The Wild Outside

I have written before about my previous tussles with woodpeckers, bats, rats, squirrels and rabbits who have invaded my human territory. (See the article "Three Days of the Bat" on the website.) Here's another chapter about my latest go-round with yet another bunch of hooligans who live in my backyard — this time genius raccoons (raccoonus einsteinus).  This is a true story.


My cat Morgan has recently developed the highly annoying habit of peeing in the house when she's too lazy to go outside (and if you'd seen Morgan lately, you'd know just how lazy that is.) I have tried many methods to get her to change this habit, but nothing seems to work. So I decided that Morgan would just have to be an outside cat from now on. She did not take kindly to this idea, but then I don't take kindly to cat pee-stained floors.


So I blocked up the cat/dog door that leads onto the deck off my living room, and banished Morgan outside. If I want to let my dog Goody out or in, I have to open the door for her. Goody didn't like this either. She would have preferred the house to smell like cat pee. In fact, I think she might like that odor. She's a beagle and likes strong smells. Too bad, I said.


My living room deck is off the 2nd story, and the cat and dog reach the ground by means of a specially-built ramp from the deck to the fenced-in area of the yard. It took a lot of time for me to train the cat and the dog how to use this ramp – cajoling, praising, bribing, rewarding. It took Goody a few days to get the hang of it, and as for Morgan the pee-er, it took weeks.


So, back to the raccoons. Morgan now lived outside, and only outside, I said strongly. (I have spoken! I am the boss here! I do not have to live with cat pee smell! – I said to myself while I listened to her piteous meowing to be let in.) I moved her crunchy food dish outside onto the deck.  That was in the afternoon. That night around 2 am I was awakened (the deck runs past my bedroom window) by yowls and growls and a strange clicking noise.  I turned on the light, got up and looked out the window.  Yes, a raccoon was on the deck. (It was the origin of the clicking noise.) Morgan was on the deck railing, back raised, every hair erect, and yowling at the top of her lungs. The raccoon gave me a casual glance and then lumbered easily down the ramp. 


The next morning I see that all the cat food on the deck is gone. Well, okay, I think, I’ll feed Morgan canned cat food instead of crunchies, watch her eat it, and then remove the food dish. That way there will be no cat food smell. I fill the crunchy dish with water instead. Morgan obviously thinks I should let her back in the house but I’m determined she shall not pass.


That night (again around 2 am) I am awakened, again by clicking and yowling, and also by a crash. I leap up and see outside on the deck, not one raccoon, but two. I think I recognize the smaller one as the prowler from the previous night. The crash is because one of them has picked up the crunchy/water dish and thrown it across the deck. Maybe they were pissed off to find water instead of the crunchies they were expecting. The larger raccoon is now tearing apart a plastic garbage bag filled with leaves and fir needles that I had swept up earlier. Suddenly I remember that also in the garbage bag is an empty Doritos bag. Surely he isn’t after Dorito crumbs?


Morgan continues to yowl as the big raccoon rips the bag to shreds and both raccoons totally ignore me yelling at them to get off my deck.  Goody now rushes into the living room and up to the sliding glass door. She frantically paws on the glass and begins barking her head off; although beagles do not bark, they howl. Especially when they see small animals they’d like to kill.


I get a broom and wave it out my bedroom window, trying to scare the raccoons and encourage them to leave. I’m afraid that they will attack Morgan and kill her (although she pees inside I don’t want her to die, and I especially don’t want to be a witness to her murder.) I don’t think my broom-waving has any effect, but the raccoons see that there’s nothing else here now, so they finally leave. After they go down the ramp, Morgan crouches at the top of the ramp, making defiant cries and trying to show what a brave and ferocious cat she is. I wonder what the neighbors are making of all this.


The next morning I take Morgan’s cracked crunchy/water dish inside. I tell her, you can come inside to eat, but then you have to leave again.  But after she eats, she runs away and I have to try to catch her.  Chubby as she is, she is still a lot faster than me (I am chubby too, which may have something to do with it.)  Finally I get ahold of her and toss her outside. I also go and remove the garbage bags from the deck and put them in the garage where they belong. Then I sweep the deck again to make sure there are no smell sources left. The only thing left on the deck are benches, a couple of flower boxes, Morgan’s warm bedding underneath the eaves, and her litterbox (she has to have a litterbox otherwise she uses the flower boxes. You may have gathered that Morgan is not what anyone would call a good cat.)


That night I am very tired because of the two previous raccoon-filled nights. I go to bed before 9 and expect to sleep until at least 6 am.  But no. Around 2 am, I am again awakened by clicking and yowling. I say at least 17 very bad words. Out loud. Then I get up and I am not in a good mood. My nature-loving philosophy has been eclipsed by a strong pull toward violence. Suddenly killing innocent raccoons doesn’t seem so very reprehensible to me.


I look out the window. Morgan is again on the porch railing, hissing and spitting and yowling, back and tail bushed out as far as they will go.  Clustered beneath her on the deck in a semi-circle are five raccoons, clicking like mad and staring right at her. Their intention is obvious. Since I have refused to provide them with crunchies, they are going to eat Morgan. They are going to rip her chubby flesh right off her bones, I can see it in their masked and glittering eyes.


So despite the fact that the raccoons were actually offering me a way out of my dilemma with my house-peeing cat, I could not let this happen, especially right in front of me on my deck. Diseembowelment seemed like rather a harsh punishment for wayward peeing, and besides, think of the clean up! So, muttering a hasty prayer that none of raccoons had either rabies or a death-wish, I again armed myself with my broom. Then I locked Goody in the bathroom, rushed into the living room, opened the sliding glass door, and ran out onto the deck, swinging my broom wildly and uttering blood-curdling cries that I hoped would terrify those murderous greedy masked thugs. I was wearing red plaid pajama bottoms and nothing else, and I’m sure I looked like something they would rather not see again.


Well, as you can tell, the raccoons did not kill me. Indeed, they didn’t even put up a fight. They scampered down the ramp as soon as I appeared on the deck. But the last one down the ramp looked over his shoulder right before he went down, giving me an Arnold Schwarznegger look that promised, “I’ll be back.”


Arnold didn’t lie, and maybe the raccoons aren’t lying either. Maybe they will be back. Maybe tonight there will be ten raccoons, or fifteen, twenty. But if they come, Morgan won’t be out there.  I have unblocked the cat/dog door, and she is free to come and go as she pleases.  I’ll try to be vigilant about her peeing-habit, but if you come to visit me please don’t sniff in the corners. 


My biggest concern now is that the raccoons will figure out the cat/dog door. I know they’re smart enough. What will I do then?