Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tall Cat Is Also Loud


I finally managed to get a semi-decent video of Shadow making some of his characteristic conversational noises.

(He has actually been even chattier than usual lately -- all the kitties here have a major case of Spring Fever, owing to the hordes of birds and squirrels that have been congregating on the back patio lately. But I am glad I got this video because it really shows his level of extremely vocal and personality-laden "interactivity" -- along with his insistence on acknowledgment. Apparently he's been taking lessons from Nikki!)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tall Cat Is Tall

As I mentioned in my last post relating my joy at finding a cheap, suitably sized litter box, Brodie and Shadow are growing up to be pretty big guys. Sometimes it even seems like they might still be growing! Which is cool, of course. I've never understood people who get all disappointed when kittens grow up. Tiny babycats are certainly totally darling, but big strapping grownup cats have their own particular brand of awesomeness, and my guys have more awesomeness than you could shake a stick at.

Observe below, as Shadow awesomely tries to get a head start on his dinner:

It's hard to convey a sense of scale unless photos are taken with the cat standing next to something of known and/or obvious proportions. The above photos do a pretty decent job of illustrating Shadow's impressive tallitude, though: note that the kitchen island Shadow's got his paws on here is 36" (about one meter) high. Meaning Shadow is that tall standing up (as in, measured from top of head to bottom of back feet). Clearly I'd better be careful what I leave near the edge of the counters!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Litter Box Score!

My previous post on litter boxes is now out of date inasmuch as the "Box #3" pictured therein -- which was actually a cement-mixing tub -- broke a few months ago. As in, it managed to snap nearly in half when I was trying to get it out of the closet to clean it. Whoops.

I replaced it immediately with the largest plastic bin I could find at the tiny hardware store down the street, but there wasn't much of a selection and the one I ended up with had this annoying groove around the inside bottom edge.

I dealt with it for another few months but finally got tired of digging litter-concrete out of said groove, and for the past 2 weeks have been poking around in search of a bin with a completely flat bottom -- as well as sides at least 12" high. Brodie and Shadow are big, tall guys and Brodie in particular is a bit of an elevator-butt pee-er, and we've had a few instances of, er, overspray lately. Thankfully I'd thought to install plastic floor-protector stuff under the box so none of the wee actually hit the hardwoods, but still. Ew. Apparently this is not to be a household with ANY low-sided litter boxes.

But (as usual) I digress. None of the "big box" hardware stores nearby had anything that quite fit the bill, but today I totally scored. There's a Container Store a few blocks away from where I live, and while in general the prices there are WAY out of my budget, the clearance section can be a veritable goldmine of cheap. Thus, today's bounty (see below)!

Of course there's a cat (Brodie) in it -- I can't bring anything home that's jump-inable without someone jumping into it within the first few minutes of its arrival. You know how that goes. I think this box will do the job perfectly -- Brodie is a substantial 14ish pounds, and he looks practically lost in it!

And now, a closeup of the pricetag:

Seriously! I got a normally-$21.99 item for $2.27! Just because it was missing the lid, which would have been useless to me anyway. Wootness!

So yeah. I've since gone at the new box with a hacksaw to make a little cutaway on the side (the youngsters would probably jump over the edge but Nikki prefers to step in more daintily) and placed it in the Box #3 location. Really glad I found it. And just FYI, the Container Store is one of the few places I've been able to consistently find flat-bottomed storage containers...Ikea is another but that's a bit of a trek to get to so we don't go there very often.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I found a picture of her! An old one, from around 2006. She was/is very hard to photograph. The only reason I got this photo was because one of her kittens (at the time) was pretty bold and decided he wanted to nurse RIGHT THERE RIGHT NOW.

...and here's a clear closer view of her face:

...and here are some photos of Shadow where the resemblance to his mom is pretty evident:

Coal seems to have passed down a lot of her overall face shape to Shadow, and Brodie for that matter. They've all got the big triangular ears and the squarish muzzle with the little "pinch" under the cheeks (though Shadow is Mr. Muscles these days, so this is becoming less evident on him). The long tail and body shape both Shadow and Brodie exhibit also seem to have come down from Mom.

