Chillin’

My apologies for the late and short post. Blame the virus for detaching us all from the concept of linear time. (Translation: I forgot what day it was and by the time I remembered, it was too late to put something together.)

I’ll shoot to have something more substantial next Friday, but for now, enjoy this infrared shot of Lefty and MM hanging out last night.

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MM is definitely more nocturnal than the rest of the crew, including Lefty. She’ll come out of the cage and explore the room at night, but once the sun comes up, she returns to the comfort of her caves–the condo and the milk crate–to sleep until dinnertime.

It will be interesting to see if her schedule changes once we start allowing her to roam the rest of the house.

Poke, Poke

Last month I said I was curious whether MM’s next move would be to explore the room outside her cage or to regularly eat with us present.

Vexing creature that she is–it’s a meezer trait, after all–she’s chosen the middle path. She eats with us present irregularly, but increasingly often, and she has begun to explore the room at night, but her explorations generally last no more than a minute or two.

To be fair, some of the tentative nature of her explorations can be laid at Lefty’s paws. He has a regrettable tendency to invade the cage and eat MM’s food.

She hasn’t yet figured out that if he’s eating her dinner, there’s nothing stopping her from eating his, but we expect that bit of insight any day now.

She generally defers to him when the cage door is open, allowing him to munch at will, and then moving in quickly to hoover down whatever he left uneaten.

But recently we’ve seen signs that MM is not going to let Lefty establish dominance unchallenged. The cage door does, after all, change the dynamics of the room–as does the presence of bipeds.

Leading to this little dance routine:

Despite what you might think, we’re regarding this as a good sign. Interaction with the rest of the house’s inhabitants is an indication that she’s starting to come out of her isolation funk.

There’s a huge distance between MM poking Lefty’s neck while he’s distracted and allowing us to brush her tangled fur*.

* It should be noted that Lefty has discovered the pleasures of the brush. He’s not entirely comfortable with the concept, but then, he’s also still not sure about the whole patting-and-neck-scratching thing either. But he does enjoy a good brushing when he allows us to do it. Progress!

But in many ways, she’s come almost as far already, from hiding at the back of the cage to sitting just outside arm’s reach. We’re quite pleased.

Breakthrough!

Breakthrough!

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Or, as MST3K would have put it, “We have meezer sign!”

Since we brought her inside, MM has spent most of the time either in the condo or the milk crate.

Make that “most of the time when we’ve been awake”. She’s definitely more nocturnal than the rest of the gang. Not surprising, really, given her previous living conditions.

We haven’t been worried about her, particularly. We knew she’d have a long, slow adjustment to the new surroundings. But we did have a bit of a scare a couple of weeks ago when her appetite dropped off significantly. But after a couple of days, she did a little hurking in the corner of the cage and then started eating more. So we modified her diet a bit–more water mixed into her gooshy fud–and she’s back to her previous eating habits.

But about that breakthrough:

Suddenly, she’s taking more of an interest in us, and is beginning to experiment with eating while we’re still in the room. A few days ago, she came out of the condo and started eating while I was cleaning her box. A couple of days after that, she came partway out: head and shoulders exposed so she could reach the bowl while leaving her tail and butt protected.

Parenthetically, if you check her lower back in the picture above, you’ll see some tufts of white hair. She may have some scarring there, which could explain why she’s protective of her backside. However, it’s equally likely that she’s just going through some heavy shedding. We’re currently in a heatwave and temperatures in that room are routinely hitting in the upper 80s and lower 90s.

Anyway, on Wednesday evening, she decided she needed to supervise the box cleaning. You can see a corner of the box at the lower left of the picture to give you a sense of how close she was to me.

I don’t think she was pleased.

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But the box did get cleaned without any hissing–from either of us–and without any sign that she wanted to retreat to her safe places.

There are plenty of milestones remaining, but we’re very pleased to see her passing this one.

Next up: either coming out of the cage to explore the room, or eating with us present on a regular basis. We’ve seen both paths before, and we’re curious to see which way she goes.

Minor Changes

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Why, yes, the lemon tree is producing most prodigiously these days.

Oh, Emmem? Yes, she’s still in protective custody out in the catio.

Her mood oscillates randomly from “secluded grump” to “vociferous grumpy” with the occasional side-jaunt into “pensive grumpy” as seen in the photo above.

