Cat Herding

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

One Year Later...

One year ago today, I started caring for my brother's cats.

My brother, Dick, was hospitalized after I took him to the ER for pain. After tests were run, he was diagnosed with terminal multiple myeloma and died from respiratory complications after a few weeks.

A year ago, I walked into his home and experienced the thunder of frightened cats scattering in many directions. Those that knew me well soon came back up to me and inquired as to the day's menu, while others hid under a bed, an armoire, a sofa, a table, or hid inside cabinets and closets.

When I put the food out, most came to eat or at least investigate, but some waited until I left the area before they darted to the bowls. I had no idea how many cats there were, I didn't know all their names, and I wasn't sure about which ones still needed to be spayed/neutered. I also didn't realize that I was going to be caring for many of them for a long time, and for all of them for months.

Today, all the cats that hadn't been altered are spayed/neutered. Today, some are living in new homes - as family or as guests waiting for adoption with a family. A dozen are living with me and my original cats and dog.

When I touch or simply look at each one by itself, I see a beautiful, fascinating creature. When I look at all of them together, I see a herd of willful critters that have changed the living conditions of my own cats, my dog, and especially me.

Some changes are for the good -- my shelter dog, Honey, has learned to deal quietly and politely with cats instead of gleefully chasing them under the bed and following to see if she could catch them. Now she waits for permission to walk past either of the small grays (Grayling and Midget) who tend to glare and growl at her as often as not. My original cats are learning to live amongst them, although there are still spits and spats as they try to remind "Dick's cats" that this is THEIR home.

I get frustrated, and tired of cleaning/spending money/worrying about adoption/worrying about cat-cat fights and cat/dog fights, etc. But when I have some quiet time and one of "Dick's cats" jumps on my lap, I enjoy the softness of the fur and the tone of the purring, and the pressure of the head butt against my hand or chin. Unless it's Tig who jumps up when someone else is on my lap and bites their neck, or Bunny wants to rub my chin when I'm trying to eat, or Jin squalls for the 10th time for "more food"...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

David and Goliath - the pics

This mouse diced with death when it tucked into the lunch of a hungry leopard.

Seemingly unaware of the beast towering over it, the mischievous rodent grabbed at scraps of meat thrown into the African Leopard's enclosure.

But instead of pouncing on the tiny intruder the 12-year-old leopard, called Sheena, appeared to be afraid of the daring mouse and kept her distance.

At one stage she tried to nudge the mouse away with her nose, but the determined little chap carried on chewing away until he was full

The extraordinary scene was captured by photography student Casey Gutteridge at the Santago Rare Leopard Project in Herfordshire.

The 19-year-old, from Potters Bar, Herfordshire, who was photographing the leopard for a course project, was astounded by the mouse's behaviour.

He said: 'I have no idea where the mouse came from - he just appeared in the enclosure after the keeper had dropped in the meat for the leopard.

'He didn't take any notice of the leopard, just went straight over to the meat and started feeding himself.

'But the leopard was pretty surprised - she bent down and sniffed the mouse and flinched a bit like she was scared.

'In the meantime the mouse just carried on eating like nothing had happened.

...but even a gentle shove does not deter the little creature from getting his fill...

'It was amazing, even the keeper who had thrown the meat into the enclosure was shocked - he said he'd never seen anything like it before.'

Project owner Jackie James added: 'It was so funny to see - Sheena batted the mouse a couple of times to try to get it away from her food.

'But the determined little thing took no notice and just carried on...'

Sheena was brought in to the Santago Rare Leopard Project from a UK zoo when she was just four months old.

She is one of 14 big cats in the private collection started by Jackie's late husband Peter in 1989.

The African Leopard can be found in the continent's forests, grasslands, savannas, and rainforests. the mouse continued to eat the leopard's lunch and show the leopard who was boss.

From an email and a story found here

Monday, August 3, 2009

Taming a Feral / semi-Feral Cat - thoughts

In another 8 days, it will have been one year since my late brother went into the hospital -- not knowing why he was in such pain, and probably not knowing that he would soon die.

In another 9 days, it will have been one year since I took over the care of his many rescued cats -- some cats who were used to my visits and others who were afraid of any visitor. When Casa de los Gatos offered to help, they said that they could take even the semi-feral, but I figured that most of them should be those that were the most adoptable -- young, healthy, and friendly to those they knew at least, so that meant that I would be left with the old and the scaredy cats.

The old ones are not only friendly, they are demanding of attention -- like any true cat. The young ones who were born around the time of my brother's onset of symptoms, or afterwards, always scrambled to see who could hide first when I came in the door. I really never saw them until I was forced to become their caretaker. I didn't know their names, their gender, or even what they looked like -- there were a "bunch" of solid gray cats, and I had trouble counting them to know how many, let alone which one was which.

I have two of those now - Midget (female)and Grayling (male), and they still avoid me most of the time.But Grayling likes the Furminator, and today he saw me "furminating" one of the old cats, Buddy, and he came over close to me to decide whether it was safe to get a bit of furminating of his own. I firmly believe that cats started associating with humans not just for food (they could get their own food, but ours did look tasty) but for scratching their itchy places.

Many of my cats approach each other and give head bumps and rub their faces against the other's body, but cats don't use their paws and claws to help another cat scratch an itch -- they save it for themselves. When they have that "summer itch" with their fur starting to shed, only a human's fingers (or comb or Furminator) can reach down into the deep recesses of that thick coat, managing to both reach the itch and pull out some of the offending loose fur. My brother's old cats, when they were young, would actually line up next to his patio bench waiting to be the next one to be combed. Now they don't wait in line - they push each other away to be the first and only customer, but they all hang around for their chance.

This behavior has brought the semi-ferals, both the indoor and the two born outdoors, to watch and apparently learn about the pleasures of combing and scratching. Today I furminated several of Dick's old cats and a couple of my cats while Cali, Lil Bit, and both grays watched from a distance. Cali has let me scratch her fur before, but I never know whether she will let me approach or run away. Today SHE did the approach, and before she was through, I had pulled out quite a bit of undercoat and she was pushing her cheeks against my hand to be scratched as well as letting me comb her back and sides. Lil Bit came up and let me comb his back and tail. Even Grayling came up for short session - arching his back while I pulled the furminator through his thick coat. Dilly, one of the "outdoor" ferals, has been rubbing up against me for the last week or so, and really enjoyed having the tines of the furminator to lean into once she felt them go deep into her fur. She was purring and leaning and thoroughly looking like a tame house kitty. Her sister, Taffy, (pictured above) was sleeping, and I decided not to wake her for a session.

Summer is a good time to show a cat why being friendly to people can be satisfying -- getting rid of all that shedding fur is almost as much of a treat as a salmon dinner.