Coal's eyes are positioned differently than her sons', though; hers are more straight-set whereas Shadow's go up at the edges like angled almonds (though Brodie's do this even more). I actually only just noticed this looking back at these photos.

When I manage to glance Coal IRL, usually most of what I see of her is her shape. The picture above of her face was a VERY rare and lucky shot.

So yeah, just a random bit of kitty-genealogy there. Which I always find interesting.

(I'm thinking Cora must have gotten a lot of recessive genes as far as physical shape goes, and very likely she had a different daddy than either of her brothers. The main thing she seems to have inherited from Coal is her insufferable cleverness. :P)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Shifting Feral Colony Dynamics

I've definitely observed a shift in colony dynamics over the past two weeks or so. The last few times Matt and I have stopped over at his parents', I've gone on little expeditions around the neighborhood and tried to take a bit of a "cat inventory". Most of that area is houses, but there are also two parks within easy walking distance and a number of large-ish fieldy areas -- it is apparent why so many cats choose to live there, given the amount and type of space available.

Anyway, the "shift" I'm noting seems to have to do with which cats are likely to be found where -- in addition to which cats are likely to be found at all.

I saw one cat come right into the yard whom I've never seen before -- a strapping young tabby tom who proceeded to prance around, spritzing shrubs and whatnot, and altogether looking quite pleased with himself. No clue where he came from, but I'm definitely glad we managed to get four of the females spayed prior to his arrival!

I also spotted something like five or six black cats, spread across several yards and lots. There are a LOT of black cats in that colony (which I've read is common in random-bred populations; over time you start seeing coats default to brown tabby and black, because those patterns confer the best camouflage, or something like that). I can tell them apart pretty readily once I've seen them a few times, by way of differing face/body shapes and movement patterns, but I am nonetheless becoming really appreciative of ear-tipping, given the fact that some of these kitties really only ever grace us with rapid-fire cameo appearances every now and then.

Speaking of one point (when we were standing in his mom's living room) Matt motioned out the door at one particular black cat and said, "That one looks like Shadow". I glanced out myself and lo and behold, Coal was slinking out from under a car!

I was REALLY relieved to see her because frankly I'd actually gotten to the point of presuming she was probably dead. She's the mother of my three youngsters, Suzie, Radar, and, well, probably a whole lot of others who've come and gone over the past few years (Coal herself is six or seven years old). She's very distinctive-looking, though, especially given that she's extremely large for a female cat. Not fat-large -- if not pregnant she tends toward the wiry/rangy side -- but just big, long, squarish bone structure. And Shadow is the spitting image of his mom in a lot of ways, especially in the face.

So yeah. Coal is one tough lady. And she's smart. She's had to be both to survive as long as she has. I would dearly love to trap her and get her spayed but something tells me I'm going to have to build another drop trap in order to do that, because she's way too cautious to get anywhere near the cage-type traps that we've been putting out. But in any case, it is good at least to know she's alive, albeit looking rather ragged.

I've also twice now seen a cat that I think is supposed to be black...but who seems to be missing all his/her fur on one side! S/he is very skinny but ate like a horse during the last feeding session I observed so I'm guessing there's something skin-related going on rather than a worse, systemic thing, but it was still pretty alarming to see. My tentative guess is that this poor kitty has flea allergy dermatitis, given that s/he looks a heck of a lot like this, but it's hard to tell for sure.

Either way, if s/he ends up in the trap that will enable closer inspection as well as administration of some sort of topical flea treatment. In the meantime, though, I am seriously wondering if there's something safe we might be able to sprinkle on the food that could help reduce the parasite load for the ferals. Any suggestions would certainly be appreciated.

