Monday, October 25, 2010


Taffy knows who she is. When you see her golden face and eyes surrounded by substantial ruff of soft orange fur you know who she is too; likely descended from the legendary big cats in Africa. Her name, Taffy-Ta denotes her softer side, but her more recent name Tuffy Taffy describes her other side. Because of her early kitten experiences she does not hesitate to use her claws once in a while. Most of the time it has to do with getting her way, more petting, another treat…you know the type. She has long fur but not so that it gets in her way. Her’s is the sort that doesn’t shed. I found out very early on she does not like to be brushed with a shedding brush. I almost always have several little curved claw marks on the back of my hands. She only will tolerate the soft wire brush. Okey Dokey.
She ‘s my conversationalist. Letting me know when she is hungry, upset, scared, wanting some water in her food dish or even some petting. She is not a snuggler, not yet, but she is the one who comes in the house each afternoon for her nap without being coaxed, and then finds the most comfortable chair in the living room after dinner while we read or watch T.V. Her purr sometimes sounds like a croak. Every once in a while I wonder if she has a cat upper respitary thing. She has grown the biggest of my three house cats but she really is a bit of a marshmallow. In the morning she will run around the bed till she is sure Lily, the boss has jumped down. Then if she can she crouches in the shadow and takes a swipe as Lily goes by. She never backs down when Lily hisses at her, she just lays there ignoring her. Ho hum. She gets her morning moments with Mom pretty early, letting me know when the sun is about to come up over the horizon.
Of the three cats she is the one who spends most time in the enclosed outdoor cat yard, mostly at night, catching moths and flies, depending on the season. I hear the click-clack of the cat door in the middle of the night and I know she is in for a while. When she is outside (supervised) she is one busy cat. The other day when she was out in our yard guarding it so that our barn cats could not come into her domain, she flew off the fence where she had been balancing. She was determined to chase Polka Dot out of her yard. Polka Dot had strayed past some unknown boundary known only to Taffy-Ta. She disappeared for a while and I noticed later she was peeking out behind some of the tall grass by the fence, just waiting to pounce, her favorite game.
Lately I’ve tried to entice her to become more of a lap cat by a bit of nose (hers) to finger(mine) touches rewarded by a scrumptious dehydrated chicken strip. It seems to be beginning to work. I got close enough to doctor an abscess that had appeared on her tail the other day. She even has become one of the winners in the nightly, “who gets to sleep with Mom” contest that is played out between her, her sister Cookie-dough and the ‘boss cat’ Lily Lou. Sigh, I hope someday they can all get along.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Warm Homecoming

This is the fall season, the season of cool nights that are harbingers of colder nights to come. We welcome all those energetic activities that surround the big homecoming celebrations around the country. It is all a reminder that there are things to do to get ready for the chill.
I just returned from an out of town trip and received a different kind of homecoming; it was more of a welcome back. My two black and white barn cats, Polka Dot and Moonbeam were the welcoming committee. But talk about energy. Once they caught sight of me walking through the barn door as it got light the other morning, I have never seen such a flurry of rubbing, rolling on the ground happiness, punctuated by quiet little meows of appreciation. Believe it or not, a year ago these two were hiding as far away as they could possibly get in a storage room of my barn. They had just been rescued by the Fort Collins Friends of Ferals from a home where they had been hoarded. They were scared, undernourished and sickly.
Believe it or not these two friendly, ecstatic cats had started out their lives as feral cats.
So today I want to honor National Feral Cat day, October 16th by letting people know that you never know what a little compassion can do. I decided to keep these cats to see if they might be able to be socialized. It has taken a year but I have to say that out of the large number of cats I have been happy to share my life with, these two have the top rating. They are smart, friendly, energetic, respectful, polite and most of all loving. At suppertime, If they are not waiting under my kitchen window all I have to do is call them:
“ Pokey “, I yell, ”Mookie, come for supper” and almost every time they emerge from somewhere, the fields nearby, the neighbor’s barn or bushes near our house and they come running, slowing down to be petted and most recently to be picked up and carried a few steps to the barn where they will be fed. They are adorable.
Since they have grown, the winter shelter I have for them to snuggle up in is now too small. This fall I have been trying to set up a ‘warming house’ for them that will sit inside the barn in one of the empty stalls so they will be warm during the below zero temperatures that are always a part of the winter weather here in northern Colorado. Thank goodness Ally Cat Allies has a wonderful website that gives all kinds of ideas and instructions about how to provide for feral cats in cold weather.
So homecoming also means colder nights are ahead for the cats. The warming house I am putting together is different than the ones that are used outside. It will not be in the weather but it still needs to be warm enough for them even though it is in the barn. I have a large (about 20’X30”) heavy plastic storage container with a lid. It needed to be big enough for the two cats plus the insulation. I like the idea of a lid so I can take it off once in a while to clean the inside and be sure it stays dry. I ended up insulating it with 1” thick soft styrofoam (used in pillows, etc.) laid inside around the sides, top and bottom, secured with duct tape. Then I cut pieces of a heavy plastic sheet to lay over the styrofoam and taped it down with duct tape too so the cats won’t (accidently?) shred the Styrofoam.
I am going to drill a hole in the end so I can string the cord from a heating pad (for pets) inside the box if needed. But best of all I am placing an old comforter inside for them to curl up in. I have cut a 6” door and will tape a flap over it but it won’t have to deal with wind or anything like that. So that is it. I’m hoping to have it done by this weekend in plenty of time before snow flies.
So in honor of National Feral Cat day I offer this idea for an inside barn warming house for any feral cats that might be using a barn this winter.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Moonbeam's Adventure

