Think Outside The Litter Box
Several years ago, we built a patio in our backyard. Mark and I love to sit on the patio and watch the birds at our feeders. Many times I will see a new bird and quickly grab my bird identification guides, so I know what name to call my new feathered visitor.
We have a pair of squirrels that live in the big silver maple that provides all of our shade. They are fun to watch as they scurry around the yard and play on the neighbors chain link fence. They also love to sit under our bird feeders and eat the seeds the birds spilled to the ground. I love to watch these cute and adorable little creatures. We have had a complete and balanced ecosystem until this year.
Our pleasant ecosystem has been terrorized by a multitude of baby squirrels that were born this year. Our nice little squirrel family had a population explosion the likes of which, I have never seen before. The adults are well behaved, but the babies are acting like delinquent teenagers. They have been digging holes all over my yard. They chase each other relentlessly in their play making quite a loud racket in my formerly serene oasis.
This squirrel invasion reaches the height of criminality when I go to my garden and find that they will not leave me even one tomato! They have eaten every one of them! The same holds true with my zucchini and butternut squash. As soon as any vegetable is about 1 inch in length, the little bandits eat them. They are even eating my cayenne peppers! Actually, they take one bite of each pepper and leave them on the ground. Can’t they leave me anything? Do they really have to take it all?
Recently, my father was in St. Louis and I took him to the Bass Pro Shop. The huge store has everything any sportsman would love, including a huge fish tank and beautiful taxidermy trophies that hunter’s love to drool over. We were discussing my squirrel problem when a man peaked out from one of the aisles saying he overheard us and he had the same problem. Soon, we had a group of people all complaining about the squirrel infestation.
The aisle we were standing in was stocked with air guns and several people bought them to eradicate the pests. That is not an option for me in my city abode. I do not want the police knocking on my door!
The first man said he tried using an air gun and it didn’t work because it was too time consuming due to the large numbers of the squirrel population. He suggested we build an electric fence around the garden. He built one with a car battery, wire, and insulators. He put foil pie tins all around it to chase the birds away from the electrically charged wire. He claimed this was the only solution he has found to get rid to the little vermin. I am sure his solution works great, but it seems a bit extreme to me. First, I would feel bad if one of the birds I love to watch decided to perch on that electric fence. Secondly, I don’t want to electrocute my cat!
Setting out rat poison for them isn’t a good idea for the same reasons. I would not want to accidentally poison the wrong animals.
I suggested to Mark that we set some live traps and then release the captive squirrels at one of the local parks where they won’t disturb any gardens. That conversation never materialized into Mark actually making the purchase of the trap. I believe that the first time you mention something, they might not hear or understand you. The second time you mention something is a reminder. And the third time you mention something, you become a nag! Alas, without a live trap, I am still trying to solve my squirrel problem.
One friend suggested the squirrels are destroying my garden because they are hungry and dehydrated from the exceptionally hot summer this year. I don’t think my squirrels have that problem. They are fat from all the birdseed that falls to the ground and they get into the birdbath for water.
At this point, my attitude about squirrels is not very good! I have lost all the good feelings I used to get from watching them. I once thought were cute little backyard friends and now I feel like shooting every one of them! I know I can’t do that, but I am not ready to give up yet.
My grandson’s paternal grandmother, Angie, is a professional gardener. She has a business selling plants and has set up a roadside stand to sell her tomatoes and other vegetables. Ethan, my five year old grandson, has become an accomplished tomato salesman at the roadside stand.
Recently, I described my squirrel problem and asked Angie for advice. She told me that squirrels hate cats and I should turn my cat loose on them and the squirrels will scatter.
That is a wonderful solution! That is, unless, you have a cat like my Tally. He gets scared and runs away from squirrels. I have even seen him run away from a little sparrow when it chirped! I love Tally…he is a wonderful house cat, but he does not know how to be a hunter. He was a stray that I rescued from euthanasia at the animal shelter. He was a beautiful kitten, but unfortunately, he was separated from his mother too young to learn the lessons a mother cat usually teaches her babies. Hunting squirrels (or any other critter) was not one of the things he learned from his mother. My backyard birds have nothing to fear from Tally.
