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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.

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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.

Image

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!!!

Its late spring here in Northern California and that generally means we are in the dry half of the year.   The Oak Court Cats are ready for the nice weather and usually head out at sunrise, coming back to the house for a snack or a drink.  Fatty and the Big Guy will spend 10 hours a day out in the back, patrolling the yard, keeping track of all comings and goings in the neighborhood and, oh yeah, a lot of sleeping in shady spots.

Last Wednesday, however, we had a weather front come through and leave us with close to a half inch of rain.  The rain comes very late in the season; not expected by either the weatherperson or by the Court Cats."Where is my umbrella?"

As can be seen in the picture, the Big Guy wasn’t particularly happy.  I took the pictures around 4:00 in the afternoon, when he usually goes out on the afternoon patrol.  He sat there at the back door for a hour, waiting for the rain to let up; he needed to be out there but wasn’t too excited about getting soaked.

The rain finally stopped after dark and he went out for a while, working his way through the yard, the neighbor’s yard, the front yard and several other places.  When he finally came in he was quite wet.  The grass is long and his coat is shaggy (hasn’t started to shed yet).

He was, however, quite satisfied that he managed to spend a little time out side before the end of the day and found a quiet corner of the bed and went to sleep.The Big Guy is not happy with the rain

The cats were confused, worried and unsettled.

It started out as a regular day on the Court.  The old man was up at 6:00, filled the bowls with canned wet food and topped off the dry crunchie-munchie bowls.  (To the cats the old man was the one who took care of them most of the time, the person they would go to when ever something needed to be dealt with, like a hair ball).  It was understood that he was here to wait on them.

None of the court cats paid attention when the old man put some clothes in a bag and went off in mid-afternoon.

That night the old man didn’t return home.  None of the cats paid attention as there was still food in the bowls.  Nor was he there in the morning to let them out onto the Court at 6:00.  In fact, one of the other inhabitants of the hose opened the door at 7:30; much too late.  Something was wrong.

Food was put out, although not by the old man and not the way they preferred.  Missey complained that her bowl wasn’t filled and placed on the right side of the food mat.  In fact, it wasn’t filled at all; it wasn’t there.   She would have jumped up on the counter to look for it if she could still jump that high.  The Big Guy was happy as long as there was plenty of food; he’d eat it off the floor if need be.

Later that night, at the appointed hour, (they had a schedule to follow for everything) they went into the rear bedroom expecting to curl up against the old man and sleep.  He wasn’t there.  “Come to think about it”, noted Fatty, “I haven’t seen the old man all day”. The cats were worried but went to sleep anyway.  Surely the old man would return in the morning.

But he didn’t.  In fact, he didn’t come back that day or the next or even the next.  He’d been gone for days and the cats were not at all happy.  Missey has been so upset she left a very messy hairball on the bed and wouldn’t sleep there (the old man would clean up these things).  Precious was so worried that she stayed out front until way after dark, hoping the old man would return.

“He must have been kidnapped by dogs.  There’s no other reason he hasn’t come home” she said when the cats gathered in the kitchen that night.  “No, I think not. He is bigger than dogs, he wasn’t kidnapped” said Fatty.  He continued “I think he ran away.  Sometimes people do that.”  The Court Cats grew quiet when Patty stopped speaking.  A real possibility existed in that the old man was not happy with the Court Cats and left to find other cats to live with.

On the 6th morning the other person put the food out, opened the door to the Court and went about his business.  He stopped long enough to give Missey a scratch between her ears and to rub Fatty’s belly then went on his way.  The Big Guy and Precious argued with each other about the mysterious disappearance and blaming each other for the disappearance. “I think you made him angry, always growling and hissing at the rest of us” argued the Big Guy.  Precious retorted that she wouldn’t need to hiss and growl if he had left her alone.  Missey sat on the corner of the sofa and contemplated life without the old man, “who is going to clean my messes up?”

A sad, angry and confused chowder of cats they had become.

That night, just before the appointed hour of sleep a car door slammed out on the court.  Precious was first to pick up the scent, “The old man!  I sense him!”, and she ran out the door to the front of the house.

