2:00 a.m. wake up call

A sound brought me out of my sleep just now. At first, it sounded like a cat fight, but this sound was different. There were high pitched squeals much like a baby pig sounds and harsh gutteral growls. I flew out of bed and grabbed the flashlight, the dogs were up and barking wanting out of their sleeping cages so they could help me investigate. I ignored them.

I followed the screams and growls with my flashlight- the pine tree over the house (the 60 + foot one) in the topmost branches looked like it was having an epileptic seizure. My light caught a pair of glowing red lights, belonging to a very large coon. He was attacking something in the smaller branches over and over. Whatever that something was it was squealing in fright like a pig and he wouldn’t let up.

I shouted but couldn’t do anything. Whatever was being attacked continued to be attacked. I was grateful it wasn’t one of the barn cats up there, as I have heard that raccoons can kill a cat. I didn’t believe they could, not really, at least not until tonight. Then I heard a series of growls t hat raised the hair on the back of my neck. I heard a long thin squeal, then saw the branches moving below the main fight, and after a bit, I heard a thud.

I raced around to the back and stood by the fence seperating the tree from me, at the base lay a possum. She did not look good. :( There was nothing I could do. To go closer meant confronting that angry coon- not me. I saw the possum drag herself under the front fence (I was at the little fence that keeps the dogs out of the area) and last I saw of her, her tail was dissappearing.

I have never seen or heard anything like this before, and we will have been here now for over ten years. I am scared for my cats that are outside, but there is nothing I can do. I don’t know if the coon is rabid, or what that was about, but I am still shaking.

An unsettling day

I did something a few minutes ago that I haven’t done in over thirty years. I made myself a stiff drink. A cat entered my life this morning. She is a pretty thing about 3 years old. She is a tortise-shell and there was a mass hanging off her stomach by her back leg. She was friendly, not feral, so I was able to pick her up, wrap her in a towel and take her upstairs. When I rolled her gently over on her back, I was horrified to see gaping wounds in her belly and maggots in the holes. I called my vet who told me just to start flushing the wounds out with hydrogen peroxide, that won’t kill the visitors, but it will drive them out. So there I went, pouring cups of peroxide down these craters, while this sweet kitty just lay there trusting me. Then- holy toledo- they came out like bats out of a cave! There were hundreds of them. My stomach lurched, and I called back Ben and fled to the vet.

It took us both one hour to clean her out. She was for the most part pretty good about all the abuse going on. The holes were deep and every time Ben thought he got all of the hitchhikers, more would pour out. She only bit me once. It was also discovered that she had been declawed (front only thank God, not all four paws) and she had been part of a feral colony once because of her tipped ear.

She is at the vet’s until Thursday. Bless his heart, he is charging me nothing for the Sunday visit , the boarding, the meds, the isolation ward. She smells like death which is why she is in the isolation ward. And had it not been for the maggots, she would have died, but they ate all the dead infected tissue and all the bacteria. Her diagnosis- acute septic mastitis.

Every time I close my eyes, Isee the wounds with the maggots pouring out. That is why I took a drink.

It seems to always be something

When you work with as many cats as I do, safety is paramount. The cat enclosure where my cats spend the majority of their time, is protected by several outdoor bolts on the door, as well as inside there are bolts. Overhead, the ramps run around the entire interior of the enclosure, so I always check overhead before entering.

What we didn’t factor in when we built this “secure” system was how to puppy proof the door locks! Kody jumped on the door when I was inside earlier, the lock kicked open and one of my cats escaped. I was able to get to the door before any other cats took off. She just happened to be on the ramp overhead when it swung open.

She is an older cat 2 years old now, she was brought here at 7 months old with four others. Of the four, only her and her son remain. They have always been close, but she is a difficult cat to catch indoors to say the least, so outside, she is going to be quite the challenge.

Chappy (her son) is beside himself. He can see her outside the wire, he can smell her and he has made it known that this is unacceptable! Yeah, Chappy no guff about being unacceptable! His mom is also a long-hair, another worry, because she mats in a second, and trying to keep her quiet long enough so that I can work the mats, requires the strength of ten oxens, the patience of Saint Francis of Assisi and a trip to the ER afterward to treat cat bites and scratches. In other words, she distrusts humans to the nth degree.

Putting out my traps means that I either have to round up all the ferals that do allow me close to them and put them inside the barn so I don’t re-trap them, or let her stay outside for a few days then work on getting close to her so I can put her back in the house.

Watching her from the window race up and down the walnut tree, catch bugs and enjoy her freedom, tells me she is much happier out there than she was captured inside. My only worry is her long coat that mats, flea treating her and keeping her wormed because she already has caught one mouse for dinner and of course her safety.

It’s going to be interesting how I will proceed here. One thing is clear- Chappy is very vocally letting me know he wants his mom back NOW! The photo shows her with her kittens when they first arrived, chappy, and India. India passed away last year, I miss her so much. She got some wierd disease that went undiagnosed that caused her stool to turn pure white. Pancreatitis was ruled out, and then before she could get better, she got worse and died.

Heat returns

Today the heat was brutal. It was just raining a few days ago, we had that fire up in hills which turned out to be an lightning strike. Now, it is so hot, I can hardly breathe. The cats once again are turning to the cool spots in the house. The extra plastic swimming pool I bought because they were on sale (it doubles as a large sandbox for the kitties) was occupied today by most of the kitties. They seem to prefer the cool plastic over the tiled floor inside. Even right now at 8:30 p.m. it is 81 degrees!

I finished my article for India’s Cats and Kittens Magazine today. It was interesting doing the research about pet care in India. Cats are pretty much considered bad omens to own, and dogs are taboo. That is the old way of thinking. There are some there who wish to change this point of view and encourage everyone to bring a cat or dog into their home (or abode) as they say. The article was a challenge. I do hope it will satisfy the needs of the editor an the people.

