Chronicles of a writer abroad



I’ve had a busy few weeks, hence my silence… there has been, among other things, a weekend writer’s workshop, and a trip to the dentist which resulted in my mouth being painfully and expensively but very, very thoroughly cleaned. Now I’m back to share an important development: My two cats are under siege by a bird.

Yes. I did just say a bird.

Here’s the situation: we’ve been living in this third-floor apartment since February 2011, and our cats have been enjoying our large rear balcony since it was rebuilt in March of that year. This spring, however, a bird has nested somewhere in the courtyard formed by a few different buildings that this balcony overlooks. And the bird has begun a campaign against our cats. Anytime they go on the balcony (which they are accustomed to doing several times a day in nice weather, in order to sun themselves and sniff the breeze), it appears in a frenzy of fluttering feathers and chirping calls. Knowing that the cats are watching its every move, it flits from rooftop to windowsill to balcony rail, all while making the sort of tongue-clucking sound that I use to call the cats in off the balcony. Yes, I do believe the bird is imitating me. I know this makes me sound crazy…but it’s true!

The cats, meanwhile, make their ridiculously pathetic bird calls, which are like cranky or injured meows. As the bird becomes bolder and moves ever closer towards them (sometimes it hovers just beyond the balcony rails), they adopt a hunting cat’s low crouch, their muscles storing up the energy to pounce. And that’s when I freak out, thinking that they are going to attempt it. I usher them inside, locking the door between them and the bird, who continues to taunt them by hopping along the railing.

And so it has gone, for weeks. I don’t know how to rectify the situation, and I’m sick of watching the cats while they’re on the balcony. I used to be able to leave them out there by themselves, trusting that they wouldn’t do something stupid, because they understand they’re somewhat high above the ground. But I can’t do that anymore; I understand that birds are one of a cat’s greatest temptations. Not too long ago, in fact, I heard someone who produced “cat entertainment videos” (yes, these do exist, and anyone who has seen their cat go crazy over a nature show will understand why) interviewed on the radio. “Some cats like to watch string,” the man said, “and some go wild for the sound of paper being crumpled and balled up. But what you can count on is cats being interested in is birds and squirrels.” Then, to drive home his point, he said: “Yep, birds and squirrels…those are your money shots in this business.”

Anyway. In my recent writer’s workshop, we talked about the importance of understanding the motivations and desires that drive your characters. As a writer and a human being, I so badly want to figure this bird out, to understand it so that I can author an ending allowing us to all live in harmony. I get that the bird doesn’t understand that the cats have no way to access its nest, and that they are therefore threatening to it. But what I don’t get is why it responds by asking them to kill it. Because now they really want to, and they would, if given half a chance. I suggested to Stelian that the bird is endeavouring to have the cats plunge to their deaths, so that its problem with them would be solved. But he thinks it isn’t that smart, and says that its instinct is just to draw attention to itself in order to distract the cats from the nest, wherever that may be.

An alternate (and more interesting) theory is that this bird is a reincarnation of the one killed in our Vancouver apartment in 2008. We never knew which cat did it — it may have been a tag-team effort — but by the time Stelian came home that day and discovered the bird it was deceased (but not eaten — our cats think that food comes only from bags and cans). I was grossed out and saddened, but impressed that our indoor cats were in good enough shape to catch a bird. Also, I reasoned that the bird had come into the apartment through a window — it had asked for it. Like this guy or gal is now doing.

Bird surveillance photo

The innocent victims

If you have any suggestions or insights into bird behaviour, I would appreciate your advice!


5 thoughts on “Birdsieged!

  1. This is the most entertaining thing I’ve read all day.

  2. well, they look innocent … thanks for the laugh of the day!

  3. I feel sorry for Cleo and Miko, yet entertained at the same time! Keep us updated on the bird saga:)

  4. So I was expecting to see a much larger bird! Oh how the little ones can kick up all the fuss … Could there be baby birds in the nest that this bird is protecting? If so, hopefully it will only be a matter of time before they are “kicked out of the nest” and life can resume to normal for Cleo and Miko (and Kristen!).

    • Yes — the size of the bird is far out of proportion to the amount of trouble it’s causing. It’s gotten to the point where the bird (or birds) hangs around the balcony in the morning, waiting for the cats to appear.

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