The consensus has been nearly unanimous among friends with squirrel problems. The best solution for keeping them at bay isn’t hot sauce or BB guns or rubber snakes or even galvanized hardware cloth.
“What you really need,” my friends told me, “is a cat.”
I knew it was true. In the 25 years I lived on a farm, I rarely saw a squirrel. There were plenty of big trees, including one massive oak and several apple trees, in the yard. There were birdfeeders galore. My dogs were fenced in and not free to hunt. That left only one reason why I never, ever had a squirrel problem.
Cats. Cats who didn’t spend their days curled up beside the woodstove. Cats who preferred juicy field mice over Friskies. Cats who would rather sleep on a bale of hay than a sofa. Cats who were lean and lanky and not afraid of anything that flew or scampered. Cats with tough names like Pete and Tiger and Burlap.
Cats who understood without a doubt that squirrels are the enemy.
Clearly, to control the squirrels at my current abode, it only made sense to get a cat. But here’s the thing. Though I appreciate their usefulness, I’m not a big fan of cats. I don’t like how they weave in and out between my ankles, trying their best to trip me. I don’t like the way they scratch and bite without provocation. I don’t like the way they jump onto tables and help themselves to whatever’s on it. I hate incessant meowing.
If I were to get a cat, the smart thing would be to look for an aloof adult cat in need of an outside home. A cat who wouldn’t take any flak from my dog. A cat who didn’t crave affection but who wouldn’t wander off. Most of all, a cat who wouldn’t tolerate squirrels.
A few weeks ago, I’d made up my mind to visit the animal shelter in hopes of finding just such a cat. But first, I’d take my usual morning walk on Watson Road, a lovely shaded route not far from where I live. There’s a vacant barn right situated right where the road starts steeply uphill. I stopped to rest there for a minute before tackling the climb.
That’s where I heard an unmistakable sound. “Meow…meow.”
I knew for certain this was no grown cat. Its cry was soft and high-pitched. It’s probably a feral kitten, wild and untouchable, I told myself. It won’t come when I call. But I called anyway. “Here…kitty, kitty, kitty.” Out dashed the cutest little gray tabby kitten I’d ever seen. White muzzle. White chest and belly. Four white paws. Pale green eyes in a perfectly triangular face.
The kitten ran straight toward me, so I picked it up and peeked under its tail. Boy cat. He purred and purred and purred. He looked healthy and not particularly underfed. “Do you want to be my kitty?” I asked. He purred some more. “If you live with me, you’ll have to learn to be a mighty hunter,” I told him.
That little cat looked me right in the eye and I swear I saw him nod. What could I do but take him home? And what could I name him but Watson? Like most cats, he weaves in and out between my ankles but hasn’t tripped me yet. He bites and scratches on occasion, though I’m working hard to break him of it. I’m teaching him not to jump onto tables. Best of all, he meows only when he wants food or attention.
As to whether Watson is the answer to my squirrel problems, it’s too soon to say. They’re still a whole lot bigger than he is. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
(August 11, 2019)