Monday, February 27, 2012

return of the Family


Happy news! For the first time since I TNR'ed Oliver's family, I finally saw all of them together again! Yahooo!!!! It was Sunday night family night in the yard, because they were all out there for an hour or so eating, playing and visiting. It was so delightful to see them all, I was really starting to worry that one of them didn't make it or decided to find a different yard to hang out in. I love seeing Oliver enjoying the company of his family. He seems to love hanging out with them or play chase and pounce.

I have put out a bunch of different toys for Oliver and his family to enjoy. A few mice, a rattle ball and a crinkle ball. All of these toys migrate all around the yard and can be quite a challenge to find again! Seeing them play with the toys is a delight. 

The kitty with the short tail and white blaze on it's chest (formerly known as Mama Kitty) has a blast playing with a mousie. It tosses it in the air and then pounces on it and rolls around while playing with it. I love seeing that kitty so relaxed and enjoying itself in my yard. I could watch it play for hours! I really wanted to get some pictures of it rolling around and playing to share, but I didn't want to risk scaring them off.

Meanwhile, Oliver has taken well to being a porch kitty. I went looking for  a nice soft fleece kitty bed for him that would work well with his heating pad, but I couldn't find just the right one. So, I bought him a temporary soft kitty bed to enjoy, until I make him a custom bed out of the fleece that a friend donated.

I think Oliver likes his new bed!

Since he started living on the porch, I have noticed a shift in Oliver's clingyness. He used to glob onto me every time I went outside but now he's starting to trust that I'm not going to abandon him. Now when I walk by he may only lift his head up to acknowledge my presence. Although yesterday, he rolled over and asked to have his tummy rubbed. If I haven't been out in a while, he still gets up and demands requests some snuggle time.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

cooperative TNR experience

Today I had the pleasure of assisting with a cooperative TNR event, in Gold Bar, Washington, which is an old mining town in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. Mining towns have a history of being kind of rough-and-tumble. Well, even though Gold Bar probably hasn't had any active mining in nearly forever, it hasn't lost it hard edge.

The trapping site consisted of a sizable piece of property with a few well weathered structures and a number of old motor homes parked around. By the look of things, I'm guessing that any structure which could have possibly housed people was all filled to capacity with human inhabitants. There were also a number of old vehicles around, their glory days long gone and a variety of miscellaneous items strewn about. In these parts, there is a high probability that the folks living in these conditions are also using heavy duty mind altering substances of all sorts.

You may need to click on the image to biggify it to see the traps.

The weather called for off and on snow and rain showers throughout the day. The fresh dusting of snow on the ground melted away as the way progressed. The TNR team consisted of two of us newbies, where this was our first real trapping event, one somewhat experienced trapper and our team leader, Nancy, who is a TNR expert. (Nancy is the one who greatly assisted me on trapping of Oliver's family). A photographer from the local newspaper also joined us, apparently the newspaper will be running a story on our grassroots TNR group, Community Cats Coalition. I might end up being famous!

Our goal was to trap 15 feral cats, 20 if we were lucky. The colony's caretaker is trusted by the cats, so she assisted with the setting up of the traps and had been feeding them in the traps for over a week prior. She lives onsite and wants the best for the cats. The plan was that when we got there, we would bait and set the traps then retreat to the vehicles while the resident caretaker would call out to the cats like the Pied Piper. The cats would immediately swarm her and quickly make their way into the traps. Our team leader noted she witnessed this happen last week when she visited the site earlier. This was gonna be easy, so we all thought.

I had three personal goals for this event. I wanted to learn more about how to trap in a larger scale site, I wanted to get to know more cat-loving people and I wanted to see if trapping cats that I didn't have a relationship with would be emotionally easier than my experience trapping Oliver and his family.

