Monday, January 22, 2018

Step by step. One room done, one more to go.

I thought I'd be further along with four days off, but progress is steady. Here was the middle room after emptying most of the furniture:

Here it is now, totally emptied, caulked (although there's still more to do) and painted:

Here is the next room on the to-do list, with the furniture removed:

The caulking is very important, although quite boring. The sheetrocking on these two rooms seems to have been done in a rush. There are small gaps in the corners, and around the dormer windows. A bored cat can easily note these tiny gaps and start pick, pick picking away.

I thought I'd have to run into Ithaca for white paint, but I found a new gallon of "moonlight white" in my paint stash. I'm not sure what I purchased it for--maybe the kitchen before I decided to go with bright white? I worried that the slight yellow tint in the white paint would clash with the pale violet, but actually it comes across as warm and calming. Bright white would have been more striking, but I think this was for the best...and it didn't cost me an extra $35.

I told my cat caretakers the cats would all be in the house by February so I'm committed to it now!

I'm back to work tomorrow so progress will be reduced to just a few hours in the evening. Hopefully since all the lifting and moving is done, it will still move along.

Pepper and Timea have been helping in their own way. So far we have avoided purple paws, although Pepper almost painted his toes.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

More things from "the old days"

As I was cleaning, I came across these old address labels for Wildrun, my old wildlife control business. This address still exists by the way. Feel free to send me mail.

As I looked at the pretty cat labels, I recalled that I used to pore through a hard-copy catalog to choose them, and I loved their designs. This drew me to my netbook out of curiosity.

Look, the company still exists online and has the same sort of large labels!

I'll have to order some new ones when my current old labels (Vistaprint) run out!

Progress on the upstairs: Day One

There was more junk in the upstairs drawers and closets than I expected, but I did manage to get through it and start pulling up the carpet tile. Again, I'll be saving the best of these (it has only been walked on by Pepper and Timea and perhaps five guests since I put it down) to re-use inside cat furniture cups. For some reason they always line those with white carpet (???) that looks shabby within about a month.

Pepper and Timea are assisting me with this project and are making the process quite a bit more enjoyable than it would be alone. Unfortunately they will have to be shut out of the room once the painting begins. As you can see from the sunshine, even with just the two dormer windows, this room is much brighter than the barn space, with it's many windows.

Cleaning has been quite the blast from the past. Long-time blog readers may recall when I was a very small local personality in my own right, rather than a cog in the larger animal welfare wheel. Wow, has it been a long time!

The NYS Wildife Rehabilitation Council conference was my very first presentation (it was not at all stellar---I was terrified, had way too many notes, and had no podium light. It was definitely a learning experience!). That was back in 1993. The Vertebrate Pest Conference was the most influential conference I was ever asked to speak at in my wildlife control career. Because I managed the cats at Ithaca College at that time, and was employed there as well (in a non-cat position), Ithaca College insisted on me including their name, which provided me with more clout than I deserved. I had to repeatedly explain I was NOT a biologist---just an animal research facility technician and nuisance wildlife control operator. I did get kudos for having actual data on cat colony management--respect I probably wouldn't have gotten had I just been a cat rescuer. The contract I had at Ithaca College took me a long way in the animal welfare field. Being one of the only women in nuisance wildlife control at that time also helped. I got speaking engagements solely based on my gender, I'm sure. Conference organizers allowed me to talk about controversial subjects because they stereotypically assumed (probably rightly) that a woman would not be challenged as strongly as a man simply because it was such an oddity to hear a woman discussing the issues I was asked to discuss.

Sadly, once wildlife control began moving out of the hands of old-time fur trappers to the more modern "pest control" companies that were primarily profit-motivated (versus nature-motivated or challenge-motivated as the fur-trappers were) my star plummeted rapidly in wildlife control. I finally left the listservs I really loved, mostly due to just one or two trolls who not only felt all cats should just be shot or drowned (or that shelters should just kill all stray cats for free), they also felt that their high wildlife control fees should be jacked up even higher if they pulled into the driveway of a really nice house. The old guard, and the newcomers who listened to them, still fight the good fight to keep the profession ethical, but it wasn't my fight, so I bowed out and moved back into domestic animal welfare again.

I met some amazing people (John Hadidian and Dave Pauli from HSUS, Laura Simon from the Fund for Animals). I miss arguing with Laura -- she was the one serious animal right's advocate I could argue my animal welfare stance with. She would get right into it without taking any offense whatsoever. The fur-trappers as well--you could sit right down with a beer and explain why people expect humane options for handling wildlife problems and you could hash it out in a friendly and respectful manner. Some of the fur-trappers were also the local dog control officers. They understood why the legalities and ethics of why a DCO or shelter could not just kill cats when they were brought in the door--unlike the profit-motivated newcomers.

Sadly, many people who just want to make more and more dollars (not just a decent living, but a bigger and bigger living: as much as they can get away with) don't care much about their customers, their neighbors, or the animals. Happily, they are not the majority. But as I said, it wasn't my fight. There were others better suited in the industry for that.

That was 15 years ago--so much has changed both in nuisance wildlife control and in animal sheltering! I'd like to think the good people outweigh the bad ones. We all go stumbling through life and make mistakes. But those genuinely bad people--they are a different breed.

Here I am with the cats. Onward we go!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Four days to getting my shit together

I have four days off. I should say "sort of" off because I also use my days off to catch up at work, because days off mean no meetings and very few IMs, so I can get my head around anything I might have fallen behind on.

But this four days off, I want to make a very large dent in getting the cats out of the barn space and into the house space. I've gone into some of the reasons in the previous post but here are some others:

Facebook is changing their algorithm so pages will get less exposure UNLESS you use Facebook Live. The barn space is not the sunniest spot for video and photos. So it's time to get into a shiny bright space where photos and video, and maybe even a webcam, can be part of their future adoption experience.

I really want to enjoy their presence, and therefore I want them closer. But...bears. Yes, I do get tired of chanting "Hey, Bear, hey bear!" every time I go outside to wander down my path and cross the road to the cats at dusk or dark...and sometimes even during the day. It would be nice to not have to go "Well, there's a bear. Since I'm not sure where he went in this darkness, I think I'll stay indoors." Big bears bring baby bears, and while in general bears aren't dangerous, I tend not to stake my safety on "in general."

So hey, four days off here we go.

We had a quick spat of very warm weather in which I was able to let the house cats out on the porch. The house thawed out from the previous week of minus 6 degree weather, and I actually was able to enjoy morning coffee in a house that wasn't as cold as a slab of ice. However:

It didn't last long. We went back to minus 6 for a bit, and now we are a normal winter temperature in the 20s. My house can handle the 20s, so I'm ready to get to work on the upstairs.

I'm trying to save money. One purchase I did really want was something to sleep on in the room with the woodstove, in case temperatures tanked again. But I didn't want to spend a lot of cash on something I would seldom use, and I didn't want it to take a lot of room. This Army cot showed up in my Facebook feed on the local swap and save. The Kitty Kia crunched up a hill in Alpine NY during a minus 8F early morning. Luckily it was warm enough in the house near the woodstove to give it a coat of paint.

Of course the cats took it over:

It is genuine military as well, it appears.

It came with a non-original but vintage wood trundle bed that I absolutely plan to turn into a sleeping platform for the new cat space. The wheels are in amazing condition, and it is as solid as a rock, much like this cot. I'll cut a piece of plywood, paint and seal it, and add a mattress or cushion. It can be rolled out of the way when I sweep. If the rescued cats like that as much as my pet cats like the cot, we'll be golden.

With my comfort assured (and apparently my cats) it is time to head upstairs and (shudders) tackle STEP ONE and open the two locked closets I haven't touched since Mark left almost 10 years ago.

Here we go!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Yes it was (and is) cold out there

While other areas of the US and Canada (Maine! Brrrr!) were colder than our 6-below-zero in Central NYS, the refusal of the thermometer to nudge at all above a single degree for days turned my house and the barn space into what felt like a block of nice. The wind also roared each night. I quickly pulled out the kerosene heater for the barn space, purchased and installed a new wick, and trotted down to the lower barn to fetch what I thought would be empty kerosene cans. I felt like I'd hit the jackpot when I discovered I had two full five-gallon containers (I thought I'd saved 40 bucks!) until I filled the heater and fired it up. The fuel must have gotten water in it or otherwise degraded since last winter, because an almost invisible black soot came out. It didn't become apparently until it hit the walls, graying them slightly with soot. Good thing I'd tested it downstairs! I siphoned the fuel back out again and took two empty blue cans into town for new fuel. Luckily this burned clean.

I almost never need the kerosene heater for the cats. I usually only fire it up when I want to build something downstairs in the barn. To need it for a week is unheard of, and I'll be glad with the temperature finally climbs above 30 tomorrow and the electric will be more than sufficient. Once the foster area is moved into the house, worrying about heat can be checked off my anxiety list.

There were still outside cats to worry about. A neighbor with a feral colony of 12 called to ask if I had straw. I didn't, but I went to Agway in Ithaca the next day to pick some up. She insisted on paying me $10 for the $7 bale. Then Janine called from PA (which is only a hop over the border) about a kitten she had rescued. She ended up bringing over another half bale leftover from a colony she had purchased a bale for. I parked it all under a tarp in front of the barn and put a notice out on Facebook that we had straw for dogs and cats.

I had a few people misunderstand, thinking I was trying to get rid of unwanted straw. They wanted it as extra for their goats or chickens. They were understanding when I explained it was for dogs and cats who might otherwise freeze to death. I picked up another bale from the local Family Farm store, and while not as many people as I had hoped responded, some did. It was especially nice when a couple said they had a feral cat living in their garage whom they wanted to provide a cozy spot.

I woke up to a frozen cold water pipe in the kitchen on Sunday. Luckily the hot and cold water in the bathroom were fine. I opened up the lower kitchen cabinets and brought an electric heater over. Tonight I'll be sure to leave the cabinets open. Luckily there's nothing in there the cats can particularly bother.

Today was slightly warmer--just under 20 degrees F--and Buster celebrated by asking to go out the front door and back in the rear door, at least 8 times. I exaggerated in Facebook and claimed fourteen in-and-out trips, but it certainly felt like twenty especially when he lingered half in and half out of the door, allowing frigid air to roll in.

The aquarium has needed cleaning for awhile, but I didn't want to create an ice flow outside the back door dumping 20 gallons of old fish water. Today with the higher temps and bright sun, I geared up for the task. When I put my hand in to pull out the ornaments and clean the sides I realized the cats and I weren't the only ones who were cold. The water was like ice. Goldfish and minnows are quite tolerant of cold water, but brrrrrr!

At least if we are stuck inside to stay warm, the cats and I can enjoy the quietly swimming fish in their crystal clear tank.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

New cat beds from Handmade House in NJ and food from Elizabeth

The day after Christmas my USPS driver parked her Jeep in my drive and carried a big box up to my door. I joked about not expecting anything after the holidays, and then I saw the return address. Handmade House in New Jersey. More comfy kitty beds (and toys)!

I love watching the new and different beds that arrive. Originally they were rectangular, and they didn't survive multiple washings because of their shape. Then we began receiving round ones, which held up to cat claws and laundry quite well. Recently they began including matching spiral yarn toys (some of which I squirrel away in Ziplock bags with catnip for a week or so to make them extra-special).

This time they came in a box instead of a bag, so I lugged the whole box out to the cat facility.

Blinkyn, Nod, and Timmick were instantly curious.

In the cat room, Pitter was the first to check them out (the red hue is from their red basking lamp).

I wasn't at all surprised when Timmick jumped right on in:

The next day, UPS stopped by. also lugging a big box. What could it be?

A huge bag of Purina One from Elizabeth! This was unexpected and quite timely, as I was just headed out to buy more dry food.

With winter electric bills so high gifts like these are not only wonderful for the cats, but wonderful for me. I have more to post as well! Thank you for the merry New Year!

From human house to cat house. "Before" photos of the upstairs.

New NYS regulations state that rescues must be registered, and the rescue must permit access to a state agent at any time. As I travel frequently for work, I've decided I can't maintain the separate building any longer. While I currently have wonderful caretakers, the barn space operates correctly on a very slim margin. It requires two visits a day at a minimum, just for cleanliness. Temperature must be monitored. Windows have to be opened and closed. When we have a deep freeze, additional heat sources must be added and checked. The cost of electricity is astronomical ($300 a month in the winter).

It just isn't worth it, when I have an entire upstairs that is essentially vacant. I'd always hoped I would find an housemate who likes cats as much as I, but as that hasn't happened in the four years I've had my ears open, and given how much I love privacy, it's time to renovate and move the cats on inside.

There are three rooms, plus a hallway, two closets, and a sizable landing. Pepper and Timea currently have the run of the upstairs as well as the option to come downstairs, and they are the cleanest, least destructive cats in the whole world. However, for a regular cat space, the carpets and any non-cat-tolerant furniture need to go. I've slowly been selling things off so the upstairs is beginning to look quite drab. The entire upstairs will need waterproof paint, and when I have some money for frivolous things, I thought vinyl wall murals (the removable type) might be used to protect the walls, and could be pulled right down and replaced if they get torn or dirtied.

This room has newish carpet that I can store and use to re-cover cat scratching poles as needed, or I can use part of it downstairs. It's only about a year old. The futon and the Poang chair are both cat-friendly. The futon can get a waterproof cover, and the Poang chair cushions are washable and also fairly cheap to replace ($30). This room needs trim so cats don't dig at the corners, a new vinyl floor (thank goodness floor vinyl is much improved in the past 2-3 years), and I have a glass door that needs to be cut and hung.

