It’s late February and, here in Northern California, the weather is starting to break.  We’re still dealing with the rains but the temperatures are getting better with overnight lows dropping to the mid-40s.  For the feral cats that live in the factory behind us things are looking up.

This blog was started to relate the stories of the cats that call this house their home.  In the past few years, however, I’ve also written about some of the strays that come by to visit with the Court cats and share a bowl of kitty crunchies.  I won’t get up on my soap box today and preach the importance of having kitties ‘fixed’ at an early age.  Just keep in mind that serious cat-people have this taken care of quickly when the kitten is old enough for the procedure.

Currently there are 8 regulars in the neighborhood:

Junior, a 21-month-old tiger male.  We were able to catch his mother and 4 junior-nov-2016siblings.  Mom was neutered and released; the siblings were adopted.  Junior watched the family get trapped and avoids cages.

Roger, maybe 5 years old, a tiger with a white chest.  We’re not sure if he is really a stray. mHe is clean, well fed and wears a collar.  We haven’t been able to track him back to his people.  Roger’s territory covers the north side of the street and extends back behind the houses to include the apartments and the funeral home on the next block.  Mr. Big will occasionally cross the street to visit with some of the ‘house cats’ but doesn’t go behind the houses.

Princess, a female, white fur and maybe 3 years old. Our neighbor takes care of theimg_20170115_110522_021 Princess who has been neutered and sees a vet regularly.  She is an outside cat, not quite a feral then again not a house-dwelling cat.

The Trio, 3 siblings, maybe 8 months old and true ferals.  We have not been able to trap them (set out traps every night for a week and a half, managed to catch the same possum every night).  Mr. Big goes out when we put food out and spends an 20161029_174258hour back there with them most mornings.   Last week they managed to catch a finch and left half of the ‘meal’ next to the bowl, sharing the kill.

Blue.  Maybe a year old, lives in the warehouse behind the house.  He is not afraid to approach people as he knows that’s where the food comes from.

Calico Kitty, maybe 6 months and new to this end of the factory yard.  She seems to have figured out the schedules and rules.

We put out food every evening close to sunset (bowls of dry and wet food) and again around 6:30 the next morning.  Most feedings are cleaned up within a half hour; the cats are used to the schedule and know that if they aren’t there, another cat will finish the food.  Our cats don’t seem to mind, as long as the ferals stay out toward the other end of the yard and not approach the back door.  Seems our cats have laid out their territory and marked it well.

The winter hasn’t been too bad; there was a stretch where the overnight lows settled down to 29 degrees for a few weeks.  We assume the strays were able to find a warm dry shelter in one of the old warehouses.  For the first time in years we did not lose anyone.

Come April we’ll attempt to capture a few more of the strays for T-N-R; we want to keep the population down but not extinct.  We don’t have a problem with moles, mice or rats as the cats keep their numbers in check.

As for the Court Cats, with the cold and rain the Blue and the Old Lady stay in the house most of the time, venturing out on those occasional warm afternoons to sprawl on the back steps.  Long about April they’ll be spending more time outside, pursuing lizards and insects. At their age, they no longer go after birds; too much work.  The Old Lady is 13 now and not as agile.  The Blue – well, he never bothers to hunt for fresh food as there was always kitty-crunchies in the bowl.

Till next time –

 

It has been a while since the past post; I’ve been busy on some other things.  Today I’d like to update on the progress made in dealing with the stray cat population in the neighborhood.  The city where I live supports stray-cat population control through a relationship with the local animal shelter.  To summarize, the city picks up the cost of neuter/spay when a stray is brought in.  The cat is added to the shelter population for adoption or, if an older feral, released in the neighborhood where he was picked up.

In 2015 we successful in that we trapped 6 feral (the parents and 4 of their 5 offspring). The kittens found new forever homes and the parents were released in the neighborhood but have since moved on.

This year we again set out to trap strays.  3 new strays moved into the factory yard. The adult is a large tiger; I guessed his age at 2 to 3 years and he seemed to be quite well fed which leads me to think he was someone’s cat at one point.  There are 2 kittens, maybe 6 months old at this point that have taken to visiting our yard, looking to share a meal with our own cats. The 5th kitten from last year’s litter is still here, visiting most every morning for a meal.