So, when we arrived, we were not greeted by the cat-friendly lady as planned, but rather an extremely belligerent and angry man who screamed at us to take the traps and go away (he used much more colorful language). He went on to say he was going to just shoot all the cats and be done with it. While he was going on and on, the cat-friendly colony caretaker woman was no where to be found. We learned that she would not be making an appearance. There did happen to be a few other people milling about who tried to calm the guy down, but to no avail. Someone said that the belligerent man had a gun, but he probably wouldn't use it - oh joy!

The decision was made that we would continue going forward, the plan must go on! I made a mental note that next cooperative trapping I go on, I'm getting a bullet-proof vest- yikes! We hastily went about setting and baiting all 24 traps that were scattered across the property. In an instant I forgot everything I had learned about how to set traps as I was so freaked about getting shot by the angry cat-hating violent man, whose property we were now trespassing on (he had demanded we leave). It wasn't until later, when I was sitting in the car watching for cats, that I realized I hadn't put the bait in the right spot (it goes behind the trip plate rather than on the trip plate) and I hadn't checked to see if the traps were on stable ground (not wobbly). Gosh, on one trap, I didn't even realize the back door was folded in, so the cat could freely escape!

Without the colony-caretaker to call the cats out, we were stuck waiting and watching. Slowly, one or two would meander out and make their way into the traps. After four hours we had managed to trap only 7 feral cats. Thankfully, the caretaker-lady finally made an appearance. She apologized for not coming sooner and noted her man was so angry earlier that she didn't dare cross him. She asked us to leave for a while, she thought our presence and the strange vehicles were keeping the cats from coming out. So, we took off for a late lunch. I decided to head out after lunch, so I missed the last bit of fun. I just heard from Nancy that the grand total for the day was 12 trapped cats and plans were made for trying to get the remaining cats.

Who knew trapping feral cats could be such an adventure! Nancy tells me that the circumstances of this site were quite unusual. I was happy to hear that it's actually rare to run across such a violent and threatening property owner. Even with the added unexpected bonus of fearing for me life, all my goals were achieved, and then some! My first goal was met as I learned a ton. I learn best by getting out there and getting my hands dirty and I would rather learn from a very challenging, atypical site than an easy one. It was great getting to know more dedicated cat-loving people, and I learned that there was very little emotional challenge for me in trapping the unknown-to-me cats (although that could partly be due to so much of my emotional bandwidth being consumed with fear of the violent man!)

I'm excited for the next opportunity to help out some more feral cats! And it feels good knowing I helped these precious cats today, it's not their fault they live near such crazy humans. Thanks to Nancy and Jenny for organizing this event! I look forward to helping more ferals in the future.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Friday Rose

Little Rose has grown up...

she's still little...

she's still got her squeaky sounds...

she still loves to play and play...

she's getting more interested in human contact...

 and she's definitely still got her cutes!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

kitties in the sun

After two days of heavy rain the sun decided to show it self again today. My morning started with breakfast and a glorious walk in the sunshine with a friend. On the walk back home, I realized I wasn't alone in my worshipping of the sun. It seemed all the neighborhood kitties were out soaking it up too!

Can you find all the kitties in the pictures?






And then later on today, my car passed a big milestone! 250,000 miles (402,336 km) on the odometer!! Yohooo!! Thankfully it still runs like a champ! The car is a 97 Volkswagen Jetta TDI and it being a diesel means I get great fuel economy, even with all those miles and years, I still enjoy a consistent 43 miles per gallon. I'm hoping to get another 250k on it!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

desire


can I come in now? Pleaaasssseeee!!



Buddy: go away! You're not wanted here.

Thankfully, Buddy doesn't speak for the entire hobby cattery. In these pictures it looks like Buddy is just hanging out with Oliver, but really he is spitting and caterwauling something fierce. He gets all worked up.

I have taken to letting Oliver camp out on the enclosed back porch. He loves it! I think he feels it's one step closer to being an inside kitty. He loves to hang out on the window shelves and gaze outside, which is funny, because he could go out there anytime he wanted (the screen door is propped open!) Later this week, I may move one of his heating pads over so he has a heated place to sleep.