But back to my original point about shifting colony dynamics. I really shouldn't be surprised to see this sort of thing at all. I tend to think of spay/neuter purely in the sense of it being Kitty Birth Control, but it also impacts hormones. Which means that it will also likely impact the social organization of the colony, what with far fewer cats engaged in courtship and mating and all that accompanies those activities.

The newbie tabby male I described above has probably just moved in to fill what he sees as an opening. I didn't realize before the extent to which Blue was "guarding" the yard over the past few months (in addition to guarding his adopted babies). With him gone, and with JB/Tuxie neutered, there's been a decided drop in testosterone as of late. And I never noticed this until now, but in general it seems like the majority of long-term colony members are female, both spayed and unspayed. There's a much higher "turnover rate" with the boys, and quite a few have just seemed to disappear as mysteriously as they've appeared.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday Evening PicturePost

I just realized I've been writing so much about feral cats and the ongoing local TNR project lately that it's been a while since I posted any new pictures of Cora, Brodie, Shadow, and Nikki on here. Time to remedy that!

(1) Nikki on one of the dining chairs (which I am sure the cats think exist just for them -- there's something about the height, the cushioned seats, and the fact that they allow a nice little nap-cave when the chairs are pushed in that seem to attract felinekind).

I am sure she thinks I'm a bit strange for aiming that weird silver thing at her (i.e., my camera) but she nonetheless occasionally grants a clear view of her eminently distinguished countenance.

(2) Cora in the kitchen, watching sunbeams and shadows. Something about her is definitely looking more grown-up these days.

(3) Shadow watching the back yard, out the kitchen window. Lots to see out there (birds and squirrels in particular) now that spring is officially here!

(4) Brodie after having stolen a fig from me! (Hence the little black bits on the floor in front of him). The lighting is a bit harsh here because I had to use the flash so that's kind of annoying but it was the best recent picture I had of him and I wanted to include one of each cat in this post.

But anyway, yeah, Brodie is very adventurous in his eating habits and seems to have a peculiar and particular fondness for figs. He once stole two fig cookies practically right out from under my nose, and I figured (heh) maybe he liked the butter in the cookie part or something, but no -- he also steals whole dried figs if he can get at them!

Needless to say I don't give them to him regularly (I don't even want to know what the litter box would look like if I did...) but his occasional thievery doesn't seem to be hurting him. Maybe it's a texture thing?

Friday, April 1, 2011

I didn't want to write this update.

...but I got the news from Matt's mom earlier today that Blue didn't make it through the night. He went into what sounded like some sort of respiratory crisis, which makes me suspect he probably had pneumonia or even heartworm.

He tested negative for FIV and FeLV but apparently something else -- something we couldn't see or diagnose in time -- was wrong. He may well have been sick even before he and Dominique and Michelle showed up in December. And it could be he got exposed to some random germ at the clinic during neutering which he couldn't fight off due to an already weakened immune system. And he could have been much older than all of us thought.

At this point there's no way to know for sure. I keep wanting to blame myself anyway -- as in, maybe I should have pushed to get the runny eyes checked out prior to taking him to the TNR clinic. But given I've seen many, many cats with runny eyes turn out just fine it just didn't occur to me that Blue's condition could be that serious. And the clinic people apparently didn't notice anything egregriously amiss either. So whatever it was, it only reached critical badness levels over the past two days. And none of the other cats seem to have similar symptoms right now so I doubt it's going to turn into some horrible epidemic.

In any case I guess I am at least glad Blue got to see "his kittens" to the colony, where they will both hopefully go on to lead much longer, healthier, and happier lives now that they've been spayed and (by the looks of it) accepted into the feline social network.

I wish Blue had gotten to enjoy a "new lease on life" for more than the few months he spent with the colony, but I imagine he was glad to spend the time there that he did.

Rest in peace, sweet Protector of Kittens. You will be missed.

[Oh and BTW just because I realized the date just after initially posting this...I would NEVER EVER write something like this as an "April Fool". That would just be horrendously evil.]