Working the trap for a 10 day period we were able to capture the adult tiger (taken to the shelter) and Paul the Possum (repeatedly).

The current stray population:

Junior, 18 month old tiger.  He has managed to avoid the traps (we’ve tried to catch him on junior-nov-2016a dozen occasions but have not been successful) and has settled into the role of ‘neighborhood cat’.  While he still stops by here in the mornings for a meal, he is also fed by some of the other people living on the court.

The Kittens – They started showing up in the back during the summer.  Not sure where they came from but, due to their coloring, we think their parents started to visit the yard in the early spring.  Always seen together, they come out at sunrise and again near sunset, looking to get a handout.  Mr. Big, our Maine Coon, has taken an interest in these kitties and visits with them at meal time.kitties-and-mr-big

Paul the Possum – A frequent visitor, Paul has spent more time in our trap than all other captures combined.  He likes the cat food we put out and doesn’t seem to mind getting caught, as long as there is food available.20150802_122822

And the Court Cats are all doing fine.  Precious just celebrated her birthday; she’s 13 and is talkative.  Fatty and Mr. Big are doing well; they spend the autumn days sleeping on the back steps, warmed by the sun.precious-at-13

I’ve often wondered how well the cats hear.  Googling ‘cat hearing’ I have learned that cats can hear sounds at 64 kHz, nearly 1.6 octaves higher than we humans; a full octave higher than dogs hear.  How accurate is their hearing? At a distance of 91 cm their ears can focus the hearing on an object to within 70 mm.  (So that’s how the Big Guy can track the occasional spider that dares challenge him on his turf.)

But, if their hearing is so good, why don’t they hear me?

I’ve tried a number of things to test their hearing and have come to the conclusion that they hear what they want to hear.  The other senses do a pretty good job of warning them about the approach of danger, the availability of food and what corner of my freshly tilled garden plot makes the best bathroom.

But hearing?Blutto2

To test the theory that they hear just fine I conducted a few tests:

1)      The sound of Tidy Cat being dumped into a clean box.  Cat owners know that most cats prefer to utilize a ‘clean’ and well-manicured box if at all possible.

2)      The sound made when I slowly twist off the lid from the treat jar.

3)      The sound of the alarm clock.

The Big Guy would argue that what I see as reactions to sounds are not Pavlovian responses, the actions of cats trained to respond to certain events. He would say that they are responding as they believe the humans would want to see them respond.  When asked to explain he offered the example of the ‘treat jar’.

I have a jar filled with Friskies Party Mix; a cat treat that comes flavored with salmon, tuna, cheese or some other taste they are expected to like.  I’ll slowly twist the lid off and put a few treats on the table; cats appear as if my magic and devour the treats before slinking off.  Per the Big Guy, they are getting rid of the snacks before they can attract flies and mice.  Just looking out for the humans; wanting to keep the house clean.

If that were true, if they really cared about the house then why do they leave hair balls scattered about on the floor?  Seriously?

The alarm clock heralds the new day and a reason to dash about the house for 10 minutes, ensuring that all human occupants are woken up.  They hear the clock and use that as an excuse to sprint from one end of the house to the other, knocking things off tables, tipping plants over, slamming into each other (which sets off a fair amount of hissing and whining,eventually  freaking out the squirrel who begins to bark.

It doesn’t matter how quiet the alarm is or when it goes off (I move the time around just to see if I can throw them off). They hear it and begin to make their presence known.  Precious the cat has tried to convince me that it is the dawn that inspires them to celebrate the return of the sun with wild abandon but I know better.  If I set the alarm to ring at 11:00 at night, I’ll get the same performance.  They hear the alarm and go into ‘wild’ mode.

Once again, they are responding with antics that we ‘like’.

Do you see a trend developing?  I can trigger a response by creating a sound.  It doesn’t need to be day or night; if I make the sound, they respond accordingly.  They hear the sounds.

However, if I call to a cat who may be sitting a few feet away, she’ll not respond.  This is a 13 year old cat who has gotten accustomed to hearing the name; who can start purring as I say the  name and brush her fur.  She knows the sound of the name. But, as she needs to demonstrate her lack of hearing, no response.

