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Diverse diners gather on Susan's back porch

Susan Manzke
Susan Manzke's hens stand side by side with the farm cats as they enjoy a nightly snack of cat food on the back porch.

One winter, Bob and I started feeding one cat that showed up on the farm during a blizzard. We didn’t know where it came from, but it looked hungry. Of course, we had to set out food for it.

That cat was very shy. For a time, we thought it had died because we hadn’t seen her after that blizzard. It wasn’t until spring that we saw her again. Our feeding wayward cats all started because of that cat eighteen years ago.

Bob took it on as one of his chores to bring water and food out to the barn. The cats waited for him every morning. He even bought a heated water dish so their water wouldn’t freeze in the winter. That all changed after another bad blizzard.

We dug our way out to the barn to feed the cats but wind filled in our path. It was time for the cats to come to the house for food and water. I figured that they would find the food, especially as I called “Kitty, Kitty” to tell them when it had arrived on the porch.

It was easy to train the cats to come to us—they might miss a meal or two if the weather is rotten, but then they make up by eating every crumb.

So that’s how we trained the wayward cats to come to the house for their breakfast and supper. The trouble is that now we have other guests who have come for a handout.

My four hens seem to like eating cat food, too. Those ladies have figured out that when I call “Kitty, Kitty” food arrives on the porch—I think they first came to the house for a snack thinking I was calling “Chick, Chick”. If I say the two phrases fast, they kind of sound alike. Well, they found food when I called and that was good enough for them.

I used to be able to get them to follow me to their roost for the evening by tempting them with their “Chick, Chick” call. I guess my offerings weren’t as good as the cat food. Now I have to wait for them to finish their supper with the cats before I can lock them safely in their home.

Safety is an important thing for those hens. It seems wildlife also has found where a tasty tidbit can be found. Raccoons may not only like to clean up the cat dishes but also make a meal of my hens.

It seems wildlife also has found where a tasty tidbit can be found on Susan Manzke's porch. This ring-tailed crew make quick work of the scraps left for the farm's cats.

I discovered the raccoon’s arrival one night when I heard odd sounds outside. Something was moving the heavy old meat trays I used for the cat food.

With a click of the light switch, I saw a raccoon, a roly-poly raccoon, probably pregnant.

The infrared camera went up on the porch so I could get a snap or two of the raccoon. Well, it turned out that there were two. I heard them arguing who got the choicest cat food leftovers.

Yes, I should have done something about the raccoons, but the next time I saw her she was much thinner, meaning she had her babies. I couldn’t trap her and release her into the woods. Those babies needed her—okay, I’m a soft touch.

Just about dark the other night, Mama raccoon showed up, but she wasn’t alone. Her passel of kits followed her into the yard.

I saw something scurry up my maple tree and thought it was a cat. Then another furry creature followed it up the tree, and then a third—the wayward cats are not that playful.

Eventually, I got a good look at the visitors. It was Mama raccoon with all her kits, all six of them!

The whole raccoon family does not show up every evening, only now and then. I guess they aren’t happy that I’ve cut back on the cat food so leftovers are sparse.

If I make a noise, they scatter, so I can go outside after dark. And that’s what I do. I make lots of noise. So, if you hear me, I’m not talking to myself. I’m just encouraging the neighborhood wildlife to exit the premises. Pronto.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net/blog.