Fencing

No, no, the other kind of fencing.

Remember last month when I joked about our backyard fence falling apart? Yeah, maybe not so much a joking matter.
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As I implied, the fence was rotted out beyond repair, so the whole thing had to come down.
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Living with craters and loose poles was interesting. Even the neighbors thought so.
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Actually, Tuxie and MM were real troupers through the whole process, and kept a close watch on the deconstruction and subsequent construction.
04-3If only the Bay Bridge had had such dedicated QA engineers! They came by every evening to make sure the job was being done to spec.

Nor were they the only ones to drop by.
04-4We lost a few plums to that guy. Though, in fairness, I should say that we only saw him eating groundfall.
04-5Naturally, the local gang came by as well. “Nice fence you’re building there. Be a shame if anything happened to it, y’know?”
04-6MM and Tuxie weren’t impressed, and extended their supervisory warrant to include security. And no, the changes didn’t affect their appetites.

So now we’ve got a lovely, new fence.
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Even Tuxie approves.
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Another Guest

Sometimes when one lives in a tourist destination, it seems like the house guests never end. As soon as Tuxie left, we had a new visitor.

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Unlike Tuxie, this one was not invited.

And no, this is not the spider who spins those lovely webs near the front door. She’s still outside where she belongs.

She’s also gotten much less camera shy in the past few months.

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Our unwanted guest was hanging around near the kettle. I somehow doubt she wanted to boil her dinner, but stranger things have happened around here.

In any case, and much to my relief, Maggie delivered our guest an invitation to the world–before she had the chance to explore the bedroom!

Quota

One of the main reasons why the ASPCA and other animal welfare groups recommend Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) over euthanasia in reducing feral feline populations is that feral colonies are rarely isolated.

As with any wild animals, population will increase to roughly that of the environment’s carrying capacity. Removing cats from the colony, rather than fixing and returning them, simply lowers the population to the point where the local habitat has a surplus of resources. And then cats from surrounding areas will typically move in, and the population will rise back to the local maximum.

Since we’ve adopted Rufus, we’ve begun to see this phenomenon playing out.

Meet Bunter.
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Maggie named him, not for his prowess in wielding a bat, but for the character in Dorothy Sayers’ Peter Wimsey stories. As Wikipedia puts it, “Bunter conveys an air of awesome solemn dignity lightened at rare intervals by an icy sarcasm and an understated but biting criticism.” That sounds about right.

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Our Bunter has been showing up intermittently for a couple of months–and the expression he* turns on us when we interrupt him at the food bowl is the most eloquent icy sarcasm laced with biting criticism I’ve ever seen.

* As usual, in the absence of evidence, I’ve assigned pronouns via coin flip.

MM, of course, has been keeping a close eye on Bunter.
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As queen of the local chaos of cats, it’s her responsibility to pass judgment on the suitability of any would-be immigrants. She’s also drawing on the talents of Ooki Brothers Security in monitoring Bunter’s behavior.
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They naturally take a special interest in tuxedo-clad cats.

Nor is Bunter the only feline who’s been dropping by.

During the February rains, we spotted a new arrival.
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He slipped into the yard when MM and Tuxie weren’t around and checked the food bowls for goodies. After a couple of days, he vanished, and we decided he must have found fault with the environment and moved on.

Until a couple of days ago, when it started raining heavily. Sure enough, as soon as it got wet out, there he was.
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He hasn’t been around long enough to acquire a name. For the moment, we’re using our usual fallback of naming based on appearance. So he’s known as “Somewhat Bedraggled Meezer.” If he sticks around, we’ll need to replace that–or at least shorten it.

MM is on the job, keeping an eye on SBM, though as yet she hasn’t called in the Ooki brothers or their assistant.
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It’s too soon to say whether either of our visitors will become regulars–though we do have another bowl ready for deployment if it’s needed–but the queen seems to have given tentative approval to both of them. Or, to be more precise, we haven’t heard any debates in the yard, nor have we seen any pointy politics.

