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September 10, 2006

An Ocelot kitten in the neigbourhood

Five years ago, my neighbours David and Linda rescued a Margay kitten and adopted her, helping her along to a semi-wild life on their beautiful farm, Green Acres. Sadly, Tigger was killed by another cat in the jungle, shortly after a miscarriage (which took place in their washing machine, of all places. Cats choose strange places; and it is an interesting sign that Tigger felt safest near her adopted parents). But all of that is another story...

After gathering experience managing small wild cat, David and Linda recently had to opportunity to rescue an Ocelot kitten, Mitts, from its unfortunate situation as an indoor pet in a house in town. A wild cat that size, if kept as a pet, will either end up in a cage after making a mess of the house, or even killed after injuring or killing someone.

Instead, Mitts can now play around in the jungle, while still enjoying the human contact she grew accustomed to as a kitten. Seeing her in the wild is an amazing experience. She clearly enjoys being able to go where no one else can, to scare people by jumping on them, and to play with the dog, coco.
What's even more amazing is to see David handling her. His arms are scratched up and bleeing half the time; not surprising, given how rough he plays with her. Clearly, both of them are enjoying this; his scrapes are all the result of accidents, not of actual hostility.

On my second visit, after dinner, she came up to the house, opened the door, went inside, looking for her daily chicken wing. While she was there, she jumped on the couch, and waited for David to sit down next to her, so that she could crawl in his lap.

I had read in the Bocas Breeze that full body armor was adivsable when visiting David and Linda these days; but because I am a forgetful idiot I showed up in shorts. Mitts loves people in shorts. They are soooo yummy....

From my experience with a puma (mountain lion) kitten in Argentina, and previous encounters with Tigger, I knew that it was best to endure the pain and relax... so I did... and, amazingly, Mitts always seems to know exactly how far she can go. The first thing she did after we met was to first hug and then bite my leg. She left interesting bite marks, but did not puncture my skin.

After a while, I got brave enough to pick her up. She responded with a friendly nibble on my arm. After demonstrating for a while that she could hurt me if she felt like it, she relaxed. Overall, she was actually a lot more manageable than a house cat that doesn't want to be picked up. Clearly, she was always just playing.

And today, a week after I first met her, as I walked down to the dock to my boat, she followed me, trying to sneak up to me twice (I turned around and growled at her both times, which made her do the "Oh, I wasn't even trying to sneak up to you, I was actually just passing by" move). She did follow me all the way to the boat, and just as I had untied, took a big leap and jumped right in. Oops. I started the engine, pulled closer to the dock, and by the time she had climbed back to where I was sitting, I was ready to grab her and give her a friendly nudge onto the dock (well, it was about a 5 ft toss, but she handled it nicely).

When I arrived home, Tita spent quite a while sniffing the boat...


Posted by rick at September 10, 2006 08:17 AM


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