Those of you who know me in real life know that in addition to my fetish for poultry, I'm also a devotee of bizarre housepets. Our most noteworthy pets at the current moment are a trio of hairless cats: Kemo, the old lady (14), Clarabelle, the petite pink beauty, and Architeuthis, the big black-and-white, overweight, loving bruiser of a male. He's a wrecking ball cat: always in your lap, purring like a frieght train, except of course, when he's knocking things over just to see them fall. (My husband named him after the scientific name for one of the giant squid species. It's a mouthful, but it fits.)
As you can imagine, this trio of predators have been, since day one, VERY interested in project chicken. For a good month they were banished from my office while my babies brooded inside. It was amusing to stand inside the office, and watch the little kittynoses attempt to squeeze under the door. No matter how long I stayed in chickenland, they would keep watch. I'd find all three of them sitting like feline statues waiting for me whenever I left the room.
Once the chickens moved out, the cats began to spend much of their day at the back windows, participating in my family's new favorite sport. We call it "Chicken TV." It involves sitting, sometimes for hours, watching the pecking, and fluffing, and flapping, and clucking, in short, the tiny dramas that make up a busy chicken's existence. All of us watch it, but none so much as Arkie. You can just see the kitty-thought-bubble forming over his head. "YUM!"
It's natural. I get it. My cats are, for all their highly bred, indoor cat hairlessnes, still predators. Those rubber snakes they drag around, and pounce on endlessly are an everpresent reminder of the call of the wild. And yet, despite this knowledge, and the obvious stalking behavior, I got complacent. Cats are inside. Chickens are out. That's that. I should have known that my cats, aesthetically challenged, but smart, would eventually figure out a way to meet the chickens "up close and personal."
And who was it that made the move? None other than our favorite squid boy, Architeuthis. It's obvious to me now that Arkie had been planning his move for some time. We'd been sitting in the living room on a Saturday, watching the chickens frolic in the yard, when, as I often do, I got up to feed them a treat. When I opened the door, Arkie appeared from out of nowhere, neatly slipped between my legs at a full gallop, and zoomed into the yard. It was an impressive display of stealth and cunning. I dropped both handfulls of broccoli, and raced after him, visions of bloody chickens in my head.
I needn't have worried. Chickens are simultaneously very stupid about some things (Just look at the face of a chicken who has accidentally flown up into a tree. Priceless!) and very smart about others. Apparently, Cat Management is one of the "smart areas."
When Arkie reached the yard, all the chickens immediately pivoted to face him. They looked at him with blank, baleful gazes. Arkie blinked nervously and took a tentative step forward. All the chickens, in unison, took a step forward too. Arkie then immediately took a step backwards, glancing at me with panicked eyes as if to say "Help, Mom, help!"
After another moment of mutual staring, Yubaba, the largest and most mature chicken, took another step forward towards the cat. It was just too much for the big predator...Arkie turned tail and ran back to the back door of the house. I let him in, and didn't see him again for several hours.
I think he was hiding.
Smart boy. As a witness, my money was on the Chickens.