Bruce said, “Come and see.” I laid the handle of my manure cart against its side and walked around to the back of the manure pile. A gash had been dug out of it, like you see quarries on mountains. He pointed to small canid tracks in the snow. A coyote had been digging out rats. He said, “they follow the scent of their urine on the rat’s feet.” For them the manure pile is like sitting beside a fire in the fireplace. I have read that the heat in manure can dissolve carcasses. Bruce has seen rats scatter when he consolidates the pile.
When I go into the barn for my last chores and switch on the light I often see the rat scurrying to hide. The feed I set out for the chickens that roost there is gone by last barn check. He is so slow and so fat and so beautiful I could pick him up but I don’t dare. I guess rats’ urine carries leptospirosis which nearly killed one of our dogs back in town. We’ve thought through ways to kill the rats. A rat trap is too cruel. Poison gets into the food chain. The high frequency gizmos might work but we wonder about the effects on the horses and chickens. Would it be torture for them to hear that sound all night and day? Someone suggested making a ramp to a bucket so they drown. Occasionally I have found them in water buckets. We are probably left with getting barn cats. Though, when I think of how expensive Onyx has been, more cats, that we are responsible for, doesn’t thrill us. And we’re not sure how stressful other cats on the farm would be to Onyx. He is a fine mouser even now, with asthma, catching them in the house.
G sat across the table from me, saying that her head hurt from crying. The cat was her last connection with her parents, and she had no home for her. Who would want a tamed feral cat who wasn’t very nice? In a week the estate sale people would be re-ordering her parents’ home, getting the stuff left over ready for sale. She wasn’t sure the cat could stay. Time was looming. She would have to euthanize her by the end of the week.
“If Onyx were healthy. If his tail didn’t blow up like Halloween while watching The Lion in Your Bedroom, I said, “We’d take her.” G had said that Bitsy had scratched her at first, but had gotten lonely and began to cuddle up to her. She doesn’t know dogs.
I asked Bruce what he thought. He said it was up to me, but not in a way that made me feel I was steam rolling him. G has been a friend for nearly three decades. She listened to my rants during the years when my life was chronically hard. She took me to Rush in Chicago and University of Madison when I discovered I had lesions in my brain, when the docs thought it was MS, when I needed a second opinion and neuropsychology testing. And I believe in stooping down low, and lifting the weight, even if it is a small weight, heavy as a cat.
I contacted Trish McMillan Loehr, an acquaintance who used to work as a behavior consultant for the ASPCA. I’ve followed her marvelous work with animals on Facebook, especially her pit bull Theodore on his Pibbling with Theodore page. (He adds much humor to my days.) She recently added a cat to her home, with another cat that didn’t like cats. She said that cats seeing each other should be the last thing. That we should let them smell each other first. We should keep them behind closed doors. After a few days we could feed them a few feet away from the door, and then bring their bowls closer to the door. If they hiss, you move the bowls back away. She also suggested getting heated kitty beds to let them sleep in–that being in a sleep induced coma might help them develop peace. Trish suggested we let the cats swap rooms so they can smell each other’s scents before seeing each other.
Our vet suggested we get Felaway a pheromone that mimics a cat’s mother’s hormones that might help them be more calm. He warned that stress might bring on Onyx’s asthma. And suggested that we keep them separate for a few days. He suggested we put one in a carrier while the other one is loose, but if there is hissing, don’t let them be together.
G and I arranged to meet to exchange towels with the cat’s scents on them. She showed me a picture of her eating at a platform G dad had made. He had tamed her and made her his cat, often tying her outside. She said she likes to be outside. The last thing she said when she took the towel was that Bitsy was a wonderful mouser. And I thought maybe one day, when she settles here, she can do some work on those rats in the barn.