Saturday, August 11, 2018

Just beginning the summer to-do list

This summer was a waiting game. I won't go into all the roadblocks that life and work tossed up there--that's just the way things go. But now, with just a few weeks left to summer, and hopefully 2.5 months of above-freezing weather remaining, I'm finally tackling the house-and-cat things that absolutely must get done this year, or I'll spend the winter sunk in the doldrums...again.


New flooring for the downstairs, which is currently a mix of carpeted beat-up pine floor, vinyl in the kitchen, and hardwood in the woodstove room. I'm covering it all with "luxury" click together floating vinyl plank. I considered having it delivered and paying to have it installed, but at an additional $1.99 a square foot for installation, I decided I couldn't waste that much money, so it's DIY time. It was a nuisance to load it and unload it (36 boxes...) but here it is without a $60 delivery fee, and maybe I burned off a few calories.

This flooring will leave the hardwood floor intact and unharmed if anyone wants to rip this up again in the future to redo the hardwood below. I however, need something impervious to water, due to cats, a dog, and my winter tromping from the front door to the woodstove with wood. Primarily the issue is cats. As we know, cats will pee on anything, if they are in the mood for it:

Last night it was the paper towels. I assume this was Puff Puff, since only a lightweight cat could perch on that bundle, and Coraline is pretty good about using the litter box. You'd think after all these years I would have learned never to leave plastic wrap out in any form whatsoever.

It's pouring outside (again) so staining the house or the raised beds--other chores on my list--will have to wait.

Here's the before shot of the black painted floors, covered with cheap rugs that will get split up into different rooms once this project is complete. We'll see how this goes!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

How many new beginnings do you get?

Cat guardians know cats will rotate their favorite sleeping spots now and again. Oliver will sleep on a particular chair for several weeks--I'll know to look for him there first. Then suddenly he has claimed the top spot on the cat tower and that becomes his home for the next few months.

Perhaps I model my behavior after cats, with them living all around me. As a remote worker, I can set up my "desk" anywhere I like. Sometimes it will be on the actual desk. Othertimes, I camp comfortably on the couch for a few weeks. Today, I moved back to the kitchen table, which I purchased and repainted specifically because it was large enough to accommodate at least two laptops and keep my coffee well away from either one of them.

The table was a $50-buck-side-of-the-road purchase off my neighbor. Unfortunately my paint job on the top was not impervious to the idle digs from claws of walking cats. I had some adhesive vinyl planks kicking around when I purchased them as a possible backsplash for my kitchen sink area (I decided they were too dark). Now they are the cat-proof surface of my table. Like most of my cheap fixes, I'm sure I'll regret it one day when they start to curl and I have to peel them off. But replacing them with new planks will be far easier than sanding and repainting a doomed table top.

All of this is my long-winded way of saying that once again I'm trying to blog. Despite the day-to-day activity in my life, and a large number of really great virtual friends, daily life has become rather mundane. I couldn't put my finger on why I was so uninspired, shadowed by a tinge of loneliness. It occurred to me that I used to have the same life, with a feeling of fulfillment, back when I blogged daily, and read the blogs of others. You'd think I'd have more time when I don't blog. Sadly---not. Because I blog in my head throughout the day, and then have a fog of guilt hanging over me that I haven't put it in writing. I'm guessing there are quite a few bloggers like myself that always expected they'd one day write a Great American Novel, so writing in their head is a fact of daily life--even though that Novel never came to be. Suspending the habit is simply not an option.

Cats and kittens are also a habit that, fortunately or unfortunately, a cat person cannot suspend. Unlike writing in your head, however, the cat habit has outside influences---people call and say "help!" I've exercised "keeping my head down" any number of times when I've had to accept that my resources were tapped, but when friends of neighbors call, saying "no" really isn't an option. Chances are good, those friends and neighbors have helped me in the past, and will again in the future. There are top-of-the-list folks in everyone's life.

Therefore, the Mountainview kittens came into the Owl House via a neighbor's son (also a neighbor) who had that worst of all scenarios, the death of a child, at the same time as a little spitfire of a stray calico bore kittens under his home. The kittens moved into my den. Taking in feral kittens during work-travel season is a recipe doomed to fail. Feral kittens need constant attention during their socialization period so they grow up friendly. These kittens must have really good "friendly genes" because they have been a delight--taming up sweetly despite my distraction.

Two were adopted as soon as they were neutered, by the family of a man who was once a student worker (!!!!) in the Biology Department at Ithaca College where I once worked. We hadn't seen one another in about 18 years. We are Facebook friends. He saw the kittens, and they made the three-hour trip here...twice! Once to choose kittens, and once to pick them up after they were neutered.

These three are left:

One black-and-white female has learned how to flummox the home-made coyote-roller at the top of the half-door, so my temporary fix is an aluminum foil door extension. I may need to purchase a real commercial roller in the future. I can't imagine the short piece I need would be that expensive (relatively).

Many time I wish I'd discovered rats are the amazing animals they are, before I started a cat rescue. A rat rescue would be much easier to manage, I think!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Spitters no more

The "Mountainview Kittens" as I call them, since they came from under the porch of a home high on a hill with a gorgeous view, are coming around nicely.

I was determined this morning to get up and get moving. The weather will be rainy all weekend and I have so many indoor things I could get done. First, breakfast for ALL the kitties, and a extra-special KMR-warm-water-and-pate-food slurry for the kittens, who are eating regular food but may as well have an extra dose of hydration and kitten-based nutrition, since I have it on hand.


The tiger and white (male) is quite bold. One of the black-and-whites is next-friendly. Then the two yellows. The final black-and-white is the most shy, but even she purrs when I pick her up. They still will need understanding homes, since they were feral for quite a few weeks.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

We have little spitters in the house

We have five new spring spitters in the Owl House.

My nearest neighbor's son, who lives about two miles down the road from me, had a calico stray show up last fall. She presented him with kittens, at the same time he was dealing with a very serious health issue with his little girl. My neighbors, who had "adopted" one of my TNR'd feral barn cats, Bandit (by being nicer to him than I was so he preferred to live at their house), asked if I could help, since catching kittens was the last thing their son needed to deal with right now.

The calico is a wonderful mom--too wonderful in fact, because they inherited those wise calico genes and were quite wary. However because they also obeyed her perfectly when she called them to dinner, she called them right into the drop trap this morning. I had to fill her stomach with two cans of wet food and tuna so she would stay out of the trap herself, before baiting the drop trap, which I had put out a few days earlier for them all to get used to. I tried to catch them last night, but only two would come out, and only while mom was inconveniently halfway under the trap herself. This morning, two ran right out to eat after I hid on top of the deck with the trap below me, and I went ahead and sprang the trap to be sure to get at least two. I expected momcat to be peeved, but she was merely worried.

I reset the trap and retired to the porch with my travel mug of coffee for a good solid hour. Mom stayed silent and wouldn't call the remaining three kittens. It suddenly occurred to me that it was getting warmer and I had the first two kittens in the car with all the windows up, so I quietly went to my car to lower them all. When I returned, mom cat seemed to think it was a good time for the remaining kittens to come to breakfast. She went down to the trap and began to call. The final three ran right out and all of them went under the trap. I didn't really want to catch the momcat, because I didn't like the idea of an adult freaking out under the trap along with three tiny kittens, but I needn't have worried. When the trap came down, the kittens went ballistic, but mom just kept right on eating. I was able to fish the kittens out by unlatching the top, scruffing them when they came near my corner, and putting them into a standard trap I had waiting. The first two had been fairly docile, but these three more-shy ones were quite the spitters.

I picked up all the equipment I had brought with me, packed up the drop trap, put plenty of food out for the mom-cat, and left a note that I had caught all five, that I would make an appointment for mom-cat's spay, and to please keep her well-fed. I would have preferred to take her with me, but now that the barn facility is closed down and I still have one remaining upstairs house room to renovate, I didn't have room for two large cages.

I had further evidence of the great mom-skills of the calico when I first arrived at the house this morning. The owner was already off to work. I discovered that after he had left, mom-cat had caught a huge gray squirrel. It was laying on the door mat while she and one kitten began to make breakfast of it. It is because she is such a good hunter that the homeowner, who lives far up on a country hill, would like to keep her. I think her scrappy nature probably appeals to him as well. He has seen her chase foxes out of the yard, and of course he is now rodent-free. Happily it appears she targets mostly mammals rather than birds. And of course now instead of six outdoor cats, there will be only one. I'm just as glad not to have to find a home for her, since she does lash out with teeth and claws when she has a mind to do so. This habit might disappear once she is spayed, but one can't be sure. The homeowner, on the other hand, seems to appreciate her attitude. It seems she already has the perfect home, and I won't be surprised if she squirms her way inside the house the way she squirmed into his heart as well.

So we now have some little ferals to fuss over.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Finally a 501(c)(3)!

Well, it has finally happened.

Debra and I punched the online submit button a few weeks ago, and The American Cat Project is now officially a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization.

Why did it take so long? I've told the story before, but my cat rescue work (when I was all alone-io) was part of my wildlife control work, decades ago. I preferred to do the work for free as an individual, because that put the landowner or business I was helping, and myself, on the same level. "I'm willing to do this for free for you, and in return, you need to invest time as well, or be willing to allow shelters on your property, or feed the cats." This worked very well, and it was a model I liked. I wasn't a "rescue," I was just a person willing to shell out personal funds to help neighbors.

