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Wednesday, 19 October 2011 13:00

The killer is among us, and she is Tuppence

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When I moved to Sylva from Bryson City, two dogs stayed and three cats came with me. These are Edgar — I’ve written winningly about him before — and two calicos, Agatha and Tuppence.

That’s a lot of cats.

But wait, that’s not all: In addition to the three I ended up with, there is one more cat here, Isadora. I adopted her while helping to pick out a billy goat. Isadora was part of a large litter born to a barn cat at the Madison County goat farm, Spinning Spider. The owner was happy to include a cat in the billy goat deal, and Isadora was adopted before I understood that my Bryson City cat responsibilities would be joining me in Sylva.

But wait, that’s not all, either:

There were actually five cats until just recently. But Jack the barn cat has gone missing. Jack, I’m afraid, disappeared into the jaws of a coyote or fox. But a barn cat we must have — the squirrels are having a heyday eating the chicken’s laying pellets in his absence.

(I must, for my own mental comfort, make it very clear — and while I’ve made this point before, it bears repeating — that I never expected to be caretaker of this many cats. One doesn’t really grow up dreaming of being a cat lady. I had ideas about music, and writing, and even pictured romances and perhaps travels in Europe, but a keeper of cats? That never crossed my mind.)

So, you ask, why not move one of the four house cats to the barn? Life just isn’t that simple, at least not my life as I lead it.

Edgar, at 19 or so, is too old to live in the barn. And frankly, at this geriatric stage in life, he doesn’t give a hoot about killing anything — he mainly wants to snooze in the sun. Squirrels could do The Charleston in front of him and he’d just snore on. Edgar’s idea of excitement and fun is abusing the two dogs. They led idyllic lives until he moved in. Edgar enjoys spitting at them, then rubbing lovingly against them; swatting at them, then walking enticingly beneath their muzzles — I’m waiting for one to snap and send him to his final resting place. Though I’d miss the old fool, I wouldn’t much blame a dog for doing him in.

Agatha, and I must be blunt, is too stupid to live in the barn. I’m very fond of Agatha, but I’m suspicious she was born under a hot tin roof. She’s slightly demented. Agatha isn’t interested in living creatures, she lives only to kill feral socks — anytime she can find a way into the house she buries into drawers and emerges with socks, which she attacks ferociously, mewling continuously, before leaving them for dead.

(A note: Agatha, Edgar and Tuppence live in the garage, which is closed at night, and Isadora — they hate her and are mean to her — stays in the house nighttimes. Edgar bit Isadora not too long ago, requiring a visit to the veterinarian and a round of antibiotics. You might remember he bit me last year, requiring a visit to the urgent care center and a round of antibiotics then, too. Isn’t he just adorable?)

That leaves Tuppence as the only barn cat option among them. She is a very odd looking little cat, very lithe and dainty, though also amazingly loud and demanding. Tuppence, I’ve discovered since moving to Sylva, is also a serial murderess. In Bryson City, she stayed in the house, so I had no idea then of her true nature.

Being a cat whisperer, I can tell you what runs through Tuppence’s tiny brain: “kill, kill, kill, kill.”

Chipmunks, birds, snakes, mice — she is slaying every small living creature on the mountain, and leaving them for me to find on the backdoor mat. I know they’re for my enjoyment, because Tuppence adores me. I am her sun, moon and stars, and I often feel guilty about not paying her the nonstop attention she craves. But I feel even worse about the presents she insists on leaving me, and the overall carnage on the mountain.

Here’s why she can’t go to the barn: I’d worry myself sick if I put her there. Besides, she enjoys Agatha’s company. Not Edgar — she loathes him. But she likes Agatha well enough, as does everybody, even the dogs.

So how to stop Tuppence’s bloodletting? This is not an exaggeration: loosely counting, Tuppence has killed at least 20 chipmunks in the last month.

Tuppence is an amazing hunter and athlete. She can leap more than four feet straight in the air and pluck a startled, unsuspecting bird off the platform feeder. She can snatch chipmunks that are in a full run, and grab butterflies from the air as they flutter nearby. Tuppence is Super Kitty.

I came home from work one day to find Tuppence wearing a huge, massive bell on her collar. It was so outsized I wasn’t clear how the little cat could walk. I shouldn’t have worried, however. Tuppence soon strolled by with a mouse in her mouth. The bell bothered her not at all; off it came, and so ended that idea as a solution.

Short of locking Tuppence up in the house, where she would beat up Isadora, I’m not sure what the next step might be. Perhaps taking down the bird feeders. There can’t be much of a chipmunk population left to worry over, not after her fall rampage.

(Quintin Ellison can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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