Update on Little Brother and his feline cadre

Published 8:40 am Wednesday, April 20, 2022

By John Howell, Sr.

Publisher Emeritus

During my occasional visits to Batesville, people sometimes ask about the damncats.

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They are well and thriving, thank you very much, though not multiplying thanks to trapping and neutering but not before we had more than enough. Which is our current status.

I’ve become better acquainted with them since my retirement and our voluntary confinement during Covid, mostly with the front porch sub-colony of about five, some of whom have sorta crossed over enough from feraldom to allow themselves to be petted. 

There’s Little Brother, Sissy, Skunky, Skunky’s Mother and Mr. Eye. Each has his or her own story, and lately it has been Little Brother who has attracted our attention.

I think I’ve written about him before — about his being aggressive toward dogs. Our small yard is separated from the sidewalk by a picket fence over which Little Brother easily comes and goes. Most of the other front porch cadre stays in the yard behind the fence which is where they belong because our sidewalk is well-populated with dogs and their walkers – there’s a dog park across the street and a coffee shop on the corner.

Sometimes — probably when a leashed dog lunges toward him where he’s lying in the shade of a vehicle parked curbside but we’re not sure because these confrontations usually start when we’re not looking — he charges toward the dog, back arched and claws slashing. Usually the dog walker is able to pull the dog back out of Little Brother’s reach before harm comes to either animal. 

If you’ve ever wondered at the idiom “copy cat,” you can soon learn where it comes from if you watch the Laurel Street damncats. The rest of front porch cadre have copied Little Brother when a passing dog expresses aggression toward them. 

That’s somewhat unusual — cats acting in concert like that, but they bristle and hiss together, behavior that challenges the dog to escalate. Keep in mind that they are on the inside of the fence and the dog is on the outside. Fortunately, they have not gone so far in copying Little Brother by charging over the fence and after the dog.

Which happened one day last week when a man walking three big dogs on leashes, plus a smaller unleashed dog, passed our house. One of the dogs dropped his business on the small grassy space between the sidewalk and the street, and the man stopped to remove it with the plastic bag he was carrying for that purpose. As he stooped down, the dogs noticed the damncats and started barking and lunging toward the fence as the felines formed their bristling, hissing front. 

The man struggled to pull the dogs away and down the sidewalk, but not before Little Brother had scooted over the fence and slapped the smaller, loose dog, sending him yipping among the three larger dogs. Then Little Brother stood there, back arched and snarling at the dogs that the man was struggling to hold back on their leashes. As quickly as I could, I opened the gate and stepped in front of Little Brother and shooed him further back. He backed off begrudgingly.

Once Little Brother gets worked up like that, it takes awhile for him to settle down. Rosemary and I stand around to make sure that the next dogs and walkers who come by don’t find themselves the object of his leftover adrenalin. We worry that one of these days he’ll pick the wrong dog. That will be the end of Little Brother’s story.