Monday, November 28, 2011

In Which Cora And Shadow Join Forces

Coraline and Shadow are definitely both very high-energy cats. In Coraline's case this has been apparent since she was tiny. Shadow, however, has taken over a year to get to the point of enough confidence in his environment to really express the extent of his exuberant nature. He's still Brodie's favorite snuggle-buddy, of course, and can nap like a pro when he finally manages to wear himself out -- but that can take a while!

Accordingly (and much to my delight), he and Cora have actually become much more closely bonded over the past few months. As some may recall, Coraline and Brodie were actually adopted three weeks before Shadow simply due to the uncertainty inherent in trapping from a feral colony.

Brodie and Shadow got along famously from the moment the brothers were re-united, but Cora spent the first few weeks after her briefly-estranged sibling's arrival hissing and growling at him whenever he entered her sight. Eventually she came to accept him, but for ages she and Shadow were both closer friends with Brodie than with each other. Now, though, I'm seeing something different in shape but equal in (positive) magnitude developing between this particular sibling pair.

(Above image - Cora surveys the yard this past weekend, when I let her and Shadow out to run around a bit while I worked on my laptop on the patio.)

Brodie remains the go-to sibling for cuddles and free ear-washing (and the occasional but vigorous round of CHASEWRESTLEGRR, which even cats of the Garfield persuasion enjoy sometimes) but Cora has definitely gotten to the point where she knows that if she needs a partner in mischief or someone to tear randomly around the house with, Shadow is her guy.

It's also been neat seeing these two teach each other things. Cora has always been the most mechanically inclined and apt to experiment with objects of her own accord, while Shadow took months longer than either of his siblings to get to where he'd (for instance) bat treat-puzzle balls around just-so to dispense the crunchies within. It wasn't that he lacked the brainpower to operate the treat puzzles -- he's just always had the natural predisposition toward persuading others to do things for him (a trait he actually shares with Nikki).

Lately, though, he seems to have come around to the idea that there are some things he can better accomplish without running immediately to ask for help. E.g., he's become quite the expert at opening any door that isn't latched, and has managed to sneak into the bedroom behind me quite a few times recently!

(Above image - Shadow rests a while in the leaves after a vigorous game of Garden Tag with Cora. None of the kitties here have unrestricted outdoor access but on nice days these two really appreciate a chance to run off some of their energy in the back garden.)

Cora, in turn, seems to have experienced something of an epiphany in the opposite direction, as she seems to have become a lot more vocal all of a sudden, and has even adopted some of Shadow's "super secret weapons of human persuasion" (such as what I refer to as the "kittens of the damned stare" in addition to the "Lassie move" where the cat basically orders the human into a different part of the house and looks pointedly at the thing they're interested in, which in Cora's case is usually the back door!).

Of course both of these kitties have maintained their innate inclinations toward Explorer/Engineer (Cora) and Mr. Charisma (Shadow), but it's abundantly apparent that their growing friendship has led to a really neat expansion of both of their respective skill-sets. Which is just super cool to see.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

TNR News: Some Good, Some Sad

Since my last writing on this matter we've managed to get 3 more colony kitties successfully neutered and returned to their outdoor home. Which is awesome, of course -- it's definitely at the point where whenever I visit the colony, I'm liable to see unaltered cats way outnumbered by their TNRed cohorts.

So, that's the good news.

There is a bit of sad news to report as well, though: we actually brought in a total of 4 cats following the last round of trapping. While three came through the surgery fine, one of them (Tami, a little tabby girl who couldn't have been more than six months old) apparently had either an undiagnosed heart condition or sensitivity to the anesthesia because the clinic reported that her heart just randomly stopped on the operating table.

I hate reporting bad news like that, but I don't think Tami's memory would be well served by pretending this sort of thing never happens. It's rare, but it does happen, and whenever one gets involved in any type of cat rescue, one runs the risk of getting up close and personal with the occasional freak tragedy. I don't blame myself, I'm just really sorry that Tami never got to finish growing up and living a life spent running, playing, and climbing trees with her colony-mates.

What this sort of thing really drives home for me is the extreme need for more support for TNR clinics. It's great that the local Humane Society has a low-cost spay/neuter program at all, but over the long term I'd really like to see a bit more pre-op health screening become standard. If Tami did have a heart condition she might still be around if someone had been able to diagnose and treat it, and if she had a problem with one type of anesthesia, perhaps a different one might have been used.

Obviously it doesn't help anything to sit here dwelling on what could have been, but I'm not the sort of person who can just go "oh well, these things happen!' in response to this sort of thing. So I'm at least trying to look at what I can learn from the situation to help avoid it in the future. For one thing, I want to make sure that next time we bring in any cats that we at least REMIND the clinic of what happened to Tami. If nothing else that might prompt them to take a bit more care during surgery prep and watch more closely for signs of something being wrong, given that I know some heart conditions are familial and lots of cats in that colony are "cousins" of some degree.

…and on that note I will end this entry (and I promise the next one will be less sad!).

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Mousie Howl...Caught On Film!

Firstly, yes, I am still alive! Life just got very busy for a while there (I'm back to working again, yay!) and I just fell out of the habit of making any sort of regular updates.

That said...since I've been away so long I figured my first "hey I'm back" post had to be EPIC. And...well, while the video below is by far not the most epic example of what it depicts that I've every seen, it's the first-ever footage I've ever managed to secure of Cora making the Mousie Howl.

Basically, it's this sort of...repetitive MRRWOWOWOWOW! MRRWOWOWOWOW! MRRWOWOWOWOW! thing. My friend Amanda reminded me of it when we were on Skype chat recently and we (as in, the two humans) ended up cracking ourselves up ridiculously trying to imitate the noise. Her cat does it too sometimes and I've heard of a few others that do as well so it may not be THAT weird, but it's still rare to be able to capture it. Usually when Cora sees me looking at her mid-howl she drops the toy and looks at me like, "What? Nothing to see here..."

...anyhow, though, from an evolutionary standpoint I am *fairly* certain this noise is hunting-related, though in their cattish way, cats who employ it probably add their own individualized meaning and purpose to it. To me it comes across as being something like "CHECK OUT MY AWESOMENESS FOR I HAVE PROCURED A DINNER!" I could also plausibly see it being related to something mother cats would do when nearing the nest, so their kittens would know they were coming. And in some contexts it almost comes across as a (probably mild or even mocking) *threat*, e.g., "Keep it up and you're next!"

But of course, all that is just speculation. I fully expect Cora has other reasons for doing what she does that simply don't translate to human. It's just such an interesting, specific noise, though, that I'm sure it means *something*!

EDIT: Found another cat on Youtube making a similar noise...while playing with what appears to be a REAL dead mouse! Of course she's doing this on what appears to be her human's bed, too. :P