Last weekend we purchased an infrared game camera and mounted it on our back deck so that we could find out what cats come by to partake of the cat food and water we leave out for them. Keep in mind we live in West Texas in a rural area surrounded for the most part by open pasture land. Coyotes are native and often seen, they also provide population control for feral cats that roam the area... only the hardiest and most clever cats survive.
Not being able to contain our curiosity any longer, we pulled the memory card from the camera shortly before we went to bed Sunday night and transferred the pictures it had captured to my laptop. The first several frames showed a large striped tom cat that we hadn't seen before, then appeared a rather "fluffy cat" with a white stripe down it's back... SKUNK!!! We were still laughing about our surprise visitor an hour later! Skunks love cat food, but are not good climbers. Apparently the four steps up to our deck didn't present much of a challenge to this little guy/gal and it enjoyed a nice feast, coming back again early in the morning and again the next night!
Surprisingly, cats and skunks get along fine. When we had cat food on the deck in town we also had a mama skunk that made appearances from time to time with babies in tow... so cute! They ate and relaxed alongside the other feral cats and no one seemed to mind. I guess the cats think of them as strange-looking relatives. :-)
We never once smelled one, they only react if they are startled or cornered. The new visitor is welcome to enjoy the food, as long as it behaves and doesn't raise a stink! Needless to say, we are a bit more careful about stepping outside in the dark these days, and we make sure to turn the light on to clear the deck before heading out to soak in the hot tub underneath the stars!
This little skunk visitor brought back memories of many, many years ago when my daughter was just a toddler. Her dad brought home a descented skunk from the pet store for her! It was beautiful and litter-box trained, a chocolate skunk with dark brown coloring instead of the traditional black, and of course the ever-present white stripe. We named it Maka (the Lakota word for skunk) and took it along on trips to the park. Needless to say, the area cleared quickly when folks saw what was at the end of our leash! :-) Maka didn't live a long life, succumbing to an illness, but somewhere in a box I have photos of my daughter with him. Not your typical childhood pet for sure, but certainly Maka was one of the influences that resulted in my daughter growing up with a great love for all of God's creatures great and small.
A friend and I were just exchanging comments on Facebook about how the "critters" in our lives have added so much love and laughter, and an abundance of tales to share. I think that pets, in whatever shape or form, are some of the best mental/emotional therapy to be found. Everyone needs one, or two, or five, or maybe a pen of critters outside, such as my friend with her farm animal menagerie!