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Our cats are wildlife hunter - gatherers

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A snake in his pants and other incidents

Deadly Night Adder in a Man's Crotch and other Snake Scares

The snake was in his pants. He jumped up and it slithered over his crotch. Not all snakes are poisonous but this one was! Snowball the cat was after it.

I grew up in Natal, a province of South Africa. We lived out in the countryside we call the "veld" on a power station construction site. It was virgin territory and we shared it with many wild creatures including snakes, birds, leopards and the like. But when it comes to snakes, one needs to know the difference between a deadly night adder and a harmless mole snake. Needless to say, our cat chased them all.

We had a family cat called Snowball. He had Manx ancestors, so this fluffy white cat without a tail was called Snowball. Even though my story took place over fifty years ago it still shows how Manx cats have a penchant for chasing just about anything that moves. Snowball was an unusual sight when he trotted after my parents for their evening walk in the veld.

A Snake Burrows Into the Gardener's Private Parts

One day Mr Good Zwane, our Zulu gardener, was lazing in the afternoon sun, slumped against the stables. Mr Good looked after our garden for many years. My father was the chief engineer and Mr Good believed this raised his status to above that of a mere gardener. He was wearing Dad's old baggy khaki shorts from World War 2. This was an act of inverted snobbery for him because other workmen used to wear their very best clothes on Sundays. Mr Good wore the boss's old army shorts with pride even though they were a few sizes too big for him.

The trouser legs flapped around his skinny thighs and the wide waist was neatly restrained with and old piece of electric flex. Suddenly a snake came towards him and took refuge inside the only thing that looked like the entrance to a hole - the gaping trouser leg. Snowball shot round the corner in hot pursuit of the snake. Mr Good shot bolt upright screaming: "God, God!" The snake had reached the crotch and was thrashing over his crown jewels that were unrestrained by any underpants. The snake rounded the obstacle and fell down the other leg of his shorts and tried to get away.

The snake plopped to the ground and within a few seconds Mr Good had smacked it with a crowbar. When we came home that night we heard the story. He proudly showed us the charred remains of the medium-sized snake. It was a poisonous night adder but he assured us that the spirit of the snake was also dead, thanks to his ritual.

How Snowball the Cat Saved us From another Night Adder

On a very hot afternoon my Mom and I were sitting on a bench on our stoep. Snowball was sitting in front of us, looking aloof as usual. But suddenly the cat glared under the bench and started to hiss and growl. He crouched down and dashed through my Mother's legs. She jumped up and saw Snowball trying to lunge at a brownish snake that had slithered under the bench.

My Mother ran inside the house with Snowball in her arms. "Snake! Snake!" She cried and my brother ran outside and grabbed a spade. The snake wriggled off across the lawn. Snakes usually try to avoid humans and look for cover under objects like piles of rubbish, foliage, wood or a piece of furniture. (Or trousers!) But this snake had to first cross a huge open space.

My brother lunged the spade at the snake. The spade sailed into the air as if it had been propelled by a star athlete and not a nine year old boy. It sliced the snake in half. Both pieces were still wriggling - another night adder. Snowball seems to have it in for these snakes! But the cat had warned us that it was under our bench and had tried to chase it, despite its display of huge fangs, hissing and its aggressive, upright pose.

The next morning when Mr Good Zwane the gardener saw what had happened he made a fire and incinerated both pieces of the snake. These black people believe that the spirit of the snake will come back to harm them unless it is burnt by fire.

Goldfish

Cats chase and kill all kinds of animals – including our goldfish

We all wonder what goes on inside a cat's brain. They sleep a lot of the time, but at night things are different. The mind boggles at the strange noises you hear in the dark. Then you wait for tiny squeaks or sounds of distress that little creatures make when they are victims of a cat's "cruel" form of amusement. But to them it is merely instinctive. Or is it? You go back to sleep because it is not an intruder and depending on the stamina of the prisoner, the cat will be at play for a long time.

In the morning there are signs of a struggle. You find lizard tails, chewed up moths, the stomach or liver of a mouse or two, or even a shrew in the lounge downstairs. Cats do not eat shrews because they exude a foul odour from glands on the sides of their coat. But the shrew is still a good toy with a strong "battery". So shrews get chased until they escape, play dead or manage to squeeze under a dishwasher or somewhere inaccessible.

