Marfa Meanderthal: Alley cat wisdom

Hello out there, all you people who can read and don’t discount the validity of an article written by a “lower animal.” Most humans are a little on the arrogant side when it comes to the literary realm, but I assure you that people are not the only species that can read and write. And, there is an issue that I feel should be addressed so that you can all be aware of some of the welfare needs of us more environmentally dependent citizens.

I am an alley cat living in the town of Marfa. Now don’t confuse me or my running buddies with “feral cats” like the ones that have drawn attention in recent news items. We are definitely not feral. I, for one, have a home; it’s a real house, with people and everything. I have a bed, a food dish and water bowl, and even a litter box (though I seldom use it; there are just some things that don’t need to be done in the house).

My humans are really mostly okay, and they even gave me a name. I am called Joe, and they classify me as a grey striped tabby. But I prefer the outdoors and only go inside when the weather is really nasty, or when my mom person is cooking something good enough to give up a little freedom for. And, since my favorite playground and hangout is the alley behind the back yard, that makes me an official alley cat.

In our neighborhood alley there are four of us that usually hang out together. Besides me, there is a lovely white girl kitty with black ears that we call Ears and a kind of bratty cat we call Mouth. He’s black and is always yammering and yowling about one thing or another, and some of the local human-types seem to think his name is Scat or Hey You. Then there is our neighborhood meanie, a grubby yellow cat we call Grouchy. He doesn’t have much to say, but his ears are notched and ragged and the talk is that he has successfully fought most of the feline tough guys and even a couple of dogs. He won’t discuss it and we don’t press him.  I think he has some people up the street a block or two and usually sleeps in their garage. Anyway, that’s our alley gang, and we share three dumpsters and hunting rights to the alley and backyards that don’t have dogs. And that brings me to our chief situational problem, being chronic dumpster-divers and compulsive scroungers.

Did you ever take a serious inventory of the stuff that you can encounter down in a dumpster? Humans put some really interesting items in there! You can usually find some neat boxes for hiding in, maybe a few rags or some piles of grass clippings or leaves to burrow into and snacks of all kinds. There’s also usually some fun stuff to play with, rattly cans and balls of aluminum foil or great pieces of string or ribbon. We all like a good game of hide and seek or trash tag, and so we really appreciate the neat stuff many of you give us for our entertainment and lounging comfort. Thanks, guys!

But (yeah, there’s always a “but”) we occasionally meet up with something that scares or even hurts us. Like day before yesterday, when Grouchy tried to hide in a huge can in his favorite dumpster. It did smell a little funny, but none of us realized that it had held green paint that wasn’t dry yet until poor old Grouchy climbed out all sticky with a green head and left front paw. With his disposition, none of us dared to laugh out loud, but darned if he wasn’t a sight to see! I wonder though if it made him sick trying to lick it off. We haven’t seen much of him since then, and no one knows if he’s ill or just embarrassed about the undignified way he looks. I know that Ears said she once got pretty sick from something she ate from a rusty bucket. I think she said it was called “herbicide” or something like that.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was running from a loose lab and his mutt friend and leaped into a dumpster I’m not used to. There was a wad of wire about halfway to the bottom, that kind of fence wire that has those stickery things on it. Well, I got tangled up in that scratchy pokey wire and got all cut up trying to get free of it. When my mom person saw me, she had a real fit, crying and grabbing at me and everything. Then she poured stinky brown stuff all over me! I ran away quick as I could, but it took forever to get it off. I know because I counted. And, then just last week, I had a date with Ears, and took her to dinner at my favorite neighborhood diner, Chez Garbage. The special that evening was spaghetti marinara, and just as we were settling into my special corner, some rude human tossed in a tragically flimsy bag of something slimy that simply reeked. The bag of course burst, and you could’ve heard Ears yowling all the way to Alpine! Now she’s never gonna want to go out with me again, even if she does manage to get that goop out of her fur, not to mention the way she smells now.

I guess as long as I’m ranting about these things, I should mention that we cats don’t like flies any more than you do, so please try not to put things out here that attract them. Spoiled and rotten food and junk really should be sealed up in some kind of container. The same goes for yucky stuff that bees seek out. We don’t handle bee stings any better than people do, you know.

When you’re throwing out food and other garbage, please be sure it gets into the dumpster or other receptacle instead of on the ground. We live pretty close to open country around here, and it isn’t unusual to find skunks, javelinas and even coyotes out in the alleys at night. They don’t climb or leap too well, but if food is on the ground they hone in on it. They can be pretty fierce when they’re eating if they think you might take their goodies away. Fortunately, we don’t see too many raccoons, but they can get into a dumpster or trashcan pretty easily, and they can be downright vicious! The foxes don’t pose much of a problem yet, but I’m not crazy about the idea of having them move into the neighborhood. It could get way too crowded in a hurry.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we alley cats just want a little respect and the ability to feel safe on our home turf. If you think of it, try to be a little careful about the stuff you throw into the alleys and trash receptacles. Sharp, pointy, pokey things are most unpleasant to land on when you jump into a dumpster, and tangly-up things are just as bad. We try not to annoy the humans in our neighborhood, and although you probably don’t think about it too often, we actually do you all a service. When was the last time you went to take out the trash and were accosted by a rat, or even a mouse? We keep them pretty well under control, as well as the great big ugly bugs and huge spiders, never mind the occasional snake. So maybe you could be just a little careful about the objects that you toss in the trash cans, you think? You can’t be totally sure that your young humans won’t be climbing in there, too. I know you’d be pretty upset if your kid got cut up or poisoned by something he found while rummaging around in the alley. And yes, they will eventually play there. Take it from me, it’s super fun!

I overheard Mouth yammering away at Grouchy just this morning about the things that humans throw away, and he made a pretty good point. I’m not sure what you call them, but some human people don’t have enough of some of the things you might be throwing away. I’ve met a few of these people over the years, and I’ve never minded sharing my dumpster treasures with them. They’re pretty kind, and I’ve never been kicked by any of them. An alley cat can snuggle down in a pile of grass clippings and stay comfortably warm if he needs to sleep out some night, but people aren’t so fortunate. Compared to us, they are more delicate; they need more covering and clothes and stuff. It just might be a good idea to discard old blankets or jackets and things of that sort at a place reserved for humans. I think they call these places thrift shops or people shelters or something. Not saying I have any great answers or anything, but even old alley cats occasionally think about other critters.

Have a nice day, and meow.