from our four-legged friends!!
      xo, Rumpy!

    • Yep, the Nine-banded Flapjack Armadillo is the only variety that lives in *our* neighborhood; have to go see his cousins in the park nearby to see anyone like the pictured specimen.

  5. I, too, have a watch cat that patrols my yard every evening and sporadically throughout the day. This causes my dog great anxiety as he watches his feline nemesis chase mice and squirrels that clearly belong to Max, the canine master of this manor. Neither cat nor dog, however, can discourage a family of raccoons, that, inexplicably, have nightly begun to use the back porch landing above mine as a wrestling ring. If startled, they shimmy up the porch’s support beams and onto the building’s roof. At least the family of skunks has stayed away — usually.

    • What can one say about raccoons except that they are a bit too clever for our own good. We’ve got them here, but they don’t come near our house; it’s the whopping great roof-rat squirrels that barrel around their raceway here and mock us. The skunks have not yet made a *visible* appearance, but have left their own evidence a couple of times. Worst luck with the skunks is awarded to our bank branch nearby, where the beasts have apparently made a fine home underneath the building and cannot be trapped, so every time I’ve been to the bank lately there’s a certain *aura* about the place. They could *use* a watch cat!

    • One day! I did my best to snag him a shot for this post, but he’s wily and elusive, what with being an experienced incognito guy and all. I’ll try to hunt him up eventually. 🙂

  6. We have no watch-cats. Or armadillos, for that matter. We do, however, have a fat bunny living under the juniper bush outside our bedroom window. He is not at all friendly, which is a good quality in an animal living outside one’s bedroom window. Any potential-burglars would likely be sent screeching down the street with an unhealthy number of bites and scratches and maybe a good does of rabies. We’ve warned the kids well to leave our watch-bunny alone 🙂
    I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, Kathryn!

    • Yes wild rabbits are no cuddle-bunnies for the most part–the Killer Rabbit of Monty Python lore was *not*, contrary to popular belief, entirely fictional!

      Thank you, T-day was marvelous: two sweet grad students + the two of us, all lounging about like giant overstuffed turkeys ourselves (yes, I did cook one also), and doing nothing more than eat, drink and visit in the comfort of a quiet afternoon/evening here at home. Excellent. Back to the trenches first thing tomorrow! But it was HEAVENLY to have a couple of days off together for the first time in months.

      Hope all is copacetic with you and your grand gang, too!

  7. We had a Watch Cat who also went by the name, Mr. Kitty. Now he is Bootsie and lives in my mother’s home coming out throughout the day to patrol the neighborhood and remove any renegade muskrats and chipmunks. He is a good boy.

  8. Pingback: Strange Attractors | kiwsparks

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