Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I need to put some home made Coyote Rollers on my catio

...halfway up, because fat cat Bear insists on climbing up there. This is the second time he has stranded himself, requiring me to haul out the big ladder to fetch him down. At least he's smart enough not to jump the 9 feet back to the ground.

(These are Coyote Rollers)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Commuting with cat food

Over the years, between trucks and cars, I've hauled a lot of cat food. I never really noticed how it smelled when I had my pickup, but I did notice when we sometimes stowed some in my then-husband's car because we were taking it for outings that particular day, and I needed to stop by to feed cats.

After a few hours of the sun beating down, even a rolled-closed bag of food, or food in a bin or bucket, could make the car smell like a mix of a granary and old bacon. God FORBID you have a empty or partial can of cat food back there. Whoa, what a stink.

I also used to store food on-site in garbage cans (often hanging), and it was easier to fill those from an open bag.

When my pick-up finally died, I couldn't afford another truck. Also, as the colonies I cared for grew smaller over time, I realized I was actually overfeeding my cats. I'd put out well over two quarts of food for something like five cats. I'm sure most of it was scarfed up by raccoons and squirrels. I began cutting back..and cutting back. By dark, there was always food left. My cats clearly weren't starving.

I began bagging up my dry food in "single-serve" ziplock bags and carrying as many full ziplocks as I could in one of those reuseable grocery bags. Feeding became much easier. When I am feeding cats, I just grab one bag, open the feeding station, dump the food in the bowl, bang the lid, call the cats, and go.

When I'm leaving food for others to feed the cats, I leave 5-7 ziplocks full of food, which makes life a lot easier on volunteer feeders, too. I just grab the grocery bag full of individual packets, trek out to the feeding area, where I have a hanging water cooler to store the bags of food in (pictures in a future post), fill that up with 5-7 packets, and my feeders are set for a week. They put the empty ziplocks back in the water cooler (which has a twist top and keeps water and raccoons out) and I fetch the bags when I refill the cooler next weekend.

I can usually get 4-8 uses out of each ziplock bag, so each one lasts one to two months.

The food is also easy to move (just grab the grocery bag handles and haul it out of the way) and it doesn't spill like those cat-food bags with the rolled or clipped top, or tip over, like the bins.

Best of all, my car doesn't smell like a granary any longer.

For wet food (which I use sparingly) I now carry those Meow Mix orange tubs with the peel-off top. Almost all of the food slides right out, unlike canned food where a considerable amount remains stuck to the can. I tuck the empty tub in an empty ziplock bag and yay! No stink.

If you are feeding a hundred cats a day, this method is probably more work than it's worth. But if you are feeding just a handful of cats at several sites, this works great and saves time.

Do you have any tips for hauling food that helps keep your car under control (keeping in mind once a tom cat pees on upholstery, there's no use even trying to keep things smelling nice any longer)?

Special events--Such a pain, but so much fun

Setting up a booth for a special event is no easy feat. It has gotten more streamlined over the years, but I still need to take a serious hard look at the stuff I haul to set up a booth, and come up with lighter-weight options that are all in one place.

It may not sound like me (or if you know me well enough, maybe it does)I had a yelling--literally yelling--fit, yesterday, trying to find things for my regular booth that should have been right at hand. Didn't I just have a booth where I brought Thomas earlier this spring? Where was my stuff? I still have not found my small handbag of halters and leashes and I spent a good half-hour opening and slamming drawers, trying to find a halter that would fit skinny little Corky. And then a leash. I have half a hundred leashes. Could I find a single one? No, they were all in the magic missing handbag!

I had even set up a great little folder with a check list of things to do for a public booth, along with ready-made signs. Could I find it? No! Because when it comes to personal projects, I'm fitting in an hour here and an hour there, and need about three solid days to get everything organized from end-to-end.

