Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Getting Creative With Crates

Guest post by Rosalie Schultz

There has been a lot of criticism recently of people who allow cats to roam outdoors. Books such as Peter Marra's Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer do make a point. Roaming cats are clearly responsible for the deaths of many birds and members of other valuable wildlife species.

This new emphasis on the harm done by outdoor cats flies in the face of a lot of trap/neuter/release programs that have been started around the U.S. as a way of putting feral cats to work controlling rodent populations. I myself was the guardian of a feral colony in Chicago. When my neighbor complained about the presence of roaming cats in her yard, I oriented several of the cats to greater domesticity. But it's very hard to re-condition alley cats to be satisfied staying indoors all the time. My cats still use a pet door to spend some time in my yard almost every day. Attempts at blocking off that pet door led to ferocious clawing, squalls, bad temper, and persistent, destructive efforts at escape.

However, I have felt a little less guilty about allowing my cats to continue some roaming behavior after I read an excerpt from Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. In an early chapter of that 1859 ground-breaking work, Darwin says:

The murder of humble-bees in any district depends in a great degree on the number of field-mice, which destroy their combs and nests... Now the number of mice is largely dependent, as every one knows, on the number of cats; and Mr. Newman says, “Near villages and small towns I have found the nests of humble-bees more numerous than elsewhere, which I attribute to the number of cats that destroy the mice.” Hence it is quite credible that the presence of a feline animal in large numbers in a district might determine, through the intervention first of mice and then of bees, the frequency of certain flowers in that district! (Darwin and others of that era referred to bumblebees as “humble-bees.”)

Researching this matter a little further, I found a lot of people in the Victorian era had made a similar association between the presence of sufficient numbers of roaming cats and the flourishing of their gardens. In the rather sexist terms of that era, people would lament the scarcity of “old maids.” That's because old maids were famous for keeping cats. No old maids, no cats. No roaming cats and the rodent population exploded. An exploding rodent population meant the destruction of bees' nests and therefore a failure of flowers and crops to be sufficiently cross-pollinated.

I don't seriously think that an insufficiency of feral cats is behind the collapse of bee populations around the world. However, in helping to control rodent populations, feral cats might at least play a small role in helping bees survive to do their vital work.

Incidentally, my cats DO control the rodent population. They kill not only mice, but large rats. People have doubted that cats will tackle hefty rats, but I can attest that my cats are lethal to even the biggest neighborhood rats.

However, after having had my conscience salved a little by reading Darwin's affirmation of the need for roaming cats, I was still left with the fact that my cats were killing as many as 3-4 birds a week that they caught around my bird-feeders. But I might have finally come up with an effective way of greatly reducing the risk to birds.

Nothing I commonly saw recommended worked. No bell collars, colorful clown collars, or typical fences, prevented my cats from catching birds unaware. But – Eureka! I have found an answer that seems to have cut down bird fatalities at my bird-feeders by about 90%. The answer is milk crates!

I collected a number of milk crates, the kind that have the open lattice-work bases. I kept in place the low wire fence I had put around the area under my bird-feeders. But inside that “compound,” I upended a dozen or more milk crates. The wire fence by itself did almost nothing to slow down my cats' attacks. But the cats absolutely cannot negotiate on top of or around the massed milk crates. However, the birds can easily perch on top of the plastic cross-pieces on these crate bottoms. And they can easily forage between the crates for dropped birdseed. These crates can be moved in seconds so that I can gain access to the bird-feeders to regularly re-fill and clean them.

Below is a picture of the crates I've positioned under my feeder. Given a little more time, I can collect or buy a more attractive array of crates, possibly even creating a tiered, multi-colored effect with them. Without getting too kitschy, I might also use the crates' plastic lattice-work as supports for real or artificial flowers. By decorating the crates with flowers, I would be making it even more difficult for the cats to negotiate their surfaces, and I'd be making a colorful display that would attract more birds and make the arrangement more visually appealing to neighbors. A person could exercise no end of creativity grouping milk crates into attractive landscape structures.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Shop For Cat T-shirts!

With the holiday shopping season upon us, you may want to send some cool cat shirts to people on your list! Or, you can get one or more for yourself to show the world of your love for cats. 

