The Cat Whisperer and the Skunk Whisperer

Although the Crankee Yankee and I have been feeding and sheltering stray cats for years, we also feed the resident skunks—generations of them. They live under the shed in the back yard, and they feed right along with the cats. Every spring, we see the skunk moms shepherd their little ones around, and pretty soon they too join the dinner time throng.

Now we both love cats and skunks, but the Crankee Yankee seenms to have become the cat whisperer. Some of our most shy cats will eventually let the Crankee Yankee pat them; he has a way with them. This is how we came to adopt or Plumpy-Nut and Tinker; they were strays we fed for a long time. Winter was coming, and we had no way of knowing if they belonged to anyone.

So the Crankee Yankee was able to get them into carriers, and we took them to our wonderful vet to be checked out. They got their shots, flea treatments, microchips, and Plumpy had to be neutered. They came home with us and are part of our happy family of five cats.

For me, it’s the skunks. I have always liked them, and think that they are adorable. They really don’t want to fight with you or spray you, but if you startle them, they will spray. When a skunk is getting ready to spray, they will first stare right at you and start thumping their front paws on the ground. This is their prelude to turning tail to spray. The first time I saw this was when I was filling up the “skunk bowl” with food.

A tiny skunk was watching me, and started thumping his little paws on the ground. I looked him in the eye and said, “Now look, Sunny Jim—I’m the one who feeds you. Mind your manners.”

And whether he understood or not, he stopped thumping, stretched out his front legs and lowered his little head. It looked almost as if he were bowing to me; it was hilarious. Even so, I am very careful not to startle a skunk of any age. As soon as the bowl was filled, I slowly walked near him and put it down on the ground. It only took him a minute to start eating.

Our latest little guy waits for the food and water to appear. I usually put this out around 4:30pm, but often a skunk or two will be waiting. This year the littlest one, whom we call “Arlo,” waits patiently for his grub before all the skunk crew arrives.

Now skunks as a rule do not see very well, but ironically their sense of smell is excellent. So is their hearing, so I’m not surprised when they appear to listen. As with humans, it isn’t always about the words, but the tone. I keep my voice low and soft, I don’t make any quick moves, and I keep a good distance between me and the skunks.

So far, it’s been a good deal for all of us. Who knew? All we and the cats and skunks know is that we are family. (Queue up “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge here.)

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