Like a walk through the country side living on a small farm is full of daily surprises, sometimes wonderful and amazing, and other times puzzling and sad. I hope you will walk with me as I live out my dream of living on this tiny farm. You will come to know the dogs, cats, Shetland sheep and chickens that make up this farm and what goes into keeping them happy and healthy. Come and join the journey with me.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Tale of Four Felines

I think I've mentioned before that I have four outside cats and two inside cats. Meshach & Sage the inside boys often show up on the blog. However, today, I thought I would give equal time to the 'girls'. I've had people ask me 'why do you have inside and outside cats'? "How can you choose certain ones to get the luxury of the house and others have to stay out?" Well....to both questions, I just do.... It's not that simple of course, but it has worked well around here. Always there are cats that are showing up, always. My house is small, and in the interest of harmony and health of the inside cats, I limit the numbers. I think three would be the maximum, and two works very well. One time, years ago, I tried to let my big inside cat, Shadrach, outside --he would be an indoor-outdoor cat, and would have the best of both worlds. That lasted until I looked out the window and saw one of the outside boys leading Shad off across the road. The second time I tried it, Shad was attacked by a neighboring tomcat, and I ended up paying big bucks to get him treated for puncture wounds and infection. So, inside cats stay inside. Outside cats stay outside. It works for me. I do try and keep the numbers to a reasonable amount outside, but otherwise homeless kitties can find a safe haven here. All cats are spayed and neutered, and wormed if needed. They come and go, with several barns, fields, the ruins and the yard to prowl in. There are lots of abandoned buildings in the area, and some of the cats include them in their haunts. Of course there are roads too, and over the years I've lost a couple to this tragic end.

Right now there are four cats that make their home as 'farm cats' here, all coincidentally females. In order of their appearance here on the farm, I've included pictures and a little about them.

Madison
Two days and ten years ago, it was the day before Thanksgiving, and my last day at work before a four day weekend. At noon, I took off to run some errands. On the way back, as I pulled up to a four way stop at the corner of where I work, I noticed this teeny, tiny kitten, just sitting in the middle of the sidewalk. It was all alone, with no other cats or people around. Hmmm... I parked my vehicle and walked over to see about this little creature. Well, it might have been tiny, but it was fast, and ran like the dickens. I went in to work, and proceeded to worry about it all afternoon. I walked over there a time or two and it would skedaddle. As I was leaving to go home, I didn't see it anywhere. I decided to just go on home, but at the last minute thought "I'd just drive around the block one more time and see if I could see it again". Of course I saw it. I pulled the truck up, grabbed a pair of gloves and approached it again. It ran---straight into a big shaggy bush. Evidently it felt safe, but I reached in and grabbed it. I held tight as the tiny scrap started hissing and biting and kicking. Once in the truck, I grabbed a towel off the seat and stuffed it under there. Almost immediately she went limp.. exhausted & scared-- poor thing. She was very hungry and tired. I had found her at the corner of Madison Avenue, so she was pretty easy to name her. I call her my 'city cat', with 'city cat attitude'. At first she had a hard go around here,as the other resident cats picked on her. She was so tiny, probably not more than five weeks, that I kept her penned up for a time unless I was around. Finally she graduated to being out all the time, but since she was so tiny, I would warm a brick for her each night to sleep next to. Then one day, Gideon, a crusty old ex-tom decided to adopt her. They would curl up together at night and suddenly she didn't need a warm brick! Gideon was the first and last cat she ever liked. She has been a terror at times to the other cats, but has finally mellowed down some with age. She isn't big on affection, but she will come up for occasional pets. She has a perpetual scowl, and not much use for cats, dogs or most people. She did love Jody (the collie)--all the cats did. Off and on she takes up residence in my folks barn, and turns her back on her 'real' home. It's hard to believe she is ten years old!


Tibby
The following early summer after Madison appeared, I had another refugee stop by. One evening I walked out into the yard, and I saw a cat creeping across an open patch. I walked over to it, calling it to me. She seemed tame enough, but was very skinny and raggedy looking. I went in and got some food for her. As I took it towards her, she got a whiff of it, and went nuts---wailing and running at me. It startled me a bit, but I quickly set the food down, and she dived in. The other cats didn't want her around (namely Madison), so she moved out to the barn yard. She lived with the chickens and Lady the horse, and wouldn't venture out from under the chicken house unless I was around to coax her out. She was a sad little soul and I felt sorry for her. I fixed a warm bed for her, and she had plenty to eat, but she seemed so lonely. The next year a tiny little kitten came howling out of the field and took up residence here. Desi-Lu's stay here was brief--only two years (she died of severe anemia and complications, cause unknown), but her and Tibby needed each other and bonded strongly. It was a turning point for Tibs and she gained a playmate and friend and some courage. When I got the sheep she adopted them, and they would practically fall down hoping she would rub their faces. However she would smartly slap them if they got too pushy, and they vied for her queenly favors. Eventually Tibby started on "A Mission" and ... "Operation Move to the Breezeway" commenced. She did it in slow increments, daring to come closer and closer every few days. Then one day there she was! In the breezeway, which is connected to the house and is actually a long enclosed, open ended hallway, she now lives. The yard is her oyster, and she has a fancy well insulated house in the breezeway, with her own heat-able disc that goes in with her on really cold nights. She has always been a small and frail thing, but plenty feisty. I guesstimate her age when she came here as about two years, but I'm really not sure. That would put her at 10-11 years old now.

