Two posts in a row on cats! What is wrong with the Lone Grey Squirrel? Has his little squirrely brain gone nuts …….more than usual? Is it a case of cat scratch fever?
Editor’s Note:- Cat scratch fever is a real thing! And just another reason to get rid of your cats and adopt squirrels instead. Just another public service announcement.
The cat that I refer to in this post is the palm civet cat. It is also known as the toddy cat and in Malaysia as the “musang”. It’s scientific name is Paradoxurus hermaphroditus. However, just to confuse things, it is neither a true cat nor a hermaphrodite. Confused yet ?
But all this is unimportant to the telling of this true story.
What you need to know is that the musang is about 40 in or 100 cm from nose to tail and that it can sometimes be seen in urban areas. Being a nocturnal creature, it comes out under the cover of darkness and run across the roof of houses causing such a racket with their clawed feet that house owners are often awakened from slumber, thinking that a cat burglar is trying to gain entry.
I was once called to attend to a case involving the civet cat. The cat had fallen down an airwell into a house and had found its way into the master bedroom. Now trapped and panicky, it was running around scared, ripping the bedsheets with its claws and peeing and pooping all over the place.
The home owners knew me personally and knew that I was working as a science officer at a nature conservation organisation and called me to come help them out. It was meant to be a capture, relocate and release operation.
Now, we did have colleagues that were trained field biologists with practical experience in handling wild animals. Unfortunately, they were all out at that time doing their thing in the jungle. There was just Andy and me. Andy was our PR guy and I was actually trained in microbiology which meant that the only thing I knew how to catch was the flu!
The house owners were placing their hopes and expectations on us. Little did they know we both felt as scared and as panicky as the civet. We had zero field experience and zero equipment with us other than a large burlap bag in which we hoped to capture the animal. So there we were entering a room with an angry, scared and cornered wild animal and we all know a cornered animal is a dangerous one. I was thinking, if it bites me, I will have to get painful rabies shots. Yikes.
What followed was like something out of Keystone Cops. First we tried to get it to run towards us and the bag but when it started to run towards us, we dropped the bag and fled in fear. Then we tried to jump on it with the bag but it flashed past us leaving us in a heap. We tried chasing it but it ran way faster than us. We tried driving it into a corner but it got so angry that our courage failed.
Eventually it ran under the bed and stayed there. When we peered under the bed, we could make out its beady eyes in the darkness. And we stared at each other for a very long time; both civet and humans glad to have a pause in the frantic running around.
Andy and I did not really want another round of chase the cat. So we discussed what we would do instead and all the while the civet stayed put in the gloom under the bed.
That was when we had an eureka moment. The civet cat felt safe under the bed not just because the bed was a physical barrier but because being a nocturnal animal, it would always prefer to seek the safety of darkness.
We went out and brought back a long cardboard box, a broom and a couple of strong torchlights. We placed the box down with one end open. We then took positions on either side of the bed and then at the count of three we both switched on our torchlights. The civet had lost its dark hiding place and with the further inducement of a prodding broomstick, streaked out of there. But where would it now go? It ran straight into the safety of the dark interior of the box.
We quickly closed the box. Ta-da. Mission accomplished and I may add, the civet seemed to calm down quite a bit in its new dark sanctuary. After that, we were able to transfer the animal to a forest reserve and release it without further drama.
We were both proud of our newly learned civet catching skill but strangely enough we were never ever called to use that skill again.
Oh, did I mention that though we escaped physical injury, we both stank to high heaven from being around the civet’s secretions. There was a definite dip in social life for the near future. Yeah……on second thought, I am glad I never had to do it again.