I called out the kitten’s name the other night and she turned her head.  One of the older Preciouscats went over and smacked her on the back of her head, reminding her that cats do not respond.

The sound of dinner. The quiet little ‘pop’ when you pull up on the tab on a can of Friskies wet food and the cats will hear it, no matter how far away they are.

The gray cat doesn’t like canned food but he comes running, just the same.

On more than 1 occasion I’ve seen the Big Guy run in from behind the shed (100 yards away) at the sound.  Yeah, he hears. He knows the sound of the cat food can pop top and can hear it over the sounds of the factory next door, the commuter train tracks a few hundred yards  away and the drone of C-130 aircraft overhead.

FattyAnd the litter box. Changing the powder triggers a celebratory visit to the box by each of the Court Cats; accompanied by much flinging of sand, extensive landscaping and what I can only describe as terraforming (and you thought the Chinese Government was the only group who could create a land-mass out of sand?). Just the sound the  lid generates as it is being removed from the bucket of powder  is enough sound to rouse the cats from a deep sleep and call them to the party.

So, do cats hear? Yes, I believe they hear just fine.  

In the fall I posted a blog that covered our attempts to trap-neuter-and-release a family of cats that lives behind our house.  The kittens are 10mmonths old now; time for an update.

There were 5 kittens in the litter.  We were able to trap 4 of them and they were all adopted quickly.  My granddaughter adopted 1 while her mother adopted another.  The shelter told us the 2 gold/white tabbies were also adoped.  The 5th kitten managed to avoid being trapped.  Junior (ok, we named him).

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Junior and Mom in September, 4 months old.

The cats continued to come around through the falll and into the winter.  We noticed that the father stopped coming around on a regular basis in November and has not been back since early December.DSCN0541

This picture was taken late in January.  The mother (on the left) is about as big as her 9 month old son.

The mother comes around most mornings, looking for a bite in the early morning and again in the evening, just after sunset.  She won’t hang around after eating; usually has a quick meal and is gone in 15 minutes.

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After the father moved on, Junior used to spend time shadowing The Big Guy.  Meal time, nap time andplay time.

Junior, on the other hand, liked visiting and would spend the cold nights in the garage,  sleeping close to the hot water heater where the temperture says around 65 degrees.  We set up a box and blanket where he could snuggle under cloth and keep warm.

In the last few weeks Junior has stopped coming around.  Towards the end of January he stopped sleeping in the garage and hasn’t shown up for meals either.  The assumption is that he has moved on to a new neighborhood where he can find warmth and a meal.    Either that or he succumbed to the winter.  I’d like to think he has found a home where he has a quiet corner near the heater and a bolw of crunchies to snack on.

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This is Kimchee, my granddaughter’s adopted kitty, around 6 months, having a conversation with her father through the screen door.

Hopefully we won’t see any new litters this year; the neighborhood females are all fixed and we haven’t seen any new ferals slinking around.

Meanwhile, The Big Guy continues to patrol the neighborhood, going out early  to visit the others on the Court and chase unwanted visitors away.

 

 

 

 

 

The cats on the Court have been quiet this past year; the regulars are still found sleeping on front porches or lawn chairs in the afternoon heat.  On Monday nights they go around the the neighborhood checking out the trash cans that have been left out for pickup.  An occasional jogger accompanied by their dog will stir the cats from their slumbers; some go off and hide behind bushes while others strike a pose on the porch steps and stare at the interloper as they transit the block.  Very quiet.

There are a few strays that reside on the court.  On the north side of the street is a tiger male, maybe 2 years old. He usually makes his way around the houses on that side of the street in the early morning and again just about an hour before dusk.  Not sure if he is a stray or if he has a forever house and likes to patrol the neighborhood.DSCN0499

Behind our house is an old factory that hosts a half dozen cats and possums. I’ve been putting a small plate of Cat kibble out for a few years now.  Paying the cats off for taking care of the mice that used to reside in the back. In past years there were a few Tigers (mostly orange and an occasional gray), white cats, blues and others.  Some lasted a year or two, others came and left quickly.  This year we saw a bumper crop of kittens and adult ferals.

