On one side of the window, the lithe hunter is on full alert, every muscle tensed and ready to spring. Descended from thousands of years of evolution, this feline force was made for this moment. Behind the windowpane is his archrival, the squirrel. Who will reign supreme?
As I watched the opponents sizing each other up in the kitchen of my apartment, I could see we were in for the ultimate match between cat and rodent. I eyed the flimsy screen and debated whether I should intervene. In the end, I decided to let the National Geographic moment unfold naturally. The squirrel had an easy escape route, and the cat couldn’t fit his paw through the small crack in the window. As the showdown played out, I began to wonder whether I had made the right decision.
It began rather innocuously. When I moved into a new apartment on the main floor of a duplex, I placed my kitchen table in the corner. At the time, I didn’t realize that choice would reverse the natural order of the animal kingdom.
There were large windows on both walls of the corner. This made the table the perfect perch for a cat to watch the world go by. On the outside, there were brick ledges under each window.
One evening, I was preparing dinner when my cat, Furball, suddenly leapt onto the kitchen table and began frantically pawing at the window. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a blur racing by along the window ledges. A big squirrel had been surprised by Furball’s unexpected attack and was now running as if its life depended on it.
Furball stood patiently on guard waiting for the next intruder. No more squirrels came by that evening.
Several weeks later, the cat and the squirrel had settled into a comfortable routine. Like clockwork, every afternoon at 1, the squirrel would run along the window ledge. Furball’s daily ritual consisted of sitting on the kitchen table for most of the morning and scanning the alleyway for activity.
His hours of patience were rewarded by 15 seconds of bliss as he batted the window in a frenzy when the squirrel appeared. Then the cat would leap off the table and comically follow the squirrel’s path. Furball’s attempt to run along the inside windowsill, which was much too narrow to fit his 12-pound frame, usually resulted in him bouncing off the wall repeatedly.
This continued for weeks until a certain human decided to mix things up a bit.
Over time, the squirrel had become accustomed to the cat and no longer ran past in a hurry. Instead, it meandered along as if taking a leisurely stroll. Furball would go berserk when the squirrel stopped in front of the window.
That’s when I made things a little more interesting. I figured that the squirrel was a wonderful source of entertainment for my cat, so I left a few walnuts outside on the window ledge. When the squirrel came visiting that afternoon, it came to an abrupt stop midrun when it discovered the walnuts.
The squirrel stuffed its face greedily with the nuts. It was in squirrel heaven! And Furball? He was beside himself in kitty ecstasy — he had two full minutes to get that rascally squirrel intruder.
Furball’s futile efforts to break through the windowpane by batting it furiously with his paws did not go unnoticed by the squirrel. After the squirrel gorged itself on the nuts, it paused and looked straight at Furball. Then it did the most unexpected thing.
The squirrel stuck its tongue out and licked the glass as if to say, "Nyah-nyah.” In that instant, it became very clear who was in charge. The cat wasn’t the one playing with the squirrel. It was the squirrel playing with the cat.
And the human? Let’s just say it was quite the spectacle to see Furball swatting impotently at the glass while the squirrel calmly watched. I left walnuts out the next day, too.
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