Cats in the greehouse

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Cats in the greehouse

Postby judyk » Tue Feb 25, 2020 9:31 am

Reading about Steve's problems with rodents and a cat in his polytunnel (March Issue, Mudketeers) reminded me of a bizarre experience I had when living in a Victorian house in rural Essex, many years ago.
The house had a do-it-yourself lean-to running along the back wall that was part workshop, part greenhouse. The greenhouse part was made of wood planks, with glass in the roof and front, and the wood was starting to rot at one corner where it joined the concrete base. There was a decent sized hole there, and our young cat had widened this into a convenient entrance and exit for the nights when she didn't feel like coming into the house. I was up early one morning and heard an unbelievable racket of hissing, spitting and squealing coming from the back of the house. Getting downstairs and opening the back door into the lean-to, I saw the cat chasing a stoat round our pots of tomatoes and peppers - the chase was up on the staging one second and down on the floor the next, with the cat carefully keeping herself between the stoat and the exit hole. Neither seemed willing to risk a direct engagement, so I waded in and tried to chase the cat out of the way, but the stoat decided to go for me, and launched itself for my leg, digging teeth and claws into my jeans at about knee height. Luckily wide-leg jeans were fashionable then, so all it got was a mouthful of denim, but I was now walking around with a stoat attached to my leg, and the cat was taking full advantage, trying to climb up me and attack the stoat. I managed to get the lean-to door open and chase the cat out, but the stoat was determined not to let go, and was still trying hard to chew its way through the jeans. In the end I had to get a spade from the lean-to, walk to the edge of the bit of woodland that backed onto the garden, with the stoat still firmly attached, then actually lever it off my leg by putting the corner of the spade gently but firmly between its front legs and prising its claws out of the jeans. When it finally let go it jumped about a yard, turned round to shriek and swear at me one last time, then disappeared into the wood.

I've never been sure whether jumping on me was just a standard stoat hissyfit, or a cunning plan to get itself away from the cat, out of the lean-to trap and back to the woods. If the latter, it worked a treat. It probably came into the greenhouse after mice, which even the cat couldn't keep down in there.
Interestingly we also had a polytunnel, which was close to the edge of the wood and had no base, only a thick groundsheet, but we never had anything dig its way into that at all. The only reason I can think of for that is that we created the tunnel site by cutting out dense scrub from an area that had been undisturbed for years, and then found that the roots of alder, willow and bramble formed such a thick mat below the whole area that we couldn't get a spade through them, so we levelled the top and left the mat there. It meant quite a lot of weeding round the perimeter, but seemingly all the pests found the mat impossible to get through, too.

The same cat in this tale later developed a not-so-endearing habit of hiding in the top of one or other of the old and very large apple trees we inherited with the house, waiting for someone to walk underneath, then skydiving down onto their shoulders (or head, if she missed), and steadying her landing with her claws. Happy days!
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Re: Cats in the greehouse

Postby Primrose » Tue Feb 25, 2020 12:12 pm

What a fascinating story, but also a rather scary one. I imagine few people have been privileged to get that close and personal with a stoat, who have alleged to have particularly sharp viscious little teeth. You perhaps can count yourself fortunate that you're female and not a male, otherwise I imagine a stoat at those close quarters would have been an even more nerve wracking experience. :lol: :lol:

I've heard of ferrets being stuffed down trousers but a stoat, even on the outside of them must have been a pretty alarming experience. I always thought they were pretty wary of humans so I suppose in a way you were fortunate to have such a close encounter, but rather you than me.

if it came to a battle between a stoat and a cat I'm not sure who would win ! I did once nervously watch an nocturnal encounter between our cat and a fox in our front garden in the full glare of our external security light. I was terrified for the safety of our cat but it flew at the fox hissing and spitting with its fur fluffed up making it look twice its normal size! The fox took fright and cleared off pretty quickly. I suspect it was a female . A larger dog fox might have been more of a challenge.
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Re: Cats in the greehouse

Postby oldherbaceous » Tue Feb 25, 2020 2:23 pm

Lovely story Judyk, and there's not much a Stoat is scared of.
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Re: Cats in the greehouse

Postby Monika » Tue Feb 25, 2020 6:47 pm

I once heard and saw a stoat killing a rabbit - the poor victim 'screamed' and wriggled but the rabbit didn't have a chance. Its was not nice to watch.
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