Then, if you need some ideas for gift-giving throughout the year, be sure to visit the T-shirt page anytime:


Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Busy year!

This has been a busy year here... busier than usual. I have to attribute that to the fact that I have an aging population of cats I've rescued and that did not get adopted. I would have to say, there is a "sweet spot" for adopting cats and once it's gone, those cats seldom find new homes. In general, if a cat is considered "too old" by potential adopters, the cat will be passed over.

Too old isn't the only reason, either. The black cats tend to be passed over as well. At one point, I had more than 10 black cats and an equal number of "tuxedo" cats. I still have some of them.

Many shelters simply remove "unadoptables" from their care to make room for the new ones that always come in. Yes, I'm referring to euthanasia, a sad but often inevitable fate in most animal facilities. I don't do that. Granted, it has left me to care for older pets with nowhere to go, and no room for newcomers. But they deserve nothing less than to enjoy and finish the life they were meant to have.

This summer I lost a number of older cats as they reached their lifespan limits, and it was sad to see them go. I will never forget them, as we became pretty close. Contrary to what a lot of people think, cats can become very bonded with and devoted to their humans and it has little to do with food. I have feline friends who are more loyal and loving than some people I know. If you have a cat like that, you know what I mean. Feel free to send me your story if you'd like. I can put it in here, or we can just share our experiences. My sweet girl, Holly, was the most recent loss, just a few weeks ago. She was 27.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Cat Whiskers Are Too Important to Mess With!

Have you ever heard of "Whisker Stress?" Cats have amazing ways to see and feel things in their environment, and whiskers are part of the many sensitivities they use to gather information. When whiskers are lost, for any reason, or are interfered with, it can result in a form of stress, called Whisker Stress.

Have you ever known anyone who wanted to cut off a cat's whiskers to see what effect it would have on them? Some people do that, and it's more cruel than they can imagine. There is no need to do it! If you are actually curious, and not being mean on purpose, here is a better way to learn what a cat's whiskers mean to them.

One thing I did as a kid that instantly gave me a better understanding and appreciation of their "feelers" was to "try them on." Anyone who has cats knows they shed hair, and whiskers are shed, too, as they are a specialized type of hair. When you find one somewhere, save it, and the next one, though this works with only one if you're anxious to start.

Rinse it or them off in water or alcohol if you're concerned about germs or something, then put one lightly into each corner of your mouth, root end first. Now close your eyes and just feel your surroundings. You can feel subtle air currents, anything that comes close to you, and definitely if anything touches one. In fact, just touch one yourself. Try different weights of touch, from just barely to pretty strongly. Imagine if they are attached. You would not enjoy having them pulled on or out.

Look at the whisker, Note that it is tapered. The thicker end is attached by its follicle to the extraordinarily sensitive lip area, and it narrows to almost nothing at the outer end. Feel it. It's fairly thick at the base and very thin at the end. Try bending it. Brush one against your skin, your lips, your face.

Once you see and feel all the things that whiskers do, just imagine how much your cat depends on them.My blind cat kept hers pointed forward anytime she was on the move, as they served her much like a blind person's white cane.

Why would anyone want to take this special, often crucial, sense away from an animal?

For more information, read about Whisker Stress at PerPETuallyspeaking.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Interview With a Senior Cat

Well, it's been another year and Holly is still with us! She's 26 now and we're very happy she's doing so well. Here is an interview I did with her the other day:
 Me - Welcome, Holly! It's nice of you to let me interview you today!

Holly - Well, I'm not doing anything else, so why not? The sun is out and it's finally warm enough to sit on the deck railing again. Boy, what a winter! I hope it's over.

Me - I do, too! It looks like this is your favorite spot. I have a lot of pictures of you sitting here through the years.

Holly - Yes, it is. The deck is best in the morning when the sun is shining here, then I like to rest in the sunny spots in the laundry room for the afternoon.

Me - You just sit on the railing? You don't go anywhere?

Holly - No. At my age, I don't care to chase and play with the youngsters anymore. I have to hiss and swat at them to leave me alone when they try to entice me into one of their silly games.

Me - They probably have never seen any cats your age! So tell me, what's been going on since last year when I featured you on my blog for your 25th birthday?

Holly - Oh my, I'm on the internet? Did anybody say anything about that?