All the cat behaviorists I hear always talk about making sure you provide your kitty an appropriate alternative to the undesirable behavior, like a scratching post so they don't trash the furniture. On a lark, I decided to try the same thing with Oliver. I thought, maybe if he had a litter box on the back porch he could pee in that instead of all over the back porch. We'll see if that works, I'm not betting that it will but figured it was worth a try!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Midleton

A few weekends ago, I was out for a walk in the neighborhood when I saw a lost cat poster on a power-pole. I always pay attention to these posters because I walk around a lot. I've never had the honor of finding someone's lost pet, but I hope that will change some day.


I was particularly drawn to this poster, probably because the lost cat, Midleton, looks a lot like my Nahum.


So, this morning I find a posting on the Purrfect Pals Facebook page, that a fluffy Maine Coon mix had been found stray in Everett and is now up for adoption. I immediately wondered if it was Midleton, so I ran out to find Midleton's poster. Sadly, it doesn't seem like a match. Bummer. Goliath looks lighter in color and is older. I decided to send an email to the address on the poster just in case. So far, I haven't heard back.


I have never lost a cat and I can't imagine the heart pain that would come with losing a kitty. Purrs and prayers that Midleton comes back home soon.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

safe Sunday

You want Rose, you gotta get through me first!

What could be safer than having a big fluffy Nahum between you and the world?!

Happy Sunday!

Friday, February 17, 2012

another award!!




Thanks to Sierra at Fur Everywhere for honoring us with another award! This one was extra special, because we received it on Valentines Day!!





I know that I don't get enough affirmation at work, so receiving awards from my faithful followers here in blog-land feels great! I've even decided to create an official Awards page as a special place to showcase all of them.

With the All Around Wonderful Blog Award come these rules:

1. You must be a follower of my blog.

2. You must link the award back to my blog.

3. You must pass the award on to three other blogs.

Narrowing down all the deserving blogs to just three is crazy-difficult. However, after careful deliberation and consultation with many wise kitties, we would like to give this All Around Wonderful Blog award to:
  • Love & Hisses - great kitty action photography!
  • The Furries of Whisppy - the Furries are taking a little break from blog-land right now as they grieve the recent loss of beloved Bronto.
  • Cattywumpus - I am a fairly new follower of Cattywumpus and I love the original drawings - they are so simple yet incredibly expressive.
Thanks again to Sierra at Fur Everywhere for the award!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

fluff

Nahum is so fluffy!



Just how fluffy is Nahum you ask?


around 4½ inches! (11.43cm!) That's some serious fluff!!



Three things from this morning that delighted me:

  1. I have been bringing more toys outside to play with Oliver. This morning, I caught him playing with his little mouse in the middle of the yard. He crouched a few feet away then pounced on it, kicked it in the air and started batting it around. It was so fun to see him play on his own.
  2. While Oliver was playing mouse, two of his Family were having some breakfast at the Dining hall. This is the first time I have seen any of the Family having breakfast since the big trapping trauma. Lately, they have only been coming for dinner just after darkness. Slowly and surely, they are starting to trust the yard again, yahoo! I still haven't seen all of them together, so I don't know if they are all coming back or not.
  3. For each of the last two mornings, I carried Oliver inside in my arms while the other cats were milling about in the kitchen. Nahum and Theo got to sniff noses with Oliver. Everyone was certainly curious about each other. Buddy had to act like a tough guy, but otherwise I was quite pleased how it went. I might keep trying this a little bit at a time to ease into the introductions.
Meanwhile, my quest to find an solution for Oliver's urine marking continues. I talked with someone at the vets office about anti-anxiety meds for Oliver and Buddy. They suggested we start with Feliway and Anxitane before going for Prozac. I would prefer a non-drug solution, so I'm up for trying the supplement Anxitane. (I've been using Feliway now for several months and haven't noticed any change.)