Leopard Toads Give Off a Bad Taste in the Mouth

When it rains the frogs and toads come out to enjoy it. Leopard toads are a protected species and are very pretty with leopard-like markings on their backs. But cats don't care about nature conservation. Our Siamese cat we call Bhumipol came running inside the house with a small toad in his mouth. It had inflated its belly and chest and was squeaking like a child's plastic toy. Bhumipol chased and tormented baby toads and frogs until one day he learned a good lesson. Leopard toads have special glands on the sides of their heads that release toxins to repel predators and avoid being eaten.

Western leopard toad
It was raining again. We heard a toad shriek. Then the cat bounded in and shot under the dining room table. His mouth was foaming and his tongue was wagging up and down. He pulled it in and out of his mouth, not sure of what was happening. Something tasted real bad! My husband went outside and found a beautiful Western leopard toad in the garden. We took pictures of it. I then tried to rinse out the cat's mouth with water but it remained slimy. He recovered the next morning.

 

Chocolates and Easter Bunnies and All Those Calories!

I was taking a picture of a chocolate Easter Bunny and some plastic eggs. Bhumipol is a chocolate point Siamese cat. He came and sat right in front of the camera. They love the limelight and as food critics they are pretty honest. I tried to shoo him away from my Easter bunny but he still got himself into the picture. He pulled out his tongue in disgust. I am not sure how they understand us, but that was only the beginning of the bunny story. The next morning they dragged a child's teddy bear through the cat flap and laid it at my feet. Happy Easter! They are nifty thieves and we received many gifts, including leather slippers, balls, plants from the fish pond and the odd slice of toast or a piece of pizza. We had to keep apologizing to our neighbors. Now we have two new kittens and so far they are not as eager to forage for food. Tigger chases the Franklin (wild fowl) every morning and only once have they brought in a stale hamburger bun. 

Teddy from next door

The Easter Bunny Arrived Under the Bed!

During the Easter week-end I experimented with delicious ways of preparing eggs as light relief to all that chocolate but nobody cared. After dinner my husband got up and ate the chocolate bunny. He offered a piece of it to me and wolfed down the rest. We went to bed early that night and were soon fast asleep. I woke up from a torrid dream only to hear the thumps and shrieks were noises for real. Then I heard a loud growl.

We were not alone and there was a thumping noise on the wooden floor next to the bed. I grabbed a torch and it shone into a pair of blood-red eyes that belonged to a rabbit. There were more growls followed by a skirmish. The rabbit or should I say; wild hare, had been dragged up two flights of stairs by Bhumipol. It escaped from his jaws and we could see in the dim light that it was not fatally wounded - no blood, although it was very startled. So were we!

I wrapped "bunny" in a pink shawl. It protested wildly. We took it to the guest room where it was welcome to spend the night, being Easter and all that. It had hind legs that were longer than those of a cat. For the rest of the night the cat howled and scratched at the door. We took Bunny to the nature reserve the next morning. Chocolate bunnies are better and tastier. But not all cats can stay away from live prey, even if their sibling prefers catnip and plays the keyboard like an expert!

The bunny

The Cat Was Followed by a Huge Puff Adder into the Garden!

We have many snake incidents but when a few kilograms of deadly venomous puff adder joins the party it gets really scary. Our two Siamese cats love bringing things home. We are familiar with the half eaten goldfish, shrews, moles, lizards, field mice and frogs. The toy phase was over, so no more dolls, balls, teddies or shoes have been brought in lately. The feline lads had also outgrown their passion for stealing bread, sandwiches and junk food from the neighbors. It was now time for big game hunting or rather being hunted by a large large snake.

Our neighbor came over to us. He was frantic. He said our cat was outside his glass patio door with a big snake. I just laughed. Bhumipol. He is always the one who is up to something wicked. But no, he insisted that we come to his house and take a look through the window.

The Puff Adder was coiled up and our Cat Was Sitting Next to it

Then I saw what he meant. There was a huge brown coil of snake on the one side of the door. It was bigger than the cat. A few feet away sat our cat, calmly looking at it with interest. I offered stupidly to bang a bucket down over the snake to trap it. Our neighbour refused to open the door. What a relief! We ran back to our house and leaned over the balcony to watch them.

We called him frantically. "Bhumipol! Bummi Bummi!" To our relief he came in through the palisade fence back into our garden. Both houses face a strip of coastal nature reserve so one would expect to see wild animals. I grabbed the cat and closed all the doors and windows. We went up to the balcony to see what happened next. The snake came looking for the cat and threaded itself through a gap in our fence. It explored our tiny garden and settled down for a nap in the sitting area. We phoned the Wildlife conservation office but their snake catcher was busy having lunch. He would come later. In the meantime our security guards assumed that they could have it. Indigenous people eat snakes and one of the patrolling guards was partial to puff adder barbecue.

