Street animals have been a background component in the towns and villages of Mexico since the beginning of time itself; unwanted dogs and cats eking out varying degrees of a minimal living.
Yet as bad as things are for these unfortunate creatures, many manage to pull through well enough to breed, thereby creating the next crop of feral scavengers.
This got me to thinking about the evolutionary path of the street animals. The process of natural selection is significantly enhanced by their brutal life on the streets. Weak, dim-witted or lazy animals do not last long in this highly competitive municipal environment.
The obvious key to survival is finding a reliable food source. This is accomplished by either scavenging garbage or sucking up to the human population. Since bags of trash are out on the streets for pick up three times a week, it becomes easy pickings for both dogs and cats.
Because the locals rarely dispose of anything with nutritive value, this method of foraging produces some very skinny scavengers. Grazing the garbage bags, as well as sucking up, are both common practice for the remarkably intelligent Mexican street cat.
My first encounter with street cats was when I moved into a small house on the side of Ice Box Hill in Mazatlán in 2006. Since the general area had trees, brush and many safe hiding places for cats, I had the dubious opportunity to interact with many feral cats, or should I say they had the opportunity to interact with me.
In retrospect, I realize I was ill prepared to deal with the invasive nature of these clever cats.
When I first moved in, I liked to keep doors and windows open to take advantage of the summer winds. That allowed the aromatic essence of the neighborhood to waft through my seedy living space. I quickly discovered that the practice of airing out was an open invitation to every slinking feline in the barrio.
Before that time, I had never seen a cat scale a brick wall like Spiderman, or watch one completely shred a window screen like a rabid wolverine. Within the first few days of occupancy, I knew my best weapon was Snickers the Wonder Dog.
Since she was also new to an urban environment, I suspect she thought the cats were weird looking raccoons, and thus were fair quarry.
Snickers soon learned that it was open season on any strange cat in the house, and the game was on. She would spend her inside hours patrolling potential entry points. I think she was glad to have a n enjoyable mission in her new Mexican life.
Since she knew it was only in the immediate neighborhood, she paid no attention to cats encountered elsewhere.
While I was at home, Snickers kept the cat horde at bay so I could at least open a few windows. However, within a couple of weeks all my window screens were destroyed and the claw marks on the front door looked as if Freddy Krueger had come to call. It was clear that when Snickers was gone, they came from everywhere and did anything to attempt entry.
Snickers solved my problem during the times I was home, but when we left I did my best to close up the house and plug all the holes. After several months of being on the defensive, I decided to change tactics; I believe proactive is the correct buzzword.
I started feeding the neighborhood cat pack and taming the frequent kittens, which always seemed to appear out of the ether. When I became their benefactor instead of the ogre with the dog, I established a tentative truce and encouraged them to suck up to humans instead of breaking and entering.
With the change of tactics, Snickers became the neighborhood protector of the local cats and would make the rounds checking on their whereabouts. The cats also responded to the change in treatment by rubbing against the dog whenever possible. Of course, Snickers responded with thinly disguised resignation.
It did not take long to have a fat and sassy pack of furbearing freeloaders camped close to their new source of sustenance. Then I started trapping them and having a vet remove either their balls or ovaries; I was getting very tired of kittens.
I found life to be much easier with a stable and healthy cadre of cats, which had become too fat and lazy to bother with climbing a brick wall or ripping the screens from a window.
At first, I thought myself to be the victor in my war with the street cats, but now I know it was the clever cats that had triumphed.
Bodie Kellogg describes himself as a very middle-aged man who lives full-time in Mazatlán with a captured tourist woman and the ghost of a half wild dog. If you wish to give him cold beer, large sacks of money or a piece of your mind, he can be reached at [email protected].