Forget those scientific reports about pets being great stress relievers. My critters are trying to give me a heart attack.

Forget those scientific reports about pets being great stress relievers. My critters are trying to give me a heart attack.

In the past 24 hours, my blood pressure and pulse rate have hit new highs, thanks to concerns over two of my adorable little menaces.

Squiggy the Cat began the "Let's Gaslight Mommy" games last night.

The green-eyed fuzzbutt and I had assumed our usual positions on the leather sofa. I snuggled deep into the cushions, unwinding from a long day in the newsroom. She was gracefully draped across the back of the couch, atop her favorite afghan, one paw possessively kneading the back of my neck.

"Isn't this nice, Sweetpea?" (I call her Sweetpea when I'm feeling especially fond.)

Suddenly my beloved fur stole bolted from her belly-down position, spun onto her haunches and stared out the picture window behind us. The tabby's fur was fluffed. Her emerald eyes were big as saucers. She uttered a low rumble.

"What is it?"

The big window looks out into our little garden courtyard. Squiggy's gaze remained fixed on something that could only be feet outside this thin plate of glass.

I peered into the murky darkness, but couldn't see a blasted thing.

Squiggy was now exercising her entire feline vocal register. I've never heard such unearthly yowling. It was like she was being skinned alive.

"What is out there?"

Squiggy raced into the guest bedroom. I could hear her launching herself against the window.

Egads. This cat was in full attack mode. We've braved visiting people, dogs, raccoons, opossums, squirrels and flying pterodactyls with relative equanimity. This was an alarming first.

Cupping both hands around my eyes to block the inside light, I pressed my face to the cold glass — praying there wouldn't be anyone peering back at me.

Ack! Buggy eyeballs in a hideously distorted face! I screamed, freaked out by my own reflection.

Then I saw the cause of all the commotion. A fluffy white kitty. The interloper was sitting in the drizzle. Staring at the window. Driving my green-eyed monster insane with jealousy.

While Squiggy continued her hissy fit, I slipped out the front door in hopes of coaxing our nocturnal visitor closer. Maybe she was someone's lost pet. Maybe she was wearing a tag. But White Kitty had escaped into the night. And who could blame the poor thing? Given the sounds she heard coming from my cottage.

Speaking of hideous noises, this morning I awoke to the sound of Gaia, my African Gray parrot, screaming blue bloody murder.

Normally my days begin with the cheery tones of my two feathered kids' offering their a.m. greetings. "Hellooo! Wanna get up? Wanna come out? I love youuuu."

Today I was jolted out of bed at the crack of dawn because Gaia was screeching like a banshee. Yikes. Had one of her toys viciously attacked my sweet baboo? Again?

Goose, my little cockatiel, is an excitable boy. Sweet as can be. But prone to screaming, flapping fits that have nothing to do with his actual welfare. Gaia is my sunny-spirited wild child. She plays hard, laughs harder and only shrieks when she's hurt.

Luckily, Gaia's little boo-boos have been limited to a pinched toe or a tweaked beak. Things that can be quickly kissed and cuddled back to "all better." But I remain a nervous mother, always on red alert for a busted blood feather or some godawful injury that could require immediate medical attention.

I kicked off the covers and rocketed to her side. Gaia was clutching the bars of her cage. Silent as a tomb. Goose wasn't offering a peep either. I tried to appear calm and collected. But my feet were cold and my hands were starting to get clammy.

"What's up, Bug? You OK?" I asked, gently tapping each of her toes.

Gaia didn't move a feather. She seemed frozen — like my heart. I scanned the cage for signs of blood. Then, in the sweetest, softest voice, she whispered, "You're all right, Bebe."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail