So we have this cat named ‘Eddie’ and Eddie is a mostly indoor cat but is very brave and would like to go outside and take on the world and set it straight. For example right now as I type this, Eddie is peering out the window of my second-floor home office scanning the neighborhood to see if there is anything amiss that he might need to go out and straighten out.
We only let him out in the back yard and then only for a few minutes to keep him from sneaking away. We live in a neighborhood near some woods so there are often rabbits in our backyard or deer just beyond the fence. When we let the dog out, we turn on the lights and bang on the door to give the rabbits a running start before the dog is out there. He got a bit of rabbit fur once – but thankfully so far has not gotten a complete rabbit snack.
But when we let the cat out, there is no such warning. You figure that a rabbit can out run a cat pretty easily. So last night, I let the cat out without turning on the light or banging on the door. I turned the light on just after the cat started running across the patio to see a Possum in the middle of the yard. And the cat was chasing the possum full-speed. I had socks on so I could not intervene quickly and was dreading having a terrible fight in the backyard that I was quite sure the cat would lose.
As the possum waddled away and the cat closed, the cat started to realize three things: (a) this was not a cat, (b) this was not a dog, and (c) the closer he got – the more it was apparent that this thing was bigger than him. So just before he got close enough to engage the possum, he pulled up slowed down and stopped and watched as the possum hid behind our shed.
Whew! I got my shoes on and retrieved the cat and had a long talk with him about the fact that for him such an engagement might seem like a game whilst for the possum, it would be seeing it as a life and death situation – and when one side thinks something is a game and the other side is afraid of dying – usually the “gamer” loses. I think he understood. For good measure I had the same talk with the dog – and emphasized that while possums seem slow and vulnerable – they pack a mean punch when cornered – and are not at all tasty. I hope he understood – but I think he kind of ignored me implying that he would make his own decision if confronted with a possum in the back yard. Ah well – he was warned.