Thursday, December 31, 2020

On the road with spay/neuter

What we TRY to do with the American Cat Project, is fix cats (not shelter and adopt cats out). When I first started working with a national website that helped adoption groups, TNR was new. At that time, we did phone interviews of every new member. Every week a new TNR member would join, and inevitably they said "We were told that all we had to do was spay/neuter with TNR, but we've found we always have friendly cats or kittens that shouldn't be put back, who need homes, so we need to post them for adoption."

They were always a bit shell-shocked that TNR often meant becoming a small pseudo-shelter. Some groups were lucky enough to have good contacts with actual shelters, and could turn socialized kittens over to the shelter. But 15 years ago, many TNR projects were started because the local shelter was so overwhelmed they simply didn't have room. 

(The change of TNR over the years is a topic for another post. Sentiment has very recently swung toward returning almost every healthy cat -- even friendly ones -- with "return to field" or "shelter/neuter/return." I don't agree with this practice except in large municipalities who are so swamped with cats they can't get ahead without this emergency practice --I would argue short-term for 10 years or less.  But...didn't I say that was for another post?)

So what the traditional view of TNR often requires, to save on gas and time for all parties involved, iis "cat smuggling" in parking lots. 

It's NOT cat smuggling, but it often feels that way, as you swap cats back and forth in carriers while nearby people look at you in curiosity. After an initial site visit, the caretaker and TNR group find a halfway point, meet in a parking lot, and the cats are transferred from car to car so one person isn't spending hours and gas on very long drives.

Most recently, my rendezvous point for a Chemung County colony has been Sportsman's Warehouse. It's clearly a building that's hard to miss, and the parking lot is a reasonable size so caretaker and rescuer can spot one another. Although this week the caretaker's truck was hidden behind a huge bank of plowed snow, so it took awhile for me to track him down.

The cats then come back with the rescue, spend a night or two, are driven by the rescue to their spay/neuter appointment, are picked up and recovered for a few days, and then it's back to swapping the cats back to their caretaker in the parking lot. So there's still a lot of driving for the rescuer, but at least the caretaker/rescuer swap shaves a few miles and hours off.

In this case, the colony caretaker has agreed to pay for half of any spay/neuter we have to pay for, and we cover the rest. Sometimes we cover it all. Sometimes we are surprised and pleased to have the caretaker, or often neighbors who hear about the spay/neuter project, cover the entire cost and more. 

With our program, we require the caretaker to call as soon as any new cats show up, to head off another population explosion. No one wants to go through all this a second time.

These three youngsters, Gigi, Guy (who turned out to be a girl) and BN, are safely back from affordable spay/neuter at the Humane Society of Schuyler County, one of our lifesaver shelters 35 minutes away, and they will be going home on New Year's Day.

They are the very last kittens at their colony. So Happy New Year to us!

Saying goodbye to adopted cats


Emmett and Eveline (now Gracie) went to their new home in the Binghamton area this past week. I try to say my goodbyes before I crate them up, because when they are released in their new safe room, they tend to head straight under the bed and there's no chance for a cuddle. Most safe rooms are a guest room or the new guardian's bedroom. 

Sometimes I forget to say goodbye when I pack them up, and it's always somewhat bittersweet when I leave them behind. 

Emmett surprised me by checking things out first (how could he resist all that cool cat stuff?) but soon joined Gracie in the usual kitty safe spot. Kim, their new guardian, and a previous adopter (Tyler, a Russian blue type cat who was a close buddy of mine when he was growing up), sent an update:

 "Emmett and Gracie have full run of the upstairs when I am home and then just their room when I am not. I sleep in the other room upstairs and wake up to find both of them under my bed. I learned that    Emmett can be had for treats so while he is still not all in on pets he will come right up to me, show me his belly and talk to me. Gracie loves to sleep under the comforter so I lift it up, give her pets and talk to her then leave her be. She doesn't move so that is good. Tyler has seen them both through the gate. There has been a little hissing but no hair up and neither Emmett or Gracie seemed  impressed so I think that is just him being nervous. They are all very curious about each other." 

It's always a bit interesting to see how cats act in their new home. Kim chose both Gracie and Emmett so that Emmett would have a brave cat to pull him out of his shell. But in the new home, Emmett is the brave boy and Gracie is cuddling under the comforter.

If only they could talk to let us know how they really feel, because just watching cat behavior in their first home (here at the Owl House) just doesn't really give a good window into how they'll act when they move on to their next chapter of life.