This middle room needs trim, a new closet door, and new vinyl flooring. The carpet tile is only two years old and was a major mistake. A stretching cat can pull it right up. However it is clean, and can be cut with scissors, so will be good to keep and line the bottoms of the bed platforms on cat furniture. Ultimately this room, and the room to follow, will be gutted and the wall between them torn out. This is the "new" section of the house (1920?) and I'd like to remove the ceiling and take it right up to the peak, with plywood and sheetrock.

This is the end room which is right off the middle room. It needs to have the ceiling papered (I already have this), trim, a closet door, and a new vinyl floor. I also need to decide where I'm going to move the bed, which is a family heirloom. I'd love to put it on the landing, but I believe it is too tall, sadly. We'll see. When this and the middle room are eventually gutted, the windows will come out and be replaced by a sliding door, for when a deck balcony and stairs are added outside. Other than new flooring and some replacement windows downstairs, these are the only improvements I plan for this house before I eventually sell it to someone young and adventurous in a decade or so. The new roof pretty much tapped me out savings-wise, and I don't see any sense in putting in an expensive kitchen or bathroom(s) at the expense of my future retirement. It's not like this will ever be a $200,000 house, no matter how many improvements are made (200K in this region is a very nice house).

So off we go. Periodically I'll post updated photos. I really want the basic work done by the end of this month, since I travel again in February and I want the cats out of the barn space then. I can't risk another below-zero week while traveling.

I must say it will be nice not to have to trek outside watching for bears after dark to visit the cats in the evening!

The barn space can still be used to isolate new cats (which means I'll still need to fix some things out there and keep it maintained) and also a a depot for traps and cages to lend to others. I assume the downstairs could also be used by cat owners whom we are helping with spay/neuter, if they don't have space to recover them post-surgery at home. For the most part, however, it will not be hosting any felines.

I'm also working out an SOP for other foster homes (I assume technically they could be visited as well) and I'm putting all my cat medical records in Excel. Currently each cat has their own paper folder. If someone were to ask to see records, I'd really rather pull one Excel file for their initial look-see, than plopping a pile of folders in front of someone.

Nothing like a little regulatory incentive to bring me into the 21st century.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Tallulah is off to foster-to-maybe-adopt

Tally is off to Gretchen and Brian's home for a foster-to-adopt trial, to see if she gets along with Zoey, adopted by Gretchen 10 years ago when she was a volunteer here when we were still "Wildrun." As a woman with a banking career, she ultimately was moved to a branch further away from us and could not volunteer to and from work any longer, however she has been a great friend every since.

Tally was a little alarmed, but had her tail up and was exploring at her new abode. She discovered the huge cat tree fairly quickly.

Zoey, who is also a little tiny cat, was not amused by the new resident:

Here's a far more flattering photo of Zoey when there is not a new interloper in her household

We'll see how it goes! Zoey is the most important piece in this puzzle. Gretchen and Brian want her to be happy. If she's not, Tally will come back. However it always helps to see how our cats do in a new environment, and Tally did great. She was a fine traveler in the crate, takes her pills (we sent her to her new home with a Capstar pill for the next day, having given her one before she left here, to be sure she didn't bring along any fleas), and apparently found the litter box without a problem. Even if she comes back, this helps us give more information to a possible future adopter.

Go Tally! Come on know you want a friend.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

New cats and new regulations

It has been a warm and beautiful fall. Little Tallulah (Tally for short, or just Kitten! Kitten! as most of the house-fostered cats are called when I'm trying to track them down) joined us last month. I saw her appeal on the swap and save Facebook page. Her rescuer had discovered her in a car engine. She then ran into a nearby drain, and she was coaxed out. Her rescuers had contacted all the local shelters and was told "Sorry, all full!" So here she is at the Owl House.

She is a real sweetheart. She happily takes on big bully Oliver for a wrestling game (and wins!) and leaves the other cats alone if they greet her with a hiss. When she's done playing, she hangs near me as I work on the computer. She's not going to be a large cat, but she will be a fun one!

Her arrival heralds a new age for the Owl House. NYS has passed new a new regulation which requires shelters and rescues to register to be "exempt" from NYS pet dealer laws, whether or not a fee is asked for cats. I assume this is the first step in requiring actual standards of care for rescues and shelters (as is currently required for "pet dealers"). The reason for the new shelter reg is to stop the flood of so-called "rescues" who obtain 501c3 status but then basically just flip puppies---obtaining them from other shelters, or from online free pet ads, at low (or no) cost, and then adopting those pets, primarily puppies, for high fees without any significant medical care being invested in them. The adopter pays $250-500 dollars for an unsterilized pet that has only a health certificate, if that. Regulations can't be passed to cover just one type of rescue, so all will fall under it, including cat folk who are just finding homes for kittens and cats that are abandoned and need a place to go when all shelters turn them away because the shelter is overfull, or the cats/kittens are deemed feral because they are shy. This is actually a good regulation, but it does mean there will be growing pains for all.

