Here are a couple of guests at dinner one night. If I told anyone about these no one would believe me, so this time I got some photos to prove it. The cats, who are the actual residents, were watching from a respectful distance. The cats don’t object, but the animals do make a mess and knock things over, and slobber in the water dish. Please note that I DO NOT feed these wild creatures and I chase them away when I see them. They are nocturnal, so I make a point of not feeding the cats after dark. I maintain a respectful distance also, especially when they have babies with them. Obviously these critters don’t know the rules.
It is against city ordinance to feed wild animals, which incudes opossums and raccoons…even deer, as a matter of fact. Cats, however, are exempted from the ordinance.
Yep, it had to happen…just not quite so early. Well it IS Northern Ohio, and anything the weather people come up with is no surprise. But golly, it’s only October 19…which is my grand-daughter Gina’s 19th birthday.
But we always have a frost (not to say freeze) in late October…just enough to smite the foliage with frost in order to bring out the glorious colors of Autumn. That is to say “Fall,” but Autumn has a nicer ring to it. The reds promise to brilliant this year, in both meanins of “brilliant”– brilliant as in bright, and brilliant as in excellent-remarkable-out-standing, as they say in England.
Stepping out onto the back deck, where I have set up the cat shelter for the winter, I tied back the edges of the door-flap, and put out cat food and … checked out the water pan, which had a thin layer of ice. Yes, it was very thin, and one of the cats had poked a paw through it to have a drink. Since I was wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, I quickly noticed that the temperature had dipped very low–not that slight-below-40 is really THAT cold, comparatively, but it did occur to me that my denim shirt needed to come out of the dryer.
Since I am old, I can wear whatever I want. So it’s shorts all winter, on occasion, mostly when all my jeans are in the wash. My kids long since stopped saying “you aren’t going to wear THAT!” … except for being forbidden to wear my huge denim jumper dress out into public.
Back to the cat shelter, and the ice…
My outside cats really do appreciate the provisions I make for them, and to prove it–one of them left me a mouse. The poor little dead critter had been stopped in mid-leap, and laid to rest right outside the door, and near the food dish. I take that as notice that they DO appreciate me, and left one of their occasional tokens. I pushed the dead mouse off of the edge of the deck with a pole…not that I don’t appreciate it, I just don’t want it hanging around.
There was a pile of cats between the tub-shelters, laying on top of a boxy thing covered with a really nice 35-year old blanket that finally made it out of the linen closet and into the beyond. The tubs all have straw in them, placed their lovingly by the APL lady last ear. They have an entrance which is a tube (like a large oatmeal container) taped through the front of the tub, secured by duct tape. Those entrances are fine for the smaller cats, but the Fat Cats (not really so fat, just big) decline squeezing through that tube. One of the tubs is a big thing that was designed to hold Christmas tree decorations, and has a capacity for more than one cat…although Peggy prefers to keep it to herself, unless it is super cold.
Getting the Cats and Building the Shelter:
We have a big feral cat population here in our neighborhood, or I should say more accurately we DID have a problem number of cats last year. Originally there were three kittens dropped off by some inconsiderate person in our front yards. They disappeared for a year or so, then all came back. A year ago there were a lot of kittens here, but the APL (Animal Protective League) came and collected all of the adult cats and took them away to be spayed or neutered. The option to have them return, or to have the APL find homes for them, was ours. Many of the kittens were put up for adoption, but most of the adult cats came back here to “the compound” to live in their original colonies.
Now I have between eight and twelve cats that live outside, and in the winter we create a warm and safe shelter for them located on my back deck. The neighbors also maintain a home for a dozen or so cats…although I believe that the actual population is approximatel 12-15 cats that live here between us. We count them at feeding time, and some of the cats are known double-dippers when it comes to having meals…they dine at either or both places. I have between four and 13 cats here every day.
In the summer months the cats more or less hang out in the yards, on swings, lawn furniture, or here and there in the wooded and the grassy areas. Sometimes they camp out and I don’t see certain ones for days. Other times there are “extras” or visiting cats, who live elsewhere.
The shelter consists (this year) of a picnic table, some plywood sheets, and several tarps. Under the table are the three tub-shelters which the APL woman made, and are lined with Styrofoam and straw…they have a round pipe entrance to each. Right now the large tarps are in temporary position, needing tying-down and otherwise attaching to the railings. The tarps will soon be fixed in such a way as to create a tent apparatus tied to some umbrella stands. Then we will bring up some un-cut bales of straw to place around the perimeter, and provide warmth and protection from the wind.
I have a big contraption that serves as a feeding-station, which I can reach from the sliding door leading into the house. There is a feeding pan, and a water dish…which has to have the ice removed a few times a day when the weather gets colder.
Technically I had planned to build (or have built) a proper roof for the deck, but we ran out of money for such projects again, and the ceiling is open.