Puff adder in our garden

The armed guards stormed into the garden and Mr Puff Adder sailed into a crevice under the stone table. It let out a loud roaring, hissing sound, so typical of these snakes and hence the name puff adder. It sounded like a blast furnace. An angry, frightened snake. They are very venomous and if you get bitten, there is little time to have treatment to prevent gangrene or a fatality. I feel it is time for me to find out more about snake bite treatments - just in case. Eventually the Wildlife expert arrived and cunningly guided the snake into a pillow case without any drama and took it to a nature reserve.

Snakes Alive - Lots of Them!

That little incident was not the end of the snakes for me. A week later I was walking next to a narrow strip of paving along the road to work, in our business park - also a conservation area. I had to step up onto the sidewalk, closer to a line of bushes when a car came past. Suddenly I felt my legs being whipped by something that was thrashing around them. It was a large black snake and I think it got more of a fright than I did.

Some of the gardening team were watching. They laughed. It was one of the resident mole snakes! Mole snakes are large and look menacing but they eat moles and are not poisonous. It is amazing how effective they are. I didn't care, I needed to stay away from any snakes, even if they were not poisonous. The next time I passed that section of the road I looked out for the snake. It was draped around a mole hill. I walked on the other side of the road after that.

Are the Cats Trying to Tease Me?

The cats love lizards, especially when the tails fall off. These poor tormented creatures are routinely rescued by us and taken to a safer area away from our feline predators. The cats seem to know when I am doing a live radio broadcast from home. I cannot shut myself in as the middle floor has an open plan. Siamese cats love to meow and they are very loud, often sounding like an angry old man. Some of the listeners have heard them in the background during one of my shows! The final insult was when they played volleyball with a lizard right in front of me.

They knew I could do nothing but hang onto the phone! I waited for a commercial break but the torment seemed to be endless. I tried to thump them with a screwed up Time magazine. I missed and pushed the wrong phone button and cut myself off from the international broadcast instead.

I also use this room for sewing and was busy with a pile of fabric off cuts on the floor. Yindee, the lilac Siamese was scratching underneath it. I looked down and saw what I thought was the missing lizard's tail. I lifted up the fabric and discovered a very long tail. Too long! It was attached to another snake.

A venomous little critter

Oh no, why do I take so many photographs? I tried to identify the snake. It seemed to be a banded grass snake. It had the right kind of stripes. A few days later I was told that it was a venomous snake, but that the bite was not usually fatal form such a small snake. Am I supposed to say thank you for these gifts?

It was not long after that when a few more little snakes appeared. Yindee trotted in with another one, dangling on either side of his mouth and dropped it on the carpet. This time I grabbed a plastic jug and tried to whip it over the snake. I missed. It reared up in defence and tried to peck at me. I had a flashback - the puff adder incident. How foolish to think that I could just throw a bucket over  that huge snake and it would just stay neatly coiled up!

References

manx.com/ (Accessed August 2012)

uiowa.edu/~africart/toc/people/Zulu.html (Accessed August 2012)statefundca.com/safety/safetymeeting/SafetyMeetingArticle.aspx?ArticleID=117 (Accessed August 2012)

razedahell.com/?tag=night-adder (Accessed August 2012)

zeekoevlei.co.za/2010/06/western-leopard-toad/ (Accessed August 2012 )

creaturecontrol.net/Shrews (Accessed August 2012 )

beatingaddictions.co.uk/beatinganaddictiontochocolate (Accessed August 2012 )

cat-world.com.au/human-foods-which-are-poisonous-to-cats (Accessed August 2012 )

beforeitsnews.com/animals-pets/2012/01/top-scientist-your-pet-can-read-your-mind-1615063.html

 

 

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Comments

Jun 22, 2016 4:55pm
HLesley
What a fun article. I've had cats bring me American robins and even pigeons, but never snakes or lizards! My husband saw our cat chasing a raccoon the other day but it was much bigger than she was so there was no chance she would be bringing it home.
Jun 24, 2016 6:45am
Yindee
Thanks for sharing. Cats can be quite ruthless and cruel. But when they snuggle up to you and purr, all is forgiven!
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Bibliography

  1. "Puff Adder - Bitis arietans." Snake facts. 22/06/2016 <Web >
  2. "Western leopard toad." Cape Nature. 22/06/2016 <Web >
  3. "Night Adder (CAUSUS RHOMBEATUS)." African reptiles. 22/06/2016 <Web >

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