I'm already familiar with Anxitane, as I've been using it with Rose now for several months and have experienced positive results, she is less anxious around us scary humans now and even approaches us on occasion. I haven't heard much about Anxitane curbing urine marking behavior, but according to a research study on the manufacturer's website, it has been proven successful in reducing all sorts of anxiety symptoms including inappropriate urination. So, since we have some in stock, I went ahead and started Buddy and Oliver on it and hopefully it works! Paws crossed.

Anxitane is not cheap, but here's a tip on how to save some money with this supplement. Anxitane S is marketed for cats and small dogs (S for small) while Anxitane M-L is for medium to large dogs. The S-sized pills need to be split in halves and given morning and night. It's a lot cheaper to buy the M-L sized pill and split it into quarters - you get the same dose for about half the price.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

exploration

The plan went well, Oliver was twice allowed inside the house to explore the first floor while all the regular kitties were locked away upstairs. I followed him closely, ready to intervene at the first sign of a quivering tail.

Morning exploration, 10:45am:
He waltzed in like he owned the place and seemed perturbed that it had taken so long to get back in.

He frequently kept his tail high in the air, which kept me on edge, watching for possible spray.


Everything had to be explored and cataloged.

Oliver really has a thing for catnip. He LOVES it! The catnip banana is a favorite of the inside kitties, so I didn't want Oliver getting his scent on it, so I grabbed it away before he could get going with it.

That didn't stop him from enjoying the catnip-banana residue on the floor.


He's not looking very stressed even though this is the first time he has even been in the dining room.


The morning exploration lasted for about 20 minutes before he sprayed and thus got escorted out. I actually share part of the responsibility for him spraying. He sprayed the trashcan, which was filled with inside cats' pees and poops that had been scooped from the litter box but not taken out yet. Yea, that was pretty poor planning on my part, not disposing of that before letting Oliver in. Live and learn.

Evening exploration, 8:13pm:

Oliver was a lot more active in his evening exploration. He got up on all the furniture including several trips on the large cat tree. He rubbed his head on everything, making everything his.

sniff sniff, hmmm, popcorn...

this is awesome! furniture for kitties!!

I like being inside looking outside.

I like my new house, can I stay?

From all these pictures, it sure appears as though Oliver is pretty comfortable here. 

The evening exploration went for about 30 minutes before he sprayed. I interrupted him before he got really into it, but he did manage to get some out and on the furniture - ugh! I'm really not sure what to do about the spraying, that is a significant problem which means he can't be left unattended inside. 
 
Several of you suggested the calming pheromone collars. I might try one on Oliver and Buddy, but last time I tried to put a collar on Oliver, he didn't take to that well. I do have Feliway diffusers in several rooms and I spray the Feliway spray all over prior to exploration. Cattywumpus asked if Oliver has been neutered, and yes, he has been back in November. The vet said some cats keep marking out of habit if they started before castration, Oliver seems to be one of those cats.

I think I may still try an introduction tomorrow between Oliver and Theo, but I'm not really sure why. I have to get the spraying issue resolved before I can consider him coming inside to live. Part of me wonders if he is spraying because he smells the other cats who live here, and maybe if he was an only cat, he may not feel the need to spray.

Now that he's tasted a bit of the pampered inside-kitty life, I'm sure he will intensify his campaigning to be let back inside.

Once Oliver was safely back outside, I released the other kitties. They curiously explored all the interested smells, but otherwise didn't seem to care that a strange kitty had been in their space.

Friday, February 10, 2012

the plan

A new milestone was reached in my relationship with Oliver. I've been noticing that occasionally, he'll flop on his side, like he might want his tummy rubbed. But when I have tried he responded with gentle nips with his teeths - a tummy trap! So, I have worked hard to resist the temptation of his sweet tummy furs.

Then earlier tonight, when I arrived home, he was lying in wait for me on the back porch. I sat on the step and he instantly hopped up in my lap. After a few minutes of pets, he flopped on his side and asked to have his tummy rubbed, this time with no teeth involved!


This moment was so delightful. It appears his trust of me has gone to a new level. Of course my heart melted once again. I continue to be amazed at how the cats are always finding new ways to bring joy to my heart.


