For a home not far from a highway and in the middle of a residential neighborhood, the Oliver homestead attracts a lot of wildlife.
We enjoy watching the various critters fly, crawl, gambol and scurry through our yard and up our trees. My mother found them to be particularly amusing.
Every summer there seems to be an interesting storyline that develops to keep us interested, not unlike our own backyard version of “As the World Turns.” Last year, it was the battle between the ground squirrels and robins, which was won by the ground squirrels after they mounted quite the counteroffensive.
This year, it’s the summer of Tabby and Tuxedo.
The immediate area around our home hasn’t had many outdoor cats. A few years back one of our neighbors had a large, gray cat, but mostly we’re a neighborhood of well-behaved dogs and respectful owners. And a few indoor cats, such as our own beloved Harriet.
None of the dogs run loose, unless it’s by accident. That’s when our very helpful neighborhood rallies to wrangle the runaway and return it to its owners. Otherwise, the resident dog population is seen but not heard. Mostly.
Besides the dogs, there’s a variety of wildlife: ground squirrels, tree squirrels, opossum, raccoons, field mice, rabbits, foxes, robins, chickadees, blue jays, cardinals, blackbirds and the occasional hawk. We’ve even had a deer or two, although they usually find their way back to more open spaces without incident.
This year, more often than not we see Tabby and Tuxedo, two cats who belong to a couple of our neighbors. Tabby is an orange tabby in adolescence; Tuxedo is a tuxedo cat who seems to be the older and wiser one.
Neither cat cares a whit about property lines and boundaries, their own or anyone else’s. They don’t seem to be friends, either, but their encounters aren’t the hair-raising, hissing fests one would expect of mortal enemies. They tolerate each other, occasionally wrestling in a sort of feline greeting ritual, then move on to their solitary roaming.
We’ve watched as Tabby has developed as a hunter. At first, we’d laugh at his oversized goals. Our squirrels are just a little smaller than he is, but he’d stalk them as if he actually had a chance of catching one. Uh, no. Those squirrels still seem to enjoy taunting him, climbing down the tree just out of reach and chirping at him, undoubtedly in the squirrel equivalent of “neener, neener.”
Tabby has been having better luck with the ground squirrel and field mouse populations. In fact, that might be why we haven’t seen nearly as many around as in years past. He’s welcome to all the field mice he can find. Better that than in my house again. And happily no birds. No doubt if he tries for the papa blue jay, he will have to rethink his whole bird-hunting strategy.
Both cats have become the talk of the neighborhood. Practically all of us have had sightings in our yards of one or both. Neither cat is much for stopping to say hello, though. Eventually maybe.
In the meantime, they are a hoot to watch. Although my motherly instincts go on high alert every time one of them tries to cross our relatively busy street, usually without bothering to look both ways.
Then again, they both seem to be young and prone to taking risks. Here’s hoping they stay safe along with the rest of us this summer.
• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at email@example.com.