January 08, 2010

Playing Possum

So for weeks I had been trying to figure out why our two mostly outdoor cats D.C. and Lily were not gaining any weight. They were not overly skinny but they both seemed to have lost weight and the way they were going through cat food you would think I was feeding two Bengal tigers. Every day I would fill up their cat food dish clear to the top with cat food, setting it carefully at the bottom of the front steps where the cats would know where it was and by the next morning it was always empty, completely licked clean.

So I started filling up their food dish twice a day and still they did not gain any weight. "These cats must have a tapeworm to be able to eat so much and never gain a pound" I thought! So I dewormed them, which involved giving them pills and I make it a habit never to give a cat a pill if I can help it because frankly I have enough scars thank you very much.

First I tried to hide the worm pill in some wet cat food, which they both gobbled every speck of food up except for the perfectly licked clean worm pill sitting in the bottom of their empty dish. How do they know? So for the 2nd round I crept up to Lily with worm pill in hand as I mustered up some courage and tried the sneak approach. Pet..pet...nice kitty...oh let me rub your chin...and shove this pill in your mouth. I measured my success by the disappearance of that dang pill down her throat and not the blood then dripping from my hand.

One cat down, I decided a different approach was needed. So I got a large towel out of the closet and laid D.C. down on it, quickly wrapping her up like a very angry burrito. This worked much better and there was less blood involved. Of course I might be speaking too soon because cats don't handle humiliation very well. Judging by the angry flip of her tail and the vengeance in her eyes when I was done I am sure that cat will have it in for me for quite some time. She is probably crouched under a chair right now just waiting for me to walk by in bare feet for some payback.

Even after the whole worming pill fiasco they still did not gain any weight. I found my answer one day when I happened to hear some loud and obnoxious crunching coming from outside my front door. I opened the door to find a rather fat opossum, pointy nose buried in the cat's food just chowing away. He was kind of a cute fellow, in a rat on steroids sort of way but it was time to move the cat food dish!

Opossums can carry diseases I don't want him sharing with my cats. They are also not good animals to have hanging around as I have heard they will kill chickens and besides nobody likes a free loader. So from now on the piggy possum will have to find his own food. Since finding out where all the cat food was going and fixing the problem I am happy to say the cats have gained weight and are looking good again, not to mention we are going through a lot less cat food these days!


*Edited to add - The opossum was not harmed in any way, I merely took away his free buffet of cat food so he would move on and forage for his own food further from our home and in the woods as nature intended. I now feed the cats where opossums can not get to their food.

33 comments:

Barbara said...

I have had this same problem in the past. Only discovering the possum when my indoor cat was having a fit attacking the sliding glass door. If she did not have the glass door between her and the possum she would be hiding under the couch. We are going through alot less cat food now.

KathyB. said...

You know, I have been noticing my outdoor cats' food is disappearing way too quickly given the amount I have been putting out for them, maybe I should check more frequently to see if they have been having company over for dinner too...

I don't blame you at all for not wanting opossums dining on your cats' food....they can be pretty nasty to cats and carry disease to other livestock too.

RiverBend Farm said...

Oh my gosh, possums are just nasty animals. Giant rats!
Have you ever tried Pill Pockets to give your cats a pill? I've discovered them awhile back and they are great! Saves your fingers and the animals from choking.
Berte

Honeycombmama said...

I'm sure the little fella will go and find another all you can eat bar just down the road somewhere. They are smart little things, opposums.
Glad the kittys are gaining weight and you found the culprit:)

Hope you didn't add to many scars;)

Queenie Jeannie said...

Ohmygosh!! I would have screamed like a crazy woman and never thought to take pictures, lol!!

Funny post though!

Gayle (GardenofDaisies) said...

LOL! My parents found out that the local raccoon family was eating all the food they put outside for their cats. So they switched to only feeding the cats inside.

Allison aka Scooty's Mom said...

Oh how I feel for you. This happened last year to my mom. But the opossum would just settle right in next to the cats to eat. These things give me the creeps and just freak me out. I think my mom's visitor finally disappeared but you would see his shadowy figure even at night eating the cat food. Good Luck!!

~Tonia said...

They will take care of chickens pretty quick! I lost about 3 chickens before I caught one in the act!! Nasty little things!

Bossy Betty said...

I loved your description of giving your cats pills. I'm sure they'll only hold a grudge against you for, oh, say, two years or so.

I gotta say think possums are pretty cute except for that tail part.

Thanks for your very kind comment on my blog entry yesterday!

Kathie @ my net finds said...

I love most animals, but possums freak me out. I think it's the tail-ick. I'm glad you figured it out! :-)

Esther Garvi said...

What a sweet animal, but lol, I understand the dilemma. We're not too happy about the birds eating Dennis' food, but that's a minor problem (after all, he CAN guard it, should he care to!).

Mom L said...

Awww, he's a pretty 'possum! Several years ago we discovered one was hanging out under the huge, stilted rabbit house in back of my then house, eating food that had dropped through the wire bottom. The "cage" was surrounded by a chicken wire fence, but the intruder just climbed over to get to the dropped food.

Nancy in Iowa

Sharon/primthyme said...

Well,it was cute to see,but I'm glad you found the problem !! I was going to say well we do live in the country,but I must tell you that I moved from the city 2 years ago & I had my back yard like the country & I had a possum,scared the daylights out of me the first time I saw him,when I came home from work at midnight & he was in my peach tree hissing at me !!
Glad you figured it out !!
Blessings,
Sharon

Alix said...