If you look close, you can see the cut just below his left eye. His eyes look funky because of the camera flash, thankfully, they both continue to look well. I keep looking over the wound and eye, looking for signs of infection. I'm not a vet, but from what I can tell, so far everything seems ok. 

I just looked up how to treat cuts and lacerations in the Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook, but because this is so close to his eye, I'll have to take him next door to the vet if I decide it needs treating.

Thanks everyone for the encouragements and great suggestions on bettering my chances of a happy integration. My plan for Saturday will be to lock up all the inside kitties in an upstairs bedroom and then to let Oliver explore the entire downstairs. I currently have Feliway difusers going all over the house and I'll hose down important things with the Feliway spray. I'll also be supervising him closely to make sure he doesn't decide to mark with urine, as he has a tendency to do.

Depending on how that exploration goes, on Sunday, I might try repeating the same while letting Theo or Nahum out to interact with Oliver. There are many things that I have been considering before formal introductions occur. 
  • Exchanging scents is often one of the early steps in kitty integration. This can be easily done by using a sock or towel and rubbing the face and other gland areas of each cat and then allowing the other cats to smell those scents on the cloth. I haven't done this as formally, but considering every time I come in from holding Oliver, all the indoor cats take a thorough aromatic inventory of my clothes seems to accomplish the same thing. Oliver gets to smell the indoor cats every time I visit with him.
  • The layout of the first floor of the house is all open space, so I don't really have rooms that I can work with to keep the space smaller. Ideally, I could do this in a bathroom or just the bathroom and kitchen. Of course the bathroom has a door, but it also houses both of the indoor cats' litter boxes, and I would rather Oliver not start by smelling those.
  • I'm most worried about the possibility of a serious cat fight occurring. Oliver has shown himself willing to fight off intruder kitties from his yard. I have never seen any of the inside kitties truly fight, only play-fight. Oliver has very sharp claws, the inside cats do not. I really don't want anyone getting hurt. So, I want to allow Oliver to have the ability to run out the back door in case he gets freaked out but I don't want Theo or Nahum to be able to follow him. And I want Theo or Nahum to be able to run upstairs to escape Oliver if they so desire but without Oliver being able to follow. I'm thinking Laura and I will be standing at the ready with water pistols and loud sound makers in hand. If anything starts to get ugly, I sure hope these devices work to separate them.
I'll see how these two steps go before going further with the plan. A little while back, someone suggested the book Cat vs. Cat: Keeping Peace When You Have More Than One Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett, I still need to get me a copy of this book. If it's anything like her other book, Think Like a Cat, then I know it will be very helpful. Maybe I'll browse the local used bookstore this weekend too and see what I can find. I'll keep you posted at how all this goes, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

new bed!

We just got our giant new kitty bed!! Hopefully the kitties, share it with us.

Theo, the first to test out the new bed

Believe it or not, it's our very first real bed! It only took 17 years! It's a really simple design. Soon, we will be getting a new mattress to go with the new bed, I can't wait.


The bed is from LL Bean (Rangeley Bed) and it was actually made in Maine, USA! Can you believe it?! It's made from Ash and it feels very solid. The craftsmanship is fantastic, I really like the simple look of it. Assembly even went smoothly. I was a little worried when I saw the beat-to-hell condition of the boxes, but somehow the pieces arrived without damage.

And check this out, the bed was manufactured for us just 5 days ago! We ordered it on January 28, it was created on February 3rd and we received it at the house (Maine to Washington State) on February 7th. It's amazing the finish had time to dry before they shipped it.

We also ordered a small bench for the mudroom from LL Bean. It was made in China and although it went together rather easily, one leg is a quarter inch shorter than the others - which is not going to work! 