It's times like this, when I have the least possible immediate enthusiasm for doing something, that I really need to do that thing. A big part of me is saying "The heck with it! I could be having coffee on my porch now! I could be doing cat laundry! Why I am doing this? No one cares!" (my little girl temper tantrum--or maybe my crotchety old lady temper tantrum--let's not blame the kids!).

In fact, what I need is a good dose of humanity. It means I've been in the woods too long.

I am not a kid person, in that I never wanted to be a mother. I knew that A) I was too selfish to give up a lot of my independence and B) I'm super protective/paranoid and would have had to learn a lot about "letting go" to allow a kid grow up with a healthy sense of adventure. This doesn't mean I don't like kids. I do indeed.

Kids don't see that "she's not a mom-type" thing. They just see this lady who likes cats, and they swarm my booths to pet the kitty. And I must say, what I see in kids in the last five years has been AMAZING.

Most of my donations (in number, not in overall size of course) came from kids. A child of about 12 actually put a dollar in my donation box and declined to take any of the small giveaways I have available (beads, Alley Cat Allies "I Love Feral Cat" buttons, emergency dog leashes). A dollar is a lot for a kid to give. She wasn't the only one. Kids didn't just put a penny in to "make a donation and get a gift." They gave handfuls of coins.

They also were extra gentle when it came to handling Corky. There was only one little boy who poked him with the hard end of the feather toy instead of gently playing, and his dad didn't ignore him or yell at him, he just took the toy from his hand, turned it around and said "No that's not how you do it. Use the soft side and play with him." And the boy did.

Kids did not whine when I was giving him breaks and wouldn't take him out of the cage. They gently put their hands up against the cage and allowed him to come to them and rub against their fingers. Other than being squirmy when he was held (on halter and leash--I did finally find a halter that fit and a knotted older leash in a drawer) Corky was a perfect "Adopt A Cat" ambassador.

I don't do too many adoptions in Spencer itself. As a village, there are more than enough kittens to be had just by walking out your door or talking to your neighbor. This isn't people being irresponsible and "not adopting" -- these are good-hearted people adopting the poor cat they find outside their door. But everyone I spoke with was enthusiastic about my budding "let's do a volunteer-run cat enumeration and apply for spay/neuter grants because national groups want real numbers about cats and TNR" idea and a few gave me their contact information and said they'd be willing to help go door-to-door if the time came.

I saw some residents I knew, and met some new ones. I came home with $26 in donations, which is probably a record for a Spencer event. People around here just don't have dollars to give away without advanced thought (especially when they probably had come with just X number of dollars budgeted to spend at the Picnic on food and fun for their kids).

All in all, I came home a lot more relaxed than when I had left. It was good to talk with neighbors, and it's always fun to watch the kids.

And that's why I do public events. Not-so-much to get donations. Not-so-much to advertise my cats for adoption. But pretty much to stay sane.

Thank-you Nancy, for the loan of the pop-up tent, and to Valarie, for the help setting up and tearing down!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Baby food fixes EVERYTHING when you are a feral kitten

Thank-you post

A few people have sent the cats (and therefore me) some gifts to keep us all going. After Tulip found a home, her foster home (whose family originally rescued her) came over with a Walmart card (with a tulip on it!). Christy and Linda (adopter/fosterer and her sister) came for a visit and left a generous donation, and Janet, a blog reader, made me a bit weepy eyed one evening this week when I found a PayPal donation and got this message:

"Your blogs have given me invaluable information about feral cats...just paying you back!"

And of course the generous adopter of The Leewit and Jack faithfully sends a donation every quarter, which spays and neuters many of our cats each year through The Jack and Leewit Fund.

There are also those who continually step forward in all manner of interesting ways. Tomorrow we will be at the Party at the Pond in Spencer, and Nancy (adopter of Gizmo, and a fosterer for many groups including The Owl House) lent her pop-up awning, as mine bit the dust a few years ago.

Even just reading here makes a huge different. When you live out in the middle of nowhere, seeing those spikes in readership on the blog make it seem a little less quiet.

So enjoy your weekend, and thank you for all you do for animals, where ever you are, and whomever you are helping!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Finally a kitten photo

I have been remiss. Kittens, and no photos? Horrors!

Here are Bubbles and Squeak, kittens from the feral mom who gave birth to them in the trap at the spay/neuter clinic.

Thank you, work-partiers!

Six intrepid souls made it out with very short notice. Judy and Dave spent a number of hours bushwacking the Memory Garden and the trees hanging over it. Plants and memorials steadily emerged. They even managed to clear off to the sides where wildness was encroaching.

Local cat caretakers, if you don't have a place to lay a cat to rest, you are welcome to make a place for them here.

Nancy, with her dog Jack, took on the side of the barn, where the stain had worn off. It was too hot to work on the front where the sun was beating down.

When Gretchen arrived later in the afternoon, we shoveled four wheel barrow loads of mulch from my shrinking pile (I usually buy a truckload every couple of years) and mulched the garden.

It was too nice to work inside and paint the ceiling of the cat room, so I may have a weekend dinner to get that done sometime in July. It's the kind of task that would go fast with a few people, especially if I get the edges done before hand.

Then, just before Gretchen left, Tulip's new guardians arrived to fill out paperwork. There little daughter played with kittens, and then they headed off to Tulip's foster home to pick her up.

All in all a very good day! Thank you so much for coming out with only around 72-48 hours notice -- depending on whether you learned about it by Facebook or email.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Do you belt in your cat?

I was taking Tulip off to the veterinarian to get a microchip and I idly thought "I should belt her in," which I did. I even remembered to belt her in on the way home. For years I used to wrap the seat belt around the crate (as it if were a human) until one day I saw someone run the strap right through the crate handle. Well...duh! So much better.

And wouldn't you believe, a barn cat streaked in front of me on Halsey Valley Road on the way home. I hit the brakes, but not as hard as I could, because I didn't want to send Tulip flying, and I knew I was going to hit that cat. Then I realized "Hey, she's strapped in!" and I mashed the brake. Tulip, who has some padding on her, barely swayed, the crate stayed put, and the barn cat made it safely to the other side.

So if you don't strap in your kitty crates, please consider doing so.

And yes, yesterday Tulip went off to her new family!

Mooselings meet a cat

Friday, June 7, 2013

Sunday work party

Work Party, Sunday June 9

noon to 5 pm
Stop by for just an hour or two (or all afternoon)
(Read everything because there are gifts at the bottom!)

Need a kitten fix? WE HAVE KITTENS!


Painting very-low ceiling in cat facility (no ladders)
Staining low sections of outside of cat facility barn
Putting a second coat of paint inside the house in the two rooms available for cats
Weeding out Memorial Garden (there are some briars..bring clippers and gloves!)
There will also be supplies out to make a new prayer flag line for the Memory Garden. You can make a flag for in memory of, or in honor of, a person or animals who was close to you. We will hang it that day.

I'll have the fire pit going if it's not raining.
There will be food and drink and I'll have music going everywhere.
It's not going to be too fancy due to low funds, but you'll be able to relax!
If it rains, I will not be asking anyone to work outside. There is plenty of inside stuff to do.

If you think you might stop by, please email me to RSVP at info at americancat dot net
Or leave a comment here.

I don't need tons of folks. Even just four people for an hour or two will make a huge dent. My heavy travel schedule put some very basic projects behind, and the cat facility is reaching the age where it will need some bigger projects (replacing screen doors to the runs, etc.) this year, so I need to get the basic ones done.

There will be a free t-shirt for each worker. If you arrive wearing nice clothes and decide to paint, there will be something for you to change into.

There will be a drawing for a brand-new Tru-Catch cat trap donated by the wonderful PETCO Foundation!

I will be making a separate post, but thank you to three of you who have given very generous donations to get us through the temporary thin times, due to vet bills. I got a PayPal gift last night that very nearly made me cry.

