Secret Life of My Porch

Perhaps it was 25 years ago when I first spotted a big orange tomcat with a squirrel dangling from his mouth. When he saw me he turned and dashed away–taking the squirrel with him. I couldn’t catch the cat, but I figured there was something I could do about his assault on the wildlife population. What if I left food out for him? If he had a reliable source of meals, would that affect his hunting habits?

That was how I started buying bags of Meow Mix for outdoor cats. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of that first customer. I named him Red and said that he was better Red than dead. He was a faithful porch diner for probably fifteen years. (He disappeared perhaps eight years ago when we were having a particularly cold and snowy winter.)

Since that first guy who took me up on the free meal offer, I’ve had a lot of takers. One thing I found out quickly is that if you’re feeding cats outside, you will also be feeding raccoons.

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I’ve seen a mom raccoon bring her kits to eat here. They’re so cute when they’re small. But they do grow up–into eating machines. Above are three regulars.

Raccoons are not the only wildlife that show up. Over the years we’ve had foxes, opossums, and even a coyote. Here’s a handsome fox we’ve seen recently.

It’s a lot easier to spot the visitors now that we installed a camera at porch deck level. (The Ring Doorbell we installed around the same time isn’t low enough to show the porch diners.)

Both my current indoor cats first showed up on the porch. Nelson was a stray who had obviously belonged to someone. I don’t know how she ended up homeless, but she was very skittish at first. We started making friends, and I took her in a few months after she’d first come here.

Holly was brought to my porch by her mom, Hester Prynne, a feral cat I’d been feeding. One evening I looked out and thought I saw Hester with another cat. I looked again and realized it was really her and three kittens. Hester still eats here, but she’s never let me get close to her. On the other hand, Holly was always friendly to me. I got mom and kittens spayed or neutered. But over the course of a few weeks, Holly’s sister and brother disappeared. Because I couldn’t stand the idea of losing her, too, I prepared the spare bedroom for her with a litter box and food and water bowls. I got Norman to distract her with a string toy while I, wearing a heavy coat, grabbed her and brought her in. Socializing her to indoor life took several months of intensive work, but that’s another story.

Here she is–now on one of her favorite carry bags.

What happens when one of the outdoor cats confronts a raccoon? Here’s a picture of Hester staring one down.

And here’s one of my most memorable visitors. I saw him only once a few weeks ago, but he made a big impression. I wish he’d come back to eat some more.

Every morning I scroll through the motion-activated camera feed. Sometimes I get a big surprise. Usually it’s one of my regulars stopping by for a meal.

And here’s one of my recent releases–Trapped–on sale for 99c.


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About Rebecca York

NY Times & USA Today best-seller, Rebecca York, is the author of over 150 books. She has written paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her new romantic-suspense series, Decorah Security, is set at a detective agency where agents have paranormal powers or work paranormal cases. She also writes an Off-World series where each story is a science fiction romance taking place on a distant planet in the far future.  View website

26 Replies to “Secret Life of My Porch”

  1. Ruth –

    Great looking critters! Nelson and Holly are gorgeous! As for the other critters – ranking very high on the cuteness scale. The raccoon family was adorable. But I must say that one of the cats on the porch is really odd looking: long whiskers, long legs. At first, I wasn’t sure it was a cat. Perhaps it’s the alien version of a cat? Perhaps some tall spaceman’s familiar. (Thinking of the spaceman in The Day the Earth Stood Still.) In any case, thanks for a great post. It’s a much better way to start the day than slogging through depressing headlines of the day.

  2. Your reaction to that last cat was the same as mine. First thought–is THAT a cat. When I wrote the blog, he hadn’t been back. But he came back a couple of nights ago, and he looked more like a cat.

  3. I’ve been enjoying the pix you’ve posted since getting the porch cam. It seems unreal to me that you live in a developed area (if not a city) and you get such a variety of visitors. We have many coyotes in Chicago and people in my neighborhood have reported seeing one, but I’ve never had the privilege.

    • Well, they made a big effort to have a lot of open space here. Like leaving stream valleys and areas of timber, fields,
      lakes. Columbia is a small city, a hundred and ten thousand population.

  4. We have seen deer, raccoons, foxes and one (thankfully only one, so far) skunk on our security cameras. No stray cats. But since we also have a lot of coyotes in this area, outdoor cats are at a distinct disadvantage. I love that you’ve managed to adopt some of your strays. They’re lucky!

    • Skunks won’t do anything if you leave them alone. I was once rummaging at a defunct garden center for stuff I could use, and a skunk and I came face to face. We both carefully backed away. Yes, all my cats have been rescues except Beevel, the Abyssinian.

  5. Clearly the word’s out. “Psst. There’s this lady, lives in that end unit. Leaves food out for anybody. Good stuff, too, not just leftovers. Don’t even have to leave a tip or anything. Gotta move fast though, or she’ll have you indoors. Might be worth it. Something to think about, doncha know.”

    • Most of them don’t want to come in. Plus, since Nelson was so crappy about Holly joining the household, who knows how Holly would now react to another cat.

    • Thanks. As I said to Jacquie, there are people here who wish I wouldnt’ do it. But at least they haven’t complained to the county.

  6. These outside wanderers take time and patience to acclimate to a more confined environment and to the company of and dependence upon humans. But in my experience they’re well worth the wait and the work. When my husband and I were living in a Baltimore city graystone, my first cat arrived through an open, unscreened window to land on our bed in the middle of a summer night. We named him William after my dad. A few days later,William gave birth to a litter of kittens in a hardly used closet.I was a novice in dealing with felines and hadn’t recognized the anatomical expansion that signalled pregnancy. Renamed Tabu, this lovely creature lived with us through three moves and adapted beautifully to our relocation to a home that must have seemed “country” to her. Her final gift to us was a field mouse captured in the orchard that abutted our house. A gift of love that we buried beside her after she passed two days later. Happy for you that you have these visitors, Ruth, and happy for them that they have found refuge and love with you.

  7. Tabu was lucky to have you. She must have been a stray and not feral. It’s much harder to accustom a feral ca–like Holly–to people. When I was a kid we let our cats go out. And yes, I kept a window cracked in my room so one of them could go in and out. (w/ netting tacked to the bottom.) One night a kitten was sleeping w/ my mom. Mom woke up to find her playing w/ something. She turned on the light and found the mom cat had brought her a baby rat. She claimed she flushed it down the toilet. There was also the morning I got up, while I was in HS, and found a frantic mouse running around in the tub. (left there for future play?) Not sure what happened to that one.

  8. I loved those images of your”critters”, Ruth. And who would think you had some esteemed visitors through the night hours? So cool… thanks for sharing.
    xo
    Mimi

  9. Wow. Interesting pictures and stories. If i’d found any kind of rodent in my bed, it would’ve been my end as well as its.

  10. I don’t know. I’ve dealt w/ a lot of mice over the years. The worst was years ago when my son and I were trying to coral a mouse that was being chased by a cat in the house. The mouse ran into a mailing tube that Harlequin had used to send me a poster. I tipped the tube up, took the mouse outside and dumped him on the porch. He was sitting there catching his breath when another of my cats came around the corner, grabbed him and rushed away. Oh well.

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