Me - Yes, a lot of people left birthday greetings, but we had some trouble with the internet and all the comments disappeared. I'll show you the ones that came in after that.


Everybody admires you for being a great cat and living to such a ripe old age!

Holly - They do? Did you know that 26 cat years is like 120 human years?

Me - I did! I have a chart on that...somewhere....If I can find it, I'll put it in the Kitty Times newsletter again. Can you tell us the secret of your longevity, how you have managed to live so long?

Holly - I think one reason could be that I've never been left to fend for myself as an outside cat or ignored inside the house. I've always been loved. I think love is the most important factor in achieving a long life.

Me - I think that's true, and you're definitely one of the lucky ones. I'll never forget the day we brought you home.

Holly - Me neither! I was 15 then and it was a cold winter, like this year. I don't remember the date, though.

Me - It was in March, 2004. You've been here for 11 years.

Holly - Thank you for not sending me to live with anyone else, by the way. I knew you did that because you feared no one would want to adopt a senior cat. I missed my family for a while, but it's been good here, too. Say, did you ever find my actual date of birth?

Me - No, and that's why I chose March as your unofficial birthday.

Holly - That's OK, but I suppose that's why I'll never win the "oldest cat" trophy. We can't prove anything without papers.

Me - That's right, but we both know how old you are and I celebrate you every day for being here. Say, you look like you've filled out a little since last year, too.

Holly - Yes! I gained almost 2 pounds this year. Thanks for serving my favorite food....meat! We kitties are carnivores, you know.

Me - I know, and I respect that and want you to be happy and healthy.

Holly - I'm sorry I don't groom myself these days. I just don't like licking my fur anymore.

Me - That's OK. I enjoy brushing you. Sorry about having to shave the mats off, though.

Holly - I'm sorry, too. I just can't always keep my tongue in my mouth and the drool dries on my fur now and then.

Me - I understand. Well, it's been a long day and it's time to eat again. What would you like for supper?

Holly - You have to ask? OK, I'm ready! I know it's going to be the good stuff again!

Me - You got it, girl. Thanks for chatting with us and Happy Birthday again!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Our New Kitten

This little sweetie came to us last month from a shelter a couple of hours away. She and her siblings were in need of special care as they all had ringworm. All 3 found homes, and we feel lucky to have her here. We have dealt with this condition before and she cleared up nicely.

We named her Dash, since that seems to be her favorite activity. From one end of the room to the other, she loves to exercise her growing body and hardly sits still.

Luckily, once she was clear, she and Sheba became instant friends, something they both needed.

Sheba, though just a kitten herself at 8 months, has adopted Dash and mothers her endlessly. Dash loves it, too, since she left her mother and siblings and might have become lonely.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Kitty has a name!

UPDATE: Our new kitty now has a name! She will be called Sheba. As a family member pointed out, she certainly thinks she's the queen of something, and Sheba came to mind first.

Check out my article on naming pets and you'll see why we felt it was important to select a name suggested by a member of the family. When everyone at home has a stake in the pet's presence, it helps to ensure they are all on board with proper care and consideration. Seriously, this cat is going to need extra patience and effort to help her become a part of this household.

Sheba is still very nervous about the other cats and has to be isolated when I can't be with her to supervise. She wears a harness during the day with a leash so I can hold her back when she tries to attack another cat. For now, she sits calmly by my chair at the computer and has accepted the leash. The other cats walk a wide berth around her, she growls, I give a little tug on the leash, and she settles down. She'll get used to everyone soon, but patience rules!

 She may be adopted but will need to be the only pet if people are not willing to work on helping her to relax and be calm. She does just fine when there are no other cats in the room. Her attitude may change after she's been spayed, too. For now, though, Sheba is a "work in progress" and we love her.

Sept. 3 - What a difference a day makes! Or two. Sheba no longer needs her harness or the leash. She's quite at home and has accepted the 3 cats living in "her" room....the family room, where the computer is. She sits on my desk and helps write emails and stories. And when that gets boring, she zooms from one end of the room to the other....and back......and does swirls and tumbles along the way. She seems to be letting it all hang out now that she can relax and trust.

Next step, but not too soon, will be to meet the 12 cats that live upstairs! I think she can handle it. Do you? Leave a comment...thanks!