In other news:

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Feral-Cat-Care The "nursing feral mom" set up

Every now and then I end up with a feral mom cat with kittens. This mom cat decided to give birth to her kittens in the trap while waiting for surgery at the SPCA of Tompkins County:

I put two dog crates back to back, after folding the back panel of each one down inside. I fasten them together with wire ties. I put folded towels on the bottom (with one under the nest tub, and one on each end), a rubbermaid bin or small laundry basket in the middle, with towels draped within and over the sides so the growing kittens can climb in and out while mom glowers.

I put food on one end in bowls attached to the wire (I like Quick Lock crocks) and a cat box on the other. Both ends have doors, so the food and cat box can be addressed without reaching over mom. There is plenty of room for mom and kittens to move around.

I cover the whole thing with a sheet. I then put the kittens in the tub, and release mom into the cage.

It's important to check the kittens to make sure they aren't ill, one hasn't died, or mom hasn't killed one. In this case, mom did in fact attempt to kill one of the kittens who seemed rather premature (he had to be put down). The other kittens did great while I was traveling, but when one didn't open her eyes at the appropriate time, I snitched them out, and sure enough they had an upper respiratory and her eyes were crusted shut with pus (yick) beneath. Usually a mom cat licks their faces rather vigorously and the crust is washed off and the eyes get cleaned out, but apparently this mom did a good job with kitten butts, but not so great a job with their eyes. So I bottle fed them for two weeks and sent them of to a great foster home to be cuddled and fed by a family with kids and teens, with lots of love and noise.

They came back a few days ago, full of piss and vinegar, and with the beginning of a new upper respiratory, which went away almost immediately with Clavamox.

They are almost perfectly litter trained. Yes!

I'll get some pictures of them when they finally sit still.

Ivan's not his old self, but doing OK

...and I'm $2000 poorer. Woot!

Actually that is a bit of an exaggeration because Ivan is a lucky cat in that he is insured with PetFirst. I have never submitted a claim, so we'll see how that goes. I don't think I could have invested in the treatment without the insurance or a more sizable savings account. I still had to pay off the emergency vet in full (my own veterinarian let me carry a balance, bless them). It's a good thing we got that wonderful PETCO food donation. I may be cleaning out the dry goods in the corners of my cupboards and finding 101 ways to eat rhubarb (the only thing currently in my garden) but the cats are eating Science Diet.

He's still not his old self, but he is definitely feeling better. At first he was quite sad-acting:

But then he began enjoying the porch, and even began walking around with his mousie in his mouth, hunt-howling. Finally he began sleeping with me again, and purring, which was a huge relief to me.

He had serious potassium deficiency which is why he was wobbling like a drunk. He's now on a pill and a half a day. He's still unsteady and when he falls, he falls hard. I keep waiting for him to break a shoulder. He refused to stay down off of things he once used to climb on. Last night he fell off the bed when he rolled over...WHOMP! He can't twist and catch himself any longer. But he picked himself and walked off like nothing had happened. It scares the hell out of me, but apparently it's just a fact of life for him. I'm not sure all his brain cells are functioning the way they used to. At least he seems content, and not miserable.

I had to travel for work and I was scared to death about leaving him. I wanted to leave him with a veterinarian, but the cost was far too high. $34 dollars a day, plus $5 for each thing they did to him (insulin shots, pilling, etc.). He stayed instead at the Cat's Pajamas, and they took great care of him. They charged me $15 a day but I paid them $25 because I was so incredibly demanding about all the things I insisted they do for him, and because of all the things that COULD happen in a worst case scenario. But he looked, acted, and weighed the same when I picked him up. Whew. Now I'm done traveling for a few months. I'm still not convinced he's long for this world, but you know, he could surprise me. With my luck, he'll be the cat I finally get past age 17, when all the rest of my pet cats have passed on. Watch him creak around the house at age 22!