I share my home with a tiny black cat named Scooter. I’m not really a cat person, but the dog found her abandoned in the park during a snowstorm a few years ago and brought her home.
She was about a week old and the vet told us she probably wouldn’t survive. But I decided to give it a shot and between me and a pooch who mothered her 24/7 she pulled through.
But rather than being gratefully we’d saved her life, Scooter has gone out of her way to make life miserable for both of us, never missing an opportunity to scratch the crap out of me or terrorize the dog.
And while she has remained tiny in stature, she’s a holy terror who doesn’t back down from anybody or anything. This isn’t a cat you take to a blessing of the animals. An exorcism maybe.
She’s tethered when she’s outside these days to curtail the two or three birds she’d dispatch daily, yet still needs to be regularly rescued while confronting Ravens twice her size or threatening to take on an entire murder of crows.
But yesterday, she revealed another side of her nature.
On warm days I work and write outside with Scooter curled up in the sunshine nearby. Mid-afternoon we were interrupted as a broken tree branch shattered to the ground carrying a huge grey squirrel with it.
The animal scampered away apparently unharmed but the yard was soon filled with squirrel screams and cries which I took to be some kind of ongoing squirrel fight. And then I saw Scooter nose to nose with a frightened squirrel baby in the grass.
I knew I couldn’t get to them before she pounced. But she didn’t. Instead she took a protective stance over the fallen baby and didn’t interfere when I arrived to pick it up.
Instead, she hurried to some shrubbery and took up a position over another baby that had fallen there.
Now I had a six or seven week old baby squirrel in each hand and no idea what to do with them.
My neighbor, Will, was working on his garage and has significant backwoods cred so I called him over to help. We determined it was best to place the babes where Mom could find them and put them in the crutch of a tree.
They kept hollering for Mom and she kept screeching back. So we decided to leave the scene and walk the dogs so Mom would feel safe recovering them.
I put Scooter, who was still searching the yard, in the house and we left for about an hour, returning to the babies still where we’d left them, the screaming ongoing and Scooter ripping at the screen door.
Will decided the babies maybe needed to be higher up in the trees and placed on a less precarious perch. So we got a basket, picked up what we’d determined were the remains of the nest, added the two babies and tied the basket as high as our ladder would allow.
By now Scooter was mostly through the screen, so I let her back on her tether. She tore across the yard and immediately uncovered a third baby, which we added to the basket.
By now I’d noticed that the arrival of each new squirrel calmed the others a little, but Mom was still screaming. I gave the cat a little more rope and a minute later she was standing protectively over yet another baby squirrel.
When I added number four to the basket, the babies went immediately calm, forming into a clinging bundle in the nest. It was as if the family they knew had been reunited and nothing was anymore amiss than when Mom normally left them.
I hadn’t been down the ladder more than a minute before Mom had gone silent. A moment later, she too was in the basket.
Scooter sat staring up at the tree for about an hour and then scratched at the shredded screen to be let in.
By then, Mom, the babies and most of the nest were gone.
I’m no expert on wildlife and I’ve seen Scooter chase after enough adult squirrels to know she’d probably love catching one. But somehow she seemed to know these little ones were off-limits.
Last night as she curled up in the window that overlooks the yard, I read an expression on her face I’d call self-satisfaction, maybe even somewhat proud of what she’d done.
It felt a little proud of her too.
And then a few minutes later she was back terrorizing the dog.