Here's video of the beginning of their journey when they were being trapped! SO cute

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Christmas snow

I'm guessing I'm not the only one who is feeling somewhat bogged down lately. I've been shaking my head a bit over all the "let's get 2020 over with" chatter and memes - mostly because, of course, nothing magical is going to happen on January 2021. COVID isn't going to go away. Politics aren't going to magically be perfect. Bills won't magically be paid. Oddly, this actually gives me a bit of a brighter outlook. I'd rather slowly and hopefully build toward a new normal (hoping for that vaccine!) than expect some amazingly brighter future after a New Year's Eve countdown, only to be disappointed. Does that sound gloomy? I don't mean it to.

This Christmas had some weather gremlins. We got socked with 34" of snow. It took five days to shovel out, all the while knowing that on Christmas day the temperature would skyrocket and rain would come. It would be tempting to let it all melt on it's own, but immediately after that they were predicting freezing cold temps again...which means neglected snow could turn into frozen chunks.

So...shovel and shovel some more. It could have been worse -- I could be the dedicated FedEx guy who still managed to get my Chewy shipment to me and had to drive through all that bad weather.

But I couldn't shovel my barn roof.  So 2020 had one more unpleasant surprise for me:

The image above is from inside the second floor of the woodshop addition. The image below is the hole in the main barn where the second floor addition used to connect.

The roof over the woodshop on my barn couldn't handle the snow load, especially after the snow from the main barn (where the cats used to live) slid down on top of it.

The more expensive tools were safe. Luckily I'd been slowly removing anything valuable from the second floor over time, so the only thing destroyed are piles of old windows. A big stack of valuable 10"x12' boards were buried in debris, but I'll worry about that in the spring. 

At first I figured I'd just tear down the whole thing. Then it occurred to me that if the first floor roof (the floor of the second floor that's buried in all that snow) is strong enough, maybe I'll just tear off the second floor walls, clear out the debris, put a flat roof on down, and build a railed deck that looks out over the creek. That may actually be the cheapest option.

Spring will tell. There's nothing much I can do now, unless I find someone who doesn't mind clearing out all that debris and cutting down the broken walls in the cold weather. If the snow melts and the ground freezes so a truck can be driven out there, I might be able to locate someone who won't charge an arm and a leg.

What other surprises will 2020 bring? And what new ones will 2021 startle us with?

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Pandepression repeat

I've moved this post to another URL. The original got linked to a community listserv that is looking for Timmick, so I've remove the political rant from that one. :)  Sorry to subscribers who are receiving a notification on this content twice! 

I simply have to revive this blog. I'll be moving over to WordPress soon, where there are more options. I've been paying for an acccount for over a year and haven't done a damned thing with it. In the meantime, I--like most of the rest of the world--have been wrestling with pandepression (the blahs caused by social distancing). And based on the lack of interaction on my Facebook group, I'm guessing a lot of cat-parents are as well. 

Lucky us, that we do have our cats to make us smile wanly. Other petless people aren't so lucky, and there are a lot of pet-loving people who are petless by circumstance, not because they want to be. Seniors in assisted living, younger folk stuck in no-pet apartments who don't dare move right now, and people who just don't dare take on the responsibility of a pet in this not-so-secure world we live in now. These petless pet lovers used to get their fix at the local shelter or their friends' homes. Those options are more limited now.

So I understand I am, actually, blessed.

Nonetheless I still have the blahs. Even with this:

Yesterday was my birthday (58 years) and last night, Ruth Bader Ginsberg died. And I know Trump/Mitch will shove for an immediate replacement to push the balance of decisions away from the 50/50 it currently is at. Even though Mitch said this would be an abomination during the Obama administration.

Before she's even cold in the grave. Am I right? Let me know.

At that moment, I had been scrolling around Etsy looking for "blue ring" to buy myself a "less-than-$20" birthstone ring as a selfie-birthday present  (I'm big into cheap sterling silver stackable rings--pretty much the only jewelry I wear since I keep the same set of studs in my ears 24/7 and don't wear necklaces because....kittens).  When I saw RBG had passed I changed my search to "black ring." A mourning ring. Because I need something I see every day that reminds me that...

...America is dying. The US is burning. My planet is dying. Kindness is dying. We were once seen as the guiding light to freedom, and now the rest of the world is sad and appalled at what we've become. 


When I was a kid, I used to wonder how the chance of life had made me lucky enough to be born in the USA.

Surprise! That comes back to haunt you.

(Post note: this is not about wanting presents for my birthday: this is about the reality that one day presents have to not be important): BTW young readers, there will come a point in your life where you will no longer receive birthday and Christmas presents--not a one, unless you buy yourself one. Loved ones will leave you or die, or you'll die first. You'd better be centered enough to deal with the fact that holidays needs to have meaning that isn't about "you" and that Christmas REALLY needs to be about the spirit of the season, because you'll wake up in the morning and it will be nothing special unless you've made it special...all on your own

If you are wondering why I'm feeling so dark, a second cat has been lost by an adopter this year. And I'm really not sure I can deal anymore.

