Fat cats and lonely foxes? Yes, Battleaxe is taking a break from the grim world outside to look closer to home. Like many humans during Lockdown, our cat Digby has recently ballooned from Bagpuss cuddly to borderline obese. We can only guess why. Meanwhile, around our house, solitary male foxes are on the prowl, day and night, barking forlornly. Are the two things related?
Quite possibly. As Battleaxe readers will know, Digby the rescue tabby is totally food-obsessed. He would eat until he burst. We assume that none of our neighbours are actively feeding him – but can’t even be sure of that, given how friendly he is. However, we do think someone puts out food for local wild life – badgers and foxes, and the cat finds this and scoffs it. Over the past couple of months he has grown fatter and fatter. Clearly, this is not good for him. He is already on minimum skimpy rations, so we have now started keeping him in at night because this is when wildlife food is more likely to be available.
This is a big step for us – all the cats we have ever had have been free to live their catty lives to the full, coming and going as they please via their cat doors. To our surprise he has taken to it well, particularly as he gets shut in downstairs and can’t come up to our room. I have trouble with cats paddling hairily round on the bed, and Digby snores worse than Philosopher. We think maybe we can see tiny signs of weight loss. It is too early to tell.
Of course, he may not be eating too much at all, but have some obscure feline inflato-dropsy caused by illness. If his weight doesn’t reduce we’ll have to take him to the vet. Now, that’s a business during the pandemic. We took him for his vaccination earlier in the year and I think it was worse than seeing our GP. No, I take that back. Nothing, nothing, could be harder than getting to see a GP…
So, back to the foxes. Is it just us, or has anyone else in the Hastings area noticed increased numbers of them? Is it because people feed them? Is it because our pandemic life is quieter? We have a splendid big dog fox that comes into the back garden, very fat, sleek and healthy. I know he is male because of his constant barking – at this time of year they are calling for mates. Yesterday I saw this dog fox from my study window at the front of the house, younger, skinnier, also wandering up and down barking. Look how brushed up his tail is – he is looking for lurrve. Let’s hope he doesn’t run into Big Daddy at the back of the house…
Now, here’s a very odd thing. Just while writing this I heard, for the first time, the screams of a vixen. For those that don’t know, that screaming that sounds like something getting killed is just the noise that vixens make to advertise their presence. They don’t do it in the middle of mating or anything exciting like that. Later, you can hear the high-pitched yowling and yipping made by cubs playing.
You can gather from the above that Battleaxe is fond of foxes. They can be smelly though. Once, back in Birmingham, I put my hand in fox poo while picking up a stick and honestly, I was like Lady Macbeth. Could I get that smell off my hand? I scrubbed and scrubbed but could conjure up that deadly pong for months. I don’t approve of people feeding them or trying to tame foxes. It makes them too numerous, too vulnerable to cruelty. Large numbers also makes them more susceptible to mange – which kills them slowly and painfully. Here’s more about urban foxes if you are interested.
However, the foxes round here will have one benefit – reducing the rat population. Rats? Yes, we believe they nest in the scaffolding yard at the back of us, and come into the garden for the food we put out for the birds. Now, I know many people are terrified of rats and will be flinching just reading this, but Battleaxe and Philosopher can’t get that worked up about them. In Birmingham, we were more wary, because they probably did live in the sewers, but the rats near us live cleaner lives and are very unlikely to carry disease. Also they are pretty creatures – look at this. We do try to trap them and block up their entry holes – they reproduce to nuisance level so quickly. We are also worried about our guests catching sight of them!
Digby can’t tackle an adult rat, but pounces on the adolescents, which he kindly brings into the house for us and then releases. I could write reams about rats running round the kitchen, hiding inside the living room sofa, holed up behind the S bend of the downstairs loo, and most memorably, making an appearance in the middle of a Christmas party for WI ladies… The wretched things are very hard to catch.
To finish, here are two more foxes we saw on a walk last Sunday, up by North’s Seat. Presumably a dog and a vixen, both looking very well, enjoying a patch of winter sun.