Column - You can't herd cats when they're so smartNow I know what the phrase "herding cats" means. Literally. "Herding cats" is defined as "something virtually impossible to do." Yes. Like catching the homeless cats in my back yard.
By: Dennis Dalman, Alexandria Echo Press
Now I know what the phrase "herding cats" means. Literally.
"Herding cats" is defined as "something virtually impossible to do." Yes. Like catching the homeless cats in my back yard.
Last summer, a little girl, selling stuff for school, knocked on my door and saw cats in the window.
"Oh! You have two cats," she said with that sweet, breathless excitement of kids. "Yes, I do," I said. "Do you have cats?" "Oh, yes! We have 10 of them." "Ten?" I asked, sure that I'd misheard. She nodded.
"You must really like cats." "I do!" she said. "I'm so glad you love cats," I told her. "Some people don't."
Little did I know those 10 beloved cats would become my big winter worry.
After that family moved out of the neighborhood, cats began showing up around here. They took up residence in cubby-hole hideaways under houses and sheds. There are five "permanent" residents – beautiful creatures of various ages, two of them under my house. Every now and then, there are five others that stroll through the yard.
One of my neighbors (the Dubbins) and I decided those cats were not going to starve. Even as we fed them daily, we knew we were feeding a big "problem." We knew if they survived the winter (luckily, it's been warm), they wouldn't be so lucky come spring when the mobile-home park management will have to get rid of them one way or another.
My brother-in-law loaned me a trap. My employer, Janelle, joined the effort with her young son, Kavanaugh. They came over, hoping they could help "herd" the cats and catch them. It was like trying to catch the wind. So we baited the trap with tuna. Janelle and her son drove away. One minute later, I looked out a back window. Amazed, I saw the orange cat sniffing her way into the trap. Clang! The trap door slammed. I called Janelle on her cell phone. Then I hurried out to the back yard to pick up the trap. As I approached it – blam! – that cat flew out the back of the trap like a streak of greased lightning. I was dumbfounded.
I inspected the trap and realized the back door wasn't tight, allowing "Houdini" to do a squeezy escape. I jerked the door tight.
Back in the house, less than a minute later, I saw the gorgeous sable-black calico cautiously enter the trap. Clang went the trap door. I hurried out. Within 20 feet of the cage, I saw the terrified cat – blam! – fly right out of the back end of the cage.
My jaw dropped.
Just then, Janelle and son returned, only to find an empty cage.
I checked the back. Sure enough; it might as well have been a swinging saloon door.
In the house, I grabbed some heavy-duty wire and wired the door shut on each side. Two weeks and nothing. Leery cats avoided it like the plague. One day, I bought sardines; I'd heard cats find sardines irresistible. I baited the trap. Back in the house, I tiptoed up to the back window. Just then, I saw another calico cat – the smaller one – sniffing the sardine scent right into the trap. Clang! I rushed outside. Ten feet from the cage – blam! – it flew out the back door.
"WHAT THE SAM HELL?!" I shouted out loud. I was so mad the words that escaped my mouth could have scorched the very snow.
I checked the trap. Either cats carry wirecutters or I hadn't adequately wired shut one side of the door. It was loose on one side. I was ready to call a welding service when brother-in-law popped over.
He hadn't used that trap in years, and he remembered (alas, too late) that the door needed a brace-piece that came with the trap. He put the piece on it. That was two weeks ago. Now it sits there, baited but empty, like a useless yard ornament.
Meantime, the neighbors and I are nearly consumed with worries about what will happen to those poor uncaptured critters. We are at wit's end. The cats are thinking, "You can fool us once, but not twice." I keep hoping at least one of them is dumb enough to be caught, but no, I'm afraid even the dumbest cat is smarter than I am.
Dear readers, any ideas? Please let me know.