Timmick came to me as a kitten from a neighbor. He was hideously ill. We had his eye removed due to that illness. He was stuck in a cage for a long while to recover, and single kittens have behavioral issues. He was a bit of an asshat, and needed a understand guardian. His new guardian is a great guy but you know? Normal caring people just don't get how paranoid you need to be to keep a cat inside a house.That's why there are so many lost cats. And that's why the world shouldn't be so judgy when someone loses a cat. Because cats are smart and stealthy and don't know that "inside is safe and outside isn't." So the smartest person in the world can lose a cat.

Timmick either pushed out a screen or got out through a basement access door. Now he's lost in Ithaca on Cascadilla Street and I'm wondering if I should keep even doing rescue. Not because so many of my cats are lost, but because the few who are lost destroy my soul. Because every day and every night I think about them out there in the cold, without food.

Every time one gets lost, I find myself less willing to do what it takes to find them again. It just sucks the energy from my soul. 

And that's how I see our country. We are all so tired, we aren't willing to do what it takes to save her. I'm fucking shocked by how many of my friends say "I don't dare put out a Biden sign because I'm worried about retaliation." FUCKING WHAT? We are appalled by people getting KILLED or DYING from Covid and that's why we want a different president. We say we are shocked by Black citizens being killed due to racist profiling. But some of us won't put out a freaking LAWN SIGN while others are risking their lives in protests (or just Driving or Walking While Black in their own neighborhood).


My friends who say they aren't willing to believe in COVID-19 aren't rich, but they ARE relatively comfortable. What does it take for you to believe? Someone dying? And my friends who say they are voting for Trump...I get it. This is pretty much unreal to them (meaning, it hasn't impacted their lives, not that they don't care). They fear what they've been TOLD will happen (guns being taken away, Antifa invading their homes) and don't believe the results of what is actually happening (climate change, skyrocketing national debt; no ACA = no health care for lots of people  you know; no payroll tax = no Social Security). But wait until someone calls you and says "Your mother/father/sister is dying and we need to authorize $$$$$ and decisions on life and death." And it all falls on your love AND your pocketbook. Or wait until that mammogram comes out with red flags and suddenly you are paying $4000 for cancer screening. Or wait until you get the call that your sister has been involved in a devastating car accident and you are driving toward a hospital wondering "does she have insurance? I think she does? What if she doesn't? Could I sell my home?"

Yup. Those are real thoughts.

Imagine if you had to pay for all of that yourself? No, really, think about tomorrow getting a call that a member of your family is on life support and you have to sign the paperwork OR say "oh so sorry...not my problem."

I have a friend who said he doesn't believe COVID-19 is a threat because he hasn't seen anyone ill or dead (our area is rural and does a good job with masks, but Google Lighthouse Baptist Church and see how we've screwed things up). Does it really take your girlfriend dying before you'll believe this is all real?"

And for those of us who won't even put up a sign? I understand. I get that reluctance. But we are at a tipping point. And if you aren't willing to put a sign in your front yard, I'm not willing to watch you gripe on Facebook with a privacy setting for "friends/not aquaintances."

I deal with this on the micro-scale with cats. I've dealt with this on the macro-scale with family. And I know people reading this can share similar stories.

All this from one lost cat, and the death of a woman I've never met.

I love you Timmick. And I'm sorry RBG, that you were not able to die with the peace that you deserved.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Lots of rescue...notsomuch blogging. Sorry for not holding up my end of the deal!

Wow. What a year it's been, huh?

I've been a remote worker for 16 years now, so you'd think all this stay-at-home wouldn't get me down.  I was surprised to find myself staring into space with a big case of the lows, that I'm only just starting to shake off. No is everyone else (feeling low, that is). 

I've experienced some unexpected perks in higher adoption inquiries and now finally the spay/neuter clinics have opened. The first three colonies I've helped have come attached to freaking awesome people. Bam, bam, bam...all the cats fixed, kittens either here or sent off to their local shelter for socialization and adoption. And donations for the American Cat Project. 

Finally getting out to deal with some cats perked me up a bit. I had been having the WORST problem with the sleepies. Not "OMG I'm so worn out" just "OMG why CAN'T I stay AWAKE!" I was beginning to wonder if it was due to one of the herbal teas I'd been drinking (I had to leave coffee sad...) but once I was up and about for something other than work--which I love, btw---the sleepies seem to have left me. It helps to have these little guys staring at me from the three-level cage in my great room.

Before all this COVID stuff went down, I'd felt so great arranging to attend two conferences, HSUS EXPO and the Cat Writer's Conference, on my own dime (versus work). I'd signed up to volunteer for HSUS, which brought the conference cost down, and I found myself a cheapo flight and an even cheaper hotel. I'd really looked forward to seeing all those folks I miss since leaving Petfinder and being able to attend conferences without any corporate obligations (woot!). 