With the demographic changes to the outdoor wildlife over the past couple of years, she doesn’t get much feline company. The bowls of Kitty Krunchiez we leave outside the catio are more likely to be emptied by trash pandas or possums than by cats.

Emmem finds this trend distasteful.

But then, she finds many things distasteful.

Eternal grumpiness notwithstanding, she seems in good health. Her appetite is fine–she’s definitely put on some weight–and her fur is lush and shiny (and much darker than in the past, thanks to the recent weather conditions). We haven’t seen any signs of the eye condition (excessive goo at the corners) lately.

And, while she spent much of the winter hiding inside her well-insulated cave, now that the weather is warming, she’s seen more and more often sitting on the highest shelf in the catio, keeping a cautious eye on her surroundings.

With the occasional foray to the floor near the house. She’s got a good view of Yuki’s current habitat in the living room, and Emmem is clearly unsure what to make of his residency.

But at least it means she gets some opportunities to interact with other cats, even if it is through her wire walls and his window.

Unhappiness

Yes, we are still hosting MM in involuntary protective custody.

The weather has been changeable lately, going from somewhat too warm to a bit too cold and back over the course of a couple of hours–and lately we’ve had rain in the mix as well.

MM has been coping by sleeping in one of the shelters.
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Don’t let that peaceful scene fool you. She’s still not happy about her confinement. A few moments after I took this picture, she woke up and realized I was looking at her. That clearly was beyond the pale and she immediately claimed the high ground, climbing to the highest shelf on the catio. Safely above the intruder, she then launched a series of hisses to let me know not to come any closer than was necessary to clean her litter box.

Meanwhile, Rufus and Lefty were also unhappy for a while. They picked up a nasty upper respiratory infection. Lefty’s more robust immune system limited the trouble to bouts of sneezing. He just needed a little help, and he was quite happy to take his antibiotics wrapped in pill pockets.

Rufus, on the other paw, was hit much harder. He had the sneezes as well, but he also had a very runny nose and drippy eyes. He hated the eye-drops and loathed having pills forced down his throat (because of his lack of teeth, pill pockets are too much for him to swallow. It was obvious that nothing tasted right, and even with the bowls elevated, he still dripped snot onto his food, which just compounded the problem.

Yes, he does seem to have made a full recovery, but he didn’t have any qualms about telling everybody just how he felt about the multiple visits to the vet.
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Fortunately for everybody involved, she didn’t take it personally. She was, in fact, quite amused and insisted on getting a picture for his permanent record in their computer system.

How to Handle Change

Some people never change.

Take MM, for example.
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This is not a cat who’s happy to see me. Even though I’d just filled her food bowl, exactly as Maggie and I have done for the past seven months or so. Cleaning the litter box is often performed with a soundtrack of hisses.

She’s mellowed enough to take cover in one of the shelters when it’s particularly wet or cold, but that’s not much a shift.

Then there are those who try something new, give it up, and come back to it.
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After an extended period of terrestrialism–completely voluntary, I assure you–Sachiko has resumed her acrobatic ways.

It’s probably a misperception, but I tend to believe she’s spending more time balanced on one of the banisters than on the ground.

We’re hoping it’s a phase. Not that we begrudge her indulgence of her aerialist tendencies, but the truth is, she’s not as svelte as she was the last time around, and we’re concerned about the ramifications of a misstep.

And then there are those who revel in change.
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After something of a slow start, Lefty seems to be turning into quite the fan of indoor living. He adjusted to a mixed gooshy/krunchie diet rather quickly and picked up the art of the litter box faster than MM. After that, though, progress was slow for several months.

But ever since we let him out of the cage, he’s been enthusiastically trying out new things. As in the picture above, he’s finding great joy in nesting in the blankets on the futon. Curiously, however, he’s still not at all interested in having a cushion in any of his caves–we often find one or another condo pillow in the middle of the floor. (Not yet available: video of Lefty and Rufus sharing the futon and exchanging ear-washings. Hopefully I can pull it off the camera in time for next week’s post.)

And, speaking of the middle of the floor, the other thing we often find there is Lefty himself. Sometimes by himself, keeping a watchful eye (sorry) on the activity outside the room, but more often in company with his buddy Rufus.
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Post-Thanksgiving Cats

“Hey,” I hear you all thinking*. “What’s up with the ferals?”

* Not really. It’s a rhetorical device. Relax, you don’t need to invest in metallic headgear. You can if you want, of course. I’m hardly in a position to give you fashion advice.”

