Possum in the Feeding Station.

March 3, 2015 by  
Filed under In the Wild, New Posts

Surprise!  Surprise!

opposumSign of Spring?

Yesterday, when I went out to feed Hattie, the feral cat who lives in my yard, I was startled to discover an opposum hiding in the back of Hattie’s feeding station.  It was very dark inside, and I didn’t want to startle it by trying to take a photo, so the picture here is not the actual animal.

Hattie was hungry, and fortunately, the weather had been dry and in the 30’s all day, so I was able to set her bowl of food on the back steps.  I waited for her to eat to make sure the opposum wouldn’t chase her away from her food.

Then I headed to the internet to learn a bit about possums.

Good news.

They rarely if ever get rabies, so I didn’t need to be concerned about that.

They rarely are seen in daylight, either.  They often come out of their dens in early spring when they’re hungry, and since it was dusk here, I figured it was looking for food.

This one was quite reticent and unwilling to communicate telepathically.  Perhaps it wasn’t fully awake, as it’s energy seemed a bit dazed.

I suspected it was in the feeding station because the snow here is still over 3 feet deep and it could sit on Hattie’s mat and keep it’s feet warm after licking up any food remnants from Hattie’s breakfast bowl.

The site I visited also said that if you frighten them they not only become comatose (hence the expression, “playing possum”), but they express their anal glands and leave a terrible smell behind.  I definitely didn’t want that inside Hattie’s feeding station because I won’t be able to clean it or air it out until things warm up quite a bit here and all the snow melts.

Hattie_in_feederHattie in her feeding station.
Photo taken during a warmer season.

I asked Hattie how she felt about the opossum moving into her “house.”

HATTIE:  It’s temporary.  It won’t stay.  I’m not concerned.

NEDDA:  Do you know why it’s here?  It won’t talk to me.

HATTIE:  Looking for food.  It cleaned up the breakfast I didn’t finish.

NEDDA:  Are you getting too much to eat?

HATTIE:  NO!  I just didn’t finish breakfast this morning.

NEDDA:  OK.  Just asking.  It’s been so cold and I’ve been trying to make sure you’re warm enough from the inside out.

HATTIE:  [quizzical image]  Inside out?

NEDDA:  I mean that your body is warm enough even in the terrible cold nights we’ve had.

HATTIE:  Yes, I’m warm.  I’m shedding, too.

NEDDA:  Yes, I noticed.  Is there anything you need from me that you haven’t been getting?

HATTIE:  No.  I’m doing fine.

NEDDA:  Good.  I don’t think I can do anything about the opossum.

HATTIE:  Not your job to do anything.  All is in balance in your yard.  Just allow.

NEDDA:  Good advice.  Thank you.

For those of you who don’t live in New England, we’ve had the coldest February in all of recorded history of weather information.  We also have mountains of snow everywhere.  I’m hoping for a slow melt because if it warms up too fast, the flooding will be terrible.

I’m delighted to hear from Hattie that she’s doing fine.   Hattie’s at least 15 years old and quite wild, so it’s amazing to me that she has survived with the tiny amount of help she gets from me – namely food and water.  She won’t stay in any human made habitat, even on the coldest of nights.  I know where her “cat den” is, but I can’t really see it so I have no idea what it looks like or how she stays warm, except that has a long, very thick coat of fur.

Since we’re all eager for spring, the “sign of the possum” gives me a joyous sense that the seasons are changing.


The Case of the Missing Bathroom Mat

April 2, 2014 by  
Filed under In the Wild, New Posts

A Bedding Upgrade

Feral cat, Hattie, lives in my backyard.Feral cat, Hattie,
lives in my backyard.


Hattie, a semi-feral cat, has been living in my backyard for more than seven years.  Her feeding station is a large box covered with a tarp to keep out the wind.  It’s large enough for her to have a water dish, a food bowl, and some bedding, so I’ve been using old bath mats to give her a place to curl up during the day and keep her feet warm and dry.

Hattie is an excellent hunter, and during the winter her feeding station becomes littered with bird feathers.  Now that spring is here, at least in theory, since this is New England, I was planning on washing her mat on a warm day when there was enough time to dry it and replace it for her.

A few nights ago, at dusk, I spied a raccoon hanging out beneath the bird feeders.  The feeders are only available in the late fall, winter, and early spring because the bears are awake in the summer and will knock everything down.

The raccoon seemed content to eat off the ground, or so I thought.  The next morning, one of my feeders had had the top opened and was now empty.  It was clear that the squirrel baffle, which worked just fine at keeping the squirrels on the ground, was not a challenge for this very beautiful raccoon.

Hattie_in_feederHattie in her feeding station.

So I decided to bring that particular feeder in at night, since the other one couldn’t be opened so easily, and didn’t give the matter any additional thought.

Then yesterday morning, when I went out to give Hattie her breakfast, I was astonished to discover that the floor mat inside her feeding station was completely missing.  There was no damage to anything, but it just was no longer there.

This particular mat I had purchased especially for Hattie.  It’s 100% cotton and very thick, and I had folded it in half, so the insulation was excellent.

I asked Hattie if she knew what had happened to her mat, but she didn’t.  She told me it was gone when she got up that morning.  The water dish had not been knocked over or even knocked into, as the floor of her station was dry.

Bears don’t care about floor mats, and the remaining feeder was undisturbed.

My surmise is that the raccoon, who had been washing her feet in the Hattie’s water dish after eating, had discovered the mat and decided to take it home.  I suspect she’s planning on using it for a litter of babies.  It probably smelled just great to her, as it had some of Hattie’s fur and bird feathers attached to it.

I may be cute, but I’m a wild animal.

Of course, Hattie has another mat now, as I contributed one of the house ones that had gone into the wash earlier that morning.

As for the raccoon?

Nedda:  “Hi.  I’m one of the people whose bird feeder you’ve been eating at.”

Raccoon:  “Oh, yes.  Thanks for the food.”

Nedda:  “Did you take anything else while you were in my yard?”

Raccoon:  “Yes.”

Nedda:  “Was it soft and dark brown in color, and something you had to drag away?  If so, I would call that a ‘mat’.”

Raccoon:  “I’m not bringing it back.”

Nedda:  “Of course not.  I wouldn’t ask you to do that.  I just wanted to know if you took it.”

Raccoon:  “Yes.  It’s for my nest/babies.”

Nedda:  “I thought that might be the case.  I hope you and your babies enjoy it.”

Raccoon:  “Best bedding ever!”

Mystery solved!

Hattie says she likes her new mat even better than the old because it’s fluffier.  So if I buy her a new one, I’ll be sure get a fluffy one next time.  For now, she’s content, and so is the raccoon!