The wildlife control work ended when I left my job at Ithaca College and I no longer had the flexibility to check traps before and after work, and on my lunch hour. Cat rescue went on. The adoption of Dude to Debra and her family in Waverly brought the two of us together. Debra began tackling the cats in her area, and we began overlapping our efforts.

The negative impact of being a "rescue organization" is that part of the public (not all!) has expectations that the organization is now responsible for fixing things--and they themselves do not. "Don't you care about these cats? If you did, you would do something. It's not my responsibility at all--it's yours" Honestly, I would have preferred to just keep working as a "neighbors-helping-neighbors" effort because that made it clear from the start that our work was a partnership.

NYS, however, passed regulations (good!) that require anyone who is placing rescued pets in new homes--even if no fee is charged--to be registered with the state. To register, the group has to be a federal 501(c)(3), a NYS incorporated organization, and a NYS charity. All of this is good. It will help the state get some sort of handle on so-called rescue groups that seem to be selling pets rather than adopting them, or who are not providing adequate veterinary care. It will also dissuade people who want to set up less-than-reputable rescues from doing so, and it will encourage new reputable rescues to set themselves up legally, up front. And quite honestly, people like myself really do just need to buck up and get all their ducks in a row, instead of flying by the seat of their pants.

NYS's step does mean that a "neighbors-helping-neighbors" non-incorporated TNR (trap/neuter/return) group is no longer legal, if some of those rescued cats and kittens are being placed in new homes--even if the kittens are land-owner surrendered, and even if those kittens are adopted out without a fee.

Personally, I had to really sit down and decide if I wanted to do this any longer, if I were going to have to be part of an incorporated charity and the additional responsibilities that come along with that. I did call NYS Ag and Markets and ask if I were just a land-owner, and people dump cats on my property, and I get those cats vetted and find them homes, if I had to be registered as a rescue. They said "Yes." Since ignoring abandoned cats and kittens isn't something I can do, and I'm not going to be leaving this property for an apartment anytime soon, there really was only one option.

So here we are! Debra, Bill, and Lori are officers, and I am a director. Because I work in the pet industry, I felt I ought not be an officer, to prevent any conflict of interest in where AmCat might head in the future. The American Cat Project was state-incorporated almost two years ago, mostly due to Debra's hard work, but due to illness in both Debra's and my families, things stalled. Debra and I finally got together on St. Patrick's Day and got everything organized and submitted for the 501(c)(3). Now that it is freshly in hand, we can submit the state charity form and the rescue registration, with their associated fees.

To clarify, "The Owl House" is not an organization. It's the name of my farm. I moved the cat-housing space in from the barn to my renovated upstairs of my house to help meet possible future care requirements the state may set.

The name of the organization is the "American Cat Project" which is a spay/neuter group composed of several foster homes. We will shortly be setting up a PayPal link for AmCat (the link on this blog in my personal PayPal account) and all future donations in the new AmCat account will be tax-deductible, to be used for veterinary care for cats. I also will be sending in-kind donation receipts from The American Cat Project to anyone who ships food or gifts for the cats here to my address, going forward. If you are a friend or family member and you send me gift money via my own PayPal account, I will be checking with you directly to check to see if you actually meant it as a donation to AmCat.

I don't see us listed on the IRS charity search yet, but the last time I checked with them by phone, they said it can take up a to a fiscal quarter for that to happen.

Here's to a brand new step! Thank you, Debra, for getting us going!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Quick stop at Creature Comforts in Binghamton

On Saturday, I drove to Norwich to meet family for a visit to my mom's grave and a lunch together in remembrance. We all brought flowers to brighten the winter, and one of the little cats that my friend Donna gave me (she gifted us her entire inventory of these kitties when she and her husband Tim closed their shop) has been guarding the spot for a year now. He looks just like Oliver, one of my mom's last cats.

On the way home, I stopped at mom's favorite pet shop, where she used to browse for gifts for her cats, and also for her aquarium hobby. Creature Comforts is a wonderful spot for cat scratchers. They have the best prices that I'm aware of, and have lots to choose from.

Nothing but scratchers! The large ones are two for ten bucks.

They are great in the cat rooms, because they have two sides, so can be flipped over when one side gets ratty, and are disposable. I use the beat-up ones to help start my wood stove fires. They can be a bit messy with the little bits flying around, but since the rooms are swept twice a day, I find this really only is an issue in fancy living rooms rather than cat adoption areas.

Heidi expresses her approval!

Heidi in action:

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

GoFundMe Purchases

I have a GoFundMe campaign going, to help with the non-renovation costs of the new cat rooms, since I can't bring over things like carpeted cat furniture, beds, etc. that are in the old facility. There's no sense in taking the risk of moving any viruses, spores, etc that might be hitching a ride. Obviously the same things could have come along in the fur of the cats, but it doesn't make sense to overload the new rooms with those potential nasties. The cat facility is 15 years old and it has wood walls and lots of crevices, not to mention dust flying around.