On a separate note, when loving on Oliver this evening, I noticed he has a smaller laceration just under his left eye. That really bothers me, I don't know if he has been fighting or what happened, but I don't like seeing fresh wounds, especially so close to the eye. I think I will re-double my efforts this coming weekend of introducing him to the inside cats. I'll also check Oliver over to see if he has any other wounds and I'll keep an eye on laceration to make sure it doesn't get infected.

Also, someone asked about Oliver's Family. I have not seen all four black cats together since the day of trapping. I have seen one or maybe two of the family back in the late evening, but never together. So, I don't really know if they are all back or how they are doing. They have regressed back to being very skittish and fearful. 

I have noticed that lately in the mornings, all the food I put out at night is gone, so I am assuming that means they are all coming late and feasting, but it that is only one of many possibilities as to where the food is going. It would be fun to get a wildlife camera to see who is really getting the food. But with all this new furniture, that's not in the budget!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

choices

This past weekend was gloriously sunny and warm, a rare treat for February. I spent as much time futzing around outside as I possibly could. I'm aways at war with the pesky blackberry bushes, so I took the chance to pull up as many as I could find. Oliver, being my resident outside cat, was with me the whole time. Every so often, I took a break from my futzing to play with or love on him - he so loves to play or be held.

Getting good pictures of Oliver can be a challenge. I often like to get my kitty pictures down on kitty level, but when I kneel to get a shot of Oliver, he abandons his toy and comes running over for loves!



Enjoying some string play

 Posing with his string prize

Playing with the birdie

Preparing to pounce on the birdie

Posing with the birdie prize.

I really liked having an outside cat while working in the yard. He was always right there with me or nearby. For a while now, I have thought it would be nice to have kitty company when working in the yard, but I've never let any of the inside cats out for fear they would run after a squirrel or something and never come back. I don't have to worry about that with Oliver, he's not going anywhere.

With the warmer weather and more frequent sun, the inside cats have been really wanting to get out on their enclosed porches. But porch time has been severely restricted due to Oliver's presence. Buddy goes too ballistic when he sees Oliver. I'm in need of a solution, as Oliver continues to lobby harder to get inside. My heart and my mind have been wrestling with Oliver's future.

I've known that my heart quickly and firmly attaches to animals. When I was around 12 years old, I visited my brother and sister-in-law who worked at a State Park in New Hampshire. I remember spending a good chunk of that summer day hanging out with them when a big friendly bushy dog appeared. I had so much fun playing with that dog, that when it came to leave I was devastated to say goodbye. I so wanted to take that dog home with me. It felt like I was having to leave my best friend behind, when in reality, we had four wonderful Chihuahuas at home and I had only known this dog for a few hours.

My mind tells me that Oliver would be happy inside with a family where he could be the only cat and get loads and loads of attention. I know I could try to introduce Oliver to the inside cats, but I have a hard time imagining it working well without Prozac for at least Oliver and Buddy (and maybe me!) - and five cats already feels like too many, six cats is certainly too many.

My heart doesn't want to part ways with Oliver. The only time I have ever parted with a dog or cat was when it was going to be put to sleep. Voluntarily giving up an animal companion feels unbearable.

I know that if I want to get more involved in TNR and rescue type activities then I need to find a compromise between my heart and mind. My earliest childhood dream was to have a huge plot of land so my mom and I could rescue all the stray dogs [and cats]. As a little tyke, I knew nothing of the realities of limited resources (income, space, time, etc.). It's frustrating being finite!

I fear my path will lead me to step further into heart-pain as I work to say goodbye to my newest kitty friend. I think it will help if it's possible to arrange visitation - if I can see that he's being well loved and cared for then I imagine my heart may not be quite as freaked out.


Meanwhile, last night on the walk home from work, I did get the chance to rescue a loose dog. I was walking along a very busy road when out of no-where appears this sweet Golden Retriever. There was no one else around. She came right up to me and flopped over to have her tummy rubbed! Seeing that no one was around, I started calling the four different phone numbers on the tag attached to her collar. The third number connected with her owner who was very thankful to have gotten his dog back. And thankfully for me, I didn't get attached to this dog!