Variety

Some of you have been following the blog for long enough to know there are more critters living around here than just cats.

We’ve got a large flock of wild turkeys, who like to congregate in the streets and extort protection money from drivers.

There are several deer who often use the open space behind the house for their jousts.

And then there’s this lady.

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I’m sorry I couldn’t get a closeup shot. She really is a lovely slightly-translucent brown.

Very hardworking, too. She built this web overnight, right after the last set of storms ended.

We have an agreement with the spiders: if they stay outside, we won’t sic the exterminators on them.

By and large, they keep the treaty well, though I do occasionally find one in the bathroom and get Maggie to take it outside. I don’t worry about small violations like that.

However, climbing into the bed and exploring my ear is cause for immediate reprisals.

We had another storm Wednesday night, and Thursday morning the web was gone. I do hope the spider is OK.

Lounging About

Well, it took more than half a year, but someone has finally decided the roof of Cape Odd is a good lounging spot.
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Yes, Tuxie has adopted it with great enthusiasm. Perhaps too great. It’s been rainy lately, but he’s still sprawling on the roof most afternoons. I’m not sure whether it’s a sign that he’s a couple of leaves short of a catnip plant, or a clever ploy to keep his paws out of the mud.

Mind you, he could go inside and stay dry without going any further away from the food bowl. But that’s Tuxie.

That was not an easy picture to take, by the way. Sachiko was in full-on “Look at me!” mode.
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The second anniversary of her abdoption is rapidly approaching, making her the equivalent of a human teenager, but she still frequently behaves more like a young child.

At least we don’t have to worry about her dating.

Settling In and Hanging Out

Rufus is settling in nicely. He’s still got some medical issues that we’re helping him through, but he eats like a lion, cuddles like a koala, and plays like a, well, a kitten. Seems like he’s enjoying the lack of responsibility for keeping himself fed.

The round, yellow blob is a catnip lemon. The second toy, not visible in the video, is a set of small cardboard twists at the end of a wire, and the last, near the water bowl, is a catnip-filled butterfly on a wire. He frequently moves from one to another, often interspersing his play with a stint on sentry duty. He may be retired, but he still takes his self-appointed duties seriously.

He does not, however, much care for the whole picture-taking thing.
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His face may be his best feature, but it does come with a whole lot of raspberries.

Tuxie, meanwhile, continues to drop by to visit Rufus, sometimes while we’re around as well.
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He doesn’t mind posing for photographs, unlike his buddy; I just happened to catch this shot while he was grooming himself.

He likes the deck railing, and spends more time up there than on the floor.
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And, while he’s still not sure whether humans are a good thing, he’s at least willing to consider the evidence. Skritches behind the ears and on the back of the neck are almost as good as gooshy fud.

A New Tail

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What is it about cats leaving their tails outside when they go indoors? As we’ve seen, ‘Nuki does it all the time with the various condos. And now, it seems we have a visitor who has the same habit.

You know, one of the major arguments behind Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) handling of feral cats is that it keeps the population constant; removing a feral cat from the wild just leaves a vacant territory that some other cat will move into.

I believe we’re seeing evidence of exactly that. With GT out of circulation–and I’ll have an update on GT’s situation next week–the owner of the tail you see in the picture above has been hanging around the house.

Not just in the Rose Cottage, either.

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He’s* wandered around the food bowls several times, both in the evening after Tuxie and MM have wandered off, and in the morning, when cats often wander through, hoping for–and usually receiving–treats.

* Don’t assume gender bias here. Since we don’t have any evidence either way, I picked the pronoun by flipping a coin.

He’s not quite a chunky as that picture makes him look. From other angles, he’s actually quite svelte.
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And no, we haven’t named him yet. We’ll hold off until we know whether he’s going to be a regular visitor. But if we do have to name him, it’s going to be tough to use our usual descriptive naming. BC? Uh-uh. Wouldn’t want anyone to think he’d been named after a comic strip. Beekay? Nah, sounds like a fast food restaurant.