Oh Jennifer! Your possum is adorable! We had the same thing happen to us many years ago when a possum took up residence in one of our bushes and wandered onto the screened in porch every night for a snack of cat food. We got video! Hey... smart possum, if you ask me. Free food that gets put out for you every day. In the middle of winter. No brainer.

LindaSueBuhl said...

Possums will definitely kill chickens - they did in many of our guinea hens! Sort of cute is the biggest compliment one can give them - they truly are rats and carry plenty of disease. Wise choice to take away their food source. I learned years ago to feed in a secured area - in West Texas we tore down an old wood pile to find the BIGGEST rat I'd ever seen with a coat that looked like a chinchilla - he'd dined on high dollar Science Diet dog food for a couple of years! glad the cats are well and you don't have to pill again -

Working Mommy said...

Opossums can be nasty to other animals - besides chickens...wouldn't want kitty to get into a fight with him!! Good thing he is gone now!

~WM

Pricilla said...

Poor kitties...but at least they are sure to be worm free now.
Poor you!
Soon to be poor opossum

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Creepy!
Poor kitties! Too bad you didn't find the opossum BEFORE they had to take those deworming pills.

So will you set up a trap and catch it and then release it somewhere else far far away?


~Lisa

Nezzy said...

This chick knows from experience that a possum can pack away a lot of kibbles!

Glad ya'll found the culprit. Have a great day and may God bless it!!!

Joanna@BooneDocksWilcox said...

what does "fixing the problem" mean?

Jennifer said...

Thanks to everyone for your comments and opossum advice! LOL Sharon, nothing like coming home to a possum hissing at you from your peach tree! Opossums are very common here!

Hi Joanna! Don't worry we didn't hurt him but I did take away his free buffet! LOL. Besides apparently killing chickens and fighting with cats opossums can carry an organism in their feces that causes Equine Protozoal Myelitis (EPM), a debilitating neurological disease in horses and since my sister does have her horses here now I decided it is not in the opossum or our best interest to continue to feed or encourage him to hang around.

farmlady said...

We have a mysterious cat food eater that comes at night and we can't figure out what it is. We are going to use our Night camera soon because we lock out kitty in the garage at night and we can't figure out how this critter is getting inside.
I would not be surprised if I find a Opossum at the food dish..., but it must be living in the garage all the time. Scary!

Flartus said...

Glad you figured out the problem. I bet the cats are glad, too! Count me on the "not a possum fan" club. Ick.

Callie said...

Glad you found the culprit and sent him on his way. We had a raccoon problem, but they left when we made sure they couldn't get to the chicken feed. Morgan keeps the chickens safe in the day and they are locked up at night. Hope you are all recovered from giving the pills. I hate cat scratches. They hurt.

Twisted Fencepost said...

I don't have cats. Well, not that I call mine. But there are cats that hunt around the farm. Who knows where they live.
But I have had run-ins with opossums my self. They can scare the dickens outta you if you're not expecting them.

lorimcktia.blogspot.com "Cottage By The Sea" said...

I love your blog. Found you on Sits, so happy SitsSaturday! When we used to live in the country we had 2 pygmy goats. I adored them. Everybody asked me why I had goats and the answer was, I just really love goats. They had great personalities and were really fun pets. Also, we had chickens and unfortunately opossums which would literally reach in and disembowel a chicken to get an egg. We quickly learned to lock up our chickens at night. I'm enjoying reading about country life on your blog as we are now living at the beach and it enables me to live back in the country vicariously! Nice to meet ya - now back to read more. Blessings.

CatHerder said...

My cats are indoor cats, but i do feed ferals until we can trap, fix and find them homes...a couple summers ago i had the same problem...opossums AND raccoons...so i only fed before dusk and after dawn...if you WANT to feed the oppossum, they do like chicken bones....love your blog!

Jen's Farmily said...

Yuck! I'm glad you figured out the problem... and that possum does look like he's been well fed. At least you gave him a good start for the winter! ;)

Barbee' said...

"...like a very angry burrito." Love it! Thanks for the giggle.

GardenofDaisies said...

I had a wee computer issue today. I went in to change something in my blog profile and I ended up changing the wrong thing and I think I may have severed all connections I had - links and blog followers and that sort of thing. I still want to be your blog friend. If you still want to follow me, you may have to redo it. I learn everything on the computer through trial and error and this was one big error! Sorry about that.
-Gayle (GardenofDaisies)

Lisa said...

oh my goodness that little bugger! glad you found the theif!

DayPhoto said...

Now that is first for me. I have never seen a possum before. I'm glad you found out the problem. I just had to deworm all our animals, it is a job.

Linda
http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

Oz Girl said...

We had the opossum problem for awhile, then I think he may have been hit while crossing our lane when hubby was on his way to work... haven't seen him in awhile. My 2nd problem is the birds.. they love to fly down and eat the cat food! So I feel like we go thru a ton of cat food too.

I was hoping to find a revelation re: giving a cat a pill as I started to read your post, as we need to give one of our outside cats a tapeworm pill this weekend. I must say, I'm not looking forward to it! I saw someone mention Pill Pockets in her comment? I'll have to do an internet search on that... hmmm.