Friday, July 30, 2010

Cats Here, Cats There

This was a pretty catty week. My wonderful vet, Lisa Lemke of Green Oak Vet Clinic, made an offer I couldn't resist: if I would take a wonderful big siamese cat named Boots to my farm, she would spay whatever cats I chose. I wanted to take my basic family of cats, but was only able to get Fluffy (Chickboy's mother) into a carrier, so I set the live trap near Raccoon (Fluffy's sister) and hoped she would walk in when I wasn't looking. Unfortunately, Raccoon didn't fall for the trap, but two other young cats did. One of the trapped was an unnamed mother, probably a yearling, and the other was probably her kitten. The mother was old enough to spay, so she went with Fluffy.

Doc did a wonderful new form of spaying that meant she entered from the side instead of the belly of the cat. The opening was smaller and closes up easier because the entry is through three layers of muscle that automatically want to close up. The black mother earned a name, if I can identify her amongst all of the other black cats, she will be called Shadow. Both Shadow and Fluffy recovered quickly after they returned to the farm. The little kitten that made the trip to the vet's with Shadow was gone the minute I opened the trap.

Sadly, Boots the Siamese also disappeared as soon as my back was turned. I was hoping to introduce him gently to the farm, but when he didn't jump right out of the carrier, I made the mistake of turning my back and poof! he was gone. I looked for him on and off until about midnight last night but didn't see him.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chick Boy and Tiger Boy and Fine

Both of the young male tiger cats were waiting at the gate tonight, so I guess they are feeling fine. Chick Boy walked with me to the feeding station, but Tiger Boy was gone a moment after I opened the gate. I put a lot of food down hoping there would be enough left after the large group was finished so the scared cats could slip in later and still find something to eat. There's one young black cat whose hip bones are sticking out. He waits with the group at the gate, but won't go near the feeding station. I've tried to put food in different places, but someone else always seems to find it. I think I'm going to have to set another feeding station.

I have some fittings for building some out-buildings. I've been planning to build a chicken house, but I won an eBay auction with fittings for three buildings. I may build a double size chicken house and then use the third kit to build a cat shelter - it might be fun to have a building to protect them in the winter and fill it with climbing things and little cat caves, etc. I'm thinking I could paint the buildings with plans for hooked rugs.

I was in the back hay field tonight, stacking hay bales on a trailer. The hay field is the prettiest place on the farm - surrounded by trees and high enough to look down on everything visible in all directions. Jim, from across the street, was driving the tractor and baling the hay; Becky, his wife, was driving the truck that was pulling the old car hauling trailer; and I was stacking hay bales on the trailer - we worked back there until the baler broke just before it was getting dark. Except for equipment break downs, that's a nice, relaxing way to work - even though it's exhausting. It's sort-of a very physical form of meditation, hard enough that your mind focuses on the labor and not on any distracting thoughts. Maybe this would be a better world if everyone baled hay.

Feral Cats

Technically, the cats at my farm are feral cats. They aren't exactly barn cats because most of them don't live in a barn - some of them may live in the hay loft, especially when they want to hide their kittens, but mostly they live elsewhere. Some live under my front porch, some live under my swimming pool room, and both of those groups can access the crawl space under one wing of my house - which is good in the winter time because there's a heat duct in the crawl space. Recently, I've realized that some of them are living rough out in the bushes and brush piles, as though the colony has split into lots of separate little family groups.

Two of my favorite kittens are now half-grown males. It's the time in their life when they might be driven away by the dominant male - and the dominant male has suddenly become a big black tyrant - a tough male with facial scars who appeared out of nowhere. Last year, the tomcat was a very sweet orange tiger, one who almost let me pet him and spent most of his time watching the farmyard from the roof of the boarder's lounge building. He seems to have disappeared and been replaced.

I want the little half-grown males to stick-around, so I captured them last night in a live trap and took them to the vet this morning. Their surgery was uneventful and all is well, I left them sleeping off their drugs in the open cat carrier, in a shady spot near the feeding station. I hope their testosterone will disappear asap so the black tom doesn't hurt them - or, at least, doesn't hurt them anymore. One of them, Tiger Boy, has already been pretty well beaten up. He had been gone for a couple days and then was hiding at the end of the driveway when I decided it was time for the trip to the vet. I have my fingers crossed for both of them, especially Chick Boy who is the little gray tiger in photographs earlier in this blog who grew up with the chickens. He greets me at the driveway gate every time I arrive at the farm - which is where I'm going to go now (Gotta spend some time with Gibby!)