I don't mean to sound like I'm bashing local shelters. They do an amazing job. It is the community who demands "no kill" of their shelters, and in our area "no kill" or "high live-release" means waiting lists or turning cats away. Shelters have the right to set their limits. But it does mean there are often cats who need a place to go or they are left on the street to breed or die. This is why you find a "cat lady" in almost every community and more and more small rescues are created.

What does this regulation mean for the Owl House? It means our incorporated entity, The American Cat Project, needs to register with NYS for $100 per year, and will fall under any future new requirements. It also means keeping cats in the barn facility is probably no longer an option. Rather than waiting to have someone tell me in a year or two that the barn won't meet new requirements (after putting more money into the barn facility), the Owl House cats will be moving into an improved upstairs of the main house, which is currently vacant and is used for overflow kitties, or boarding cats for people in emergencies.

The actual improvements to the second floor of the house (new laminate wood floors, new doors, waterproof wall covering) I'll finance myself, because these are technically improvements in my own home--not something that can be physically transferred as an asset to the rescue. As much as I'd like to leave the house to the rescue when I move or die (which was the plan for the barn and five acres across the road), unless I magically win Powerball without actually playing it I'm going to need the profit from the house for my own care when I retire. However new cages will likely be needed, including some walk-in enclosures, so we may post a fundraiser when we reach that point.

This also means I need to get my butt in gear and get some kitties adopted! There are such nice ones here.

Starting with cute little Tallulah:

For those few of you who have actually visited here and stayed this night, I'm sorry to say this will mean there will no longer be a guest room upstairs. However there are two beds downstairs and both rooms can be shut off from the main area so you can sleep in cat-less comfort (or with the cat of your choice). But you will be woken by normal morning activities---no more sleeping in!

While I don't necessarily want to live with 10 cats overhead, it will be nice to not have to worry about the upkeep of the barn. The barn space will still be available as a recovery area for owned feral cats that are being spay/neutered. Adopters already visit the house to adopt the cats anyway, so not much will change there.

There is also the option of purchasing a separate new building to place here on the property. If the building were movable, it could be an asset of the rescue (not something I personally own). There are already several concrete pads one could be placed on. However that's an idea for a different day and can't be in place by the end of this fall when the new regulations kick in.

I still haven't discovered how we are actually supposed to register. Hopefully they will mail all state-incorporated shelters or rescue groups. And while The American Cat Project is state incorporated, it is not a 501c3, which also needs to happen. Unfortunately one officer of the organization is very ill, and another is caring for him plus other responsibilities. For reasons of conflict of interest (my job) I am not on the board itself, however I'm just as responsible for our fiscal slowness over the years! More adventures to come!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Happy Belated International Black Cat Day!

This is where I should write a thoughtful post about how black cats are overlooked in shelters, and how wonderful it is to have a couch panther of your very own. We have six black cats here, with "Timmick the one-eyed" at the top of the list, followed by Blynken, Nod, Coraline, Ethan, and Jessie Fuzzbucket. All of these lovely cats deserve better marketing than I've been giving them, so you'll likely be seeing a flurry of posts coming up to get them homes. However the posting won't necessarily just be for the sake of the cats.

Lately I've been in a rut, and I realized part of that is because I haven't been blogging. Oh, I blog in my head, but that doesn't get it on the page. Non-monetized blogging (a blog that doesn't attempt to make money via advertising or endorsements) is sort of like having a pen-pal in a far-off country whom you may never get to meet. Even though you just pop a letter in the mail, and maybe get a letter back a few weeks later, you always feel like the person is there in your life. When you give up on your pen-pal, as many of us inevitably do, you are giving up a friend.

I realized that because I was not blogging, I was feeling more and more alone. I'd given up my friend. It doesn't even matter if there are comments. Just making the commitment to share is an act of friendship--whether or not there are actual friends visiting daily to read. When I click on some of the blogs I used to read, and they haven't been updated for years, I feel like a friend has left me behind and I wistfully wonder they are up to. Then I realized I'd done the same thing here to a lot of people who adopted cats from the Owl House, but who tend not to use Facebook. Facebook has its limits as well.

