And climb the stairs to the beach...

Saturday, October 05, 2013

From Tarts to Toads Part 2

Yesterday I wrote mostly about Ed's tarts. Today's blog is about toads. But before I get to toads...
Maggie is like most cats. She likes to hide in bags and chase things. But she has a peculiar fetish as well.

Maggie, our Tabby, who on most days can do no wrong, is particularly fond of rubbery things. We had a cat named Gumby, also a Tabby, who loved rubbery things so much he would steal my makeup sponges out of my drawer and run away with them.

Gumby was a great cat. Here, he was dressed as a superhero by one of my kids. He put up with everything.
Maggie's rubber fetish is even worse.

She loves rubber bands. She will often come into our room at night, making a guttural, yowl, reserved only for when she has hunted and successfully captured prey, something we recently discovered. She will carry these large red rubber bands into the room and deposit them on our bed, expecting us to rise and admire her catch, then shoot it across the room so that she can hunt it down and kill it once again. There are times that she deposits it in the toilet after she is finished hunting. Other times we have found them in her water dish.

She is also particularly fond of these foam rubber balls we found at the pet store for her. She will chase them, retrieve them and bring them back to us, batting them around and rolling around on the floor with them.

 They also frequently wind up on our bed, in the toilet or in her water dish. We have not yet figured out why she drops them, or the red rubber bands, into water. I think she just likes to see things float? Perhaps she's trying to drown it?
We returned home one day and found Maggie had used one of her rubber balls to add to our decor.

What does all this have to do with toads? I'm getting there.

Ever since we moved to Florida, Maggie, an indoor cat, has loved the challenge just outside her reach on the other side of the lanai screens of the dreaded gecko. These tiny things seem to stalk her, taunting her, mocking her, sometimes staring her down as she makes twitchy little movements with her mouth and funny little chirping noises as though she's trying to whisper. She will fly from another room of the house if I say out loud "Maggie, Gecko!" She comes running and assumes the position screen-side, readying to pounce, although her chance seldom comes.

As our newly built home reaches two years old, settling has resulted in a very tiny slice of daylight under the screen door on the lanai. Although you wouldn't think it possible, geckos do make their way inside, much to Maggie's delight. We will sometimes hear that guttural yowl of success and see her sitting there with a gecko, hanging on either side of her mouth like a handlebar mustache. Other times, she drops it and allows it to run around a bit, something I particularly love.

One day, I didn't have any glasses on and saw a leaf  under the bed. I got down on my hands and knees and reached under the bed, picking it up. I was already standing back up when I realized what was in my hand was a lifeless, rubbery corpse of a gecko. Of course I did the girlie thing and screamed, dropping it where I stood and running from the room. Why did I do that? It was clearly dead and only about 2 inches long. But it was pretty gross and felt like a fake, well, gecko. Apparently, this is an added attraction for Maggie. Not only does the gecko invite the fun of the hunt, her prize satisfies her rubber fetish as well.
Maggie squares off with a gecko.

We have had a lot of rain this past summer and it continues, raining almost every afternoon like clockwork. Apparently, this brings out toads. And we have loads of toads here. The tiniest of ones can fit under that screen door on our lanai, and Maggie is in the ready, lurking and waiting. She has free access to the lanai at night through cat door in our bedroom slider. I am a light sleeper and when I hear the pet door flap, followed by a guttural yowl, I know I have to investigate. She has been bringing tiny toads into our bedroom at the rate of two a night. No larger than my thumbnail, these dark, rubbery, round things are cute outside, but not in the bedroom. Maggie deposits them next to my bed, so far not in it. Usually they have already expired by the time she brings them to me, but not always.

Eastern Narrowmouth Toads 7/8" to 1 1/2 inches long. Call of the Eastern Narrow Mouth Toad
I read recently in the paper that the "Bufo Toad", also known as a Cane Toad, lives here in Naples. It is highly toxic to animals and there have been reports of pets dying due to fooling around with these things. I remember seeing a National Geographic special about Cane Toads. In some areas of Australia, they had become so overpopulated and such a nuisance that the people were literally trying to run them over with their cars.

Yuck! The call of the Bufo Toad
These are huge toads, weighing up to 6 pounds and measuring 15 inches in length. I remember quite well someone describing how if they ran over them front to back, they would literally explode. Disgusting!  In this same special, I first heard of the practice of "toad licking". These things carry a toxin that is a hallucinogen and people were deliberately tripping with these toads by licking their toadie faces. There is actually a name for this behavior:   "bufoglossation".

I don't think these little things are baby Bufos. But I may have identified them from Google searches as Eastern Narrowmouth Toads. Harmless little things that only grow to an inch or so. And yet, they cause me to cry out in fear when I find them in my home!

This is the kind of toad I used to have no problem handling as a kid growing up in Massachusetts
My latest experience with one of these diminutive little things was the night before last. I had just settled down to sleep, Ed was still out in the living room watching a late ball game. I heard the flap of the cat door followed by that yowl announcing Maggie was bringing home her catch. I turned on the light and there was a live toad, hopping around on the floor beside me. I yelled for Ed to come get it as I was trapped in my bed. He came in grumbling and I continued acting all girlie again telling him to "hurry up and get that thing before it goes under the night stand!" He grabbed a Kleenex and picked it up, heading toward the bathroom. "You don't have to kill it!" I said. He grumbled something else and proceeded to flush it down the toilet. I always feel a little guilty when I cause a little creature to die just because I am unhappy with it in my house. I have actually swept them out the door before, but Ed has no patience nor any qualms about eliminating them, and frankly at that hour I didn't really protest too much.

I turned the light out and eventually fell asleep. A few hours later, I got up to use the bathroom. I looked into the bowl, thank goodness, and there on the inside of the toilet bowl was this little toad. I lost all compassion for this thing and for some reason panicked as though my life were at stake. I repeatedly flushed before he finally disappeared in a swirl down the drain. I still was not sure it wouldn't reappear so I went down to the guest bathroom.

The next evening while we sat with our friends at Happy Hour, Ed told the story of having to save me from yet another toad the night before. I started to add to his story "Oh, Ed, I forgot to tell you, but I got up in the night and..." He then interrupted me, continuing his story, "But what she doesn't know is that when I got up in the middle of the night to use the toilet, that thing was still there, swimming around!" That thing was indestructible! We are not sure which one of us actually caused the toad to stay down once and for all. It's sort of like the firing squad who doesn't know which shooter has a real bullet in their gun.

Mr Toad
 The Toad- came- home!
When-the-Toad-came-home There was panic in the parlours and howling in the halls,
There was crying in the cow-sheds and shrieking in the stalls,
When the Toad- came- home!
When the Toad- came- home!
There was smashing in of window and crashing in of door,
There was chivvying of weasels that fainted on the floor,
When the Toad-came home!
(From Disney)

Do you think maybe the reason Maggie likes to put rubbery things in water has to do with some instinct that rubbery amphibious creatures belong in water? Or perhaps if she can't kill her rubber ball or her rubber band, she too attempts to drown it, until it is no longer a threat. I don't know. I wish I could read her mind sometimes. But mostly, I wish she'd stop bringing us her little friends. It's beginning to get old.

Have a great day everyone!

1 comment:

  1. Those little lizards fascinate me and they are so fast, I don't know how she catches them. I would not like one brought into the house though!


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