The old man was coming up the walkway when she got around the front of the house.  “Hey!!  Where have you been?” she shouted at him.  Of course all he heard was some meowing as people can’t understand nor speak cat. She paced back and forth in front of him, blocking his way into the house and continuing to demand an explanation.  He bent down and scratched her ‘tween the ears and, all of a sudden, she didn’t care where he was, as long as he was home.

Once into the house he went to the rear bedroom and got ready for sleep.  The Court Cats were glad to have him back and decided to forgive him for running away.

The next morning the old man was awake at preciously 6:00 to feed and clean up the cat’s mess.  The Court Cats went out on early patrol as they had for years and life quickly returned to normal.

The cats tried to be nicer to the old man and didn’t try to get him out of bed early. Missey made an effort to be in the kitchen before tossing up the next hair ball.  Even the Big Guy tried to quit scattering crunchie-munchies when he ate.  Everyone seemed to be settling down into old routines.

Except Precious.  She had picked up the scent of another cat on the old man’s luggage.

Thought I’d update on a previous post.  It’s been over 2 months since the Little Princess passed away and her brother is still looking for her.

Most mornings he’s at the back door at 6:00, wanting to go outside.  When he finally gets out he’ll sit on the top of the steps, looking out across the yard toward her favorite spots.  This goes on for maybe 2 hours before he slowly comes in, snacks then curls up on the bed where she’d spend her mornings and sleeps.  In the evening he’ll want to go out at dusk and repeats the process.

We’ve tried to make things a bit easier; scrubbed carpets and pillows where she used to be so that he wouldn’t be reminded of her scent. We also rearranged chairs and pillows differently so he’d not look in the old spots.  Not working out; he continues to wait every morning and evening, hoping the Little Princess will come running up the side walk.

Now, he’s not wasting away or anything like that.  A recent trip to the vet reassured us that he’s healthy and just as heavy as before.   The gray fur ball (or boulder)  has his preferences (“yes, I like that salmon shrimp flavored snack but don’t give me the crunchy cheese snack, please”) (“what, the water bowl is empty, Oh the humanity”) (“That’s my sleeping spot, you can sleep on the floor”).

The other court cats are just fine.  The Queen is battling the winter cold by refusing to go outside, even when taunted by the squirrels scampering about the kitchen.  The predator awaits the warm weather; she’s not been foraging for a while and I’m sure the lizard population is growing.  And the big guy is enjoying the weather.  His coat is full now; he now resembles a small bear as he trundles across the back yard.  He was a bit depressed in early January when a neighbor moved out and took their little black and white kitty with them.  A week later the new tenants moved in and he can now be seen patrolling the neighborhood with their black cat in the mid afternoons.

All is well on the court.

It’s been 10 days since the Little Princess passed and Mr. Fatty is missing his sister. He used to spend his days with her sleeping in a warm spot or out in the back yard warming in the sun. This past week he’s moved through the house, stopping to investigate her favorite spots. Sadly, he looks around then turns to look at one of us and lets out a long and plaintive meow. We’ve had a few cats who’ve passed away and, while we deal with the loss, we have found it more important to help the remaining cats deal with it.

Cat fanciers have always knows that Cats feel the loss of a sibling as strongly as a human does. The old queen, Missey, went into a deep depression after her pal died; it was a year before she began to go back to her self. So we expect Mr. Fatty to need some help. In the last week Mr. Fatty has been sleeping in my room at night, something he never would have done before. He’s also been spending time with the Tonkinese, which he would never do before. He’s trying to fill a void. The big guy (he’s about 25 pounds) is also asking to be scratched move than in the past.

The Oak Court Cats are starting to settle into cold weather habits now. Fatty doesn’t spend much time outside (he’ll go out and sit in the morning sun for a while but comes back into a warm spot near a heater vent. The Tonkinese sits in the front window and stares intently at anything moving on the street. In warmer weather she’d be lying down under the bushes out front. Mr Big’s coat is thickening and the ‘collar’ (or mane) of light colored fur around his neck is filling out. Missey has reclaimed the corner of my bed (it’s by the window and has a southern exposure for more sunlight).

The cats go out later in the morning and tend to come back in an hour. They’re also eating for winter; unlike the summer when they take in a fair amount of food, in the winter they eat less as they tend to be lethargic this time of year. By 5:00 they’re all in for the day, settled into their favorite spots. Tonight 3 of the 4 have decided my bed is the place to be.