So I'm resurrecting both this blog, and my Feral By Nature blog. I'll keep the cat posts here as usual, and go back to posting things about the house and daily life on Feral By Nature. We'll see how that goes, since I started Feral By Nature basically to keep my mom updated on my life, and she is no longer here to see it. Nonetheless, I get lots of smiles when I look back over my posts and see what I was doing years ago.

So here's to black cats. They are the steadfast cats of rescue--you can always be counted on to have one around. And though they may all look somewhat they same, they are all quite different. And while individuals are sometimes overlooked because there are so many of them, each one is very special to the people in their lives who see them for who they are. Sort of like yet another little cat blog.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Deci checks in (big time!)

We love getting updates on cats we have adopted out. Taylor wrote in about Deci--now Sadie--who was rescued by Debra in Waverly. Most of our cats have a shy streak, and we always cross our fingers hoping their new guardians will realize the first days or weeks of hiding are no reflection on's just the cat getting used to a huge life change. The email that I just received from Taylor (posted with permission) really made my week, and it's also a wonderful illustration of what it is like to adopt a shy cat. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


We adopted Sadie (formerly Deci) from you in February of 2016. I just wanted to take a moment to thank you again, send you a couple of pictures and give a bit of an update.

My partner and I are dog people, in fact, I had never owned a cat before Sadie. We had wanted a dog but didn’t really have the space indoors or outdoors for one. I suggested a cat and he rolled his eyes and said, “I like dogs”. Well I set my mind on a cat and began to look at local shelters to adopt from. I must have looked at hundreds of cats, they were cute but I wasn’t enamored with any of them. I’d send my boyfriend pictures and he’d say things like, “I don’t want a male cat”, “That one looks mean”, “Too fluffy” and “I don’t know if you really want to get a cat”. While telling a friend of my search, she suggested that I look at your website—she told me about the wonderful work you do, much of it out of your own pocket. I loaded your page, read about what you do and when I clicked on the adoption page, there she was. My Sadie. Her name was Deci as she was the tenth rescue that a woman you work with had taken in. She was adorable so I sent a picture to my partner and surprisingly his response was, “Oh that one is cute”. Before the day was out I had emailed you to come and meet her.

The night we came over, you were more than welcoming. We came in and visited with you and your cats. You took us on a tour of the barn and finally it was time to meet Deci. You advised us that she was very, very shy and that she might not come out. You got a feather toy and lured her out from under a couch for our first real look at her. That was it, she was ours. She didn’t even come near us that first night but something about her made our hearts melt. We spent the ride home raving about her and stopped at the store to buy supplies for my very first cat.

A while later, you made that special delivery. You had advised us to provide her one room to stay in for a few days and acclimate—we slept on the couch that first week so she could have our bedroom. She ran under the bed and stayed there. We laid on the floor for hours hoping she’d come from under the bed, talking to her, offering treats and toys—nothing. The only way we knew she had come from under that bed was that she had used her litter box and had eaten her food. Four or five days into the adoption, she came out and sat with me. The next day she played with toys while we were at work. Then, after about a week she came out into the living room. Ever since then, she has been our darling.

She is the most loving, wonderful cat. Cats, to me, have always been independent and stand off-ish. Not Miss Sadie. She is with us all the time and often welcomes visitors by sitting next to them on the couch. She sleeps in the bed with us, usually curling up to sleep on my back. Every morning, she wakes her mama up for breakfast by licking my nose. She makes lots of noises to tell us she is happy or playful or sleepy. She has tons of toys that she takes out of her basket every night to play. My partner comes home at lunch to spend time with her and she waits patiently by the door for him. She comes running from wherever she has been sleeping when she hears my car in the driveway after work. It’s wonderful.

I cannot thank you enough for this blessing. We, and everyone she meets, adore her. She constantly makes us laugh. She makes the worst days better by just being her silly self. She shows us such love. We go anywhere and before I know it, we’re talking about her, “Oh she was so cute this morning while I got ready for work” or “she was so sweet at lunch”. We spoil her rotten and I love it! To think that she was a stray (I believe she was left in a box), it makes me so happy to know she now lives the life of a queen and she deserves every minute of it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!


Here is Deci's Petfinder profile. Honestly this will keep me smiling into August.

I have so many other messages from adopters to post, and stories of new cats and kittens as well. I just got out of a workshop on social media at the ASPCA Cornell Maddies Shelter Medicine conference, so I don't have an excuse not to be geared up and going!