I already posted one of the cat trees I purchased at Home Goods --- a surprisingly affordable place for large cat trees...about $40 cheaper than big box pet stores. I also picked up a second one so each room has one. Pepper and Timea are somewhat offended that they didn't get to keep one after trying it out, but then, they get all the "human" furniture in their room.

Normally I don't like to buy used things online for the cats, but I'm always on the lookout for affordable "bright" things that make a room look homey, that can ultimately be re-covered or thrown out if needed, without breaking the bank. I couldn't resist these two cushions, and the seller arrived at the hand-off spot with her dog as back-seat driver, and turned out to be a total animal lover.

I also bought two very large, heavy-duty and scratch resistant totes as room litter boxes. The standard Rubbermaid type I normally get end up with deep claw-grooves in the edges in just a month or so, and those scratches hold nasty things like worm eggs, etc. These seem to be working quite well---we'll see how they hold up! In addition, I picked up four extra-large standard cat boxes for use in the two cages that are now upstairs---one cage in each room.

I also ordered very cheap non-slip socks for visitors, since shoes can't be worn upstairs until the vinyl floor is down...the painted floors won't hold up to a lot of boot traffic. I've discovered the calming pheromone collars seem to work on my fractious pet cat Oliver, so I purchased more for the three "attitudinal" cats. Timmick is now sporting one. I'm not sure if he's being low-key because the collar is working or because he's not sure what to make of wearing a collar. I also ordered ComfortZone pheromone refills and a few more plug-in dispensers to help with the initial stress of the move.

I discovered the shy cats preferred to be hiding low rather than sitting in the cat tree, so I purchased two felt cubbies (the blue items in the photo). I also hoped to have a speaker for music upstairs, but despite being advertised for 100', the speaker I purchased did not reach into the cat rooms--probably due to the thick wall (for only $25 I should have known) so I'll be taking that off the cat account. Perhaps once I get some sort of additional bluetooth transmitter it will reach, but I'm not going to invest in something like that without some research. Unfortunately, there aren't enough electrical outlets in the rooms to support plug-in radios, so I'll need to come up with something to deal with the total quiet upstairs.

Hard floors without carpets echo and are frightening to shy cats. Since these are smallish rooms, I figured just small 4' round rugs would do the trick. They can be cleaned easily, being small, or replaced affordably if they are totally ruined or if some illness gets in the place. I ordered the rugs from Overstock, and also picked up new cats beds from TJ Maxx, another place you wouldn't expect to buy affordable pet beds. Once the cats have stopped moving everything around, I'll be adding some of the wonderful handmade round blankets Handmade House in NJ sent us earlier and I'll be sure to post a photo of those.

I'm really enjoying have rooms that are bright enough to take photos! What a change from the roomy but dark barn. It may have had tons of windows, but the dark walls inside always sucked up the light. Video is even better. When I switch from photo mode to video mode on my iPhone, the screen grows even darker. Now, video is quite bright! If you follow us on Facebook you will have already seen this video of Eve, Heidi, and Pitter, checking out the new rug and bed in their room.

I still have more things to include, but this is enough for one post. I also have some before (scared!) and after (OK, this place isn't so bad I guess) photos of the cats to add. I can't thank people enough for their donations and online "shares" of the fundraiser!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Wallpapering ceilings!

The cats are in the house! I'll be adding more stories and photos of them. But this weekend's project, including hilarity, was wallpapering the ceiling in the far back room. Gretchen had helped me paper the first room a few years ago, aided by wine and lots of laughter. Nancy volunteered to help with the second room (wine and nearly incoherent laughter was also included this time). The ceilings are quite low, and are easy to reach with just a footstool, but sticking up those long sections of gluey paper is a challenge, and it's even harder when two women are frantically trying to keep one section up while pasting up the rest.

The rooms have those small insulating tiles that no paint can improve, therefore I chose paper to hide them until the day when the entire room is gutted and re-done. You can see the obnoxious unattractive tiles peeking between two papered sections here:

Once the ceiling paper has completely dried for a few days, I'll paint them the same white as the two white walls (the purple walls are featured in the photo). Even unpainted it is a huge improvement.

The wallpaper is pre-pasted, so it just needs a soak in the tub to activate the glue. You wouldn't think just some wet paper would add much humidity to the room, but indeed it does!

I purchased two small circular rugs to "warm up" each room, with money raised from the GoFundMe campaign (more reports on those funds coming up).

I also picked up some cat beds at the Ithaca TJ Maxx store, as they often have really nice beds for good prices. They did not disappoint, and even are carrying a line of beds marketed by HSUS. They were under $15 each, and really cute, so I picked up two.

As usual, I'm behind on posts. I have so many people to thank and so many changes and cat stories to add.

As always, remember to follow us on Facebook!

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!