End of January

Susan Manzke

The month of January 2017 is just about over. Thank goodness.

December 2016 had extreme cold, but I’ll remember January for the ice that stuck around here. At first it was solid and thick, and then the temperature warmed. We still had the ice but with an extra slippery coating of water on it.

Cats waiting for their next meal

Bob and I stayed inside a lot. Since it was a skating rink starting right outside our back door, I wouldn’t let Bob walk to the shed to feed the barn cats. Oh, we didn’t let them go hungry. Each morning, I called, “Kitty, Kitty.” I then watched them cross from the shed to the house.

The cats didn’t like their path to food. They walked around puddles, but that put them up on ice. On the ice, they slipped and slid.

I’ve never seen mature barn cats have trouble with ice before. It was just so unusual. I stood there watching them as they came, counting them. I could tell how bad the weather was and how hungry they were by the speed of the cats as they came to eat.

There were four that were/are always hungry and came for food even in the worst cold. A few others started across the yard, tiptoeing, and then stopped. You could almost see them thinking, “Am I that hungry?” Sometimes they continued walking toward me and the food, and sometimes they turned around and went back to bed. Bob put out old blankets and stuff in the fall in the shed so they could nest in comfort in the winter.

At morning and evening meals, I counted the cats that came. Once we had 14. Usually there aren’t that many. On average we have 11, but visitors are welcome.

Late one night, I looked out on the porch to see an unusual guest. An opossum was munching away on the leftover cat food. One cat remained there, too. It was sitting on the bench watching the wildlife clean up the crumbles. After the possum ate the last of the cat food, it set about eating birdseed that had fallen out of the hanging feeders.

Opossum nibbles at the meal

I called Bob to see the interloper. Seeing it so close entertained us. We did not go crazy and chase it away. The poor thing must have been really hungry to come up on the porch. Bob thinks it usually cleans up cat food he sets in the shed, but with the meal location change, it came looking for a handout here, too. (By the way, opossums do not hibernate, so having it around wasn’t a big surprise.)

If you read my last column, you might recall how Bob put furniture polish on our kitchen table trying to give our cat, Othello, a slippery ride when he jumped up there. Well, after watching the barn cats slipping on the driveway ice, Bob had another thought: “Maybe I should have put ice on the table.” Yes, he is a silly man.

Today, after weeks of not walking out to the shed, Bob bundled up and took the barn cats their food to them. Most were happy with the change. They prefer to have breakfast in bed. The three that always came to the porch no matter the weather watched Bob from the front steps but only for a moment. Soon they were hurrying back to the shed to get fed — they are not fools. They know that if they are slow, all the choice food bits will be gone.

Snow is heading in our direction. The worst of the ice is gone, but patches hidden under snow can be just as treacherous as a whole skating rink. Tomorrow we’ll stay home and watch the flakes fly as we again feed the cats on our front porch — all the while dreaming of spring.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;