I haven’t said anything about them because there hasn’t been much to say. The coyotes–or at least one coyote–are still around. We seem to have them scared: they run past our house instead of lingering in the common space. Clearly, that’s of limited utility in keeping the cats safe, so they remain in protective custody.

MM is still in the catio.
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She spends most of her time on the highest shelf, alternately keeping watch, grooming, and sleeping. She descends for dinner, of course, and to use the box, but otherwise prefers to be as high up as possible. Not uncommon among meezers, to be sure, though it’s rare to see them so oblivious to rain.

After far too long in the garage, Lefty has finally made the move inside. I hasten to add that the delay had nothing whatsoever to do with his behavior. We had trouble coming up with a cage that fit into the available space, gave him sufficient room to move around, and didn’t risk him hurting himself through lack of depth perception. We finally combined a large cage with a bunch of snap-together wire panels. Hooray for zip ties!

It took no persuasion whatsoever for him to exchange the plastic carrier for a condo, and the camera frequently finds him sitting on the condo roof. However, he’s still quite shy where bipeds are concerned, and immediately ducks inside when he hears us coming.

He hasn’t met ‘Nuki yet, but they do have one thing in common: a tendency to leave body parts dangling when sleeping in an enclosed space.
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Actually, the only one of the crew he’s met so far is Rufus. Not only was Mr. Alexander the logical choice, given his calm demeanor, but the library–Rufus’ home territory–was the only place in the house where there was enough space for Lefty’s domicile and where we could control his interaction with the other cats.

By and large, it’s working well. Rufus is free to roam the room, so he can ignore Lefty or engage with him as he sees fit. Granted, it’s usually the later (note the eyes at the upper right).

Yes, to our surprise, Lefty has turned out to be quite the talker when he wants Rufus’ attention. Ferals are rarely talkative, so we have to wonder if Lefty grew up as an indoor cat.

You can see Rufus’ tail just to the right of the glowing bar. Clearly, he’d rather eat than talk. Which is not to say that he won’t go looking for Lefty when he’s in the mood.

Naturally, Lefty reserves the right to ignore Rufus if he doesn’t feel social. He’s well aware of Rufus’ efforts, however, as can be seen by the glowing eye in the condo in the last few seconds of that clip.

Every so often, however, both gentlemen are feeling social at the same time.

They haven’t become bosom buddies, but their interactions seem peaceful. Quiet regard and cautious nose-sniffing are the actions of the day. That works for us.

As I said earlier, Lefty still ducks out of sight when he hears us coming. But now that he’s indoors and has had some time to adjust, we’ve started hanging out quietly in the library to accustom him to our presence in a (hopefully) non-threatening fashion. A couple of days ago, he accidentally came out of the condo to visit his food bowl while Maggie was in the room. He didn’t panic and didn’t threaten, just watched her for a few seconds, then ducked back into shelter when he heard me approaching. Definite progress.

In the near future, we’ll try leaving the library door open while we sit with Lefty. That should let him begin to meet the rest of the gang while still giving us control over their interaction.

There’s a long way to go before we even consider letting him out of the cage, much less give him free rein to wander around the house. But we’ve taken the first steps.

As “things to be grateful for” go, being able to offer shelter and love to those in need–Sachiko, Rufus, MM, and Lefty in particular–is high up on my list.

Feeling Lucky

If you were wondering, yes, the coyotes are still around. We haven’t seen the adults lately, but the pups put in an appearance from time to time. Needless to say, we’re not happy about that. But what can one do?

Well, for starters, one can put MM in protective custody.
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She’s been an involuntary resident of the catio* for a while now.

* Note, by the way, that the catio has been upgraded with a real roof and a partial wall on the side that gets the most rain. These upgrades should make life much more pleasant for any inhabitants during the rainy season. Assuming we ever have another rainy season, of course.

Don’t let that mild demeanor and the sun-basking fool you. She is not happy to be there.
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Not only did she tear the railing off the shelter and make a massive mess of the straw, forcing us to replace the wooden shelter with one of the plastic “quonset hut” shelters from the yard, but she also tore up and tore apart the rubber floor mats.

She’s calmed down a bit, but she still wants nothing to do with the nasty bipeds who locked her up. She hides in the shelter when we take her food out and we hear an occasional “Cattica! Cattica!” chant late at night. At least we’ve persuaded her that the litter box is for excretion, not residency.

