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How Melissa Gilbert Saved a Bird by Trapping It Under Her Nightgown



Melissa Gilbert had to handle her fair share of animals as Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. But, apparently, it’s something she does in her real life as well. In her 2022 memoir, Back to the Prairie, the actor goes into her relationship with animals, including one story she shared about saving a bird from her cat with killer instincts.

Melissa Gilbert’s cat Charlie Chaplin 

Gilbert got her tuxedo cat, Charlie Chaplin, when she lived in Los Angeles. In the city of angels, Charlie was a sweet little guy. But as soon as Gilbert moved to Michigan with husband Timothy Busfield, a new side of Charlie presented itself.

“Once he was in the Midwest, he changed from Charlie Chaplin to Charlie Manson,” wrote Gilbert. “We would come home and find his prey laid out for our approval in the living room.”

Charlie’s Michigan conquests included a decapitated squirrel and a bluebird he leapt into the air to catch mid-flight after appearing asleep on the grass. 

One time, Gilbert pulled a live chipmunk from Charlie’s mouth. The critter repaid her by biting down on her hand and not letting go. Not sure what to do, she took herself and the chipmunk on her hand to the nature center and asked them: “Can you get this off? Without hurting either of us?”

The time the ‘Little House’ actor saved a robin from Charlie

Gilbert saved many animals from Charlie’s jaws and paws through the years. But, one time, she saved a robin from him by putting it in her nightgown. 


She was making some morning tea (still in her nightgown) when she heard some noise coming from the basement. When she went to go inspect what was the matter, she found Charlie with a robin redbreast in his mouth. 

“On closer inspection, I saw the bird was still alive,” she wrote. “I also saw it was looking at me with an expression that clearly communicated it wanted me to help.”

She somehow got Charlie to let go of the bird. But as it squawked frantically around the basement, Gilbert saw Charlie readying himself to pounce again to finish the job. 

“So I grabbed the bird and shoved it up under my nightgown, which was weird, to say the least,” she wrote. “I didn’t know what the hell to do. Aware that I had to do something, I ran up the stairs and out the door to the end of our front walk, where I lifted up my nightgown and watched the bird fly out and away. I could only imagine what the neighbors must have thought was going on in my crotch region. Like, Oh, my God, she has a magic vagina!

Another animal safe thanks to Gilbert, and no thanks to Charlie Manson. 

Melissa Gilbert’s love of animals  

Gilbert doesn’t just try to save animals from attacking cats. She exhibits a distinct comfort around them in general. In her latest book, she describes several encounters with wild animals—the squirrels who live in the walls of the cabin she and Busfield bought in the Catskills, the mice who come in through the fireplace, the baby squirrel she found in LA that was so cute she considered keeping it for a second. 


For more animal stories, read Gilbert’s 2022 book, Back to the Prairie: A Home Remade, A Life Rediscovered.

Source: Cheat Sheet

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