Monday, December 28, 2015

In just before the storm...

We've lost our supernaturally long fall, and outside the rain is turning to sleet and ice. Last night on Facebook, on the swap and save page, someone posted looking for a home for this cat:

Someone else posted that a cat like that from their street was missing. "Does he have an eye that doesn't open all the way?" The finder said "yes." The two arranged to connect. I offered to take the cat if it turned out he wasn't the missing one, given that an ice storm was on the way. However it turned out the person checking on the cat didn't own him, she had been feeding him on their village street, and the location where he was found was miles and miles away from the village. It appears the cat had been dumped out in the country. I supposed it's possible he jumped into the back of a truck and hitched a ride, but he had been hanging out in an area of the village where there are too many stray many that even the most ardent cat lovers are at their wits end.

So because he needed somewhere warm and safe to go, and also needs medical attention, he came here. He's friendly, and is a grand Russian Blue type cat, but he clearly has an eye infection, and it doesn't seem to be a simple one. Both eyes are watering, and one is sunk back quite a way into his head. I'll need to get him to the vet fast, to make sure he is FeLV/FIV negative, since he's upstairs in the cat facility.

He's quite content in his cage. He's probably quite happy to have a warm bed to lie in. And he's lucky his stars aligned...he was found by someone who worried about him out in the cold did something for him, his post was noticed by someone who recognized him from his original territory so he didn't get dismissed as a wandering barn cat, and myself. The person who brought him here even left a donation that will cover the basic office visit at the vet. Let's hope his luck keeps going strong!

The girl with the family who brought him had named him "Happy." I may have to find a variation on that name to help find him a home if we can't locate an owner, but for now I'll keep him "Happy" and I'll hope the power of that name means a a quick trip to the veterinarian for eyes meds, testing, and vaccinatios is all he needs to get fixed up (he is already neutered). I'll be calling Stray Haven tomorrow to see if anyone has reported him as lost.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Ethan, formerly feral kitten from Van Etten

If I stick to my 2016 resolutions for survival, you should be seeing a lot more blog posts from me. Things have been so jerkily hectic for the last year, I've let far too much go by the wayside. One very vital and way-to-neglected tasks is getting photos of the cats, and promoting them online. No photos, no promotion, equals no adoptions.

If cats aren't moving out the door faster than they are coming in, then someone (me!) isn't doing her job.

Ethan is a shy guy with a really affectionate nature. He comes up in the bed in the morning for serious cuddles, curling up in the crook of my arm, licking my fingers, and staring at me in adoration. The rest of the day he likes romping with the other cats, and he'll play keep-away if not approached with a smile and a kind voice. He is neutered and glows with that beauty of the healthy black cat. He would be fine alone, or with other cats, however if he is with other cats there should be at least one who would be glad to romp and play.

This will be Ethan's own page. I'll add more photos and video of him and will shortly remove the paragraphs at the top. Then I can add it as a URL on his social media profiles.

Friday, December 25, 2015


It has become very popular to post stories on the internet about people who "cruelly" surrender pets to a shelter. Stories about pets surrendered as seniors, after a break-up and neither party wants the pet, or pets who are surrendered as soon as their kid goes to college...

I remember once when I surrendered a kitten to our local SPCA that had been abandoned at the college where I was staying over Christmas break. Most everyone had left, and someone left this kitten behind. I tried to bring him in out of the cold in with my own cat, but my cat was beating the kitten up. I took him to the SPCA and while I was saying goodbye with tears in my eyes, the shelter staff just looked at me and shook their heads. They didn't thank me for helping the kitten. They did not smile or thank me when I put all the money I had in the donation can. I realized in shock and guilt that they thought the kitten was mine, and that I had lied that someone else had abandoned it, because I was crying as I left him. It was an awful experience, even though I was doing what I had always been told was "right" to do with an abandoned kitten if you could not keep it. Take the cat to a shelter.

I really have issues with surrender-shaming--a practice that is becoming more common, because it can reach a larger audience with just a single Facebook post. We tell people if they don't want or can't keep a pet that they should bring the pet to a shelter, then we give them hell when they do.

When I worked for a shelter, yes, it made me sick to my stomach when a car pulled in and someone started walking toward the door with a crate with a cat in it, or walking a dog on a leash. But you know why it made me sick to my stomach? Not because the person was irresponsibly surrendering the pet (although sometimes they were). It was because we would often have to kill that pet, and the person bringing the pet to us was hoping we would find the pet a home. Even after I was volunteering for that shelter's spay/neuter clinic years later when they were "no-kill" I still could not suppress the nausea I felt when I saw a person coming to the door with a crate. I knew the pet in that crate was safe, yet that mere two years I had spent in the 80s knowing every pregnant cat would be killed, every sneezing kitten would be killed, was embedded in my soul.

We would be angry at the people who brought them in, but most of our anger came from our inability to provide the services we felt we should be providing...providing the safety for that pet that we promised them when we said "Don't abandon them...don't neglect them...bring them here instead."

We now have more options than we had in the 80s, although we still have a long way to go. And we still tell people: Don't abandon pets. Don't tie them outside. Don't ignore them. If you can't keep your pet, bring it to a shelter to find it a better home.

Yet more and more often it seems like these surrender-shaming stories come out, supposedly the same day the pet was surrendered, shaming the person who abandoned the animal, in order to find the pet a home. "Poor Rainbow was thoughtlessly dumped at the shelter today by her uncaring owners. Please help find her a home!"

What does this teach the next person who is desperate and is thinking about surrendering a pet, or is thinking about bringing in a stray they can't keep?

"If you take an animal to a shelter, you will be treated like a criminal, even if you are doing something good." "If you take your pet to the shelter because you don't know what else to do, it will be on Facebook by noon that you are a heinous person, along with a photo of the pet you took in."

Is this what we want? What result do we expect? That people will magically decide to keep these pets? Or will pets instead be more likely to be left tied out in a shabby doghouse, or abandoned somewhere, or totally ignored---because what we are really teaching the public is that "a person who surrenders a pet, or brings in a stray is-- by virtue of the fact that they brought the pet in--a bad person."

I understand the impulse. I recall my anger when I found Goggles on my porch. And guess what. Wasn't my first impression wrong?

Are we surrender-shaming to help a pet and teach the public? Or are we surrender-shaming to make ourselves feel like embattled heroes?

Is it about the pet? Or is it about ourselves?

Stop surrender shaming. The people we are shaming are the people we WANT to bring pets in, rather than have them neglect the pet with inattention. Or they are innocent people who have a good reason to need to ask our help by bringing us an animal they found or legitimately cannot keep.

Remember? Isn't that our mission?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Winter is time for napping

I came in from taking care of the cat facility and this is what I found in the house:

The only one up (excepting Pepper and Timea upstairs) was Coraline. She promptly curled her tiny body up in my lap as soon as I sat down at the computer.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Timea and Pepper are pretty darned friendly

I've started sleeping upstairs to see if they have any interest at all in cuddling up. Last night I slept in the back bedroom and they slept on the bed in the middle guest room. So I'll try the middle guest room to see if they are willing to share "their" bed with me.

If they do, I may post them for adoption, although I expect it will be many months before the perfect home appears. It would need to be local, have no other cats (Pepper is a bit of a bully with the other cats here although he might settle down once there are fewer kittens who run around begging to be chased), and be a perfectly secure house. We've had people with somewhat cluttered homes and open basements be perfectly good homes with friendly cats, but these two have already shown that they aren't a fit for a home with too many places they can hide. They need a nice quiet place with a cat lover who will take security seriously, and keep them shut up in a single room until they are quite comfortable, as you can see they are here.

I also need to get them more used to having treats thrown their way. When I toss treats to the general cat mob, Pepper runs away, as if he thinks the treats are being thrown AT him rather than FOR him. I think we can work at this with them together upstairs, where they are most at ease. I'd like to get them used to treats, so they can mingle at treat time with my pet cats. It's always good to have "tasty treats" associated with "being around other cats."

New barn cat, Buster

Those of you who don't follow us on Facebook may not know that yet another cat showed up on or doorstep. Literally.

Our cat dramas always play out like novel. First, a neighbor knocked on our door about a cat that she saw at their house, daily, about a quarter of a mile away. A gray cat with white face and toes.