Part of me wonders if I jinxed the whole world with COVID by actually arranging for a vacation for the first time in well over a decade! Luckily, all my costs were reimbursed by the conferences, hotels, and Delta Airlines (thank you, Delta!) because throwing all of that money out the window would have been painful.

It has been a bit of a culture shock, no longer traveling for work. I've discovered flowers that blossom along my road that I'd never noticed before. I have hanging flower baskets--because I'm home to water them. I'm slowly getting projects done than had been neglected for years. 

I have a garden! Raised beds! Yes, it took until just this week to get all four of them in, but I'll have some produce this year and hopefully lots next  year. Being able to eat Romaine lettuce again without worrying about a recall has been a small happiness.

And I have bears. Ummm...more to come on that. And if this photo seems like the bear was awfully close, it's because she WAS. And awfully relaxed. Apparently my side yard gives off safe bear vibes.

Since it's past solstice, it's now all a downhill slide of shorter days until winter---that's one reason why I'm back on the blog. It's going to be a semi-lonely year for all of us, so I figured it was time to get on here again. A lot of you have been very generous to me and in return I ought to be sharing what the hay is going on. 

Kittens. Cats. Bears. Projects. Oh...and cooking! Is anyone else cooking?

Saturday, April 18, 2020

A victim of social distancing: the coffee bar

Some of you may remember we used to have "Coffee and Kittens" on Sundays. This was more popular back when we were in the barn--for some reason people seemed more comfortable grabbing coffee and cookies out there. In the house, visitors are more likely to say "Thank you but no thanks." I assume it's politeness--not wanting to be a bother. If they only understood I'd feel better if they drank the coffee I'd already made and the cookies I bought for only them! Once people left, I sadly poured the untouched coffee down the drain.

I'd planned to move the tall coffee cabinet from the barn into the upstairs of the house where the cats are, thinking that if people had the food near them, without me hovering, they'd be more likely to make themselves at home.

But that's not an issue any longer. No one is going to consume food here for months due to COVID-19, even if they do visit a cat.

It occurred to me I probably should put the coffee bar away. It was a rather sad half hour, throwing some things out, and finding a home in my overpacked cupboards for the bowls. Luckily a volunteer couple had stopped by to see if the cats needed anything, and they were able to give a home to the box of untouched individual creamers that otherwise would have gone in the trash.

The kitchen bookcase used to be Fluffy's perch. I purchased it as a cat tree. When he slept there, the other cats all joined him, ranged across the shelves. Since he passed, the shelf beds were abandoned. I keep one bed on the bottom, but the rest of the piece has reverted to human use. What to put there now that the coffee bar is gone?

Books I need to read.

My unread books previously sat in an unruly pile. When I cleaned, they had to be moved from place to place. With them poised right in my face very day, perhaps they'll get read!

Once the weather warms up, my porch will be set up with two comfy chairs, 10 feet apart, for occasional visitors. While I've cut back almost entirely on my alcohol consumption, perhaps I could put a little wine bar out there with small single serving bottles of water and wine that visitors could help themselves to. They could swig right out of their bottle, then toss it in the recycling. So classy!

Is there anything anyone else has put away or changed, anticipating a quiet summer of social distancing?

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Pepper and Timea check in, and food from Jo

It's spring in social isolation, but given that I've always been a remote worker in the boonies, less has changed for me than it has for others.

But because "others" are talking about deep home cleanings, getting organized, and pushing paperwork woes out of the way (those who aren't home-schooling, caring for other people in need, or recovering from COVID-19 that is), it can't help but rub off on me. Let's hope it sticks. I'd love it if this were finally the summer that all the big projects were completed, so that future summers I could spend less time scrambling around like an underprepared squirrel.

Jo (rescuer of Pepper and Timea) sent canned food again this month, which is always a blessing:

I emailed Nancy, P&T's adoptive mom, for photos to send to Jo, and she always comes through. Given that they are most-amusing cats, I'm sure she has a camera full of shots. Pepper has always preferred being under blankets rather than over them. Since Timea is his buddy, it's not hard to find him when he hides.

Laundry-snoozing is a traditional cat pastime that Pepper didn't get to experience here.

To date, Pepper and Timea have been my most "perfect" cats. They are amusing without being dangerous (no throwing themselves at my feet), neat (no shoveling of cat litter, no pushing of objects, no dragging cardboard shreds around the house), and have the perfect personality balance (Timea liking to be closer to you, Pepper more independent). They are BIG cats, so there is the issue of hauling them to the vet in crates, but that is offset by their beautiful presence. They also brought me a friend (Jo) and went to a friend (Nancy).

Pepper and Timea have been a perfect circle in my life.