Well, should it become necessary, we’ll come up with something. For now, we’re going with “Hey, the black cat is back.” ┬áNot easily abbreviated, but it’ll do.

Unexpected Consequences

Having GT staying in the garage has led to some unexpected events. But before I go into that, a quick GT update seems in order.

He’s doing well. His cheek had healed enough for us to take collar off Wednesday evening, much to everybody’s relief. The evidence suggests GT spent the entire night making up for lost grooming time: Thursday morning, his fur was much sleeker–and there was a hairball of Trumpian proportions* on the floor of the cage.

* “It’s huge! Huuuuuggge!”

Even without the collar, GT’s behavior is excellent. When we set the bowl down and open the cage door, he strolls out, sits down, and starts eating.
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When he’s done, he calmly stands up and walks back into the cage, making no attempt to go explore the garage.

Admittedly, his table manners leave something to be desired.
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He shows a regrettable tendency to try to climb into the bowl, and there’s a certain amount of gooshy spray.

But since he’s getting regular meals with table service for, as best we can tell, the first time in his life, we’d be willing to pardon even more egregious violations of etiquette.

We remain convinced that he’s civilizable. (hint, hint)

Moving on.

The biggest side effect of having GT living in the garage is that we can’t put the car in there. But that’s turned out to be interesting. Among other things, it’s given us an opportunity to meet some new neighbors.
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This leafhopper was sitting on the side of the car when we went outside Monday morning. Since I was about to drive Maggie to BART, we suggested that she might be happier with a different perch, but she was adamant in her refusal to relocate.

Since the drive to BART is in the same direction as the morning commute, our trip down the freeway never exceeded thirty mph. Ms. Leafhopper took it in stride. Maggie checked when she got out of the car, and our passenger was still perched on the side of rear panel, and still showed no inclination to leave.

So I shrugged and drove home. That’s against the commute, so I was able to drive at full freeway speeds. After I parked, I checked on Ms. Leafhopper.
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She had moved, yes, but only a few inches, into a spot where she could get a better grip. And, while I’m no expert on Cicadellidae facial expressions, I’m fairly sure she’s showing the equivalent of a manic grin: “Man, what a rush!”

Tuesday morning, there were three leafhoppers on the car. Clearly, we’ve got the hottest thrill ride in the neighborhood.

Look Out Below!

Feeding time does not always go as smoothly as one might hope.
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Allow me to assign blame appropriately. This was all MM’s fault.

Tuxie was minding his own business–also known as scarfing down food as though he hadn’t eaten in weeks, rather than hours–when MM decided the fastest way to her bowl was not to go around his rear end, but to duck under his gut.

Fortunately, Tuxie is a pretty easygoing guy. They remained in this position, both munching away, for nearly a minute before he stepped over her butt and sat down at his bowl.

Home Sweet…

We’ve had some construction going on in the backyard lately. To be precise, the work is being done in the house, but the products of the effort are in the backyard.
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These two shelters, the Rose Cottage and Cape Odd, are the most elaborate, but there are a couple of others not visible from the window. No two have the same design. What they do have in common are straw bedding, as much water-proofing as we can manage, and a single-occupancy limit.
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I’m not, by the way, going to take credit for the shelters. They’re Maggie’s initiative all the way. I just supply some assistance in construction–which is a real joke to anyone who’s ever seen me wielding a hammer.

The feline reaction has been mixed. MM ostentatiously ignores them. We think she’s expressing her displeasure at Cape Odd occupying one of her favorite patches of grass.

Tuxie has explored the shelters, but–despite having sprayed various outside corners–never spent more than a few seconds inside.

GT, however, is quite enthusiastic about them.
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He moved in as soon as the rains started, and he’s spent most of every rainy day in one or another shelter. Now that the weather is drying out, he’s back to his usual routines. But even so, we’re still seeing him bedding down in the shelters a couple of nights a week.