Cat update: raccoons, rain, and relaxation

For your weekly feral cat update, a few encounters with raccoons, a spot of rain, and a lot of sleepy cats.

Looking at the camera:

Four cat snuggle:

Face-to-face with raccoons; the cat hissed, and the raccoon wisely backed off submissively:

Watching a bird:

Peeking out the door of the shelter at the rain:

Sometimes ya gotta step over to get to the food:

Ready for her close-up:

Oh look, more snuggles:

Breakfast queue:

Another raccoon visit, and quick egress:

Another breakfast queue; they’re so polite about taking turns (usually):

On rare occasions they have a brief disagreement, but it is always quickly resolved in the cat way (de-escalating by looking away and ignoring the other, until they settle down again):

Looking out the window:

Can you see four cats? Look closely:

Watching a deer walk behind the cat house:

A raccoon invaded the shelter, but retreated after being hissed at by the cat:

Finally, another snuggle pile:

Cat house: the possum menace

Last night was rather eventful at the cat house. The possum turned up, as often happens, but the raccoons arrived while it was eating, and they had a bit of a disagreement:

It was a busy time (around 22:22, aka 10:22 PM), which I saw on my iPad cam app. A cat amazingly slept through it (or pretended to do so), while the possum growled and lunged at the raccoons:

Here’s a couple more shots of the encounter:

The raccoons retreated, and the possum continued eating.

A few hours later, the possum visited again, and this time invaded the shelter, where two cats were sleeping. They quickly evacuated:

Fortunately that encounter didn’t scare the cats off; they were back later, and cleaned each other then slept for a number of hours:

Breakfast time queue:

I really hope the new food dispenser will let me eliminate the excess food, so the possum and raccoons stop coming. Makes me regret not building an elevated feeder and shelter.

Cat house update

Been a week, so must be time for another cat house update!

Firstly, the gray alien cat has continued to visit every few days; I’m unsure if it’s a neighbor’s roaming pet, or feral:

We’ve also had a black cat visitor, which has been near our ferals without conflict. I wonder if one or both of those will join our colony in time; if so, we’ll have to try to trap them to get FCCO to check them out:

We’ve also still had the occasional possum visit, which doesn’t seem discouraged by the feeder light (but was disappointed to find no food on this occasion):

And raccoons, though they are a bit more discouraged by the light; only the parent is brave / desperate enough to go inside now (but did luck out in finding freshly dispensed food; I’ve since moved the schedule back half an hour):

One of our ferals sitting on a rock. That’s a favorite place to wait for food, and keep an eye on things:

A screenshot of my iPad, showing the four cat cameras in the LiveCams Pro app that I use to watch the cameras throughout the day:

It rained a bit last night, so here’s a damp cat, diappointed to find no food (breakfast is now dispensed at 05:00), but did have fun chasing a moth:

Since it is getting cooler overnight, and it rained for the first time in months (and might again tonight), I decided to switch the shelter to winter mode, a little earlier than originally planned. So I opened up the maintenance door, closed the vents at the back, and plugged in the two heating pads on the lower level:

Here’s a shot of the open shelter from further back:

Closed again:

I also held open the front door again, to encourage them to go inside. I was hoping they’d figure out the door when it was closed, but none did. If they start living in there, I might try closing it again after a while, when they’d have a stronger motivation to get back inside. If that doesn’t work, I may have to leave it open permanently, which wouldn’t be preferred:

Lastly, I also cut the feeder tube a couple of inches shorter, since I noticed them finding it a little difficult to get their heads under it to eat food directly under the pipe. This should give them plenty of room:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this update!

Cat feeder modifications

I guess my “Building a cat shelter: a summary” post was a little premature, as I’ve just made some modifications to the feeder side.

But first, some backstory on the motivation (and cute cat pics).

I’ve had a periodic problem with some unwelcome nocturnal visitors to the feeder on occasion. Sometimes a possum:

And sometimes a family of raccoons (typically an adult and three young ones):

Once we had a deer too, but that wasn’t a bother (but if you look closely, you might see a pair of cat eyes to the left of the deer leg, on the deck of the cat house; the deer quickly retreated when it saw the cat, though I doubt it was a threat):

We even had an alien cat visit a few times (one that looks very much like our pet Paladin, but isn’t; he’s inside-only):

Here are four of the ferals:

Peeking:

Anyway, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the food level, trying to balance it so the cats get all the food they want, but don’t leave anything overnight, to entice the wildlife. The camera in the feeder has really helped with that, and I’ve adjusted the time and amount of food released by the automatic dispenser to achieve that goal, with mixed success. Sometimes the food runs out too early, sometimes the raccoons come at different times, etc.