We’re not sure how long we’ll hold onto her, but we’ve given up any notion of civilizing her. Once we decide it’s sufficiently safe, we’ll let her loose.

And then there’s the other involuntary recipient of our hospitality.

Meet Lefty.
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He hasn’t been with us as long, mostly because it took several times as long to trap him. (We caught MM the first night we tried. Lefty was more cautious, and it took more than a week.)

And if we thought MM was unhappy in the catio, Lefty took matters to previously unconsidered depths. He complained. He prowled around, shoving shelters out of his way, and generally created chaos.

Nor, to be blunt, did he get along with MM. She wanted him in the catio even less than he wanted to be there.
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To make matters worse, Lefty is not the most graceful cat we’ve ever met. He’s got an excuse, granted, but the combination of clumsiness and escape attempts resulted in several rather nasty wounds.
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Be glad I’m not showing you any of the earlier pictures. This one is quite upsetting enough; the others are…well, put it this way: I did not look at them, just attached them to an email to the vet and hit send as quickly as I could.

No, he’s not a calico; he’s pure black except for a small white patch on his chest. That strip down his forehead and nose is one of the wounds he picked up in the catio.

He took a trip to the vet and he’s looking better now. We’ve given him separate quarters in the garage while he recovers from his neutering, goes through a course of antibiotics, and generally heals up. That space seems to be more to his tastes: we haven’t seen any sign of escape attempts and he’s eating more enthusiastically than he did in the catio.

We don’t know if it’s going to be possible, but we’d like to adopt him into our posse. Not because every team needs a good southpaw (sorry), but because of that excuse for his clumsiness.

Some of you, especially knowing that we generally give neighborhood cats descriptions instead of proper names, may have figured out why we call him “Lefty”. For the rest of you, here’s a hint:
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That cloudy right eye is no camera illusion. As we feared, and the vet confirmed, it’s unlikely he’s got any vision in it. We don’t know if it’s acquired or congenital, but either way, it’s not curable.

On the brighter side, the vet doesn’t think there’s any need to remove it to avoid infection. So, while a nicely piratical eyepatch might look good on him, he won’t have to wear one.

Further good news: he’s tested negative for Heartworm, FIV, and FeLV.

So he’s been lucky so far. But monocular vision certainly puts him at a disadvantage on the streets.

We’ll see how he’s doing by the time he finishes his antibiotics. If he’s still relatively chill, we’ll see if we can persuade him to adopt an indoor lifestyle. It’ll be a long haul, and an awkward one, since we don’t feel at all comfortable about putting him back in the catio, even after MM goes on her way. But it’s worth a try. Wish him (further) luck.

Unhappiness

No cute picture this week.

Sorry, I’m not feeling the toe bean love. Or the sleeping cat, cat in a small space, or, indeed, any other cuteness.

A family of coyotes–mother and four or five pups–has moved into the neighborhood, and is hanging around the area outside our fence.

All the cats have gone into hiding. Hell, even the damn Trash Pandas have made themselves scarce.

We’re doing our best to annoy the coyotes into leaving, making loud noises and throwing pine cones when we see them. And we’ve moved the Backyard Bowl to a somewhat more protected location. The felines sneak out when things are quiet, grab some food, and vanish back into hiding again.

We saw MM late Wednesday night.

Tuxie hasn’t been seen in more than a week. This is not good.

We’re clinging to the hope that someone else saw his charm and charisma, and has given him the indoor home he’s been angling for. It could be. We know he’s been visiting more people than us, and the last time we saw him was a couple of days before the first reports of coyote sightings.

But it’s hard to maintain optimism, especially knowing he’s got a microchip registered to us. Surely if someone had adopted him, they’d have taken him to the vet for a checkup, right?

Or maybe someone spotted the coyote and gave Tuxie some temporary shelter. That could be too.

And there are still other cats around. We’ve caught glimpses of a black cat from across the street and an unknown black and white critter.

But they’re not our buddy Tuxie.

So, no pictures today. Maybe next week.

Odd Couple

Tuxie and MM have, for the most part, arrived at a workable arrangement. There’s always some jockeying for position when the food bowls go down, but after a minute or so, they settle down to the serious business of eating.
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To be quite honest, we’ve arrived at the point where they spend more time shoving each other aside to get petted before they eat.
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It’s a bit awkward, but quite endearingly cute.