Where Do the Socks Go?

Where do the socks go when I do the wash?

I open the lid and they’re gone?

They don’t seem to be anywhere in the house

And they’re not laying around on the lawn.

I remember quite clearly of stuffing the pairs,

In the laundry basket out in the hall

But when the cycle is over and the water has drained

I simply can’t find them at all!

It’s really a puzzle and one I can’t solve

Thinking about it makes my brain waves go flat

But that is when I suddenly recall

that in the laundry basket also were cats!

So I go on a second search of my house,

This time on my hands and my knees

And there underneath our master bed

Is a pile of socks I can seize!

-MA Miller-

Dog Park Etiquette

There is a small dog park near our home. It was built by the sheriff’s department and it is where they go to train their dogs. When they aren’t using it, the park is open to the public.

There are walls to jump of various sizes, barricades to hide behind, poles to weave through and only a few trees. It really needs more shade. We try and take the dogs there at least once a day. Before we actually leash the dogs and bring them into the park, I go and talk to anyone who is already using the area to find out if their dog(s) is/are friendly, would they mind two other dogs coming in, and also to meet their dogs myself, just to see how “friendly” they are. I believe that is only fair.

Today we started out with four dogs playing together. Suddenly a woman appeared with six dogs of various size- from dachsund to rottie. Without even introducing her dogs through the small introduction area to the dogs there, she opened the gate and let all six dogs in. They raced directly toward Lei and Kodiak. Thankfully, they were friendly (well sort of) One wolf-hybred wasn’t that friendly nor would she behave. Two males were intact. We left almost immediately because Kodiak hasn’t been fixed yet. Her appointment is next week.

I wish there were posted rules of etiquette for the park. I know that dogs are pack animals, but this sudden flooding of dogs was pretty disconcerting. Lei spent the majority of the time with her tail tucked under her legs so the dogs would leave her be.

Fire in the hills

This morning we awoke to the sounds of sirens screaming past the house. I jumped out of bed and peered out the window. I could see a thick plume of smoke coming off the back hills near the house. Because of the narrow section of smoke, it had to be a structure fire, not a wild fire (thank God). Even with all this rain, we are still so dry in this part of Oregon. It would be a nightmare to have to evacuate our home what with all the animals. It was a wake-up call, I need to have an evacuation plan that we can use in case of a natural disaster.

Unique opportunity

I have been contacted by a pet magazine in India to write an article about basic cat care. I am excited for this chance to be able to help the readership, who I am told is not clear on what the responsibilities of being a kitty parent is all about. It should be interesting how the article will be received.

Tummy Games

When you are faced with caring for a long-hair cat, the mat game can be a challenge to overcome. The problem with cats of questionable ancestry is when it is shedding season, their undercoat hairs will start to pull out but without help, many of these hairs stay put. This causes the newer hair coming in to wrap around the undercoat and create mats.

Very few stray cats are willing to sit in a kitty spa for what we would consider to be “pampering” a clip, a bath, a manicure, a good grooming. They look at this process as a form of torture. A personal experience a few years ago, which led to the loss of a beautiful feral’s life taught me that playing tummy games on long-haired kittens and even older adults can mean the matter of life and death. My socialized boy fought the bath at the groomers. He inhaled so much water (they used a dog shampoo on him, not a cat-only brand) He got the toxic substance (tree-tea oil) into his system and died in my lap three days later. I am not trying to bring the tone of this blog into the grim kingdom, but this is a reality when you expect (as I mistakenly did) that just because the cat(s) are fine with you, they will be accepting of others. So, I started the tummy wars:

Lay the kitten (or cat) on it’s back. In the stray kingdom, this move is an open invitation to war so you must move cautiously. Prior to battle, stray cats will roll over on their back or side. Although in the dog world, this is considered a sign of submission. The cat kingdom has other ideas. On his back, the cat has his full arsenal prepared (claws and teeth). He is armed and ready.

When you begin tummy wars, have a long-handled soft brush (human brush is fine) a zoom groom, a pair of bandage, or blunt scissors and some tasty treats. When kitty rolls on his back, touch him gently with the long-handled brush. If he rolls back over, that’s fine. This is after-all a game. Roll him over gently again, don’t get rough or you will go to war.

When he finally tolerates the touch of the brush give him a treat. Let him be. If he walks away, let him go. If not, proceed again. Keep doing this several times daily. When he accepts a light brushing, bring out the Zoom Groom and use that on him. Stray cats love the Zoom Groom. This rubbery brush gives a good massage and a “feel good” feeling.

If at any time, he draws his front or rear legs up (to rabbit kick you) stop playing the game. Give him a treat and leave him alone. Proceed by watching his signs, quit when he gives you the first signal that this is inappropriate touching for him. From time to time, bring out the scissors and just lay them near his tummy. Open the blades around him. He needs to get used the sight and sound of the blades. As he grows, he will enjoy this interaction with you.

On a better note, you will also be able to find mats easily, remove them carefully either with the blunt-edged scissors, or a seam ripper. If you sense that his fur is out-of-control (Persian crosses fur mats every time you look at them) you can also start running a pair of clippers near him. Get him used to the sound in case you do have to make a trip to the groomers. Keep the game fun, reward with treats or a good game of interactive play at the end. It sure beats having to scruff a cat, try and keep him from moving, biting, escaping or scratching.

Some of my cats when they see the carry case I put together with grooming tools inside, they automatically roll over on their tummy waiting for this time of bonding. I have also found that running the clippers while they are eating their meals soon desensitizes them from the sound of the buzzing.