Neighbourhood Politics / by Meryle

Sitting on the back steps, facing east at quarter to six in the morning, the mid summer sky is already bright before sunrise. In front of me the small, mansion parking lot, the back laneway and the morning sky framed by two 1970’s apartment buildings.  The huge trees from the neighbours' yards hanging over the parked cars in their rented parking spots.  Everyone can see you here, and you can see everyone.  Including the local animals

 

A white and ginger cat tiptoed in front of me between the wood and chain link fence and the first parked car.  It heard me, and suddenly shy, it shrunk away and ran back to the cover it came from.

A few moments later at the south end of the wood and chain link fence, I catch the cat stretching upwards from the ground-cover ferns, attempting to climb up the wood of the fence.  Again, seeing me seeing it, the cat slowly slunk down into the ferns and hid.

After a few minutes of observing the cat’s attempt to hide from me, I chirped and made a cat call.  A ginger ear poked out between two fern leaves.  I chirp and call again and the cat, came out of the bushes and enthusiastically trotted over and started rubbing itself against me and walking back and forth on the steps in front of me.  After petting and butt scratching the cat for at least 3 or 4 minutes, I observed that the cat kept nervously looking around, then marking the stairs as it's territory with face rubs.  Almost as if my presence made the cat feel safe to mark territory the would normally never dare mark.

“You are afraid of my neighbors' cat Loki, aren’t you?”  The cat kept walking back and forth and rubbing against my legs and hands.

 

After a few more minutes, a robin perched on a branch near us and started loudly chirping.  Like it was making a neighbourhood announcement.  Like it was this robin’s job to follow cats around and scream their location so other cat prey can stay safe.  

After 6am now, a squirrel joins with the robin from a tree on the other side of the parking lot.  Chittering and making noises I recognize as territorial declarations, I look and see the squirrel in the tree starting at me.  I regularly feed the black squirrels by leaving raw cashews and pieces of sweet barley cakes in the same spots around the mansion lot then watching them eat from inside/a distance.  These squirrels know I am the source of their treats.

Suddenly, with the robin and squirrel chirping and twittering and staring right at us, the cat goes into full affection/territorial display, walking up and down the steps, rubbing my back and neck, trying to drink from my mug, and then sitting stately at my feet while surveying all the trees. Am I the middle of an urban wildlife territory standoff?

Eventually, the squirrel left and silently came back with one of the other squirrels.  To watch.  To witness.

Perhaps they felt betrayed that the food leaver is ok with the cat who tries to catch them.  The robins usually don’t have a problem with me, will they now gossip and tell each other I’m a cat lover??  That I fraternize with a bird murderer? 

My coffee finished, I say goodbye and go back inside, leaving drama in the animal neighbourhood and sweet barley cake all over the lot.