We call her Lilly; a regular for the past 11 months, she’s maybe 18 months old and has recently had DSCN0453a litter of 5 kittens.  Probably had them in early May, at the beginning of the “season”.  The litter contained 3 orange tiger males and a pair of gray and black striped females.  Dad seems to be an older persian blend that has been hanging around for about a year.  Currently he and Lilly are a team, never more than a few hundred feet apart.

She was weaning the kittens and  would probably have a litter in the late fall if Dad had anything to do with it.  Time to look into TNR.

Trap-Neuter-Release.  Kittens are cute when young but, after a 20150729_193105year they are cats, not cuddly little fluff balls anymore.  They are skilled hunters and pro-creators.  Left to their own resources their population will grow quickly. In the past the population problems were handled by animal control by eliminating the feral population.  The absence of the cats allows the rodent population to increase, bringing along disease.  TNR programs handle the problem in a much more sensible way.  Males and females are trapped, brought into a humane shelter where they are evaluated for health issues, neutered/spayed then release back into the area they had been trapped.  The ear is clipped so the neutered cats are easily identified.

By releasing the cats back into their territory they keep the rodent population in check and no longer reproduce so the population won’t grow.  The population is kept steady; new cats drift into the territory as old cats die off.

The local animal control officer who provided a humane trap and instructed us on how and when to bait and set the trap. And how to handle trapped cats as well as possums, young raccoons and others who are attracted to the bait.20150729_200355  In 6 days we were able to capture Lilly, Dad and 4 of the 5 kittens.  Later our granddaughter adopted one of the kittens (and had the cat neutered).  Eventually all 4 kittens were all adopted out.  Lilly and Dad were returned to the neighborhood after they were neutered.  She quickly reconnected with the remaining 20150802_122822kitten (we tried for a week to catch him but ended up with the same possum in the trap 4 days in a row).  A neighbor took in another stray and took care of the surgery and shots.  

A few weeks later, the family has settled into a routine (breakfast in our yard at sunrise, spend the day in the neighbor’s yard sleeping on lawn chairs by the pool) and a quick dinner out on the back steps.  The Oak Court Cats have gotten used to them and are frequently share meals.  There are still a few strays out in the back but they must have heard about the trap and avoid the yard.

Last night I heard 2 cats “talking”DSCN0504 through the front screen.  Dad was having a conversation with our kittens, one of his kids.  Not sure but I believe he recognized her scent and was trying to connect with family. At some point she’ll get outside and I wonder if she’ll prefer to stay with her rather than to return to the house.  For now, however, she is the newest member of the clowder.

And, on a sad note, Missey, the “old lady” on the court passed away in late July, just past her 17th birthday. Missey 2013 1 In ‘cat’ years she lived to the ripe old age of 84; I’ll miss those late nights when she’d nudge me awake so that I could walk her to the kitchen for a snack.  Missey came to us as a kitten, shared her food bowl with the rest of the court and only hissed at me when she felt it was necessary.

 

If you are like most Internet users, you’ve probably passed time looking at many of those videos of cats and boxes. Cat people spend countless hours with smart phone in hand and a box on the floor, waiting for their cat to junp into the box. Maru, the popular Japanese cat who demonstrates the fine art of jumping into and out of boxes, has been viewed over 200 million times since he first appeared in 2007. There are countless Tumblr and Twitter accounts dedicated to the cats being cats.

The Oak Court Cats aren’t any different when it comes to boxes. I will occasionaly toss an empty box onto the floor and wait for one of the gang to fall into the trap. On the Court, empty boxes are reffered to as “cat traps”. Throw one onto the floor and wait to see what kind of cat you’ve caught.20150129_211733
The Big Guy prefers a large trap, here he makes himself comfortable in a large bos (34 pound kitty litter box). At his size (a full grown 28 pound Maine Coon), he prefers a large box, even through he manages to overflow out onto the floor.

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Fatticus was snared in this particularly large cat trap. I had baited the trap with an old towel, a lure that he couldn’t pass up. He prefers large traps as he isn’t as graceful as most cats and finds that jumping into and out of boxes he frequently ends up in embarrasing situations (ok, he just isn’t gracefull).

