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 with Rob Miskosky

Jack the Cat the Fox Hound

When I was a young boy, around Grade 4 or 5, I chanced upon a neighbourhood cat, which I must have picked up or petted or perhaps both. Unknown to me, the cat was infected with ringworm, a skin disorder common to cats but one that dogs and humans may also become infected with.

Ringworm, unlike the name suggests, isn’t caused by a worm; in fact, it is a fungal infection that causes itchy, scaly and reddened skin, and bald patches if the scalp or beard areas are involved in humans. Ringworm is highly contagious and can be passed from person to person simply by skin contact or contact with contaminated items such as clothing. However, it is treated easy enough with the use of a topical medication.

In my case, the infection was on my scalp and soon I had a large bald patch on top of my head. I still remember wearing a toque to school to cover the bald spot that wasn’t growing back nearly as fast as I would have liked it to. Unlike kids nowadays, wearing a toque to school in the sixties wasn’t considered very cool, especially when it wasn’t winter. And you certainly didn’t wear one in the classroom. I’m sure I was the brunt of many jokes.

Because of my diagnosis with ringworm, I developed an honest dislike of cats. In fact, I considered the only good cat to be a dead cat and avoided contact with them at all costs.

Recently, my wife and I purchased a home on an acreage west of Edmonton. During our first viewing and then again when the home inspection was taking place, I noticed two large cats roaming the property. There was a small opening beside the garage door that the cats used to come and go from. A cat bed and food suggested the cats lived there and were the property of the person living in the home. They weren’t ugly cats, looked healthy enough, and certainly allowed our realtor to pet them. However, I stayed back, still believing that all cats carried some kind of strange disease that would surely infect me if I got too close; after all, cats eat birds and mice and birds and mice also carry diseases that can be passed on to people. Plus, everything about a cat is sharp; I know this because I’ve skinned several lynx over the years (after a good spraying of Raid, protective clothing, and with nitrile gloves on) and needle-sharp claws and teeth they do possess. And cats can’t be trusted and they just don’t bond with people as dogs do. Some would argue with me, but that was, and probably still is, my perception of cats.

Shortly after the closing of the sale, I was contacted by our realtor who had a request from the person who lived in the home: where they were moving to, they wouldn’t be able to take their cats, Jack and Willow. They wanted to know if we would keep them, as they were outside cats, good mousers, gentle with people and dogs, both toms, and both neutered. As well, they would leave behind their heated cat house. At first, I declined; the last thing I wanted was a cat, never mind two. However, being a big softy, and at the prodding of our realtor who suggested we’d need a cat anyway to keep down the mice, I told them that if they couldn’t get rid of their cats, we would allow them to stay. Sure enough, when we took possession of the property, the two cats were still there, along with heated cat house and cat food.

For the most part, we would seldom see the cats but I soon figured out that they each had their own hunting grounds. Jack hunted the west side of the property and Willow the east, while they both shared the north side. Never would you see the two of them together either east or west. One day, while working in the yard, movement on the east side bush line caught my eye; a fox was working its way through the bush. Being an outdoorsman, I thought that was pretty cool and was happy to see wildlife so close to my new house. I also wondered aloud to my wife that perhaps shortly, we’d be down a cat or two.

The thought was just a passing one and I never considered the cats again until a couple of days later when I looked out the kitchen window and once again, saw the fox on the east side of the property, laying on its belly in a pounce position, and staring intently ahead. I shifted my gaze to where the fox was looking and suddenly saw the white cat Jack, also in a pounce position, a mere four-feet from the fox. They were staring at each other, nose to nose. I quickly called my wife over, who was horrified we were about to witness the death of Jack the cat. I wasn’t about to intervene though, thinking it would be cool to watch the fox take out the cat. Suddenly, the cat pounced straight at the fox in a ball of fury and nearly hit it with a claw-extended paw. The surprised fox leapt back, wanting nothing to do with the insane cat, and high-tailed it down the bush line with the cat hot on its tail. Then the two of them disappeared into the bush. A few moments later, Jack appeared, strutting his stuff back towards the house.

I’m still not a big fan of cats, but I have to admit, after witnessing Jack chase that fox out of the yard, I have a new appreciation for them. As long as they don’t get too close.

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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