The Lizard’s Tail Tale

One of our cats was paying rapt attention to something on the rug. He had that ears-cupped-parallel-to-the-floor look, and was holding absolutely still, eyes wide open. He does this only when there is something of great interest to him, and that is almost always something that is about to become dead.

I got up, and looked at the spot on the rug. I nudged it gently with piece of paper towel, thinking it was a cat gak. Almost all the spot on the rug shot across the room, leaving a wiggling piece behind. Nature works really well. The thing was a lizard, and it had dropped its tail, which wriggled appealingly, allowing my cat to focus on it, while the rest of the lizard scrambled across the room.

A common lizard in Arizona

A common lizard in Arizona

Unfortunately, it sought refuge in the one place in the kitchen that really isn’t safe–the place where the cats are fed. And one was hanging around, looking for a snack.

In order to make sure the now-tailless lizard didn’t become the snack, I grabbed the cat by the scruff of the neck, and picked up the lizard with the paper towel I still had in my hand.

I stepped out the door and shook the paper towel out gently, close to the ground. The little lizard body tumbled out.”Must have picked it up too hard,” I thought, feeling sorry. Just as I thought it, the lizard pulled out of its frozen position, and shot, tailless, up the lemon tree to safety.

I knew that some lizards dropped their tails, but I’d never seen it work so well. The cat was perfectly happy to let the business part of the prey escape if he got to keep the wiggly part. Of course, the lizard has just one tail, and would have met an unhappy end with the other cat.

[Note: I don’t know what kind of lizard it was. We have a bunch climbing on the brick fence around the house. The link above is to a page that will help identify lizards. The photograph came from that site,

How did the lizard get into the house? My best guess is that it was napping in the Blue Palo Verde tree that hangs over the fireplace chimney. We haven’t trimmed it because it was too hot to stress the tree that much. He must have fallen (or crawled) down the chimney. Even with the flue shut, it’s a small lizard and can manipulate through small openings.

Lucky this one gets to live another day.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and a certified creativity coach. She has a coaching practice for people in transitions and those undergoing changes in thier lives. See her work at

One thought on “The Lizard’s Tail Tale

  1. If it has a blue tail, it’s a blue-tailed skink; very common to the south and very pretty to watch if you don’t have to beware of hungry or bored cats!
    But now I’m curious: did the cat EAT the tail? or just play with it until it stopped wiggling?

    —The tail wasn’t blue, the whole lizard is gray when they are on the block walls outside (which are gray) and brown on the rocks, so they change color. The cat continued to play with the tail till it didn’t move anymore. Hmmm, don’t remember where the tail went, though. -Q

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.