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!

Building a cat shelter: a summary

I thought I’d follow up on the new cat house, with a post summarizing the building process. Kinda like an old-fashioned clip show on TV.

Each step includes a link to the original post, which includes more details and photos. Even if you’ve been following along, you might find this retrospective interesting, and might like to check out the individual posts again, as with the new theme on the blog, you’ll be able to see larger photos.

February 2018

Any successful project starts with a plan; surprisingly fairly similar to what I ended up building:

Construction started with the floor, naturally enough:

I did refine the plans a bit, though things changed a bit more during construction:

The walls were next, with insulation sandwiched between plywood sheets:

More walls, and platforms:

The roof also has insulation (on the shelter side):

March 2018

The entire front of the shelter side can be slid open, to maintain the interior:

April 2018

The cat house was designed with an old west theme, so has fun facades at the top:

Although the walls are just sheets of plywood, I added some extra trim to make it look like board-and-batten siding:

May 2018

I didn’t do any work on the cat house in May, but I did post an update on the feral cats in their old feeder and shelter:

June 2018

Back to work on it, I started painting:

And more painting:

And finished painting:

Next was roofing, leveraging skills from building the chicken coop:

July 2018

Then adding the windows, doors, and feeder:

At last, after some final touches of decorations, electrical, and carpet, it was time for installation:

It didn’t take long for the cats to explore the new structure. They started eating there very quickly:

And have explored the shelter part:

August 2018

An exciting development was a couple of cats sleeping in the shelter, though only for a couple of nights so far:

I added a camera to the feeder side, and tweaked the food pipe:

Finally, I’ll leave you with this:

No doubt I’ll follow up with more photos of the cats and their new house in the future. Follow the blog to see new posts.

Feral cat feeder cam

I wanted to be able to see how much food is left in the feral cats’ dish overnight, to help prevent attracting raccoons and such. Ideally, there would be just enough food for all of the cats to eat in the evening, and no leftovers to attract unwelcome visitors.

So, naturally I decided to add a cheap camera in the feeding area, so I could monitor that. Plus, it’s fun to watch the cats coming in to eat. I do love my cams; I now have 13 of them around the property, watching the driveway, dog, chickens, and cats.

Here I’m testing the positioning, looking at the view on my iPhone:

Before I mounted it, I put it in the storage area above the feeder, and captured this view of a cat outside, lazing below the outdoor camera:

Below is the new camera installed. I considered building an enclosure to protect it, but decided not to bother. The cats haven’t shown any interest in messing with it (and raccoons haven’t visited in a while; I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t so considerate). You can also see the feeder tube, that carries the food from the automatic dispenser above, along with the metal food dish, and the water dispenser:

The first cat that evening did briefly glance at the camera, but most totally ignore it:

One cat eating, two queued (a more clear picture in infrared night mode):

One of the queued ones pushed their way in:

The next evening, one cat waiting outside:

While another eats; they’re so polite how they usually take turns:

Seeing two crowded together, I decided to remove the curved end of the pipe, to give them a bit more room:

This morning, two rushed up when they heard the food dispensing:

Inside:

It’s not ideal that the tube deposits the food at the back of the dish; they don’t mind stepping into it to eat, but a smaller dish would be better. Perhaps 10×5 inches. I haven’t found one yet, but haven’t looked very hard.

Or I could build a divider to reduce the size of the dish. Something to consider.

Yet more pictures of the feral cats

I just can’t help myself; I know I said two weeks ago that I didn’t want to overdo the cat pictures… but who doesn’t love cat pics?! You’ve come to the wrong place if you don’t.

Happy cat:

Kisses:

Three cats:

Three again:

Yawn:

Lazing about (this is from the same time as the video in the previous post):

Looking at the camera:

Maybe a little hard to see, but there are two on the tree, plus one having just eaten:

Exploring inside the shelter:

I was excited that two cats spent the night (about five hours or so) inside for the first time, cutely snuggled together:

And one slept there the following night, too:

Changed the website theme

I have changed the theme of the Yellow Cottage Homestead website to match the one I use for my Dejus blog. Mainly because I like that it shows large images, instead of wasting a lot of horizontal space on a sidebar.

The sidebar is still available; just click/tap the “hamburger” (three horizontal lines) in the upper-left corner of the page.

I removed the header images from both sites, since they just require extra work to scroll past. I would like to add some links below the header row, but haven’t figured out how to do that with this theme yet; I probably need to do more customizations.

Finally, I’ve also changed the background color on both sites, to help distinguish them; yellow for Yellow Cottage, green for Dejus. Not sure I’ll stick with that, since it’s a bit unusual, but we’ll see.

Bee tweaks

An update on my previous post about the bee hives: I said that we put the Ross round super on the pink hive, but later that same day we swapped it for a regular medium super, since we weren’t confident that the the Ross would work, and that hive was dangerously close to running out of room.

Good thing too, as we later realized that the reason it wasn’t being used was we’d forgotten to add the foundation:

D’oh! I guess we’ll try that again next year.

Yesterday, I added starter strips to two medium boxes of frames, just in case we needed them (spoiler: we didn’t, yet). A starter strip is a thin bit of wood that is glued into the top of the frame (they’re upside down in the pics below), to give the bees something from which to build the comb. I just ripped these strips from some scrap wood from the cat house project:

This morning, before it got too hot (though certainly hot enough even in ventilated bee suits), we did another quick inspection to see how they were doing.

Some good festooning on the new honey super; that is where the bees link legs to start forming the base of the comb off the starter strip:

Due to the extreme fire danger around here currently, we used a “liquid smoke” spray instead of the usual smoker:

We had a look at the Flow super (on the purple hive); definitely a bunch of honey in production, so we should be able to do one more harvest this year:

The hive that the Flow super is supposed to be on (that recently swarmed) is recovering nicely; a bunch of capped brood, showing the (presumably new) queen is doing her job:

Some honey, too; they’ll need every bit to survive the winter:

The bottom brood box on that hive has some activity, but not much, so we swapped the two boxes, to encourage them to populate it. Bees tend to work upwards, so it’s best to have empty boxes on top:

We’re nearing the end of the honey production season. We’ll probably remove the honey supers in early September, begin mite treatments, and let the bees build up their winter honey reserves.

More pictures of the feral cats

I’m still enjoying watching the feral cats using the new cat house, so thought I’d share some more pictures for others who also like that. Please let me know in comments (on the blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Micro.blog) if you want to see more, or are sick of cat pics.

Here are three cats exploring inside the shelter after dark:

Poppy after eating:

Exploring the Cat House Saloon shelter in daylight hours:

Coming out of the shelter:

Traffic jam in the feeder:

Happy smile:

Still getting visits from the family of raccoons in the wee small hours:

Disappointed that the food wasn’t available yet at 05:17; I’ve just adjusted the timer to dispense breakfast at 05:00, since that’s when the cats start turning up for food:

A satisfied customer:

I hope you enjoyed those photos. I have lots more, and will continue to capture them from the cameras watching the cat house, if only for my own interest and future reference. No doubt I’ll post more periodically, but don’t want to overdo it.