Would the Lion King Shelter at Home?
Nutter Butter, our two-year-old cat recently started balking at the enforcement of the governor’s stay at home orders. He has a cat cage that is the envy of all the cats in the neighborhood. But he has tired of sheltering at home in his well-equipped, if multi-purpose, cat cage.
Typically the cats come and go into their cage all day long. At night they are locked in.
Nutter Butter says, “I’m done with that.”
As the weather gets warmer and the rains have stopped, Nutter Butter has been venturing out for hours. He’s the pied piper of the feral cat community in our neighborhood. Herds of cats follow him like he is their cat god.
They head through the back fence toward Cottonwood Creek, which is flowing about an inch deep and four feet wide behind our back yard.
Usually, Nutter Butter comes home for a snack and nap around eleven in the morning with mud on his paws and burs in his fur. His cat friends take turns sneaking into the cage behind the other cats’ backs for a bite to eat as well.
Nutter Butter hunts.
Yesterday he brought home a field mouse, tossed it in the air on our front lawn so that we could watch him play with it during our dinner. The other cats crouched in a circle around him anxious to pounce when their moment came.
They discovered that mice were not as tasty as the gopher served the night before.
Normally, Nutter B. comes home about 5:00 looking for dinner. It’s still light, so we don’t feed him now until 7:00 or 7:30. Our mistake!
Tonight he did not come back at dusk for food. We clanged bowls and called his name. Usually, he sits across the field and perks up his head when he hears his name. Eventually, he meets us half-way across the field and we pick him up and carry him back to his cage to speed up the process.
Tonight when the yellow plastic bowls clapped together in a third attempt to entice Nutter Butter to come home, we thought he was gone for good.
At about 8:00 we found two neighbor or feral cats lounging under the oak trees in the vacant lot, their reflective colloids glowing in the flashlight.
But Nutter Butter was not in the field with them.
He wasn’t on the garden walk where he likes to preen.
No perking. No Nutter B. anywhere.
Finally about an hour after dark, Nutter Butter ambled across the street into our yard. But he wasn’t interested in us. He headed for the empty lot next door where the families of gophers live. He stood like the Lion King awaiting his followers.
No one came out to follow him. His cat buddies had already bedded down for the night in the field. They sensed that he was in trouble.
They watched from a distance as I picked him up and carried him into the house, picking burs out of his tummy fur as I went.
“Sheltering at home is safer for you Nutters. Mama knows best.”
Instead of hanging limply like he usually does when we carry him, he twisted and tried to go back to his evening adventure.
“No, you are going to stay home.”
Nutter B. did not agree with my edict and narrowed his green eyes at me.
I generously took him inside the house to feed him so that his roomies would not eat his food. I overestimated the appeal of food. He refused to eat more than a couple of cursory licks of canned cat food sauce and then went to sulk by the back door.
“I’m not hungry. I want to go back outside,” Nutter Butter said.
I tired of his whining. What did he know about how dangerous life could be without sheltering at home? He had never suffered near-death catfights on the roof above our bedroom or had to run away from coyotes or large dogs out roaming at night. He’d never been bitten by a rattlesnake.
“You are going to bed and that’s that.”
Who knows where he will go tomorrow. Maybe to the beach. He’s a rebel.