The Feral Cat's Snipe hunt

Keanu and Liane

The Feral Cat's Snipe hunt :-)


Episode 3 of the Incredible Feral Cat caper.
Click here if you missed Episode 1 or Episode 2

At the end of October 2017 the Moira returned to what we are now calling le Baie des Chats with a good stock canned and crunchy style cat food. The idea was that the cats would first feast on the yummy canned food they prefer then clean their teeth by crunching on the tasty little pellets.

The very first thing we noticed when we fed Liane and Keanu on our return was that Liane was no longer pregnant. As in, she'd had her kittens.


According to our veterinarian friend, Guy Kane, the kittens would be ready to leave their mom after about 3 months - mid January. The plan was to gather them up and Guy would find nice homes for them in Noumea. After all, we can't have a population explosion of cats here. For one thing, the  cat food was already costing us about $2.50 a day.

The other surprise on our return was the appearance of a third cat; an extremely feral animal, all skin and bones, that came hissing out of the bush just after we fed Keanu and Liane.

We thought it might be the male that had fathered Keanu and the new batch of kittens. It had darker markings than the other cats but otherwise they all looked like clones. The male attacked the food bowl with super male aggression; like it had to kill the canned food first.

Liane and Keanu were unceremoniously shoved aside while it attacked the bowl of food.

We tried giving one bowl to Keanu and Liane and another to the male cat but the male inhaled the food in his bowl and then raced over to leap on the other one as if it had not eaten for days.

It's total lack of diplomacy got it the nickname C3PO after the Star Wars Protocol Droid; like calling a giant guy peewee.  Here's C3PO - on the left - with peaceful Keanu, waiting for breakfast.


On December the 15th C3PO had been back two days in a row and was getting much friendlier. 
After an energetic breakfast with the three cats devouring a whole can of cat food and a big bowl of crunchies, he joined Freddy and I and the other two cats on our morning walk.


It was hot and about 2 km into the walk the cats all flopped down for a breather. C3PO, the male cat, stretched out, rolled over on it's back, and Freddy said, "Look, it's a female!"


Huh? Sure enough. Tits. Full, too.

The male we thought was Keanu's father was a female - right - so - not Keanu's dad after all.

What we thought from fleeting glimpses was one ball turned out to be a dark tuft of hair. Just goes to show how wrong our human ideas about cats can be. But then, getting close enough to closely examine C3PO's posterior was impossible until today. 

C3PO's been alone and feral a long time, maybe her whole life, and was still mostly fur and bones. 
She's a talker.

That morning she talked more than the other two cats combined, meowing cat-speak continuously as we walked; jabbering like lonely people do when they finally get together with others.


 So, then and there, we decided to change her name to Gabby - because she never shuts up.

The great snipe hunt cat con

We thought it was time for Liane to bring her kittens down to eat. Her tits were still swollen so she was clearly still nursing them but we had no idea where she was keeping them. It was possible Liane didn't want to bring the kittens down to the feeding area because of Gabby; Liane didn't like Gabby and would often hiss at her and chase her away.

Gabby was an extremely strong and aggressive cat, fur and bone but also solid muscle and sinew. Now that she had joined the community there was no way to get rid of her.

But Liane finally decided it was time to let us see the kittens.

On our morning walk - if Gabby wasn't around - Liane would lead us to a particular place on the trail and then leave us to go off into the forest. She always left us in the same place.

One day she started off then turned around and called to us.


OK. It was pretty dense bush but... she insisted and we followed her into the bush and up a steep forested slope.


Liane is impossible to see in the bush unless she is moving. If you lose sight of her for more than a couple of seconds you just can't see her anymore. Plus, she literally runs through the brush while Freddy and I lumbered after her like two giant hippopotamuses lost in the forest.

This time she went slow, for our benefit, calling out to us now and then to be sure we would know where to follow.


About 15 minutes into the forest I couldn't see or hear her. The wind in the trees made it difficult to hear her tracking-meows. We stopped and waited.

Eventually Liane returned to us, gave a couple of strong comments about our forestry abilities, turned around and stomped off making louder tracking noises.


We creeped up the steep slope for about half an hour, getting further and further from the trail. I was wondering if we were ever going to get to the kitten lair. We would see a likely looking rock cave, or a big log, and wondered why it wasn't suitable for kittens. Freddy and I discussed what kind of lair Liane might have chosen as we kept on pushing our way through the forest.

Liane suddenly picked up the pace and within a couple of minutes I lost her.

So we sat down on a nice big log and had a snack of some trail mix and water while we waited for Liane to come back to get us again. Every once and awhile we thought maybe we heard a tiny meow but then decided it was a bird.


After 20 minutes I said, "Do you know what a snipe hunt is?"
"No, what's a snipe hunt?" Freddy asked.
"When boy scouts go out for a weekend camping trip the more experienced scouts convince one or two of the first-time campers to go on a snipe hunt. The snipe is a kind of flightless bird that lives in the forest and to catch it one or two boys have to hold a big sac and a stick and hide in the forest. The other boys go off into the forest to chase the snipes towards the boys holding the bags. The bag holders have to scratch the sticks in the dirt to make a noise that will confuse the snipes. Ideally, if the bag holders do their job right, the snipes come running to the scratching sound and straight into the bag."
"And?" Freddy asked as we sat on the log and looked around the forest.
"And there are no snipes. It's a practical joke. The rest of the kids go back to camp and see how long it takes the newbies to figure it out."
Freddy and I were quiet for awhile and she said, "Yeah, I think you're right. Snipe hunt."
"Very Funny, Cat!" I shouted but of course there was no reply; even though Freddy insisted she heard some giggling from the bushes.

