Dog, Cat, Mouse–Caught!

The Immobile Mouse!

The temperature was dropping, the water in the bowl had turned into a block of ice, and Midnight-the-Barn-Cat was looking skinnier than usual despite being fed twice a day. So, just like in my post “Cat and Mouse and Chipmunk,” I played cat and mouse–I became the cat and the cat became the mouse. Caught!

Outside, Midnight wants to be seen and acknowledged, but not picked up and pet. He’s like a tiny jaguar:  prowling, pouncing, hiding and hunting. He’s a very good hunter! Inside, Midnight turns into a mush, lifting his chin for scratches, cuddling contentedly on my lap, and squeaking when he’s had enough. Purr and squeak!

Insert the mouse.

Living in an historic house, you get used to mice in the winter and insects year-round. Good thing I’m not afraid of little animals and won’t kill a spider. If the lifespan of a field mouse is a few years, then the mouse in our house should get a world record because it’s been wintering here for about eight years. When Lucy spots the mouse, she does nothing! Her nonchalance says, “Oh, it’s you again. Please, help yourself to my food,” which is why I thought bringing Midnight inside would accomplish two things:  he’d warm up and the mouse would high-tail it out of here. Wrong!

I started composing a poem in my head about the dog, cat, mouse situation. I got as far as “Dog peeks, cat squeaks, and mouse sneaks.” “Can’t resist” and “coexist” were floating around along with “warm house” and “cheeky mouse,” but then…

there was the mouse being watched over by Midnight! Caught!

Upon inspection, I couldn’t tell if the mouse was immobile because it was in shock or because it had internal injuries. There were no bite marks or scratches. My guess? Midnight thought it was a toy. Then again, he is a good hunter. I picked up the mouse, warmed it, pet it, talked to it–eyes so shiny eyes and paws so tiny–and set it free outside. Poor thing! 

I thought the mouse matter was put to rest, but then…

…A DIFFERENT mouse was rooting around in Lucy’s food bowl!

“Midnight? Where are you!”

Bandit Alert! Raccoon Caught Mid-Theft!

Midnight at the Suburban Watering Hole.

In my recent post, “Suburban Watering Hole,” I was unsure if wet paw prints on the back deck belonged to an opossum or raccoon. It turns out they belong to both! How do I know? I happened to witness a raccoon eating from Midnight’s bowl! The bandit was caught red-handed–or should I say kibble-handed?!

Five funny things I observed:

  1. The raccoon didn’t eat from the bowl; instead it scooped up pawfuls of kibble and then brought them to its mouth to eat. So people-like.
  2. When I opened the door and said “hello,” the raccoon paused to check me out. It wasn’t really afraid, but then it was unsure and ran off. So curious. 
  3. The minute I closed the door, even though the raccoon could see me through the window, it returned. So determined. 
  4. Midnight wasn’t afraid of the raccoon at all! He sat and watched as it ate the remainder of his dinner. And the raccoon didn’t feel threatened by Midnight. So neighborly. 
  5. The raccoon was fluffy and many shades of gray. It’s “mask” fit perfectly over its eyes. So pretty.

You never know what you’ll see in the Wilds of New Jersey! 

Suburban Watering Hole

Midnight at the Suburban Watering Hole.

One water bowl. So many sippers!

Who knew Midnight’s water bowl would attract so many animals? On any given day, I expect one, two, or even three stray cats to stop by. And sure, Lucy our barking, rambunctious beast (Midnight’s view of her), laps Midnight’s water, but why does she have to inhale the cat kibble, grab the dish, take a bite out of it, and scatter it willy nilly in the yard? Hon, I digress.

Back to the bowl.

I suspected extra visitors when the water in the bowl started, mysteriously, appearing dirty every morning. Who was washing paws or taking a bath in the bowl? Not the blue jays, who squawked and fought for a nibble of kibble during the day. Could it be mice? Chipmunks? Groundhogs? Foxes? Wild turkeys? Our neighborhood coyote?

Then, one morning, footprints were imprinted in the planks! “Aha!” I said, “Raccoons! So, I turned to authorities on the subject–umm, I mean the KidLit Twitter community–and asked,

“Are those footprints more than circumstantial evidence?”

“That raccoon was framed! If the pawprints don’t fit, you must acquit!” answered @BrobergMatthew.

(Hmm…much chin scratching.)