So my next attempt to discourage the wildlife is to add a light to the feeder area. Hopefully that won’t bother the cats, but will put off the raccoons and possum. I expect they’ll adapt to it, but hopefully not.

I also wanted to make some other changes. The metal food dish is a bit too deep, both in the height and front-to-back sense, and the metal might get uncomfortable in freezing temperatures. So I wanted to replace that. A shallower dish would need to be more forward to line up with the pipe, so I also wanted to add a baffle to do that, and protect the camera (having been dislodged once by the raccoons).

Finally, I also wanted to caulk the edges of the wall, to prevent winter moisture seeping under it into the shelter area.

So I did that first, after removing the old dish:

(The caulk is actually clear; goes on white, but dries clear.)

I then built a wall structure, with cutouts for the camera and such. The boards sticking out from either side were intended to screw it to the feeder walls, but I didn’t end up bothering with that, since it seems plenty secure without:

The back side:

Here’s everything installed; the wall protecting the camera and acting as a baffle or backstop of the new food dish (which, like the first one, is screwed to the floor), plus the light strip on the ceiling:

The light strip color can be changed. I have it set to the dimmest red color initially, but could make it brighter, or another color, if desired.

Here’s a view of the storage shelf above the feeder area:

A closer view of the feeder area, with food in the dish, and the water dispenser in place:

The first visitor:

Let’s see how this goes!

Feral cats using the new cat house

Our little colony of feral cats have quickly taken to eating from the feeder in the new cat house. They aren’t living there yet, as expected, but I’m hopeful that once the weather gets cooler, and I plug in the heating pads, they’ll enjoy the warmth.

Here is the first cat to eat in the new feeder, the night of installation:

A couple of cats exploring inside the shelter:

Four at once:

Contented smile:

I was moving the old feeder towards the new location, with a breadcrumb trail of wet food dishes guiding the way, but since they very quickly found and explored the new house, I decided to accelerate the move.

Yesterday, I transferred the food dispenser into the new feeder, and discontinued the old one.

Here you can see the dispenser on the drawer:

With the drawer pushed into place, the dispenser is above the tube that leads to the food dish below. You can see storage of spare food, too, and the water dispenser below:

Here’s a view of the dispenser through the window. That’ll be handy to quickly see the level and such:

Yesterday evening, the cats had no problem eating from the new location:

Midnight snack:

The masked bandits found the feeder… but there was probably no (or very little) food left by then. The dispenser is safely out of reach:

Breakfast is dispensed at 06:00:

I do enjoy watching the cats, and hope they like their new restaurant, the Cat House Mercantile, and in due course move in to the Cat House Saloon.

Turning on garden water

During the winter months, I turn off the water supply to the gardens, to prevent the pipes from freezing and bursting. Once the overnight temperatures are safely above freezing, I turn them on again, which I did yesterday.

This year, I didn’t have any burst pipes… but I did have one broken tap to repair, that was probably kicked by a landscaper or deer:

An easy repair:

I could then turn on the water. For the east side, I have a valve box that I installed last year, that lets me individually control the water to the chicken coops, veggie garden & shop, and pond/gazebo areas (plus an underground tap that I used over winter to refill the chicken water):

For the west side, there’s another valve box. The boxes tend to fill with dirt, which is fine as it protects them from freezing, but has to be dug out a bit:

I then added water timers to the various garden beds. Large areas typically have automatic timers like this:

Here’s the repaired tap again, with a manual timer attached. We use these manual timers for lower-priority irrigation areas:

I then started filling the fountain. Here’s the frog that lives in the center of the fountain:

The fountain nearly full. We plan to remove the flower girl statue part of the fountain at some point:

I also scooped leaves out of the small pond at the end of the stream. That took a while; it was pretty much chock full of them. Here, you can see the pump:

Then I turned on the pump, and the stream started circulating. So nice to have that running water again, and I’m sure the cats will enjoy it too:

Finally, I mowed all of the lawns and the field:

Mowing selfie:

A busy day of garden maintenance!

Elk tree damage & repair

Elk are magestic beasts, fun to look at… but they are also (literally) big menaces, particularly frustrated males.

Recently we found some of our apple trees damaged by elk rubbing on them:

And not satisfied with that, last night one broke our new oak tree in the field:

Since it wasn’t completely broken, I thought I’d try repairing it. No guarantees it’ll recover, but it’s worth trying. Several sites recommended putting bolts through the trunk, and using caulk to seal up the breaks, so that’s what I did:

I also added a bit of fencing around it, to make it harder to get to, though it won’t slow down the elk much:

Hopefully it’ll recover!

Oh, and I also saw a coyote in the field: