May 26, 2015

A MOST UNWELCOME VISITOR

About a month ago we spotted a large black cat going into one of our barns, the small barn which is actually a house (to do up).

Over the next few weeks we saw it a few times around the property and on one occasion we noticed Daisy and this cat having what  seemed to be a friendly conversation at the top of the garden.  We could also smell where it had been spraying around the outside of the barns, telling us that it was an unneutered tom cat.  We never got a good look at it as every time we or Lulu stepped out of the house it ran off.

This was all very ominous and I was worried that it wouldn’t be long before it followed Daisy through the cat flap.  So while we were away back in the UK for ten days we shut the barns up tight so that it couldn’t get in and closed the cat flap.  Daisy spent the twelve nights in a local cattery. 

Daisy checks for us that the cat flap is properly closed.

I had hoped that with nothing much happening chez nous for that length of time the black cat would forget about us and go elsewhere to do whatever it does.  I was wrong.  Two mornings ago I went downstairs just before 8am to put the kettle on and smelled the tell tale smell.  It had been in.

There was the smell of tom cat in the utility room and around the doorway to the kitchen.  Yuk.  Daisy’s bowl had been cleaned out so it had obviously helped itself – she usually leaves a few bobbles of kibble for later.

We decided that urgent action was needed.  We simply can’t put up with someone else’s cat entering the house uninvited, eating our cat’s food and, worst of all, spraying everywhere.  So we hatched a plan.

The plan was that overnight we would set the cat flap to let the cat in but not out and shut the door into the kitchen, thereby trapping it in the utility room.  We kept Daisy indoors and Nick set up his motion sensor camera to record the action.  I slept in the guest room which is above the utility room so that I would hopefully hear the sound of the cat flap opening.

Sure enough, around 2am I heard the cat flap go.  I alerted Nick that our visitor had arrived and we went to investigate.



Our aim was to get a good look at it so that we could judge a bit better what we were dealing with – a feral cat or a local farm cat.  If possible we wanted to catch it and trap it in the cat box – although neither of us had a clear idea of what we would do if we did catch it.  There were a number of options depending on what kind of cat it was I think.



The camera recorded the action beautifully.  For a few minutes it strolled around the room but as soon as Nick entered it tried to escape through the cat flap – which wouldn’t let it out.



It was obviously a fully grown but young male, probably not feral as it seemed to be in good condition and well fed.  It was very defensive and didn’t respond to Nick’s coaxing with titbits of food, hissing loudly which suggests it was not used to human contact.  A farm cat probably, spending its time in the outbuildings and being given food but not affection.

 

We are most definitely inexperienced in how to catch a wild cat!  Nick tried cooing at it but as soon as he started to open the blanket we had hoped to catch it in things got exciting.  I didn’t know before but I do now – cats can fly.

 

It flew up the door to the kitchen and through the gap over the top where we have had the lintel raised, and was now in the kitchen.  I screamed and it spotted me and shot into the living room where it then spotted Lulu.  It then literally flew into the dining room where I just managed to catch a large glass dish as it wobbled towards the floor.

Back it went over the top of the door into the utility room where it hid behind the toilet, which gave us a chance to think what on earth we should do next.

We very nearly caught it.  We blocked up the gap over the door with a piece of table matting.  Nick opened the cat flap fully and stood outside holding Daisy’s cat box over the hole.  I stormed into the utility room like a paratrooper (in a pink dressing gown), shouted, clapped my hands and threw one of Lulu’s soft toys at it.  The plan worked.  It exited the cat flap like greased lightning and ended up in the box.

Unfortunately it was faster than us and before Nick could slam the cover over the box and put his foot on it, it escaped and flew across the courtyard.

So now we have to decide what to do next.  There are several neighbours within 500m of our house, all of whom probably have cats to deal with the mice and other critters.  It undoubtedly comes from one of them and is probably not normally let into the house for cuddles or food.  Having found a source of extra food chez nous we would probably never get rid of it.  Catching it seems impossible but I do faintly hope that it had a less than happy experience last night and won’t be back for a while.  It was quite scary for us, too.  Little Daisy spent the whole time cowering on top of the kitchen wall cupboards and watching every move, eyes like saucers.

All we can do is make sure it can’t get into the house again, so we have removed the cat flap and reverted to a normal window.  Poor little Daisy will have to manage without free access in and out.  We will let her in and let her out whenever she asks and for a while will keep her indoors at night.  Then if the black cat comes calling again it will find no Daisy and no free food.  I’m hoping that after a while it will get fed up and go elsewhere for entertainment.  Cat psychology is not my specialist subject!

Nick is planning to set up his camera outdoors so that it will record pictures of anything that enters the garden so we should find out if it comes back.  Watch this space !!

26 comments:

  1. What a little monster. Nothing worse than cat pee either. I hope that you've scared him enough that he won't return. I can just picture Daisy watching the "entrapment" scene with wonder!

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    1. Craig, the camera revealed that we had no visits during the night last night - Daisy checked it was working for us so we're sure we would have seen it if it had returned.
      So far, so good.

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  2. What courage! To encounter a raging ball of claws and teeth clad but in a dressing gown! You've certainly given it a fright, which will deter it for a while. It will consider your house to be part of its territory, so expect scent marks to continue, but if it isn't getting anything to eat, they should reduce. At least it's a healthy-looking beast, not a manky old so and so with all sorts of half-healed wounds. None the less, it will have parasites that Daisy may need treatment for.

    Cats definiitely can fly - I used to have a ten foot brick wall behind my house in York on top of which my neutered tom Tinker used to be waiting for me when I got home from work. I never saw him do it, but flying was the only way he could have got up there. Pauline

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  3. Ooohhh.. I've seen this level of action before... so, forgive me but your story has made me laugh such a lot!!
    In my experience THAT CAT which seems to be a standard black will not come anywhere near for quite some time.
    I used be friendly with one here before my own feline returned... She was called Florence and smelt of perfume. That was about five years ago. I didn't see her until recently. I suspect she is a boy cat and is the one that I gave a fright too one night as it was the one who had been creeping into eat Big Feet's food in the atelier. I knew there had been an intruder because of the smell. This situation developed when I was absent for two weeks! I don't advise having a cat flap into the house! There are always unwelcome visitors. However, a cat roaming in the fields of France can bring in a mouse as a gift... dead or alive... I have had more arguments than I like to remember about this! Thank you for a Great Story!

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  4. Life in the country is not boring, is it? When we first got Bertie the Black Cat, he got used to our garage and utility room right away. He stayed even after we re-opened the window and set him free. He's been opéré as they say in French and he doesn't spray. But he proved his intelligence when he managed to open the door that separates the utility room from the downstairs entryway. I don't know how he did it, but he did. He jumped up and pulled down on the door handle (it's not a knob but a lever), opening the door even though it opened toward the side he was on, so he couldn't push it after pulling the handle. I've never figured out how he did that. He obviously wanted in, but once he learned that we were feeding him and giving him water, and we were leaving the garage window open so he could come and go as he pleased, he settled down and settled in. Now if he would stop scrathching the neighbors who try to cuddle up to him, all would be well. Good luck with your intruder. If you could catch him, you could take him to be opéré at the vet's.

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  5. Gosh, I never knew cat ownership was so problematic (or entertaining!)

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  6. Holy cow, what a story!
    Has Daisy been opérée (do they use the same expression for female cats?) / fixed?

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    1. Judith, Daisy was sterilised a few months ago, thank goodness. At least we don't have the problem of kittens to deal with.

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  7. We have feral cats that like to make a home for their litters in our loft space. As the kittens grow they get quite frisky and run around sounding more or less like elephants! Mama has them vacate the space when they get to a certain age and then they have to fend for themselves in the wild. Over the years, my husband has twice barred entrance to the loft, but after a year or two the bar gets pushed aside and it once again becomes a feline nursery. It is noticeable how the population of mice makes its way into the house when the cats are gone. They like to come into our orchard and sun themselves -- away and safe from the neighbours dogs, but keep as far away as possible from us humans -- other than occasionally finding mama lounging in one of the chairs!