Angie agreed that Tally was not going to scare the squirrels. Next, she had a unique solution. She told me to take some used kitty litter and sprinkle it around the garden. I must admit, I thought this is a little drastic. However, I am getting desperate to get the squirrels out of my garden and agreed to try the unconventional solution.
The next day, I cleaned the litter box and put the used litter into a double layer of plastic grocery bags. I took the bag of nasty, used, kitty litter outside to the garden. I tried not to inhale the acrid aroma of ammonia while I daintily shoveled clumps of litter out of the bag and sprinkled it all around the perimeter of my garden. I was thinking that I will feel really foolish for playing with kitty litter if this doesn’t work.
A week later I inspected my garden. I felt like a detective trying to solve a a crime. Did the little bandits continue their looting spree in my garden? Did my unconventional use of kitty litter protect my garden from the squirrels? First, I looked at my tomato plants. I had two small tomatoes about 1 or 2 inches in diameter which were high up on the vine. It is possible the tomatoes survived because they were not within reach of the fluffy-tailed rodents. Then, I turned my attention to the squash. I breathlessly lifted a leaf of my zucchini and saw a small squash forming. I moved a few more leaves and found a few more small zucchini squash about 2 inches long. Until now, the squirrels ate them when the reached about 1 inch in length. I looked at my huge butternut squash vine. There, hiding under the leaves, were six butternut squash about 4 inches long.
I was thrilled at the prospect that I may still be able to have a harvest from my garden. I immediately went to Tally’s litter box and filled another bag with used kitty litter, which I sprinkled around the garden perimeter again.
This whole experience taught me to think outside of the (litter) box. I had a whole new attitude about taking cat litter out to my garden this time. The aroma and the nastiness of spreading the litter didn’t seem so bad. In fact, I was happy to spread the kitty litter this time! I wasn’t so angry at the squirrels anymore and felt content to let them live in peace as long as the stayed out of my garden.
I realized that my attitude was bad because I was using one-sided thinking. My only thought was focused on getting rid of the squirrels that were terrorizing my backyard. I learned that instead of one-sided thinking, I needed to think outside of my own wants and look at what was going on in the mind of the squirrels. In my one track mind, I didn’t even consider what would make the squirrels want to leave my garden alone. I was intent on blaming the squirrels for the problems in my garden. If I had taken their natural behavior into account, I would have lots of tomatoes by now. I really only have my own bad attitude to blame.
We all encounter situations that could result in anger, worry, despair, and many other negative emotions. The problem is never the event, but rather, our thinking about the situation. The ability to recognize bad thought patterns is imperative to understanding how we can change to a more positive response. You don’t have to hold on to your worry, anxiety, anger, low self esteem, or negative thoughts.
The next time you feel trapped by your current thinking, take a moment and begin to think about changing your thought process. You can do what I did with my squirrel problem…think outside the litter box!
Our 10 Day Attitude Makeover class will provide helpful techniques to change negative thinking and create more joy in your life. You don’t have to settle for feeling drained, anxious, irritable, or moody. Click the link below to learn more about the class.
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Current class enrollment starts August 15 until August 21, 2011
Teresa Douglas is a consultant with Make Today Matter and specializes in life management and balance for today’s busy woman. After years in the corporate world of laboratory sales, Teresa decided to start a business which offered women something of value to make a real difference in the lives of those around her.
Make Today Matter is based on the book by Brook Noel, “The Change Your Life Challenge”. Teresa was skeptical at first because she had a whole bookcase of self-help books filled with lots of failed promises. Teresa said, “After using the program, I was able to accomplish so much more than I did before. I was enjoying my life and finding all the little miracles that make each day special. I am so excited to be able to offer other women the same system that helped me out so much”.
Teresa was raised in Northern Wisconsin and moved to St. Louis in 1990. She has three grown children and two lively grandsons. She ran a successful small business for ten years. She is also a musician and makes all-natural soap and skincare products.