The tortie isn’t choosey about the size of the box; as long as she can see over the edge (she’s usually on the lookout for small wildlife(she chases them) or large preditors (they chase her) or small children ( just the site of them will send her running for the hills). She is a little paranoid and sleeps with one eye open.20150124_193910

Oh, the exception?  The old lady doesn’t do boxes. She prefers pillows, cushons and the occasional window sill.

Why do they like boxes? Who knows. I’m sure that a government grant and five years of research could lead to an answer but I would think that knowing why they are attracted to boxes would ruin the moment. The Oak Court Cats won’t share the explanation with me; they don’t wish to shatter the magic.

20141019_120724Oh, this last picture of the Big Guy was taken when he settled on the clothes hamper when he couldn’t find a suitable box. I’ll write about his hamper habit at another time; fortunatly one that the other cats haven’t picked up on yet.

It’s late; the cats have settled down for the night and so must I.

John

It’s been a while since the last update on the Oak Court Cats.  Well, they’ve been busy.

 

Busy doing what?  Busy being cats.

Fatty Sleeping jul 14 FridayCats

It’s mid summer and they’re in typical “cat” form.  Their day begins around 5:00 and continues until an hour or so after sunset.  The Cats also nap.  A lot.  Actually, they seem to sleep up to 20 hours on a really hot day; the most common napping spots are on window sills where a gentle breeze cools them down.

 

The Big Guy has shed quite a bit of his fur and is probably at his lightest weight now, maybe 25 pounds.  Getting him to settle down on the scale for an accurate measurement is difficult.  He hasn’t spent much time outside lately; seems there is a stray Tiger that has gotten the better of him.  Mr. Big, like most Maine Coons, isn’t into fighting.  He’ll go out into the yard but never more than 20’ from the back door.

 

I’ve met the stray a few times, chased him out the cart door more than once.  The tiger looks like he’s been living out in the factory lot behind us for a while and could use a good brushing and maybe a dose of Frontline.

 

With the exception of Precious, the Psycho Killer Cat, the other Court Cats don’t spend much time out back and haven’t mixed it up with Tiger.  Precious, on the other hand, will raise a commotion when the Tiger comes in; spitting, growling and sending a strong message with her movements with her posturing.  I don’t think she’d go after the Tiger; she is, as Filipino’s would say, OA. (Over Acting – a drama queen).

Missey Jul 14

Missey, the alpha of the clan, is approaching her 16th birthday later.  In human terms she’d be 80.  She’s got a touch of arthritis in her right shoulder; her right front leg isn’t as flexible as it should be.  When she walks the leg is stiff and gives her a slight ‘hitch’ in her stride.  Other than that, she’s doing well.  I will have to d something special on the 25th; maybe open up a can of salmon for her.

 

The Cats have asked me to do a better job of posting on the blog.  As they don’t have opposable thumbs they can’t type too well themselves.  With that in mind I’ll be back in a few days with a new post.

Its early September here on the Court.  Being in Northern California, we won’t see Autumn for another 6 weeks or so.  There are a few things that we get to deal with at this time every year.

The cats begin to grow out their heavier fur.  Especially the Maine Coons.  The

The Big Guy in full winter fur.

The Big Guy in full winter fur.

picture shows The Big Guy last January, at the peak of his ‘furriness’.

Come April the cats shed a lot of the insulating fur and begin to battle with the fleas who arrive just about the same time the cats are busy shedding those tufts of hair and their skin is tender from the repeated brushings.

It takes 6 to 8 weeks to bring things to a stable state again.  The cats are ‘doused’ with flea control meds but only after they have their annual bath or shower (some of the Court inhabitants prefer a shower while others prefer the wash tub in the garage).  The goal is to clean the skin with a shampoo that has aloe or some other soothing agent.

The Big Guy in summer fur

The Big Guy in summer fur

The house is also treated.  The rugs are shampooed and sprayed with a flea control agent.  The sofa, chairs and mattresses are also treated.

If all goes well, the flea problem is solved for the time being.

During this period the cats complain, incessantly, about the irritation, the bites, the upset stomach (yep, going to see a few hairballs).  The cats will pick at their food, argue amongst themselves and, in general, be most difficult to be around.

When over, the cats are generally quiet until the winter sets in.  Well, they complain about other things, like rainy days, the need to burrow under the blankets at night and the list goes on and on.