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  8. When we arrived here there were at least twenty feral cats living here, but our presence soon shifted them elsewhere, thank goodness. I can manage dog pee and poo, but not those of a cat! Hope the black cat never comes calling again.

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    1. Vera, there's something so nauseating about knowing a tom cat has deliberately peed up your walls and kitchen cupboards......dogs usually only do it in the house because they're ill or desperate.
      I sincerely hope we never see it again.......but we have ideas how to frighten it off if it we do.

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  9. Thought of you and Nick when I saw a story in The Telegraph today (May 28)
    about a badger which entered a kitchen through a cat flap, opened the fridge
    and ate a container of eggs, shells and all. Like you, the homeowners set up
    a video camera and watched when it arrived the following night, again
    opened the fridge and helped itself to an entire Bakewell tart. Cat flap now
    locked shut. It's in the Featured Video sidebar if you're interested.

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  10. Oh, and... by the way... that's not pee! :) I've read a bit about this, and it's a marking spray, not pee, that the male cats spray out.

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    1. Judith, that would explain why the stink is worse than any pee I've ever smelled before!

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  11. And it does really stink. Even so, I'm skeptical when it comes to cats doing anything deliberately. I don't think they deliberate about much. They just do what comes naturally in the cat world they live in.

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    1. Ken, perhaps I should have said "instinctively" instead.
      We have only seen the cat once, on the night camera, since our "close encounter", so we're hoping it has transferred elsewhere.

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  12. Tom cats really do smell horrible when they spray. We had one that started coming into our house in RSA, it was also very wild. We got a trap and put it in our kitchen at night with meat in it as bate. It worked and N took it to stables about 50 miles away where he was working the next day. Thankfully we never saw it again! Good luck.Diane

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    1. Diane, this was one of the ways we thought we might get rid of it. Glad it worked for you!

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  13. There are semi-feral farm cats at our Norman neighbour's and they sometimes pay us a visit, but thankfully we have no cat flap. Have you thought of fitting one of the magnetic types which Daisy can activate with a special collar, but which will remain firmly closed to unwanted visitors? Our daughter has one for her cat and it works very well.

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    1. Perpetua, Daisy wears the quick release kind of collar which comes undone if she gets it caught on the branch of a tree or something like that - so that she doesn't end up strangled if the collar gets caught.
      So far she has lost it four times around the garden and we have only found it twice! This rather makes the magnetic catch a bit impractical! She just loves to climb trees, beams, anything!

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    2. Ah, that puts a different perspective on things, Jean. Our daughter's cat is a quiet little thing, not given to violent exercise and her collar stays put. It looks like the cat flap stays locked until the visitor stops coming.

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    3. Perpetua, we installed the cat flap last October when we left Daisy here by herself when we went back to the UK for two weeks, although with daily visits from friends to check up and entertain her.
      We managed without it well enough before so we might not put it back, even if the tom cat's visits end.
      We now take Daisy to the UK with us or more recently have put her in kennels so hopefully we might not need it again.
      I certainly don't want to go through all this again!

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  14. I can sympathise with your problem, its a common issue in rural France. We have a coypu (ragodin) trap that we use to capture local strays when they become "awkward". We then take them to the vet (in the cage), test them for fiv and felv, and if they fail either test we have them euthanased. Not particularly nice, but practical. No cat rescue centre will take on any cats with fiv or felv. If the cat isn't positive, you can have him done (expensive but fair) and then you can release him and try to socialise him, and perhaps find him a new home.
    In terms of the cat flap, can I suggest the following. get Daisy chipped, and then buy a cat flap that operates on the chip. We have had one for quite a while now, precisely because we have had the same problems as you.

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    1. Paul, thank you for your very helpful comment.
      We have only picked up one sighting on the night camera of the tom cat since our close encounter in the house. If we see him again we might consider getting a trap.

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    2. Just ask, you can borrow ours. Its not in use all the time :-)

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  15. Oh my goodness what a drama! I hope that your methodology works out best for all.

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