At the end of May it had been nine months since I began caring for three rescued cats for the Fort Collins Friends of Ferals. Things had changed a lot. Two of them were still with me. Each time I allowed the cats more freedom I anxiously awaited the results. Trust has always been a big issue with me and I have to admit I had a hard time letting go.
Days were getting longer and nights shorter. And it was also getting warm enough that they didn’t need to remain in the tack room of our barn where I had decided to keep them at night when it was wintry cold so they would be warm enough. My daughter had recently helped me assemble the enclosure I had picked up from another cat rescue group that didn’t need it anymore. It was about six feet high and wide and about 3 feet deep. There was room for a climbing tower and a shelter where the cats could sleep and keep warm enough during the late spring nights. They both still were small enough to fit inside the cozy little cave.
They both had gotten used to the night-time feeding schedule and were meeting me by the back yard fence around the house. They were still shy about coming close to the house. Then they would run toward the barn, stopping now and then to roll begging for a scratch behind the ears or to rub on my ankles. I was delighted that they had gotten so friendly.
But Moonbeam (I call her Mookie now, easier to say) had begun to lollygag! She would play little games and act as if she was not really interested in dinner after all. Her sister, Polka Dot (now called Pokey) allowed me to pick her up and pet her from time to time and I could get her into the enclosure but Moonbeam was still skittish about it. I had hoped to be able to pick her up.
At dinner time one night Mookie was lounging nearer the house than she had before and she seemed to have no inclination to head to the barn. I decided to go on into the house to prepare the family dinner when I noticed she was sitting outside my kitchen window, looking up and meowing. It was a quiet meow at first but soon it became more and more insistent. A little later I heard her again but this time I found her balancing on the fence near my bedroom window. My house cat, Taffy was sitting inside on the window perch checking this brash new intruder out. Since my family was still in the middle of dinner I decided to leave her there and see if she would go to the barn after a while by herself.
When I finally got outside to check she was nowhere to be found. Not near the house or even in the barn. Pokey had eaten her dinner and was settled in the enclosure but not Mookie. I had to trust that she would show up the next morning. Putting my worries aside I went to bed. About midnight a strange noise woke me up. As my eyes opened I realized it was an insistent meow coming from outside my window. When I looked outside I didn’t see her but after shining my flashlight around the yard I caught site of her, halfway up a large tree. And sitting on the ground beneath the tree was the aggressive cat that belonged to the neighbors. So I grabbed my slippers, a robe and my flashlight and headed out the door. Neighbor cat skedaddled home. Mookie didn’t move an inch. By now I decided I wasn’t going to wait up for her.
But sleep was not for me this night, later I again was awakened to a now familiar sound. Plugging my ears didn’t work. I was resigned to another trip outside. But this time with no encouragement needed I got her to follow me back to the barn.
When she scampered into the barn she greeted Polka Dot, touching noses and hungrily gobbled her food, turned around, told Pokey she would tell her about her adventures tomorrow, curled into a ball and went to sleep. It was something I was looking forward to as well. I was just glad she was safely home.