Monday, February 7, 2011

Someone's Been Sleeping in My Bed

My little menagerie of animals consists of two dogs and three cats, one of whom refuses to come inside no matter the weather. Sydney is a small male orange tabby rescued from Town Lake Animal Shelter and from Day 1 he decided to be an outside cat. Whether it's freezing cold or raining, he wants to be outside and if I dare bring him inside (thinking I'm doing him a favor), he bolts back out like a flash of lightening.

Lately we've had some brutally cold weather (even for Austin), so I set two cardboard boxes on their sides in my carport to make him a little man-cat cave, complete with a heating pad under the bottom blanket, furry blankets all around the box to insulate it, and a furry blanket flap that hangs down to cover the opening. Inside the boxes are little bowls of fresh food & water. His cat condo started out as an efficiency apartment with just one box, but I recently upgraded him to a full condo with two boxes and more room (to entertain the lady cats, ya know).

Most nights before going to bed, I stick my hand in through the front flap and give him a few pets, then fill up his bowls and check to make sure his heating pad is on. He's always curled up inside and almost immediately starts purring when I reach in and pet him.

Last night I went outside to do my usual nightly check on Sydney, and stuck my hand through the flap to pet his head. His mouth was wide open and all I felt were teeth - sharp teeth. Lots of sharp teeth. I thought I must have startled him so his mouth was open, hissing at me. So, to tempt fate once again I stuck my hand back inside the dark box (dumb move) and stroked his fur. Hmmmm. His fur definitely felt rougher ... coarser than I remembered. Then I petted his head and there were those damn teeth again with that mouth gaping open. And what felt like a fleshy human nose, not a fuzzy cat nose. He didn't bite me or make any aggressive noises but something wasn't right. I had a very weird feeling about this. I shuffled back into the house (I'm still recovering from surgery so shuffling was as fast as I could move), grabbed my flashlight, and headed back to the carport.

Back outside, I reached for flap of material and slowly pulled it back. What would be behind Curtain #1? My flashlight revealed exactly what I had feared. There - staring back at me with mouth agape -  was a big possum. And he looked perfectly happy lying on the heating pad, eating Syd's food, drinking his water, watching his favorite show on the flatscreen. Just lying there with his mouth oddly agape, showing off all those sharp teeth. I couldn't believe he hadn't bitten me but I've heard that possums are actually quite gentle. I still couldn't believe I was stupid enough to stick my hand into that dark box ... twice.  It was time to evict the squatter. I had to shake the boxes and tilt them until he finally got the hint and scurried away. But his preference definitely would have been to stay right there in that comfy cat condo. He probably thought he had hit the motherload of cool cribs for possums; definitely prime possum real estate. I just hope word hasn't gotten out among the possum community that I occasionally have a vacancy.

Tonight I took my flashlight with me to make sure the correct occupant was in the cat condo and NOT the uninvited guest. I was relieved that it was just good ole Sydney, with no fangs bared.

Here's the Real Sydney:

And here's the Sydney impersonator:

Yeah. A bit of a difference there. A word to the wise: don't stick your hand in dark boxes containing cat food. And don't try to pet whatever furry critter is inhabiting that box. 


Animals Matter. Even those baring large pointy teeth.

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