Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Two Deluded Ducks

Oh dear, I wonder if I can seek your help in solving a slight problem?
We all know about identification in the animal world. How duped birds unwittingly rear a young cuckoo in the nest, and look upon this outsize nestling as their own. How good-natured dogs will suckle orphaned fox cubs along with their own puppies - cubs who then go on to believe that they, too, are dogs.
But this story is a little more problematic.,
Have you ever heard of ducks believing that duck food comes from cats?

It's all my fault. When a pair of mallard ducks started to visit our garden I was overjoyed. It was a delight to see ducks swimming happily on the pond, and it provided a wonderful diversion for my cat, Chloe.
To ensure that the ducks felt welcome and appreciated, I decided to buy them some food.
But what did ducks like? I had no idea. A chocolate-based breakfast cereal seemed a good indication of our pleasure at their arrival . . . I bought a large packet.

Each day Chloe and I would visit the garden and take food for the ducks. As the days passed, so the ducks' appreciation of 'choco-pops' increased.
Immediately on sighting our arrival, the ducks (the female always to the fore, the drake taking up the rear) would scramble out of the pond and waddle enthusiastically to meet us. They would then wait happily beside the seat as I prepared to scatter their breakfast.

There was not the slightest doubt that 'choco-pops' were popular. I even began to grow a little worried about the possibility of chocolate addiction.

What I hadn't appreciated was that not only did the ducks associate me with food . . . they also identified Chloe. My cat, in their eyes, was a kindly and benevolent 'duck food transporter'!

Which brings us to the other day when, to my surprise, I caught sight of the ducks not by the pond but on the lawn. Not only were they far from the safety of the water, but, with happy, if ill-placed, confidence, they were waddling in a determined fashion towards an excited Chloe. Written clearly in their beady eyes was the shining conviction that this cat was the bearer of their favourite 'choco-pops'!

Hastily scooping Chloe off the lawn, I held her firmly on my lap as I proceeded to feed the hungry ducks.
But how to disabuse them of their conviction? What if they were to meet another cat on their travels, and were to approach it in the same confident expectation of food?

I'm sure you understand my slight problem . . . please, have you any idea as to how one can alter the mind-set of two chocolate-addicted, cat-attracted ducks?