Two days later I let Bear out before I ran into Ithaca, and went I came home just after dark, he was nowhere to be found. When I headed down to the barn he came trotting out to meet me, looking over his shoulder. His fur was ruffled, and when I got him into the house, I realized he was covered in feces. His own. Bear quite literally had had the shit scared out of him in a cat fight.

It must have been rather humbling for him. In his younger and slimmer days, Bear was a terrorist in his own right. But he has been sleeping his plump life away in the house, and I'm sure he's not a match for a big young tom cat. I set him up in the bathroom to clean up.

At the time I wasn't sure if he had tangled with a raccoon or a cat. I had found a dead raccoon on my lawn with porcupine quills in his snout earlier in the week, so I figured there was a rabies issue in my neighborhood (Warning: dead raccoon photo below)

I didn't want Molly-the-dog or any of the other cats to be licking on Bear for a few hours in case he had tangled with a raccoon, so I had to shut him away. In looking him over, I noticed gray fur caught in his claws. Feeling a bit like "Cat Fight CSI" I wondered about the neighbor's "gray cat at large" report.

The next day was bright and sunny. Gremlin was on the catio, but was huddled next the the cat door, staring at something intently. I went outside to look around, gazing out across the lawn. Suddenly I realized the object of interest was only 10 feet away. A gray cat was staring at me from behind the tree. I went inside and got some food. He ran away, but soon came back.

I set a trap the next day and had him within a few hours. Soon he was in a cage in the barn, hiding in a feral cat den.

I hoped he would turn out to be friendly, but as we waited for his neuter appointment it became clear that while he was used to people, he wasn't having any of this petting stuff. So two days after he was fixed, FeLV/FIV tested, microchipped, eartipped and vaccinated, I let him loose right where I captured him, figuring I would starting putting food down in the bottom of the barn daily for him. There are already cat shelters down there "just in case." At the vet I named him "Bully", since he had beaten up Bear, but it seemed like a mean name to give a cat, so I renamed him "Buster."

Two night ago I heard cat fight noises outside and I went down to the barn in the darkness. Buster was there, staring at something behind the lawn tractor. Buster headed off into the barn when he saw me, but something ran around behind me into the grass. When I shined the flashlight after it, another gray cat stared back at me. Damn! Another cat to catch! At least I knew Buster had "stuck" and hadn't headed for the hills after being released.

Then the very next day, the neighbors who adopted Bandit, a previous "barn cat" I had trapped, called. Bandit was limping and sleeping a lot. What do you bet he tangled with Buster or this other new cat? I'm taking over a crate for them to get Bandit used to, since he ought to have an updated rabies vaccination anyway.

There's never a dull moment when you own a big red barn that seems to yell out "dump your unwanted cats here!" I wish people realized when they drop their cats on a farm, they are costing a responsible landowner (if they choose not to ignore the cat) hundreds of dollars. Luckily I get a discount and Buster was only $120 for all the work I had done on him. But for a normal landowner, the same level of care likely would have cost up to $300.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Don't know if you all have seen this yet.

Timea is a suck-up

...although I don't think she knows it. She's using the entertainment-center-turned-cat-tree and of course any use of that particular piece of work makes me very very happy.

These two really like being "up"!

Blast them claws! Stopping furniture scratching

Cats are sneaky things. Life goes on well for quite awhile. No pissing. No scratching. Then one day you hear it in the other room...the sound of claws. At first you disregard it. It's probably the cat scratching post or one of the cardboard scratches. But no, this doesn't sound quite like that. This sounds like...NO! NOT THE GOOD CHAIR YOU LITTLE MONSTER!

Or the big monster, in this case. Bear.

Bear normally goes outdoors and does his scratching, but since his big tussle with the dumped tom cat (Whom I've tentatively named "Bully" simply because I had to have a name when I called the vet for his neuter appointment), Bear has been less interested in spending lots of time outside. It's also getting colder, so he doesn't venture far off the porch down to his favorite dead tree, where he likes to scratch.

Suddenly, he's after the furniture.

First Law of Scratching. Never hesitate. She who hesitates has no nice furniture.

I had to dig out the StickyPaws from the cat junk drawer.

