Katz Tales: Coming face to face with a snake in the house

  • Animals
  • Sunday, 14 Mar 2021

Photo: 123rf.com

One of the things about living in the suburbs is that we have lots of green space. It also means we have birds, rodents, bugs of all kinds, lizards and more. I love it, I think it's important to be connected with nature, but some visitors can be difficult.

Recently, one of the more difficult visitors paid a visit. It was the first day of Chinese New Year. As holidays and weekends are busy times for me, I finished my therapy sessions at lunchtime and trotted down the stairs.

Tic Tac saw me coming and meowed in welcome. But when she jumped off the big red chair by the front window, she hissed and put her back up. To my horror, I saw a snake rear up.

Tic Tac is cool and brave. On the day that she spotted the cobra, though, she screamed a warning. — Ellen WhyteTic Tac is cool and brave. On the day that she spotted the cobra, though, she screamed a warning. — Ellen Whyte

Tom was flat out on the sofa, totally oblivious to the snake that was inches away. But when Tic Tac screamed, and I screamed, he sat up.

As I relive it in my dreams, it takes hours but at the time, I flashed down the stairs and swooped up the kitten. She got a terrible fright as her eye was on the snake, so she scratched my finger instinctively. I felt it but didn’t notice it. All my attention was on the cobra.

My first impression was that it was 20m long and about to launch itself at us. Actually, it was about 80cm long, and definitely upset because its hood was flared. Of course, it was wondering what on earth was going on. It had slid in for some quiet nap time and then been yelled at by a cat and me.

Tom being the bravest and brainiest person on the planet, backed off the sofa, popped into the kitchen and came back with a bucket. Stepping on the sofa, he inched forward – and trapped the snake.

At which point my heart stopped trying to beat its way out through my ribs and Tic Tac stopped screaming her warning. We noticed at the same time that I was bleeding all over her white fur. It was a tiny cut on my pinky but it bled furiously. Tic Tac took a look, licked me in sympathy but was too shaken to deal with the mess I was making of her coat.

As it was safe, I put her down and went to get a brick to put on top of the bucket. Then I shot out again, worried about Swooner. Thankfully, he was across the street, sitting with Charlie. With Target still in my office, we were all safe and accounted for.

Back in the living room, the snake was hissing at being shut in. I felt sorry for it because it is just an animal. We repatriate all wildlife that enters our home, from the tupai that overshoots the tree and ends up in the bedroom to the occasional bat that comes in by accident. We have bees in our roof as well. But they aren’t deadly.

This little cobra could kill the cats instantly. It would certainly hurt and possibly kill the kids who play outside every evening. It might kill us, too.

There was no alternative: I rang the bomba. This is the third time in 15 years we’ve had a snake in the house, so I was able to tell them a “kobra hitam, delapan-puluh sentimeter” (black cobra, 80cm) was in our home. But as I was fumbling for the word "bucket", the bloke on the other end asked in beautiful English if we were safe. From that point on, it was just minutes later that a seriously impressive fire truck turned up.

The bomba dealt with the intruder in seconds but I was still shaking so much that my photo of our rescuers is blurred beyond belief. From spotting the snake to waving off the fire brigade took less than 40 minutes. But the fear stayed with us.

After checking on Swoon, I had taken Tic Tac up to my office to sit with Target. The senior cat knew something was up, so when I told him the coast was clear, he came downstairs, stopping off halfway down to scope out the situation. Tic Tac was behind him, peeking over his shoulder.

They inspected the spot by the sofa together, looked inside the empty bucket together, and then we had treats to celebrate our lucky escape.

Our neighbours came round to check on us, and we relived the time our neighbour across the street found a cobra in her kitchen, and how another flushed one sleeping inside her sofa when she was hoovering one morning. Sadly, there were two neighbours whose dogs died mysteriously.

They also told us that a neighbour down the street had spotted the snake the night before. She had been putting out the rubbish when she’d come across it. But with snakes being shy, it had vanished in the dark.

I thought I was OK, until I jumped at sighting a black cable by the bed. Then I had another near heart attack at spotting a cable in the kitchen. It was only to be expected but, to my surprise, Swooner was edgy too.

When I called him in for supper that night, he stood by the gate, peering at the bench with big eyes. His paranoia infected me, so I poked under it with a broom, secretly half-expecting a 10m-long reptile to shoot out. There was nothing there but Swoon refused to step up. So, I went and carried him in.

Once inside, our middle cat jumped at sighting my handbag and then hit the ceiling when Tic Tac came up behind him and gave him a hug.

Swooner is out most of the day with his pal, Charlie, and I think he saw the cobra moving about. And being a sensible fluff, he stayed well away.

It’s been some weeks since our adventure and Tom, Tic Tac and Target are all cool and brave, but Swoon and I are still a bit paranoid.

One of our friends made a joke about Rikki-Tikkie-Tavi (a brave young mongoose who keeps his human family and animal friends safe from vicious cobras that slither through the garden, in a story by Rudyard Kipling), but I think it’s a grand idea. The short-tailed mongoose lives in gardens and forests all over Malaysia, so if you happen to see one, please tell them they’re welcome to live with us. They can bunk up with the tupai and the bees.

Scared cats

When a cat is afraid, picking them up can lead to being clawed. If you’re new to pets, know that decoding how your pet feels is a matter of understanding their body language, and knowing how to deal with them is all about personality and relationships.

Typically, a mildly nervous kitty will have tense body language. Their tail will be low, their ears will be back slightly and their eyes may be larger and focused tightly on whatever is upsetting them.

A nervous kitty will have tense body language – the tail will be low, ears will be back slightly, and eyes may be larger and focused on whatever is upsetting them. — 123rf.comA nervous kitty will have tense body language – the tail will be low, ears will be back slightly, and eyes may be larger and focused on whatever is upsetting them. — 123rf.com

An anxious cat is rigid and the tail may be slightly fluffed. You may also see some fur in the neck standing up. The ears will be back or perhaps even flat. If your cat is a shouter, you may hear growling or chattering.

A frightened cat is rigid and has an arched back and tail. All their fur will be standing up, as they’re trying to intimidate whatever is scaring them. They will be growling or shrieking. Their ears will be flat against their head. They may also be moving sideways.

If you are very close to your pet and there is mutual trust, you should be able to stroke a mildly nervous kitty so they calm down. If there is a danger, and you need to move your pet, try and pick them up. But don’t walk towards the danger; shield your pet’s eyes and walk them to safety quickly.

In the other two stages, the safest route is to talk softly and to put a broom between your pet and the thing that is scaring them. Very gently move the broom towards your pet and very, very slowly manoeuvre them away from the danger and towards safety.

Note: this is not a test in any way. Cats don’t think clearly under stress and they’re not very logical. Learn how your pet thinks and go with it.

For example, I can pick Swooner up at any stage because he is one who keeps thinking while he’s scared. But Target loses his mind when he’s scared. And he goes from 0 to 60 is a microsecond. It’s just how he is, so when I want to talk him out of a difficult situation, I usually have a broom handy, just in case he needs to be swept out of trouble to towards home.

Adopt Me

Photo: SPCA Penang/Lily LengPhoto: SPCA Penang/Lily Leng

Mango is four years old, spayed, vaccinated, dewormed and all healthy. This beautiful lady is very calm and she adores people. She loves to stretch and roll while being petted. Interested adopters, please contact SPCA Penang, Jalan Jeti Jelutong, Jelutong, 11600 Jelutong, Penang (phone: 04-281 6559). Note: Please make an appointment before visiting.

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Katz Tales , cat behaviour


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