If you think that's dumb, we fell for it again - twice. Liane can be very convincing; she even got us to creep up a creek for an hour on Christmas day.

Finally, on the second of January, 2018 Freddy had a very serious conference with all the cats.
"Where are the snipes?" she asked. Keanu on the left, looked worried. Liane in the center, looked totally innocent (Snipes? What snipes?). Gabby just lurked in the background, probably waiting to discover where the kittens were hidden.


I took the matter up with Liane myself, being very direct, speaking firmly and slowly.

"Where are the snipes? Where have you hidden them?"


Finally Liane gave in. We must, she insisted, keep that damn Gabby away from her kittens. Then maybe....


We gave Gabby a really big bowl of tasty cat food mixed with sardines - irresistible - and immediately set out with Liane while Gabby attacked the food.

Liane took us directly to one of the snipe hunt starting locations we had been to before and, in very plain cat talk, told us to wait while she went to get the kittens.


Sure enough, after sitting quietly for 20 minutes Freddy whispered, "I see them."

She opened a package of kitten treats she had carried around in her backpack for a month and put them on the dry stream bed. The Kittens came wobbling down to enjoy the offering while Liane proudly watched. The kittens ignored us sitting right there next to them.

Snipes. Really cute little fuzzy snipes.


But the next day, guess what? No snipes. Not one sighting of a snipe for the next 10 days.

When Liane showed up with Keanu the year before Keanu was friendly and curious and hungry. He followed Liane everywhere and was a real darling.

So.... Where did the snipes go? An eagle? A dog? Did somebody happen by and cat nap them?

On the 12th of January, as we came back to the dinghy landing from our walk, I saw a kitten - for about one second - as it raced away at almost the speed of sound and took a flying leap into some bushes. Wow could it move! I named it Flash; the fastest cat alive.

Buy why did it run?

Flash

The next day we all trooped down to the Carenage River and into an abandoned picnic area. We sat down at the old picnic table and gave the 3 cats some cat crunchies.

After awhile I got up and started to leave when I caught a glimpse of ANOTHER cat slinking through the trees. All three cats thought this was interesting - ears up guys.

Freddy and I were silent and didn't move a muscle. Sure enough a kitten approached. Gabby went over to meet it and promptly swatted it good and hard, hissing. Not very nice.

By now I realized it was the kitten I saw yesterday - the flying cat - Flash. 

Flash avoided Gabby and came closer and closer, really very frightened.

Liane and Keanu ignored all this, lying flat out on the picnic table half asleep.

Freddy offered the kitten some crunchies and lured it right up to her hand. 


Then she grabbed it by the scruff of the neck, dropped it into my backpack and zippered it up. 

We bagged a snipe!

The little kitten yowled all the way back to the dinghy landing and Gabby ran along side (or directly in front) of me doing a chorus refrain with the kitten. The yowling varied from pure terror to viscous growls to pitiful cries for help.

Freddy and I decided that since Gabby was going nuts and Liane never bothered to get her ass off the picnic table that the kitten must be Gabby's not Liane's.

As we were walking down towards the landing we came upon a huge 4X4 Gendarme truck backing out from the direction of the landing. They were painfully slow on the small track and I thought it prudent to escape up a side trail to avoid both being run over by the truck and questioned by the Gendarmes as to why I had a screaming cat on my back. 

Fortunately the Gendarmes were concentrating on the really difficult job of backing out so they didn't notice or hear Gabby and the kitten screaming back and forth in the jungle. 

A new deck hand.

Flash was terrified when we took it out of the backpack aboard the Moira. But the terror evaporated when the kitten found a big bowl of cat food in front of it's nose.

The plan was, as I said, to bring the kitten(s) to Guy, the Veterinarian, and he would find homes for them. But we were not going back to Noumea for another couple of weeks so we decided to wait, catch the other two kittens, and take them all to Guy at the same time. 

Right. Two problems with that. 

1. The other two kittens continued to be super elusive although we have caught millisecond glimpses of them.

2. Flash turned out to be irresistible.

We discovered Flash was a female and extremely smart. She adapted to life aboard the Moira within a week and (critically) used a poo box right away.
She was quick to demonstrate her computer skills - Freddy download a cat game on her tablet so Flash could become computer literate. 

Unfortunately her computer skills have been something of a problem. Flash has an uncanny ability to walk over my notebook keyboard when I am trying to write and, if we have a movie playing that has something that interests her, she'll leap up onto the keyboard and unerringly hit the pause or the stop button.

When we made a supply run to Noumea Flash proved to be perfectly happy aboard a yacht under full sail, even helping with the lines.


And when she's on watch she can be the most relaxed crew member you've ever seen.


So within a very short time she captured our yacht and enslaved us to her bidding.

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