And off I went, taping up the two places Bear had shown an interest in. One was this antique chair that I specifically love because of the old velvet upholstery. While I certainly could have it reupholstered, that would destroy half the charm of it.

For many years, I owned only wood futon furniture, to avoid the issue entirely. But gradually I got fed up with the severity of the look. After going through lots of cheap Craigslist furniture, I discovered the secret to having an upholstered couch.

Curved arms. Cats like to reach up, and if they can't, they find the spot less attractive. I also keep cardboard scratchers on the floor nearby. They get a bit messy and are relatively expensive, but I use the old ones as fire-starters in the woodstove, and hide any unsightly ones when visitors are scheduled to arrive. Drop-in folks just have to deal with the fact that this is a house where living with cats (in a manner that reduces damage and smells) is the priority.

If all else fails, Bear will get some SoftPaws slapped on him. Luckily he's laid back enough that it probably won't be too hard to put them on.

Maybe I'll put holiday SoftPaws on him. ;)

(Note: I received no request to recommend StickyPaws or SoftPaws nor any reimbursement for doing so).

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Big boxes of toys for the cats from Mary and Joe!

My UPS guy is a ninja, I swear. I didn't even hear him deliver two big boxes from Mary (Jack and The Leewit's home) on the porch. Mary had just sent a very generous (our largest) donation to our spay/neuter fund, which was a huge help as we had four female kittens on deck, and two still more to go, for spay/neuter, plus a small balance still on account at the veterinarian.

The cats benefit from monetary donations, of course, however apparently Mary felt they deserved a more one-on-one experience of her love!

The house cats (both the four personal cats and those up-for-adoption) always get to test out new gifts when they arrive. However I try to make sure the cat facility adoptables get most of the new stuff, since they deserve interesting and new things in their all-vinyl-floor life. I let the house cats check out the beds, but most of the toys and all of the scratchers were saved for the cat facility cats, so they did not get pre-licked presents!

Nellie and Fluffy check out the Cat Ball.

Oliver gives it a try, too. "What do you mean we don't get to keep it in here?"

Gremlin tries the fuzzy bed first.

Gremlin likes the kitty Canoe so much, I think I'll let him keep it in the house. After all, he is up for adoption, and Mary sent three of them!

It was evening when I took presents out to the cat facility and their basking lamp was on, so the video is quite red. Here they are checking out the wonderful catnip toys, the Cat Ball, and one of the scratchers!

The cat meowing in the background is poor neglected Pierre, who could see all the fun from his run, but I did not let him out as he is quite the camera hog. Here is sweet Heidi cuddling up with the scratcher:

Thank you, Mary and Joe! You have definitely made it "Christmas" over here for all of our cats, and myself!

Gifts for grumpy kitties (and grumpy cat ladies as well)

I'm belated on sharing some of the gifts our cats have received over the past month!

One of the best parts of cat-sitting now and then is that I get to see some of our past adoptees. It's not something I can do regularly since I travel so much myself and have my own house-sitters, but it's a fun break. When I visited Peetie, Paatie, Phillip, and Jellie this past month, Christy and Gordon left a present on the table for us!

In addition to a very generous payment for the visit, there were several kitty things to make me smile and decorate my house at harvest time, and this very special gift for the cats. A six-pack of Comfort Zone!

Using cat pheromones to keep our cats relaxed (i.e. not spraying on things!) sometimes seems like throwing good money out the window given how expensive it is...until we run out and stop using it, and suddenly notice things like throw pillows--which I use to keep cats off chairs that are especially tempting pee-objects--have a faint whiff of pee, or cats growling and smacking at one another. While I don't mind my house smelling like a damp old 1860's farmhouse in the summer, I do mind smelling cat smells when you walk in the door. People judge a cat rescue by how it smells. Heck, people judge cat owners by how their house smells. Fluffy and Oliver tend to be the only culprits, but one cats who pees creates other cats who pee. I also like to use it in the cat facility when I can, because it seems to me it would be even more boring and stressful than the house. It just isn't as obvious when there is stress because there are far fewer "pee-worthy" objects there. The cats in the facility seldom (dare I say never?) pee outside of the boxes.

