A Knox County Almanac

What the Cat Dragged In: My 3 a.m. Misadventure

Beth Waller
December 15, 2020

On a Wednesday morning at 3 a.m., I woke up and thought I should see if our cat Cassie wanted to come in. I went downstairs and opened the back door. I called for the cat, but she did not immediately come. About a minute later, she appeared and dashed through the open doorway. I sensed she had something with her. 

The light was not on, so I flipped it on — and, indeed, she was not alone. She had brought her prey inside... alive. (At this point everything occurs to me in a fast blur.) Cassie then darted back out the still-open door while I looked at the plump, furry little figure with a long, poofed-out tail. I thought — What is it?!

It was a flying squirrel. Cute little buggers with bulging eyes, they are not as freaky manic as chipmunks. Yes, we have had a few of those visit us involuntarily, but they are still frightened and confused. I chased it around my cluttered (i.e. plenty of places to hide) mudroom without being able to capture it. There were a few times I could have picked it up, but I am always a little hesitant to pick up something with claws and sharp teeth, even though I was wearing leather gloves.

The poor thing tried to climb the wall a few times, and I could see the gliding position when it leapt from piles of shoes and low boxes.  It seemed hesitant at times, too, because it paused in the middle of the floor. It went past the door more than once... the door that was still open to the dark...

Finally, an opportunity opened up when it climbed onto a pair of boots and looked up at me with those big, marble eyes. I caught it, and then I quickly tossed it out the door because I wasn't sure if it was going to fight (or bite).  Upon later reflection, I wish I had carried it to the nearby tree in the yard so it could climb away from the still very interested and unhelpful Cassie. It went right under the car, and so did the cat.  

I threw a small box at the back end of the cat, sticking out from under the car. It worked to distract her. She turned around and popped out from under the car to sniff the box, and I was able to scoop her up. As I did so I heard the squirrel climb up into the engine of the car. This is not good, I thought. We have had squirrels and other rodents climb up into the engine of our cars and chew wires and also get stuck in the ventilation systems... and die...

Later in the morning, during daylight, there was no sign of the squirrel. The car seems to have suffered no damage, and Jay (the husband) was never disturbed from his much-needed sleep. Of the many lessons I have learned from this experience, two stand out: 1.) that I am reminded of how poorly domesticated cats mix with nature, and; 2.) if you get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, do not try to let the cat in first.

I've told this story to a few people in the last few weeks. Due to some of the responses, I will tell you that I was not stressed, but I was not interested in having a rodent possibly roaming the house. I do wish that I had had time to really check it out. How often would I be this close to a live flying squirrel? The only other one I've seen was dead in a trap.  

Yes, we have flying squirrels in Ohio; they are probably our most populous squirrel. (We don't see them because they are mainly nocturnal, and they are fast, sneaky little buggers when gliding through the air and climbing on trees.) Also, if they needed to defend themselves, they are strong biters. (Think about all the hickory shells they bite into for the nut meats for food.)