Skunks and Cats

Mother Nature must’ve had a great laugh when she noticed my bedroom window open one night.

As a young woman, I lived on the edge of a small town in Southern Alberta where, for a short time, I’d had five roommates, all of the feline variety. Two were mine but a friend had talked me into looking after three of hers which made my house one big fur ball for a few months!

Southern Alberta gets hot and sometimes summer nights aren’t much cooler than the days. My rented house had old-fashioned windows with wooden frames that lifted to open, the amount of air determined by the high-tech solution of inserting a stick to prop it up. All the windows had screens to keep out the mosquito hordes with the exception of the one in my bedroom. Guess the landlord didn’t focus on safety, and I didn’t worry about the cats getting outside, would’ve been happy, in fact, if some had found someplace else to live.

One night, I awoke to the sound of snarling, hissing, and the unmistakable odeur de moufette in my room. I lay in the dark, listened, and sniffed some more. Damn! A skunk had climbed in the window, walked right by my bed, and now wandered around the house with five cats threatening it!

It isn’t common for skunks to climb into an inhabited house but they have been known to carry rabies in that part of the province and sick animals get aggressive. But perhaps this skunk assumed the owners were cats. Certainly the cats thought so.

I recalled a story an old-timer had told me after I’d mentioned that I had cats in my house. He’d cautioned that skunks love cat food and might even climb in an open window to get some. Of course I hadn’t believed him.

Cursing my stupidity, I lay there in the dark contemplating options as I tried to identify where the skunk was but, since there were so many cats wandering around and growling, it could’ve been anywhere.

For about five seconds, I considered getting up and turning on the light. Bad idea! Not only would it startle the skunk, it would be temporarily blinded which could guarantee a defensive reaction — and we all know what that would’ve been!

Perhaps I could get up and try to find it. Another bad idea since, of the seven of us, I was the only one without night vision. I’d either frighten the critter into attacking me and/or spraying, and there was no doubt whatsoever that if a skunk sprayed in my house, I’d have to find a new place to live. So getting up and sneaking to the door to give it an exit was off the table as I’d never get there without triggering a disaster.

My logic was that if it was going to spray the cats, it would probably have already done so. Most likely they wouldn’t cause it a problem — but I certainly would. Cats and skunk might be swearing and growling at each other but they seemed to have an understanding of sorts. Lots of noise — no aggressive action. Like a cold war.

I could close the bedroom door but then it couldn’t get out and I’d still have a skunk trapped in the house in the morning.

Then I realized it already had an exit strategy. It knew where it’d gotten in — a foot from the end of my bed! I tried to come up with a better solution but only one made sense.

If I didn’t pose a threat to the animal, it would most likely eat its fill, wander back through my bedroom, and climb out the window — if it wasn’t rabid.

All things considered, the safest response was to roll over and go back to sleep.

Sleeping while a skunk explored my house didn’t give me the warm fuzzy’s but the only other option was to sneak out the window myself and wait for it to leave. I might get out of the house but then I’d be on the street without keys and in my night clothes for what could be hours.

Cursing wildlife in general, I rolled to the far side of the bed . . . and went back to sleep. Hard to believe looking back on it. Not sure I could do that today.

I awoke in the morning to sunshine and the lingering odor of skunk. Three cats snoozed on the bed so it was safe to assume my visitor had left in the night probably a few ounces heavier than when it’d arrived. I tip-toed around the house to make sure but finally heaved a sigh of relief.

Thereafter, I made sure that, hot or not, my bedroom window wasn’t open more than a couple of inches. And I made a mental apology to the old-timer who’d warned me of the possibility. I should’ve listened. Like me, he’d learned to be wary of Mother Nature.

She must’ve gotten a chuckle out of that one!


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