Dixie & Echo

This is another one of those bizarre situations I get sucked into, that leads me to believe there is a secret sign at the end of my driveway for wayward and homeless critters to see. Before Dixie showed up, there was Chet--a big rambunctious but sweet orange and white tom. He wasn't much more than a year old if that, and was quite the character. Sage actually reminds me allot of him. Chet moved in in November of 2002. One day he was just there. In April he brought his sister. (Of course I'm just speculating, but she sure looked like him in the face). He moved her into the ruins in the back. He let me know she was there, of course---he went out, sat on the wall, invited her to join him, looked pointedly at me and meowed. Loudly. Well, this little grey kitty was a friendly thing. A little shy, but sweet. I fed her a few days, when one night I noticed she was very fat. Uh oh.... About two weeks after that, Dixie had her kittens. Four of them. Determined not to have any little feral kitty babies around, I boxed the kittens up and moved them to a two story cat condo in the yard. I put Dixie in a pet taxi to take her down there. She busted out and ran back to her babies... only I already had them. I finally got her reunited. For such a timid little soul, she became a very fierce mother. No one was allowed around her precious babies.. except Chet and well, me of course. At the time I had Tibby, Madison, Chet, and Dixie, and was not happy with the idea of four more little kittens. I ended up finding homes for three of them (they were all grey tigers--three just like her, and one looked like Madison!), and 'let her' keep one. She loved her babies so much, I just couldn't see giving them all away. However once they were weaned she was so outta here! Huh. To this day she still disappears for days on end, then will show back up for weeks, then off again. She has a strong bond with her daughter Echo, but strangely enough, Tibby ended up keeping the young teenage Echo company, while her mum roamed off. Echo, never took up the wandering habit, and when she isn't here in the yard, she hangs out in the sheep paddock. The sheep of course love her, now that Tibby has no time for them. Tibby,timid soul that she used to be, hates Dixie, loves Echo, even smarts off to Madison at times. Echo loves her mum, Dixie, loves Tibby and even likes Madison. She is the spoiled baby of the bunch. The rest of them spit nails at each other, and I have to have three different feeding spots just to keep the peace! Thankfully age has mellowed them down a bit. Dixie is most likely around six years and Echo is five. I suppose you've guessed that I named Echo that because she looks so much like her mom? They are very similar, except Dixie has swirls and Echo has stripes.

Boone doesn't like cats too much (and loves to chase them), so we've all had to compromise and work out a solution. Boone gets to stay out in the yard three days a week and the other four days the cats can come and go at will. Boone is also put up at night, so they can prowl about at night. They also can sneak into the yard, and follow the high wall to the breezeway even when he is out. Of course, I work hard at discouraging Boone from his cat chasing, but I'm not sure he will ever be trustworthy in this respect. Because of that, I doubt there will be any new cats/kittens anytime soon. Then again, you did not hear me just say that!!!

9 comments:

Sharrie said...

We have the same philosophy about cats, but in larger numbers. We only chose two, but there are 4 in and 8 - 10 out. AND a new one showed up outside yesterday, cat, not kitten. See the big "S" on my forehead?

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I so enjoy your history reports about your animals!

Wrensong Farm said...

Those cats are so lucky you've taken them under your wing! We adopted two feral cats, one was so grouchy I was tempted to name him "HissnSpit" but he came around and is super friendly now (and loves the Vet...even drools when he's there!):)

Pat in east TN said...

Very interesting stories on how everyone came into your life. :o)

Susan M. Bell said...

I have four indoor and one...well, two counting my nieghbor's...outdoors. When we ended up with the four indoor kitties, I always said I would never have one outside with the road here and all. Then, last March, Muffin showed up. She doesn't like to be inside, I've tried, and I haven't seen her go in the road (cross fingers). She once belonged to someone as she is spayed, but has decided to live here. (I have a neon sign on my roof pointing the way here I'm sure.) Now a white kitty has taken up residence, but won't let me near quite yet. I put food out, and she is letting me a bit closer, but still no where near close enough to touch. But I'm pretty patient...
And my neighbor's cat, Tango, has taken up residence at my house. I don't know if he ever goes home any more. So, I guess Muffin and Tango are two outdoor kitties, and since I can't touch the white one yet (calling her Drifter - and I just think it's a her), I think she just counts as 1/2 for now. So, 2 1/2 outside. :-)

Aren't we all such suckers....

kristi said...

I love hearing cat stories and as you have read on my blog, I too am a sucker for cats. Cats get such a bad rap. Having worked at vet for so many years my heart just goes to people who take the time to love them and take care of the ones that just happen to wander/show up on their property...of course better yet when they spay/neuter them. Thanks for sharing your stories!!

Susan M. Bell said...

I forgot: Have to ask. You said something in your blog about heating a brick to put with the kitten. I have a couple little "cat houses" on the front porch for Muffin (and Tango when he decides he needs it), and I think I'd like to do that for them. Did you just heat the brick up in the oven, and how long does it stay warm? They have blankets and all, but I really worry when the temps get way down there.

Tammy said...

There are just so many needy animals out there, and I'm glad to hear I'm not the only 'sucker'. :-)
Susan---I used to heat the bricks by laying them on the woodstove for several hours.(These worked great as foot warmers too, back in the day!) They would absorb the heat and stay warm for 5 or 6 hours. My Mom bought this little plastic microwaveable disc for Tibby several years ago. It is wonderful. You microwave it for about six minutes, then it has it's own little fleece cover you slip over it. Tuck it under a blanket and it stays warm for about 8-10 hours. I think they cost less than $20 and can be purchased from some of the pet supply catalogs. Hope this helps.
Tammy

Susan M. Bell said...

Follow-up comment: Bought one of the discs and they cost a bit more now. Nearly $30 with the cover on the internet. Muffin loves it. May buy another one so she doesn't have to wait around when I'm warming it for her. Only think I wonder about is how it gets kind of "mushy" after it's been heated. I think that's normal as it gets solid again as it cools.