Later that night, I attempted to catch the culprits by flicking on the outdoor light. Who did I see but two opossums circling the food dish?! Not just any two opossums, but one enormous opossum mommy and her joey. The mommy was about the size of a twenty pound dog! Looking up the size of female opossums, I found out females aren’t that big. So, now I wonder…

…Do daddy oppossums take their joeys out for a midnight snack?!

Cat and Mouse and Chipmunk


When I’m the cat and the cat’s the mouse!

The only time I can get Midnight in the house is when I play cat and mouse with him! One of the times (there have been several) he toyed with a fledgling, I left a door open, he wandered inside and blam! I shut the door, trapping him inside. This way, when I returned the baby bird to the brush under its nest, it had a fighting chance. Hon, don’t cry, “Poor Midnight” since the cat has a dog-free zone filled with a comfy bed, scratching post, a couch, and lots of cuddles and kisses. Now, if only Midnight would get the message…

Staring Contest

The staring contest between Lucy in Midnight is funny! I love the pics above, which show them concentrating, but with roles reversed. Lucy has accepted Midnight, chasing all other cats off the property. Isn’t that nice of her? Now, if only Midnight would get the message…

This has not been a good summer for small animals!

It seems like every few days, we come across a deceased bird or small animal! What the heck is going on?! I don’t think it’s all Midnight’s doing. I wrote this tribute to one of those sad creatures.

Chipmunk Eulogy

Chipmunk would no longer chat,

Scurry like an acrobatic,

Or stand on base or be at bat.

Sad to say, he was laid out flat,

Thin and gone and, oh no, splat!

I wiped a tear and tipped my hat

Checked my car.

Did I do that?

Couldn’t be.

I blame the cat!

RIP Grumpy Cat

Grumpy Cat in The Telegraph
Grumpy Cat in The Cut







Grumpy Cat, whose real name was Tardar Sauce, passed away and, guess what hon? Her obituary is everywhere! That’s pretty unusual, but then so is a cat who became an internet sensation! She encountered complications from a recent urinary tract infection and passed away on Tuesday.

I had a grumpy cat, too. Kimba had a perpetually sour look on her face, but we attributed it to shyness and to being a Himalayan. Kimba was rarely seen leading one friend to suspect she didn’t exist (shout out to Jeri!). She did, but preferred to stay in corners and shadows. Kimba really only liked two of the six people in her home–me and my youngest daughter. My previous Himalayan Katie, like Grumpy Cat, died young, whereas Kimba lived to be thirteen.

Our newest kitten, Midnight, prefers to be outside, but still wants acknowledgment, food, water, and a clean towel on which to nap. He’s a sweet little angel (unless you’re a bird or chipmunk) and wants nothing to do with the Lucy, our sometimes-a-sweet-angel-sometimes-a-maniac dog.

In memory of Kimba, Katie, and Grumpy Cat, and to all of the kitties who make us laugh–

–may you alway have full bellies, sunny spots, window views, warm blankets, attentive vets, and loving families!

Kimba left puddles of fur.
Kimba looked surly.






Kimba loved a window view.
Kimba cuddling with her favorite person.

Info on Grumpy Cat from

Grumpy Cat became an internet sensation after her photo was posted on Reddit on September 22, 2012. It was suggested that the original photo was photoshopped, so we posted a few videos on YouTube. The videos went viral and her popularity has continued to increase!

We aren’t exactly sure about Grumpy Cats breed; but she looks nothing like her mother or father. She looks similar to a Ragdoll or Showshoe; but there have never been any of that breed around the house. Her mom is a calico domestic short hair cat and her father has grey and white stripes. (Though I suppose there could be a different father, promiscuous cats you know…)

Tardar Sauce visites the vet regularly and she has a clean bill of health. Her petite size and famous face is likely due to feline dwarfism and her rear end wobbles a bit when she walks due to this; otherwise she is a perfect little kitty! She is not a munchkin cat and was not bred purposefully from other munchkin cats.

Grumpy Cat…plays, hides, and acts as cats act. (She LOVES to hide behind the curtains!) She isn’t in front of a camera all of the time…we only take photos sets once every week or so and on the few occasions where we have met with the media or licensed partners we ensure the sessions are short and that she isn’t handled by many people. Tardar Sauce is a member of the family before anything else!

One more quote from GC’s family”

“Besides being our baby and a cherished member of the family, Grumpy Cat has helped millions of people smile all around the world.”


Top Ten Facts About the Opossum At My Door

At my door!

Over a year ago, I saw a coyote in my backyard and  posted Animal Kingdom in the Suburbs. The other night, when I checked on Midnight-the-Outdoor-Cat, something scooted from Midnight’s food dish and hid behind the snowblower. A little face peered at me–it was a baby opossum! Its eyes were black and shiny, its head had a gray stripe, its body was brownish-gray, and its tail was long and bald. It was pretty cute until it opened its mouth, which was full of jagged teeth! Yikes!

Midnight sauntered about unfazed. Lucy barked like crazy inside the house. Cat? Opossum? Let me out!

When I told my son about the nighttime visitor, he said, “Mom! You know they’re rodents, right?” Are they? I needed more info. Presenting…

Top Ten Facts About the Opossum At My Door

(In North America, opossum and possum are used interchangeably and refer to the Virginia opossum, but in Australia, a possum is a different animal.)

  1. Opossums are marsupials–not rodents–mammals that carry and nurse their young in pouches, and they are the only marsupials in the United Stated and Canada. Their babies are called joeys just like kangaroos. Aww!
  2. Newborn opossums are the size of bumble bees. They crawl to their mother’s pouch, latch on to one of thirteen teats, and remain attached until ready to leave the pouch in about 11 weeks. Double aww!
  3. Opossum ancestors can be traced back about 65 million years to similar animals that lived in the time of the dinosaurs. Wow!
  4. Opossums, unlike other mammals that carry ticks and spread Lyme Disease, gobble up 90 percent of the ticks that attach to them. A single possum consumes 5000 of the parasites per tick season. Good news!
  5. Its’ long, bald tail is prehensile, which means it can be used like an extra arm. Its’ tail can carry grass and leaves for building nests or grip the sides of trees to provide extra stability while climbing. Baby possums can use their tails to hang from branches upside down, “But it’s a myth that possums sleep this way: Their tails are only strong enough to hold them for a short amount of time.” Cool!
  6. Opossums are nocturnal and “generally live in burrows and cavities that they find ready-made rather than create themselves. They seek shelter underground, in trees or anywhere in between.” Opportunistic!
  7. “While possums aren’t totally immune to rabies, finding a specimen with the disease is extremely unlikely. Marsupials like possums have a lower body temperature than the placental mammals that dominate North America—in other words, their bodies don’t provide a suitable environment for the virus.” Whew!
  8. Opossums are immune to snake venom (the one exception being the coral snake), taking “advantage of this adaptation by chowing down on snakes on a regular basis.” Help yourself!
  9. Virginia opossums eat almost anything, from bird eggs to acorns, from slugs and frogs to fruit. And cat food!
  10. You’ve heard of “playing possum?” Since almost any predator can outrun the opossum, whose top speed is 7 miles per hour, the animal’s defense is to play dead. “When the animal experiences intense fear in the face of danger, it seizes up and flops to the ground where it can remain for hours staring blankly ahead and sticking out its tongue. Possums have no control over when they play dead or for how long they do it: The comatose-like state is an involuntary reaction triggered by stress. No acting lessons needed!

Sources: Michele Debczak for Mental and Roger Di Silvestro for National Wildlife Federation

Animal Kingdom in the Suburbs

Lucy loves sniffing and tracking the different animals that appear in our backyard.

Growing up in suburban Baltimore, I saw my share of squirrels,

North American Gray Squirrel




Whitetail Deer



and raccoons.


And although they weren’t seen much, skunks made their presence known.


I had no idea that suburban New Jersey–directly west of Manhattan–would be home to all those animals and more. Recently, we received a new “visitor” to our backyard. It wasn’t this cute raccoon resting in a tree,

I spotted this raccoon high up in a tree and ran to get my camera.

or the opossum that chatters at night, 


or the groundhog that tunnels under our yard,


or the wild turkey that displays its feathers for the ladies,

Wild turkey

or the Box Turtle that gave me a kiss, 

This box turtle showed up in my garden.

or the Red Fox we see at dawn and dusk, 

Red Fox

but–drumroll please–



At first I thought it was a fox because it looked more like this, but redder.

Young coyote

I told my family, “It’s strange, I saw a Red Fox at ten in the morning.They’re usually asleep by then.”

The next day, Hubby said, “Come quick! There’s a coyote in our backyard!”

I said, “That’s the fox I saw!”

He said, “It’s a coyote!”

“A fox!”

“A coyote!”

“A fox!”

“It’s a coyote! I know from watching Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote.”