Part Two of the Great Cat Caper:
Now here is where I say that I have six cats that live inside my house. No one has to tell me that is TOO MANY, but right now it is a necessary number. Tinkerbell, the crotchety old lady cat is the oldest and the original survivor of our first cat population. I call her Mrs. Tinky, because it is a more appropriate name for her in my opinion. Tink originally lived with my granddaughter, who moved to California briefly about ten years ago and left the cat here with me. Tink has never forgotten that outrage, and she has been my cat ever since.
There is a huge Maine Coon, long-haired black male cat who I saved from a bad end when I adopted him from the barn. Moby had been abandoned, a scraggly looking skinny creature, and I agreed to my family that if he responded when I visited the barn the following morning I would take him to the veterinarian. True to form, in answer to my call Moby came out from the back of th barn looking like something from the Black Lagoon, with spider webs and straw and leaves hanging from his fur. He went to the vet for his shots and exam, and she predicted that “the other cats might want to be nice to him, because he’s going to be a Big Boy.” Moby is now about fourteen years old.
A few years later, about nine years, my grand-daughter (the same one) brought an Easter basket with four kittens in it…each one cuter than the other…and of course I fell in love with two of them. Those kittens hardly looked like they were the same litter, although they did have the same mother. We named “the kittens” Toby and Pearl. Toby a nice tabby, Pearl a small all-black short-haired cat.
Two winters ago, when it was sub-zero temperatures, a beautiful calico cat which I had named Sister, came into the house when I opened the door to put out food for the outside cats…and refused to leave. Sister is four or five.
Early this year, when it was warn enough to dismantle one of the two shelters on my deck, I had it partly unwrapped when I discovered two very tiny kittens in the straw. Their mother is Peggy, a black and white short-haired cat, very small. She had had kittens the year before, and they had died before they could walk. The little kittens in the straw remained in their nest until Peggy brought them out, and only then I continued with the demolition of the shelter.
One of the kittens, a Calico, had the disorder known as “wobbling kitten” which affects young cats to varying degrees.
The Calico could barely walk, and I had been toying with the idea of taking her in. Her sister…who I named Baby…was able to climb off of the deck and run around in the flower beds, but able to climb back up into the protected deck area. The Calico could “swim” its way to getting off the deck, but could not get up again. Baby could walk upright, with a strange gait, but was obviously not able-bodied. The Calico disappeared one night, and I brought Baby into the house.
So, Baby makes six cats. Baby can walk and run, but frequently falls over and since she can’t control her movements from her brain, she often crashes into things. She is adorable, very friendly and happy, and even the other cats like her or at least tolerate her. Baby leaps up onto the furniture and plops down on Mrs. Tinky…who would scream bloody murder if it was one of the other cats. Mrs. Tinky hates kittens, but makes an exception for Baby.
Here are a few pics from my file. Actually the ones I wanted to use are not cooperating…I have no idea why. I am having a lot of anxiety and grief over getting my last batch of images onto WordPress blog.
Today is the first day of a new assignment on Writing101. Free-writing, thinking on paper, just as fast as the keys will work without getting jumbled…and the object is to develop a writing habit–writing every single day without exception. No excuses…write on the computer, on the phone (yikes!), or with a pencil or pen on a piece of paper.
The point is…just get ‘er written. Sure, technically this just just be impromptu, no stopping for punctuation or spell-checks. This is a day when the Grammar Police are all staying in their chairs eating donuts, no sitting behind theoretical billboards waiting for one of us to use a semi-colon instead of a colon. Apostrophes are free.
This morning when I went to the kitchen to feed the outdoor cats, there was a really ratty (more ways than one) opossum out on the deck. These animals are never what could be called “cute,” although I suppose any animal is cute when they are small. This one looks like it has been sleeping all winter, hibernating, and just stumbled out into the daylight looking for breakfast in its nightgown. It is not only against the law to feed opossums, like raccoons, and other wild animals, but unhealthy. Besides, they all eat anything they find, and if its in a nice dish all the better.
Also laying on the top of some bales of straw was the giant black-and-white cat that I have named Rambo (because he used to beat everyone up) …fast asleep. Rambo is still leery of me, although I am always nice to him. He tries his best to look like a ragged wild animal, but he can’t fool me–someone of the neighbors is feeding him and/or giving him shelter at least by tolerating him.
Rambo just looked at me. The opossum went under the shelter and (hopefully) out the back.
Thanks to the APL local branch, there is a feral cat program by which they come out and trap, neuter or spay, and return feral cats and/or find homes for kittens. All but two females have been fixed, and all of the Toms except Rambo, who is technically not our cat as he just comes around occasionally. Or at least that’s what he DID, he seems to be spending more time here now.
Rambo is on the APL list, but so far he has managed to escape the inevitable trip to the vet clinic.
Writing about cats is a no-brainer for me, there is always something to say about cats. So far with within my involvement with the Writing Courses I have been VERY reluctant to chat about cats. This is because there is a LOT to say, and photos are called for.
Well…moving on down the Crisis List, I guess I’ve written enough for right now.