This year, probably due to the dry spring and cool summer, we’re seeing an increase in flea activity.  The Cats have been complaining for the past few weeks about the bites and the itching.  We’ve seen them on the comb when we brush their hair and have seen them on the blanket where the cats sleep.

So, here we go again. The beds, chairs, sofas and rugs have been treated.  Several of the cats have gone through the shower and have been treated with the flea meds.  They are still complaining as the skins is raw from bites.  Brushing is not a lot of fun as they are still ‘wearing’ summer fur and there’s not a lot of fur.

Hopefully this round of battle against the fleas will be over with soon; Missey has made it clear that she is unhappy and it is probably my fault.  Precious is so beside herself that she passed up on a fat lizard that was out on the sidewalk this morning.  And, most telling, the Big Guy has been hanging  out with the racoons and possums in the  old factory behind the house. Seems he prefers their company to the complaints of the Oak court Cats these days.

Missey recently celebrated her 15 birthday!!  Not knowing for sure her actual birthday, we (the Vet, my daughter and I) decided that Missey was born around July 25, 1998.Image

According to the Purina web site, she is (in human terms) 77 years old.  She is a Norwegian Forest Longhair, distant relative to the Maine Coon.  Originally Mr. Worf’s room mate, she had a rough time after he died in 2006.  (That’s Worf and Missey on the blog header, she was about 2 years old at the time.) Since then she’s become an indoor cat, only stepping out for an occasional walk around the back yard.

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This picture taken in 2000, a much younger cat then, she spent most of her time in the house but would go out back to chase the occasional squirrel who wandered into her territory.

These days she spends most of her time on grooming and personal hygiene (a polite way of saying she does such a wonderful job of cleaning herself that her production of hairballs ought to be listed in  the Guinness Book of Records).  No longer does she race about the yard in pursuit of a squirrel; she now sits placidly on the couch when squirrels come into the room, looking for peanuts.

The other Oak Court Cats remembered the occasion in their way; Precious brought in a lizard, the others pretty much stayed out of her way as she has a bit of a temper now.  Instead of the usual flea “juice” on her back, she permitted us to give her a bath using a kitty shampoo with flea control.  In her younger years there would have been considerable bloodshed; this year she complained about the indignities being forced upon her but didn’t tear anyone up.

Happy Birthday Missey!!!

It’s been a while since I’ve added a post to this blog; I was a bit distracted.  The Oak Court Cats, however, weren’t distracted; they’re still here.  So, what have they been up to?

The queen is still going strong.  Missey is a few months short of her 15thCold morningbirthday; that

would make her 74 if measured in feline years.  She moves a little slower on cold mornings; her preference is to spend the morning

hours on the couch near the heater or taking a nap in a sunny window.

Missey is the matriarch of the chowder and will swat at any of the other cats if they get in her way.  About once a week she’ll whack Blutto in the head. Blutto is a full grown Maine Coon, weighing in at 25 pounds and standing a good 4 inches taller than she.  She has to reach up to hit him and he’ll lower his head just a bit, realizing she is the alpha.

Blutto enjoys the winter; doesn’t mind the cold nor the rain.  With his winter fur, he’s about as

big as a raccoon.  I noticed tonight that he’s starting to shed; the house will be carpeted with a layer of cat fur for the next 2 months.

The big Maine Coon coBlutto 2013 Feb 01continues to be the friendliest cat on the court; haven’t seen him go after the squirrels nor the blue jays that congregate in the yard.

The picture was taken the other week as he slept on the bureau; having found a comfortable spot.  He sleeps a good 15 hours a day; much of it in the yard, under the pine tree.

Most days he can be seen patrolling the court with Converse, the polydactyl stray.  Not too sure how old he is; looks to be 4 of 5 years old.  We named him Converse because of his black and white feet that are remarkably similar to a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers.  Converse shows up at 5:45 I the morning, spends some time having breakfast with Blutto, takes a hit from the catnip bong then crashes in the corner for a few hours.  Not too sure where he goes in the afternoon; he comes in for a bite around 8:00 then heads out for the night.  I think he has a few homes in the neighborhood where he can get a meal and a warm bed.Converse 2013 Jan 01

I’ll share updates on the other 2 members of the chowder later this week.