We like cats here at Firesign Farm. We've always had at least one around the house. We don't try to restrict them to the house, but if they're outside, especially after dark, they run the risk of becoming Coyote Chow. Some we've had were 'fraidy cats. They didn't like being outside - like Milo, a tiny cat who died of old age inside at 16. Others are lucky, and learn. Junior was like that. She'd come and go whenever she pleased, and lived 19 years. Others aren't so lucky. We lost Lily, a tiger-striped tabby, not too long ago. She liked to hunt, and the mice come out after sunset. She wanted out one night, and then never came home. So right now, Albert, a tuxedo cat, is an only cat.
Albert liked being outside, if only to roll in the dirt. And he was always really good about coming when we'd call him back in at night. But a few nights ago, he didn't come when I called. Half an hour later, I tried again - still no Albert. I tried throughout the evening, even going out to walk around prime mouse-areas like the chicken coop and the wood pile. Still no Albert. I was starting to worry - if a cat doesn't come in at night, there's a good chance we've lost them. Just before bedtime, I tried one more time. There he was! Just inside the gate by the shed. His tail was three times normal size and when he came in, he slunk past me, belly to the ground. Hmmm, that's not normal.
And now, he doesn't want to go out at all, for days now. He's using the litter box in the house, and he never did that before. When we let the dog out, Albert was usually right there underneath Boris, ready to go too. Not any more. It was nice yesterday, and I had the sliding glass door in the bedroom open. He sat two feet back from the open door, watching it but not about to come closer. Something out there scared him, and he hasn't forgotten it!
So now I'm wondering - what could it be? Most probably coyotes. I'm hoping it was a coyote - that's a good lesson for a cat to learn. Our lot is fenced with hog wire. Anything inside the fence is safe from coyotes and stray dogs, but Albert could have been out front, pinned down under or on top of my car, inside the truck's wheel well, or under the shed, waiting it out for hours until he could get back inside the fence. Fear of coyotes might be this long lasting. They sound downright demented when they're yipping and yapping out there.
But then, Aries heard something yowly-growling outside the glass door a few nights ago, but didn't want to get up to see what it was. Inside the fence is Albert's territory, and he'd defend it. There's a big grey tailless tomcat that comes around every now and then. Then, Albert will come in with grey fur caught in his claws, so I know he's not afraid of other cats. Aries said this sounded bigger than a cat. Some of the neighbors have seen a bobcat around here a couple of times - that might scare a housecat.
It could have been a skunk. We lost the last of the ducks to a skunk, but you can usually smell if they've been around. Maybe a raccoon. We've had some big raccoons here occasionally. One killed 2/3 of the chicken flock a few years ago, and last year we had one standing there trying to open the sliding glass door. Raccoons are big enough to scare a cat.
It's a bit early for bears to be out. Even though there are bears higher up the canyon above the house, we've never had one down here before. Besides, if there was a bear about, he'd probably have taken my bird feeders before he went after the cat.
But then, there are the deer. The other morning, the neighbor above us counted 15 above his house at the foot of the canyon. We might see one outside the fence every ten years or so, but we've never had so many down so low. We have had some devastating fires higher up the canyon the past few years, and around here is the only area west of town that still has brush on it. Coupled with quite a bit of snow up higher this year - that would bring the deer down. I don't think Albert would be scared of deer. But if there are deer, then there is also the possibility of mountain lions. A mountain lion would certainly scare a cat. A mountain lion scares me! So I wonder - what scared Albert? He's not talking.