Country living, Just for laughs


The thing about living in the country is that sometimes a stray cow moseys over and parks itself in your backyard. Over the summer, we had this unexpected visitor from the farm next door. At least she made herself useful by trimming the grass under our hanging baskets.

I grew up without animals in the house, or the yard, for that matter. We didn’t have pets, and I never begged for one. As for farm animals, I saw them maybe once a year on a school field trip. I never got too close.

Fast forward a few decades, and I am now married to a man who always wanted to be a farmer, and feels completely at ease herding a stray goat into the garage on a snowy night (also an unexpected visitor from our farm neighbors). I am raising three children who all adore animals, my middle daughter especially.

Here she is with our friends’ lab.

And our 2 1/2 acres is a veritable animal magnet. In addition to the livestock out touring the neighborhood, we have at least one fox, a number of rabbits, deer, raccoons and woodchucks. (The latter two we trap. If we did not, they would completely take over and we would have to pay them rent.)

Little excites the girls like spotting an animal in the yard. They will talk about it for days.

Last spring, the girls and I were eating breakfast when we saw out the sliding glass door an enormous cat stalking around the pole barn like it owned the place. The girls all rushed to look.

Not only was it HUGE, way too big for a normal cat, it had a long, bushy tail with rings of alternating dark and light bands. I’d seen tails like that before. On raccoons.

I googled “raccoon cat” and landed on a site with pictures of a creature just like the one taking up residence around our pole barn. The site affirmed just what I’d suspected: it was the offspring of a cat and a raccoon.

I texted a couple friends that we had living right on our property the freaky result of a cat/raccoon liaison.

Then my husband came home from work, and said that was ridiculous. Now, I’m not so silly as to tell him, “But I saw it on the internet!” I realized this subject needed further investigation. So…I googled some more.

Soon I found myself on the National Geographic site. And there it was: a lengthy article debunking the false belief that cats and raccoons can mate and have offspring, and identifying the massive raccoon-like feline as a Maine Coon Cat, a very intelligent and sought-after breed.

I texted back my friends and admitted I’d been spreading fake news.

The coon cat hung around the pole barn for about a month…then disappeared. The girls were very sad. My husband, not a cat person, was happy.

Then, this August, we spotted a feline that clearly was a kitten, but a large one, with the same ringed tail. The coon cat had a kitten!

In early September, we had family over for my youngest’s birthday. As I rushed around attending to the typical hostess duties, one of my nieces ran up to me and said, “Aunt Mollie, did you know you have a cat in the yard? We’re going to give it some of Gracie’s dog food.”

I walked out behind the swingset, and, sure enough, all the kids were crowded around, their sweatshirts spread on the grass, a bowl of their dog Gracie’s puppy chow or whatever it was, and the stray cat wolfing it down as they all took turns stroking her.

Great. Now we really had a cat.

“We named her Kallie,” my nephew informed me, as he scooped up the contented kitten and the last bits of puppy chow.

What do we do about Kallie? The question consumed the next two weeks. Should we just keep her to control the mice population? (Oh, I forgot to mention about the mice.)

But then what would we do with her in the winter? Where would she sleep?

Finally it was decided that my older sister would take her. Since they already had Gracie and another cat, though, if it didn’t work out, Kallie would go to the Humane Society.

During the week before my sister came to get her, she started to grow on me, I admit.

She watched with keen interest all our family doings.

And it was cute the way she hunted the giant grasshoppers in our driveway, crouching low, motionless, then pouncing.

I fed her tuna every evening. When the tuna ran out, I let her have one of my salmon packets.

If someone would have told me 10 years ago that I would be feeding my own salmon to a stray cat in my yard, I would not have believed it.

My sister came to get Kallie the next afternoon.

The kids were elated.

However, the other cat hissed madly at Kallie, and one night she snuck into the neighbor’s garage and skittered across their $110,000 Corvette, allegedly  scratching the finish.

Kallie went to the Humane Society. As it turns out, that was the best place for her. She tested positive for Feline Leukemia Virus, and they placed her in a foster home. If she recovers, she can be adopted.

My tender-hearted middle daughter still asks whether the other family was able to “feel Kallie better.” We’ve not heard any more news.

Now winter is coming. The raccoons and the woodchucks have hunkered down, somewhere else, thankfully. The fox has not been spotted for several weeks. Soon snow will fly, and the only animal sightings out the sliding glass door will be the cold-weather birds at the feeder and the occasional rabbit.

But spring will come again, and the girls will be watching.


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