Never a good sign when Sadie the feral cat starts low growling. It’s usually the between 3:00-and-4:00 a.m. wake up call to warn of an animal encroaching on claimed feline territory, coming for an unwelcome visit or hump.
Back in July I heard her alto groaning directly outside my bedroom window. The sloped roof connects to a small patio with a high privacy fence, the top border as wide as a balance beam. Near the gutters I saw four baby raccoons, tiny and perfect like they were drawn out of a Disney cartoon. As soon as they sensed my presence all stood upright at attention on back legs. If they could talk I imagined it sounding something like a murmur of, “What? Huh? I dunno? Huh?” The yearlings were curious and one began a slow waddle toward Sadie on the vulnerable side of the window, me at the screen. There had to be a Mom (a larger variety than this cuteness) nearby and I suddenly flashed on sharp nails on disturbingly human looking raccoon hands tearing into cat fur.
Ran downstairs to find Mom on the patio indulging hungrily in the small bowl of dry cat food I‘d accidentally left out (I never leave food or garbage out; it’s an invitation to the wild buffet). First thought, get Sadie off the roof. I opened the front door and called for her; she knowingly took off towards a large tree bursting with late summer branches and a quick getaway.
As someone who’s worked with rescues (albeit my view of myself as a modern Dr. Doolittle was often misguided, hence many bites and deep scratches) I have little fear of animals and understand when to use approach and avoidance. I fetched and unleashed a large pitcher of cold water on the uninvited guest who climbed the 10 foot fence in seconds flat, leaving deep claw marks in the redwood stain and hovering on the balance beam edge.
Mama was a warrior. I swear she turned and assumed a Kung Fu pose as the bitch stared and snorted me down. Good for her. I wielded the corn broom, snorts growing louder and more intense as I shuffled her in the direction of an escape tree. The sigh of relief once I’d rid her from the patio was brief as I looked up at four tiny raccoons stranded at the edge of the roof.
“What the hell did I do?” I realized, “I just Orphan Annie’d baby raccoons.” My heart sank until a rustling in the trees and thump told me Mama had found an alternative route back and was racing towards her pack. She wouldn’t leave without them. No amount of wet or rounded sticks and slightly freaked out girl without her glasses on at four in the morning would tear her family apart. Mama looked at me and me at her, a silent truce. She then showed her babies the way out, one-by-one down the balance beam patio edge to the tree I’d just chased her into. I simply stood and watched the slow procession in awe of the wild beauty of nature and these wonderful, creepy creatures. The last nugget veered off path, taking a quick turn towards me. The dumbest (or the bravest) it stopped and looked, then rejoined the fuzzy parade of five and marched away into the night.
Very early this morning I awoke to odd, heavy steps outside that same bedroom window and came face to face with three new bandits, one large and two small. It was cold and wet out, rain quickly becoming fat rain. Looking something of a fool, I made myself big on my side of the glass, calling out “BOO!!!” and “Git! Git!” with arms overhead in an attempt to shoo them off.
I watched them like TV from the safety of a pane of glass for a half an hour, marveled as Mama settled into and cleaned one then the other, nursed. Watched the kits wrestle and roll and gently bite each others ears; funny how animals from kittens to puppies, raccoons to toddlers play in the same manner. Finally they slept, balled up together like the lemur pile at the zoo, wedged safely between an overhang of roof shingles and deep crevice of skylight. I crawled back into bed, getting up every few minutes to watch again, check for changes. When I awoke next they were gone.
I spent this morning washing piles of raccoon scat off the sloped roof outside my bedroom window.
Bit of raccoon Wiki-trivia:
During the mating season, males roam their home ranges in search of females in an attempt to court them during the three-to four-day-long period when conception is possible. These encounters will often occur at central meeting places. Copulation, including foreplay, can last over an hour and is repeated over several nights.
Men, take note.