Legend of the Lost Cat
Be prepared for a shock
I was touched with pity when I first saw this sign about a lost cat. To be factually correct, it's a sign about a found cat that someone has lost.
It's from a telegraph pole in a busy urban shopping centre and posted there by a couple of kind-hearted Japanese students.
Writing is hard to read when it's on a little picture so I've carefully included a much bigger photo for you.
When I magnified the image I discovered something really disturbing!
Please pay careful attention
For starters, that is NOT a cat. What you're looking at is Trichosurus vulpecula, the common or garden brushtail possum.
Anyone, overseas student or longtime resident, who mistakes a brushtail possum for a housecat, is in serious need of a trip to the optician. And anyone actually clutching a possum will also be in serious need of a trip to the surgery for extensive repair to damaged arms, face, legs and numerous other parts of the body.
A Possum is NOT a Cat
A possum is not a cat. Look carefully at the image above and it will become clear that there's quite a bit of difference.
Mind you, it's true that there are some similarities. Both of us are essentially nocturnal creatures, but can wander round during the day happily enough. We share a wild and free spirit but will deign to accept care and attention from doting humans. We can both be pretty noisy too.
You can see (and hear) a lot of us around the inner city area, for both cats, and possums, thrive in a wide range of natural and human-modified environments.
While cats like myself are strongly discouraged from taking up residence in parks, gardens or, heaven forbid, the open bushland, possums live comfortably in suburbia. They settle in your roof, your chimneys and any other warm sheltered place.
If a possum decides to move in upstairs this can be a lamentably messy business, so keep your fingers crossed and your ceiling spaces securely sealed.
Our Whiskers may be similar but that's about it.
Possums have lovely long whiskers as well - the only feature they have with any style at all. These whiskers, or vibrissae, are the long, thick, flexible hairs on my face, very handy for judging distances and if you're an intelligent human, for judging my mood. I assume possums use their whiskers for similar purposes.
Our voices can sometimes be mistaken too. In a strange way. Have you ever heard a full, intact tomcat on the prowl? It's been a long time since I've heard of a tomcat but I believe there are still cats in the world who have not had the little nip'n'tuck like myself. An old tomcat can sound like a possum in a quiet mood - possums are probably the noisiest creatures on the whole planet, louder and even more garish than kookaburras.
.. and Paws
You can instantly tell a cat from a possum by the paws. Observe the elegance of the cat paw, a fluid line of velvet with soft rounded pads underneath and a concealed claw ready to be unsheathed in less than half a second. Lethal and magnificent!
On the other hand, or paw, the possum has distinctly creepy claws. Somewhat as you would expect from a monstrosity which has just crawled out of an alien spacecraft and preparing itself to terrify some poor human wearing bib-and-brace overalls.
A chicken foot has more character - and more taste.
Typical Possums on the fence
Sure they look innocent and fuzzy, but hidden beneath that crust of cute is a killer just waiting to deal out deadly daubs of death at a moments notice, the deadly Ring tailed Possums of Australia
A Possum is NOT an Opossum
If I started telling you the jaw-breaking species names you would be be utterly bored. Besides, I can't remember them. Suffice to say that a possum is NOT an opussum.
The confusion all began with Captain Cook who 'discovered' Australia. A lot of other people (with their cats and dogs) had discovered the continent 40,000 years before - but Captain Cook had better press coverage.
Cook made a lot of mistakes in his time but, thinking that the Australian possum was an American opossum, was a big one. Big.
Troubled by Possums?
And here's just what you always wanted to know but never got round to asking.
Scare the off with creepy things hanging in your trees, like this holographic ribbon (it scares me a bit too).
This New South Wales Government website explains how to live in harmony with our native creatures by * Building a Possum House.
Anything to keep the peace - and the possums outside.
A Word of Warning
I hope you have learned something from this ....
At the very least, you now have a working knowledge of the differences between possums and cats.
Please remember your safety first rules and keep well clear of possums at all times but especially at night when they cavort across the rooftops searching for broken tiles and loose chimney pots to play with. If they show a predilection for chewing on your broadband cable, the best way out of this to hang a pair of artificial cats eyes from the aforementioned cable and, indeed, from any other cables you may have attached to your house.
Remember, a cornered possum is dangerous!
© 2009 Vladimir