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2011-07-07 digital edition

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2011-07-07 / General Stories

Orphan Opossum

We have two cats that bask in my daughter’s adoration. Unfortunately my oldest son is allergic to cats, so they bask outdoors.

The cats’ dishes are on my back deck in a hopeless attempt to feed the cats, my cats, and nothing but my cats, so help me God.

God’s other creatures have other ideas, however. Every night opossums, raccoons, neighbor dogs, and other riff raff come to our back deck to feast from our cat food buffet. Every night we chase them away.

I wouldn’t mind feeding the entire block’s army of woodland and domesticated animals, but what have they ever done for me?

At least my cats will occasionally catch a mole digging up my yard and let my daughter smother them with her hugs. Of course, they probably catch moles only because the line is too long at their food dish. I’m fairly certain that their catching moles is not due as much to their undying gratitude as is it to the fact that they like to play with things that move. or twitch.

The other day, my daughter interrupted my cat’s soon-to-be death pounce when she spotted a baby opossum. He was no more than 6" long; just the right size for a mid-afternoon snack. The opossum was so tiny, it really should have been with its mother. Because opossum are nocturnal, it certainly shouldn’t have been wandering around at 1:00 in the afternoon acting like cat bait.

When animals don’t behave normally, you have to suspect rabies. So, we watched the baby opossum for a time to see if it showed signs of the disease. Occasionally, we had to shoo away our enthusiastic cat.

The little orphan didn’t seem scared of us, probably because it was unlikely that he’d ever seen a human. Humans generally do not wander around our backyard after midnight, and if the tiny opposum’s mother was any kind of mom, she would not have allowed her kid to stay up past six in the morning.

The witless creature eventually climbed into a low shrub and decided to take a nap right there. It was exhausted. My cat would have no trouble reaching it at that height. My daughter and I knew that if we left, that little guy was toast. We were concerned, as well, that it was not old enough to feed itself.

We weren’t sure exactly what opossum ate, but we knew they ate cat food. We put some in a little dish and placed it near the baby opossum’s perch. We thought that if it ate the cat food, it probably could take care of itself.

About that time, my husband wandered around the corner of the house. He crouched down beside us to see what we were looking at. Spying the opossum and the little dish of food, he said, “You’re starting young, I see.”

“What do you mean?”

“Training,” he said.

“Training what?”

“You’re training that animal to raid our cat’s food. No wonder the cat wants to eat it.”

Laura Snyder is a nationally syndicated columnist, author & speaker. You can reach Laura at lsnyder@lauraonlife.com Or visit her website www.lauraonlife.com for more info.

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