I do my best to introduce cats carefully and keep them separated by who is happiest together, and nothing makes me feel more like I have failed than listing to cats smack and growl over tiny things. We haven't had a cat fight since Ivan and Thomas were both here---they would get along 90% of the time, then one day I'd come home to tufts of cat fur on the floor. I would like to keep the place fight-free. This means cats need to be as happy as possible. ComfortZone (Feliway) definitely helps with that.

Thank you, Christy and Gordon! We all appreciate less stress at the holidays.

Monday, November 23, 2015

It's Tuna Time!

I haven't had a chance to post photos of the new cats, Pepper and Timea. Timea zips out from under the bed too quickly for me to get a good photo of her, but Pepper loooves his tuna too much...he just can't resist, and jumps up on the bed, and even allows me to pick him up. I hear them romping around upstairs over my head when I work, clearly having a good time now that they have two rooms to play in instead of one. Looks are deceiving in this photo. Sgt. Pepper is a very big boy! He might weigh as much as Bear, but there's not an ounce of fat on him. He's just a big muscular cat. Timea looks small next to him, but she's not a little cat either.

His rescuer sent them each a new fuzzy bed and of course the every-needed paper plates that make life so much easier. One of the kittens checked them out when they arrived.

Unfortunately I think it will be a little while before they'll stay in the beds long enough for me to get a photo of them when I come in the room!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Farewell, Pickles

Farewell to Pickles. She lost a lot of weight while I was gone in October. Blood tests showed end-stage kidney disease. She perked up with potassium supplements and fluids, but after two days of fluids, she refused to allow me to catch her. When she slept with Fluffy, I could sneak up on her to get a hold of her, but sleeping with Fluffy was her one true joy in life, and then she no longer dared because she knew I would stalk her there. When I traveled, how would anyone get a hold of her when I am the only one who can touch her? She would have had to have been caged and handled by strangers.

So I left her alone for two days to enjoy her friend, and then we said goodbye at the veterinarian's. She was sixteen years old, and now I'm very glad I brought her and Fluffy in from the cat facility to enjoy the house, the porch, and the catio for a year or so.

It's just as well she went before Fluffy (who is two years older). She would have been lost without him.

Cornerstone sent a beautiful card. The messages they leave inside always make me cry.

Remember to smack that's winter

I know the mantra, but I seldom smack my own car hood. Until I opened up the hood of my car to add washer fluid and found these tracks yesterday:

I am now a dedicated hood-smacker, and I hope you will be one, too.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Cat facility photos

Our last two visitors came to the house and never made it out to the cat facility. So I'm posting a few photos of it here. I'll get the other side tomorrow.

The "cage room."

Goggles in her two-tier cage:

Dixie and Solo in their cage:

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Pepper and Timea come to The Owl House from another rescuer

We have two more Owl House residents. It probably will take a bit of time to find them a home, as they are a "shy-cat pair." However we have found homes for pairs of this sort before!

There is a difference this time. Usually we end up with shy-cat pairs because we have rescued older kittens that don't tame up to be bomb-proof. Pepper and Timea come from a rescuer four hours to the east. She has tried for a year to find them a home. She did find a place for them, with the help of another cat rescue in her area, however the home was too active and too loud for the shy cats. Pepper found his way into a hole under the stairs in the basement, and it took weeks to re-capture him. The rescuer took them back, understandably. I would have, too.

We were originally contacted a few months ago by a friend, Jill. Jill was a great help to me back when I was doing wildlife control and also advocating for feral cats. I did not take full advantage of the writing opportunities she and a Cooperative Extension biologist offered me at the time. However both of them stuck their heads out in a big way for feral cats. It's not particularly career-advancing to be in a biology-related job and state "feral cats can be successfully managed if they are managed in a scientifically rigorous manner." Jill and Paul did.

Jill has a friend whose mother is Pepper and Timea's rescuer, and he was trying to help his mom find them a good place.

In addition to friend-connections, there was karma-seeking involved. Some day, when I'm 15 years older than I am (or sooner, God forbid) I may be having to find a place for some of my shy cats. I hope there is someone there to help me as well.

While the last thing I need are more cats, we did place eight shy ones this past year. So Pepper and Timea came to stay yesterday, after their four-hour drive. Apparently they were great in their crates. Here are photos that Jo, their rescuer sent beforehand, because currently they are under the bed staring at me with owl-wide eyes.


And Timea:

They came with quite a dowry. Tuna (their special treat), tons of dry food for both the adoptable and street cats, tons of canned food, pillowcases, and a donation check. We won't need to pay out-of-pocket to feed these two for quite awhile. We also sent microchips to Jo ahead of time, and she took them to the veterinarian and got them well-pet checked, vaccinated and chipped.

Which goes to show my gut feeling was correct; the rescuer really loves these cats and does not want them to just go anywhere. I'm honored she trusts us to find them a good home, like Bo and Davis did.

Things that are always more amazing in person

The other day I went outside to the cat facility before the sun was completely up and was met by a morning rainbow. Sadly, the iPhone didn't do it justice, but I'm going to blog it to remind myself to remember what it really looked like.

Some day I need to invest in PhotoShop

If you have a laptop you may need to tilt your screen back.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The new "cat tree" gains acceptance

I had mentioned earlier that I had converted an entertainment center into a cat tree and had some concerns because no one was really using it. Slowly a few of the cats are giving it their seal of approval.

Thank goodness. If that had turned out to be a flop after all that work it would have been quite the disappointment! So, $25 and a few hours work well-spent!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cats meeting babies for the first time

This is very sweet. Please share with any pregnant friends who have had to listen to all the unwise people who say "you have to get rid of your cat if you are having a baby." It ain't so!

Here's Goggles!

There's a new kitty in the picture...the third drop-off this month. She's a cutie though.

I named her Goggles because she has very dark black "mascara" around her eyes. She's extremely friendly and is going to be a beautiful cat!

However she nearly caused me to melt down when she arrived. It was cold, and I had just returned the latest neutered feral to his colony, our of the unheated downstairs of the our cat facility, and I had moved Pierre (formerly Scruffy) upstairs now that he is confirmed clear from mange. I was sooo happy that no cats were in the downstairs unheated section now that the chill had set in.

I had just run to the store to pick up some cheap eats and essentials because as always, the end of the week finances were tight, and also I was headed out for travel in a few days and wasn't going to be doing any messy cooking:

In the short time I was gone on my shopping trip to Dollar General, someone had left a kitten on my porch, using a crate I had had sitting there:

I could hear meowing as I walked up to the house and could only think "Gosh, did I leave Bear outside while I was gone?" And then I saw the crate and started swearing. All I could think of was the cold downstairs where she would have to stay, and the vet bill that would be required to get her FeLV/FIV tested immediately so she could go upstairs with the other cats and be warm and safe.

I thought: What sort of JERK would wait until I was gone and then leave a kitten on the porch in MY crate and not leave a note?

Well, errrr, as it turns out, a very kind neighbor would!

They were walking their dog and heard meowing in the woods. They saw the kitten, got a hold of her, and while the woman walked the dog behind, the man walked ahead to my house, hoping I would be home. When I wasn't, since they were on foot, they put the kitten in the crate on my porch, and walked back home to get the car. I learned this when they drove up a short time later, with the note they planned to leave, debating whether they should actually leave the note and the kitten, or take the kitten home with them (with no place to put her, as they have six rescue cats of their own). But luckily, I was home.

This calmed my ire considerably. Even though some jerk had still dumped the kitten, kind people had rescued her. That sort of levels out my blood pressure.

She was a champ at the veterinarian. She had an upper respiratory, so they sent her home with some lysine. She's still sneezing a bit a week later, but she's not worse, which is how viruses usually roll, but she's upstairs where it's warm. The other cats have all been vaccinated multiple times, and I have them on lysine as well as a preventative.

I had to take her to a veterinarian that was open that day and would take CareCredit, so no rescue discount, but at least she's FeLV/FIV negative. Part of that bill is Feliway for the diffuser in the house. It really does make a different in how my adult cats tolerate the young transients. Goggles will still need to be spayed, but perhaps I can get her adopted and bring her back for that, since we have a ton of female kittens right now.

At least she's not another black one! We have plenty of those!