Nite!

Tonight the cats are quiet. One of the members of our little community has passed away.  Our young Maine Coon, the little princess, had developed a problem with her lungs and her condition deteriorated quickly.   Her people were with her when she went to sleep.

The Little Princess

The Oak Court Cats knew that she was having problems and were very quiet today.  Before Little Princess left the house the others were sitting on the bed, all watching the door to the room where she was.

Earlier today she took a stroll out into the back yard, spending an hour out in the grass.  It’s as if she knew she was going to leave and wanted to take just one more walk.

The little princess was young, just about 3 and a half years old but had a good life.  The last year she spent here was a great year.  She had been an indoor cat until we first took her out into the yard last summer and let her roam.  She’d spend hours out there with the others, chasing bees, butterflys and the occasional bird who flew too low.  She’d sit under the tree as the squirrels ran around  and, frequently, right up to her.  She accepted them as members of the community and never gave chase.

Cold nights would find her buried deep under a blanket; warm nights would find her sleeping on the floor in the living room or back in one of the bedroom windows.

She wasn’t a lap cat but would settle down next to someone on the couch, just close enough to allow that person to stroke her fur, scratch her ears and her chin.  I don’t think she ever bit or clawed me, even at play.  Yes, she was a good cat and she’ll be missed.

Her brother, Fatty, is asleep on the bed tonight.  He has been very quiet tonight; I believe he knows she’s gone.  This is the first night in his life she hasn’t been near him; makes us all sad here on the Court.  Somehow he’ll get used to life without his partner, it’ll take some time but he’ll come out ok.  After all, he has his family here, on Oak Court.

So good night Little Princess, we’ll miss you.

We’ve had visits from the other furry inhabitants of the Court recently, the squirrels.  There are a number of  squirrels

One of the Oak Court Squirrels

that live in the pines around the court; probably more than the dozen we’ve been able to identify.   The cats are not too concerned about the squirrels, it seems.  One would think felines would attack (or at least chase) the varmints out of the yard.  The Oak Court Cats don’t chase them off; they don’t defend their territory at all.  They just sit there as the squirrels scamper around the yard.

I tried to figure this strange behavior out, googled a number of sites, asked my vet as well.  At one point I even contacted the county agricultural office to see if they could explain this behavior and was not able to get an answer.  On more than one occasion I was told “Cats chase squirrels”.    But they don’t.  At least here they don’t.

Now, the squirrels come here for a reason.  Peanuts.  We will occasionally toss them a peanut.  Now don’t go wild and call someone and complain; we toss out roasted but not salted peanuts only.  Don’t want to be accused of causing high blood pressure amongst the squirrel population.

This has gone on for a few years now and the cats get along with the squirrels; there’s been no attacks that we know about.

Lately we’ve noticed the squirrels have become a bit more aggressive.  2 of their community have been seen sneaking into the house, searching for the peanut stash.  One of them, probably the ring leader, actually climbed up on the sofa. (One of the cats was there and didn’t move at all). Others have taken to standing on the picnic table staring at the back door, sometimes standing on the back step, watching us as we walk around the kitchen.

I’ve been in the garage doing the laundry and have experienced that  feeling you get when you know you’re being watched.  Yes, a squirrel was be up in the rafters staring down at me.

Scene of the attack

It was inevitable, at some point they would attack the house and find the peanut stash.  A week ago they made their way in and found the peanut bucket.  I arrived home from work that evening to find the remains of a 2 pound bag of unsalted roasted peanuts scattered across the kitchen floor and a trail leading out the back  door.

You can’t seem them in the picture, the Oak Court Cats.  They were not there, anywhere.  As far as I know they helped the squirrels to the peanut stash, probably held the cat door open so they could come in  and make off with the nuts.

We’re a little more careful after this assault. The peanut stash is now kept behind a closed pantry door. We try to chase the squirrels away from the back when we see them begin to congregate.

Will this work? probably not.  The Oak Court Cats probably don’t see the squirrels as a threat.  After all, as one of the cat’s tried to explain, they eat peanuts and we don’t.

Nite.

