In some parts of the world, such as North America, the risk of a pet being carried away by a raptor bird like an eagle, buzzard or hawk is taken seriously. In areas where these large birds are commonly seen, cats and small dogs like Chihuahuas are not allowed out in back yards on their own. Too many people have rushed out at the sound of cries from their pets only to see them being carried away over the horizon in the clutches of a pair of sharp talons belonging to a large hungry bird.
In Ireland, this type of risk has always been seen as negligible, However, in some areas, large raptor birds are seen regularly, as part of the local ecosystem. In this week’s tale, a bird attack is thought to be one possible cause of the unfortunate cat’s injuries.
Three weeks ago, Twilight came into Leesa’s bedroom from the living room at 5am and cried to be let out of her window. This is a regular ritual for Twilight: she likes sleeping indoors overnight, but enjoys being out about around dawn.
Her normal routine is that she follows this early morning excursion up by appearing at the kitchen window before 9am, to be let back in for her breakfast.
On the morning in question, Twilight never came back for breakfast. This was so unusual that Leesa knew at once that something had gone wrong. She and her family spent the whole of the day searching for her, to no avail. It was as if she had just vanished. The neighbours were alerted to her disappearance and they checked their gardens in the hope of finding her. Still no sign.
Twilight was such a regular creature, with precise daily habits, so Leesa understandably feared the worst.
To Leesa’s amazement, that evening at 8pm, the family Spaniel, Penny, sensed something moving in a hedge close to their home. She barked excitedly, and Leesa rushed up to the hedge to see what it was. That was when she heard the desperate, pain-filled cries of poor Twilight. She had obviously been badly injured that morning, had managed to struggle homewards despite having a dislocated hock (ankle) and a shattered lower leg.
Leesa rushed her to the vet at once, and she was taken in for intensive care for a few days. As well as the damaged leg, she was deeply shocked and traumatised, and she had skin lacerations and puncture wounds on her body. She responded well to the treatment, but the damage to her leg was extensive. At the moment, the leg has been placed in a splint, but only time will tell if this is sufficient to allow full recovery. There is still a chance that the leg may ultimately need to be amputated, as the damage is so severe.
At least Twilight is out of danger: she is being kept indoors while she recovers, and the biggest challenge is stopping her from going out. She is feeling so strong and fit that she’s getting frustrated: she wants to resume her usual indoor/outdoor routine as soon as possible.
At first, Leesa believed that Twilight’s injuries had been caused by a fox attack, as the family dogs had alerted her to fox activity in the garden that morning. The dogs are good at picking up the scent of foxes, and their barking and excitement is 100% accurate at detecting when foxes are around. However, it’s rare for foxes to attack cats, and when they do, the injuries are usually more like a dog attack, with extensive tearing of the skin rather than small punctures. The small sized skin lacerations and punctures made Leesa consider an alternative predator, and when she explained the background to her vets, they agreed with her assessment. Leese suspects that Twilight was the victim of an attack from the air.
For the past few years, Leesa’s home locality, which is primarily a farming region, has witnessed the presence of hawks and buzzards. These large and beautiful birds are often seen hovering overhead, and there have been a few unfortunate incidents. Pet birds of neighbours – pigeons and poultry – have been seen to be taken by these large birds of prey. And seven years ago, Leesa’s rabbit was taken by a large hawk like bird. Leesa saw the bird flying over the tall trees at the back of her house, with what looked like a piece of white clothing. A few minutes later, when she checked the back garden, she realised that her rabbit, Buzz, was the ‘piece of white clothing’.
Reflecting on the precise nature of Twilight’s injuries, Leesa now believes that she was caught and lifted by the hind quarters by one of these raptors, then was dropped mid-flight, shattering and dislocating her leg.
What can Leesa do to prevent her pet from being attacked from the air again? If large raptor birds are seen in an area, it makes sense to take some precautions, such as keeping small pets indoors at dusk and dawn, when most attacks seem to happen.
Whatever the cause of her injuries, Twilight is feeling sorry for herself at the moment. She does not enjoy being house bound, and she often cries to be allowed outside. Leesa is doing her best to comfort her with cat treats and cuddles, but there’s no doubt that this energetic cat is looking forwards to getting out and about again.
Update from Leesa: Twilight is still alive and well but since her accident she is afraid of heights and can’t bare to be lifted which she loved before she was attacked.