Wile-e-Coyote and Roadrunner

Hon, do you see the resemblance? 

Happy Dolly-Day!

Dolly, my aunt's cat.
Dolly appeared on Bmore Energy before. Click here to read about this rescue kitty’s history. In this photo, her tilting ears, slightly lowered head, and curling tail show that she is wary of the visitor (me). 

I’ve always loved animals but, before we adopted a dog, I considered myself a cat person.

As a child, I spent hours playing with our cat Sugar. In college, my roommates and I had several cats, and Hubby and had two beautiful Himalayans, Katie and Kimba. So, even though I now know what a dog is saying–trust, me I narrate Lucy’s thoughts much to Hubby’s annoyance, I also know how to read a cat. When my aunt’s cat, Dolly, came out of hiding to inspect the me, she talked with her body language.

Here’s the translation.

"You might be friendly, but I'm watching you."
“I’m watching you.”
"My mommy's here which makes me feel safe, but so are you, and that doesn't!"
“My mommy makes me feel safe. You don’t.”









"There's a box I must get to."
“I am temporarily ignoring you while I explore the jungle!”
"Don't look at me! I'm trying to hide."
“I am a either a wild cat hiding in tall grass or a city cat hiding behind files.”










"I really want to go inside the box, but I haven't fully committed because you are here."
“I’ll go in the box as long as you don’t make any sudden movements.”
"Boxes are awesome, but you're not."
“Boxes are awesome, but I’m still on alert.”










"This is as close as I'm getting.
“Whew! Safe! I made it in the box…but I’m keeping my eyes on you!”

Hon, do you narrate your pet’s thoughts?  I can’t be the only one!

Previous post on Dolly where you can read about her rescue.

Kitty Karma


When I was about twelve years old, Sugar came into my family’s life.  We adopted her from a shelter.  She had been abandoned on the side of a highway.  Her beautiful, snow white coat sported one black spot, a black tail, and black on her head and ears with a white line down the middle.  The line made it look like she had a part.

Sugar was loving, adventuresome and playful.  She liked to play with the katydids that entered our basement by pulling their legs off one by one and then, when the katydids were immobile, eating them.  (Uhhh, maybe that wasn’t playing.)

My brother, sister and I loved Sugar even if my parents only tolerated the presence of an animal in our house.  (The story of what happened when she died is fodder for another post.  I was away at college, and the story includes my brother, a shallow grave, a rainstorm and a distraught younger sister.)

But, the memory of our beloved kitty remains.  Like most American Shorthairs, she was smart (she would jump up on the bathroom counter and turn the doorknob to get out of the  bathroom), willful (try “rescuing” her from a tree when she didn’t want to come down) and loving (who can resist a purr machine?).

Fast forward to about a month ago and, hon, we come to Kitty Karma.

Another abandoned kitty came to my attention.  This cat, a youngish male, had been abandoned in an apartment building in a rough area of New Jersey.  He found a temporary home in another apartment, but the mother who took him had too many mouths to feed and not enough resources.  I am friendly with the woman who does play therapy with one of that mother’s children.  When I saw his picture, Sugar came to mind.  When I showed his picture to my sister she said, “It’s Sugar reincarnated!”

The mother who housed this kitty was going to put him out on the street. The woman I’m friendly with begged her to wait.  Maybe she could find him a home.  If not, she’d bring him to a no-kill shelter.  About a day or so after I saw his picture, my sister mentioned wanting to adopt a cat!  Kitty karma!

Our house was the halfway house for Oliver.  He got vaccinated, neutered, micro-chipped, bathed, fed and loved.  He was so hungry for the first few days that he made guttural, happy noises when he ate. He followed me around the house, jumped into my lap for cuddling, shed all over my clothes, baited our puppy, Lucy, annoyed our old-lady cat, Kimba and explored every inch of our house.  He was testing his wings, testing the limits and figuring out if he could trust us.  We found him funny and smart but, between the overload of dander in the house (hubby’s allergic) and nightly warring dog/cat factions, it was time for Oliver to move south.

I stayed overnight at my sister’s the first night Oliver spent in his new home.  He padded back and forth between my sister and me, from one lap to another, purring his head off.  Two mommies for the moment!

Now he has three little girls to play with, but I hear he’s still testing limits and figuring out the rules.  He has a lot to learn but, as I told him on the ride to Maryland, this is the start of his new life.  He looked at me with his bright, yellow eyes and answered, “Meow!”