It’s Labor Day on the Court. For the human inhabitants of the court, this is a day to sleep in, mow the lawn, go for a picnic or engage in some other family related activity.  For the cats, however, it’s not a regular day.  The Oak Court Cats are used to having people around for 2 days then the next 5 are quiet as we are off to work and school.  While I don’t think they can count the days, they are very much into the routines of our lives.

They appear to coordinate their morning schedule with my alarm clock and will be sitting patiently in the kitchen, waiting for breakfast, at 5:00 every morning.  They know that another round of wet food hits the bowls at 6:00 in the evening; several of the chowder will be sitting around the corners of the kitchen awaiting the splat sound when the Ocean White Fish and Tuna hit the bowl.  They are familiar with bed time, most of them going to their regular spots around 10:30, when the rest of the occupants of the house start to settle in for the night.  It’s all about routines.

So today I upset a few of them when I was digging around in the front closet for the flag.  I had help moving things around, lots of help.  Mid-morning I started cleaning out the vegetable garden.  Another questionable activity.  Didn’t I know this is their special place, where they spend hot afternoons sleeping in the shade of the tomato plants?  The Big Guy sat in the corner of the plot staring at me for an hour as I ‘clear cut’ the veggie forest.  I’m sure he’ll find some way to demonstrate his displeasure;  I must remember to check my shoes for hairballs before I put them on tomorrow morning.  I’ve disrupted their routine.

The Court’s quiet again; the peregrine falcons have moved on.  Most of the squirrels have returned although I’m pretty sure we lost a few of them to the falcons.   There is a new cat on the block; he’s shown some interest in the Court Cats, coming around this side of the court a few times to introduce himself.  Wonder when he’ll start coming in the cat door for a quick lunch with the rest of the cats?

Little girl stops to pay her respects to the flag.

Tomorrow it’s back to the routine where people run around for a bit, getting ready for work and school.  At 7:30 the house gets very quiet, as the people leave, and the cats settle down for the day.  Not sure what they do all day but it probably entails a lot of sleeping.  They’ll rest until 4:00 when people return and the house is active again.

The cat’s will go out on patrol a few times during the day.  With the trash pickup tomorrow I suspect they’ll want to get out early to investigate the various trash cans out on the street before the trucks come down the street. I don’t think they’ll hang around when the trucks show up however; they’ll probably be hiding behind the front curtains, waiting for them to leave.

Anyway, it’s almost time for their evening snack (another routine they’ve come to expect).

Nite

I work for a large telecommunications company and spend my days in a cubicle.  Today, however, I’m at home. The  office is moving and I’ve been asked to work remotely while they handle the logistics.  So I get to spend the day working at home under the watchful eye of the Oak Court Cats.

Instead of getting up at 5:20 I slept in until 6:20 (not having a commute and being able to have breakfast at the keyboard saves me an hour).  The cats made it clear that my extra hour in the sack was unacceptable and several of them came up on the bed to voice their displeasure.    Once up, fed them and went about my morning stretching and regular routines.  This was judged to be acceptable by the cats.

They were not at all happy when I set up the company laptop on the desk; after all this was where they would camp out in the morning (it sits int he southern facing window and gets a good amount of sun).  I’d work for a few minutes and one of them would climb up on the desk and attempt to push something out of the way. This went on for half an hour;  I gave up and moved to another location.

At one point I went to the kitchen for a 2nd cup of coffee; clearly not acceptable as my walking through the room disturbed the queen who had been sleeping on the floor, in front of the counter where the coffee maker resides.  No coffee for me.

I decide to go to the bedroom and use the writing table.  It’s not near a window so they shouldn’t complain about taking up a sunny window sill.  They follow me into the bedroom and assume positions around the room; some on the bed, others on top of dressers and closets.  Presently three of them are sleeping while the Predator stares down at me from the closet.  Seems they are taking turns monitoring my activities. Are they checking in with my boss?  Are they corporate stool pigeons, planted here to ensure that I worked the entire 8 hour day without taking time off to pick up a non-corporate task?

This is going to be a long day.  I’m already fighting to stay awake, a difficult task.  There must be some research somewhere that supports my theory that snoring cats will suborn any attempts to concentrate on anything other than sleeping.

Somehow I’ll make it, maybe that 4th or 5th coffee will keep me awake.  Maybe I should see if there are any of those 5-hour energy drinks in the fridge…

Later