Thank you again, Taylor, for giving Sadie such a wonderful home (and a ton of toys as well). And, by the way, you are an incredible writer!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Possum farewell

It took a long while for me to be able to post this, since so many people were following the Possum kittens, and giving them up was very difficult. They continued to decline and it seemed it was going to be a long while before we got answers. They were no longer interested in playing, and had begun hissing at one another when they cuddled up--seeming to indicate they were in pain if the one kitten laid on top of the other. My veterinarian agreed it was time for them to be released from this adventure. Whatever they had was clearly quickly progressing, and no matter what answer we might receive from genetic testing, it was very unlikely it would be reversable. The advancing incontinence could have been pressure on the spinal cord from their misformed bones, which likely meant they were experiencing other neurological issues as well that would not have overt signs (neuropathy, etc.) They were the cutest, most fun little dudes, and they were still happy right up to the end, which is why the decision was so difficult. Waiting until they were entirely unhappy with the lives they had, was not an option for me.

I would have preferred to bring them home to the Memory Garden, however after all we had gone through, it seemed important to get answers, so after euthanasia, they went to Cornell to the veterinarian who had been willing to do the initial genetic testing (and follow up exam and treatment, had they not declined so rapidly) for necropsy and further testing. It probably will be months before we have an answer if one is available.

Thank you to everyone who has followed and asked about them. Once we get an answer, I will post the results in a blog post title with links to all of their posts and videos, so if someone else should experience the same issue with kittens in their care, hopefully it will come up in search engines. In the meantime, I, and everyone who visited them, were blessed to enjoy their silly presence while they were here.

I made a little place in the Memory Garden for them anyway, with some plants I had moved from my mom's garden, and a little statue I had purchased a long while ago while antiquing with my sister Linda. It seemed fitting for them.

I think I should end their long strange adventure with a smile, so I'm including my very favorite photo of them.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Cat Years - San Francisco Chronicle

While going through my mom's things, my sisters and I found the following article she had saved.

It originally appears in the San Francisco Chronicle, apparently. While it is online with a date of 1996, other blogs give it an earlier date of 1961. Since my mom had to tolerate a lot from her passel of teenage girls, and one teen boy, not to mention grandchildren, I had to smile when I read this.

The Cat Years
From: Adair Lara (San Francisco Chronicle)

I just realized that while children are dogs—loyal and affectionate—teenagers are cats. It’s so easy to be a dog owner. You feed it, train it, boss it around. It puts its head on your knee and gazes at you as if you were a Rembrandt painting. It bounds indoors with enthusiasm when you call it.

Then, around age 13, your adorable little puppy turns into a big old cat. When you tell it to come inside, it looks amazed, as if wondering who died and made you emperor. Instead of dogging your footsteps, it disappears. You won’t see it again until it gets hungry—then it pauses on its sprint through the kitchen long enough to turn its nose up at whatever you’re serving. When you reach out to ruffle its head, in that old affectionate gesture, it twists away from you, then gives you a blank stare, as if trying to remember where it has seen you before.

You, not realizing that the dog is now a cat, think something must be desperately wrong with it. It seems so antisocial, so distant, sort of depressed. It won’t go on family outings.

Since you’re the one who raised it, taught it to fetch and stay and sit on command, you assume that you did something wrong. Flooded with guilt and fear, you redouble your efforts to make your pet behave.

Only now you’re dealing with a cat, so everything that worked before now produces the opposite of the desired results. Call it, and it runs away. Tell it to sit, and it jumps on the counter. The more you go toward it, wringing your hands, the more it moves away.

Instead of continuing to act like a dog owner, you can learn to behave like a cat owner. Put a dish of food near the door, and let it come to you. But remember that a cat needs your help and your affection too. Sit still, and it will come, seeking that warm, comforting lap it has nor entirely forgotten. Be there to open the door for it.

One day, you grown-up child will walk into the kitchen, give you a big kiss and say, “You’ve been on your feet all day. Let me get those dishes for you.” Then you’ll realize your cat is a dog again.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

This video is making the rounds on Facebook at the moment:

Our grumpy Fluffy was tamed by kittens. The very first cage-trapped feral spay/neutered at a "feral" spay/neuter clinic (mostly barn cats and holdable cats came in to that first clinic in 2001), Fluffy was stripped bald by the veterinary students who didn't realize he was supposed to be headed back outdoors at my barn. Fluffy stayed inside for his fur to grow, but he so loved the kittens who were loose in the room where he was caged, I let him out.

Since then he has been a pillow for quite a few fearful cats. Here are Fluffy and Pickles:

Fluffy is a bit too old and creaky to allow cats to lie on top of him now. At eighteen, pushing nineteen, he's deaf and bony but still quite, quite fluffy.

