The caterpillar that scared the cat

Several years ago, when my uncle and aunt lived in Milwaukee with my grandmother, their cat used to explore the back yard on occasion.  One day, it happened upon a short, fat, brown-gray caterpillar.  Doing what cats do, it sniffed and prodded the caterpillar to investigate.  But the caterpillar turned around, reared up like a cobra, and stuck out a forked red thing.  It started bobbing and weaving.  The cat got freaked and ran.  I never did find out what kind of caterpillar that was…until today.

Quite by accident, I found this image:

Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

That looked to be the same type of caterpillar that freaked the cat.  And, in fact, the red forked organ that the caterpillar waved at the cat is called an osmeterium.  It’s the caterpillar’s defensive method:

  1. Stick out osmeterium.
  2. Produce terpines.
  3. Bob and weave to disperse noxious terpines.
  4. Hope that whatever wants to eat you is offended by smell.

Evidently it works as the cat took off as soon as the caterpillar starts its dance routine.

(BTW:  This is the cat in question)





BTW, she’s 9 now and lives in Mississippi.  These pictures were taken in mid-November of 2009.

  1. #1 by Joshua on January 20, 2010 - 1:46 PM

    Yes, she’s always been a very small cat. The vet keeps disbelieving that she’s 9.

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