One of the things that I relish about living in the El Cerrito hills is the wildlife that scurries, soars and creeps about here. Running into a beautiful other species is such a treat. Many of my neighbors have tales to tell about these ‘furred’ encounters, and so do I. In fact, just one such encounter happened not so long ago.
I was soaking in our outdoor garden hot tub, a round contraption that allows us to peek through the deck railings so that we can view much of the Bay Area while we luxuriate in the heated waters. It was about 10:30 at night and the air was crisp and sweet, the stars twinkling and planets glowing above my head. I could hear the swish of the freeway noise down below and in the distance, the occasional toot of a BART train and thrumming of its wheels on the tracks. I listened to the breezes dancing playfully with the leaves of the giant eucalyptus stand downhill from us. Then a different sound broke the night quietude: my gray tabby Kaela chirping nearby (she never meows). She stretched her back legs and tail way out behind her as she balanced like a gymnast on the edge of the planter box that adorns the deck.
I lounged back against the tub and suddenly heard angry yowling and moaning….must be another cat approaching on the deck! The noises were very nearby, right around the corner in fact. I peeked through the railing balusters and caught sight of a pair of dark furry paws, a long curved tail. Ah oh, Kaela dislikes other cats and will fight. I steeled myself for trouble and leaned forward further to check out the scene.
I saw two other sets of paws and tail….oh no, two cats against one? That was an odd circumstance, as cats are usually loners. Then I clearly saw the faces, through the spaces in the balusters, of the masked intruders. They were a mother raccoon and her teenager, squaring off against my feline ward! I’ve spotted raccoons before on our property, but never in a family nor in a triangular attack formation with my cat. The arching backs, the hissing and moaning….they were scary and fascinating at the same time.
I decided to put an end to this potential melee once and for all before it got out of hand. “Hi Mama Raccoon,” I greeted her cheerily from my watery post. “How are you and the little one?” She and her young’un realized for the first time that they were being observed – by a human being! Practically leaping in the air, Mama jerked backwards and offspring followed suit. They hurried quickly across the deck and into the darkness. Kaela stayed in attack mode for a few seconds and then settled down. My relaxing soak in the hot tub turned out to be a wildlife adventure.