Anyone else have a grumpy feral who was tamed by kittens?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The dilemma of Tink and Tank

Tink and Tank keep heaping health issues on. Just to screw with my head, they keep adding issues that are individually non-lethal, like a sort of "add a straw to the camel" game. They were in to my veterinarian last week for blood and urine samples, and for Tink to have his eyes checked, as he now has a corneal ulcer, in addition to small irritations on his face. They also had both lost some weight. They are both on an antibiotic, and Tink is on two eye medications. One was quite pricey, but since my veterinarian has been doing a ton of work for me for basically free, I have no complaints there.

Tank has now followed Tink into bowel incontinence.

Through all of this they remain alert and personality-driven silly little cats. My veterinarian said to feed them whatever they like (previously I had been feeding them just super-premium dry food so they were on a single food) so they have re-learned the joys of running for the sound of a cat food can pop-top. The weather is nice so they explore the porch. But even with the weather so warm, they quickly run back to their heater and huddle up as close as they can (I had to put a grate in front of the heater to keep them from getting too close). They still love to snuggle with me even though now they are forced to remain on a fuzzy towel.

But they hate that they are now confined a big two-level Ferret Nation cage at night and when I'm not home, instead of being allowed to roam at large. And slowly they seem to be losing their willingness to explore now that they are subjected to regular regimine of medications, baths, face wiping, butt wiping, and caging. Right now the door to the porch is open. They just looked up, and then snuggled back down in front of their heater, uninterested. Once the sun hits the big dog pillow, they might be willing to shift there. But for just breeze and open air, they are not willing.

I am quite aware of the impact their appearance has on people unfamiliar with their issues when they come to my home and see these two dudes coming running up. Honestly, if you walked into my house and saw these kittens you'd wonder what abuses I'd been subjecting them to. Half-furless, skinny little faces that look like they've been starved (but fat little bodies). Unthrifty fur that looks like it could be resolved with just a bath (nope!). Crust on their eyes an hour after they have been wiped. Poopy butts an hour after having a bath. Poor little bugs!

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a person who hangs onto cats who are suffering. I don't want to live beyond when I am happy with my life. Especially now that I have cared for a person who has died, I know there comes a time when you wish God would just turn off the switch and call you home, while you are still able to ask for it. I used have a wildlife control business and had to kill scores of rabies-infected suffering raccoons. As life-or-death decisions go, rabies is a fairly simple one. Rabies is 100% fatal for wildlife, so you never have to feel "I could have done more."

While I admire many of the changes that the so-called "No Kill" movement has brought to animal sheltering and rescue, I have issues with the extremes some people have taken it to--keeping animals alive just so we can say we did everything we could...even when the animal will ultimately be killed anyway, is miserable in his continued existance, or is confined for the rest of his or her life. I've watched countless on-line dramas of kittens "saved from the awful shelter who was going to kill him" due to serious health issues, have watched the fundraisers and veterinary efforts...only to see that kitten ultimately die or be put down.

Absolutely there are many successes as well. But it is a difficult decision. When is it about the animal, and when is it about us?

I've never had kittens like this, nor been in a position where the answers to questions still pending may not come until Tink and Tank are too far gone to save. Honestly, I feel they already are. I feel that perhaps there are issues they have that perhaps could have been prevented if they had been diagnosed two months ago. But now that they already exist, can they be reversed? I'm almost certain that when test results come back, the answer will be "These young cats cannot survive much longer."

But what if they say "Oh look, just an inability to produce an enzyme!" (for the digestive issues--obviously more is going on than that)--and I have already had them put down for something that perhaps could have been mediated?

Because I travel for work, this issue does not just involve me. It involves different people who have fostered these kittens and are scheduled to foster them in the future. It involves a lot of issues that I don't share on a public blog (I whine enough as it is).

But mostly it involves Tink and Tank, and at what point "enjoyment of life" tips into "just existing for the sake of an answer." We know that cats enjoy grooming, being clean, eating, playing, and enjoying the company of others. Basically all Tink and Tank have at this point is their comfort in one another and with me. And food. They love food.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Facebook stalking: Daphne

Daphne (formerly Goggles, abandoned on our road and found by neighbors) just discovered her family got a rice cooker. What is that thing?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Facebook stalking: Ziggy and Tiger Tom

Ziggy and TigerTom's family adopts hard-to-place pets, and just adopted a senior dog. Clearly Ziggy cares not. Ziggy was a former-feral who was hit by a car and we had his leg amputated with the help of the SPCA of TC and the Maddies Shelter Med program at Cornell:

TigerTom is getting up there in years but he sure looks content! They adopted TigerTom because he had been at the Owl House longer than any other cat (5 years):

Sunday, April 9, 2017