Sunday, May 28, 2017

Of Cats and Magpies

A friend sent me something on Facebook - a picture of a cat carrying a snake and the heading was something along the lines of 'Well they didn't like the mouse I gave them, or the bird yesterday but they'll love this'.

While I've had cats bring me mice or rats as food gifts - that was in the days when I let them out during the day - none ever brought me a bird for which I'm very grateful. My cats are now strictly indoor ones. After I lost one to feline AIDS - a terrible disease - I couldn't face that happening to another furry friend so I talked to the vet. He said that, as our house is large and there are plenty of comfortable, sunny places for them to absorb essential Vitamin D, indoors would be fine and it has proved to be so. We used to take our previous cat out for walks on a lead (and he didn't show any interest in leaving the house otherwise). He was an very easy going boy and here he is in his Christmas finery, which I have to admit was not his favourite thing, not that he ever protested.

The Facebook post brought back memories of a magpie that lived in our very large backyard when I was in my teens. Magpies are highly territorial and Maggie, who couldn't fly, had claimed our yard. He couldn't defend it himself, of course, and so formed an alliance with our dog for protection. He would proclaim his territory and challenge every other magpie in the area to battle and when they arrived to deal with him he'd shriek loudly for the dog who would race out from wherever she was and get rid of the intruders. Maggie would then warble triumphantly as if he had done the deed himself.

Magpies live in family groups and, probably because he had no kin of his own, Maggie became very attached to our family, in particular to my mother and me. When we sat outside he'd climb onto one of our laps where he'd lie on his back to have his tummy rubbed or clamber up onto a shoulder where he'd sit rubbing his beak behind our ears. The other way he showed his affection was by bringing us food gifts. We were given a lot of dead mice, their fur carefully plucked off, as well as assorted insects and on a couple of occasions tiny scorpions, their stingers broken off. These were not actually welcomed by us but they were obviously well meant and we could hardly explain why we didn't want them so they were accepted and then disposed of. There was one that really freaked me out though. 

That was the day when I was working in my garden with Maggie pottering around with me as he usually did, snatching up anything that took his fancy. He suddenly dived into some leaves and emerged with something in his beak that he started to thwack against a rock. I wasn't taking much notice until I felt something on my shoe and heard a soft warble. I looked down to see a centipede - not something we often found in the garden. It was about 15 cms long and draped over my shoe. I jumped, yelled and kicked it away. Maggie was puzzled. He raced over to pick it up, brought it back and laid it down on my foot again. It was limp and definitely dead having had been broken at each segment of its body. Now I'm not a fan of centipedes, even dead ones, but it was obviously a gift. I picked it up and offered it back. Maggie stared at me with a very puzzled expression, head on one side, and when I didn't show any signs of eating it myself he finally decided to take it away and eat it - much to my relief, I have to say. Also much to my relief, he never offered me a centipede again.

No comments: