Spud and Poppy

Here are Spud and Poppy, two of the feral cats we house and feed (plus a couple more eating), along with the back of the soon-to-be-replaced feeding station:

Winter bees

I posted a photo of our beehives on my new personal blog, but thought I’d cross-post here too.

Our beehives seem to be surviving the winter so far. I just refilled their feeders (2:1 sugar syrup), which supplements their stored honey if needed:

A bonus pic; a closer view of the purple hive. There are some dead bees in the entrance, but that isn’t anything to be concerned about. Bees don’t live long, and they just haven’t had the energy to take out their dead yet. If the hive survives, they’ll clean up in spring:

Feral cats back in their routine

I thought I’d follow up on the feral cats, after their TNR adventure a week or so ago.

They’ve settled back into their usual routine, sleeping in the heated shelter most of the time, turning up for meals at the feeding station, and patroling around the exterior of the house. We’ve seen them on the back deck (drinking from the dog’s water dish), and playing on the front deck. They’ve approached the doors, too.

While they were more skittish around me for the first day or two after getting home, they’ve gotten over that, and gone back to their usual level of skittishness, where I can get within 6 – 10 feet of them.

Here are an assortment of photos.

Drinking from the dog’s water dish (they do have their own water dispenser, but this one is closer to the shelter, for now):

Peeking at me while I get bird seed:

Hard to see, but three pairs of eyes peeking from under the deck:

So casual:

Mid-lick!

Actually three cats in this photo; head and tail of two different cats in the shelter:

This shelter is rated for up to 4 cats, and we have 5. It was fine when the kittens were smaller, but now that they’re getting closer to fully grown, it’s a bit overcrowded. So I am currently in the planning stages of building a new shelter for them; a custom wooden structure that will be quite a bit bigger. It will also include a feeding station, so I can replace the monstrous hack job I have out front with a nicer one next to their shelter.

Oh yeah, speaking of that hack job, I did modify it a bit since I posted about it, to put the dish under cover… but that just made it even uglier:

Stay tuned for posts about this fun new project!

Trap-Neuter-Return of feral cats

Firstly, welcome to people reading this via a link on the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon Facebook page. That link is the blog filtered for cat topics; you may also be interested in other posts on the blog, including about chickens, bees, and more. Click here to read the full blog.

In my previous post, I talked about pre-baiting the feral cats, to get them used to going into the traps to eat. That worked quite successfully; it didn’t take them long at all to be comfortable eating in there.

Then a couple of days ago came time to betray that trust! I kinda feel that way, even though I know it was the best thing for them. Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is an essential protocol to ensure a few feral cats doesn’t turn into hundreds of feral cats. We are happy to feed and house the five (mother and four kittens) that adopted us, in exchange for their services keeping the rodent population under control. But we wouldn’t be able to care for many more, so they would end up suffering if left to breed unchecked. By being humanely trapped, neutered (and other health treatments), then returned to live out their days here, the population is kept to a manageable level, and everyone is happy.

Anyway. On trapping day, the day before our appointment with FCCO, I fed them a small breakfast around 5 AM as usual, since I didn’t want them stuck in the traps all day, then before lunchtime I activated the traps: closed and secured the back door (that they had been using), rotated them, opened the triggered front door, and placed a paper dish of food at the back:

Then I had the stress of waiting and watching (via my security cameras). Maybe feeding them even a small breakfast was a mistake, but slowly they came to eat in ones and twos, and got caught. One managed to sneak some food from two traps without triggering either, but I angled the bowl so it was a bit further back, and got her later. The first was caught around noon, soon after setting the traps, but the last wasn’t until 17:30.

Finally, all were secured in the workshop bathroom, which was heated to a comfortable temperature. The traps were covered to keep them calm, and resting on boards to raise them off paper to absorb pee, all on a tarp:

Over night the cats pulled the covers off, but they were resting comfortably enough (infrared cam view):

Then in the morning their world was rocked: they were loaded into the back of our truck, and taken to the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon for their spay/neuter. This is a wonderful service, provided free for feral cats, with a suggested donation which we gladly paid.

We received a surprise: apparently our mommacat Poppy was FCCO’s 90,000th cat! Quite the amazing milestone. So she was featured in that Facebook post, a brief KGW TV spot, and will be in their upcoming newsletter. Purrfectly delightful!

Once they were home again, they went back into the shop bathroom to finish recovering from the anesthetic, along with a bit of tasty wet food, and spent the night there.

This morning, I took photos of each. It turns out that only one of them was male; meet Potato, aka Spud:

You may notice the tipped ear; that is a convention to make it easily visible that a feral cat has been neutered.

Here is Poppy, the shy mommacat:

This is Pomegranate (Pommie), one of the girls:

Portabella:

Porcini:

I then took the traps back to where they were caught, next to the feeding station, and released them one by one. Here is Porcini making the jump to lightspeed:

And Portabella, unsure if the coast is clear (I did help her out by clearing some of the newspaper debris):

They all headed straight for the safe space of their heated shelter:

I expect they’ll be extra wary of us for a while, though being feral, they’ve always been somewhat standoffish, not approaching closer than about 6 feet. But they’ll settle back into their routine.

Thanks again to FCCO for helping us care for our outdoor staff!

Pre-baiting feral cats

We’ve left it later than ideal, since the outdoor feral cats are about the age when they could start breeding, but better late than never. We’ve set up an appointment with the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon to get them neutered (and other health checks/treatments), and borrowed 5 traps from them to facilitate that.

So we are now getting them used to eating from the traps for the next few days. This is called “pre-baiting”, where the back door of the traps is removed, and food placed inside, so they become comfortable with going in to eat. Then next week we’ll replace the door and activate the triggered door to actually catch them. With this pre-bating process, and a lot of luck, we’ll hopefully be able to catch all five at once.

I’ve placed the traps next to their usual feeding station (which is disabled for now). They’re under a tarp to keep them dry, weighed down by a folding table:

I’m using paper plates for feeding dishes in each; here they are near the front of the trap, but I’ll move them to the back in subsequent feedings:

This morning when I fed the cats, all five happily ate (partway) in the traps:

Again, I’ll put the food dishes at the back in subsequent feedings, so they go all the way in.

Another test of posting from Micro.blog, this time with a photo, and a link.

An interesting feature of Micro.blog is that short posts are more like tweets — they don’t include a title.

Chicken sign & stamp

Jenn gave me a couple of chicken-themed gifts for Christmas: a sign for the coop, and a stamp for the egg cartons.

The sign is a fun custom one via Etsy, that says “Coopacabana, est. 2017”. That’s our name for the new coop, since it was painted in bright Caribbean-inspired colors:

The stamp was also via Etsy, and says “Farm Fresh Eggs, Yellow Cottage Homestead, Laid On: _______”, with a space for the date stamp I use to mark when the eggs were laid.

Today I made a wooden block to act as a brace for an egg carton while stamping the top. The cartons we use have a perforation down the middle, so they can be split into two six-packs, so I made the block with two parts, connected in the middle, to fit that carton style. (I actually made it out of a single 2×4, but in retrospect it would have been easier and tidier to make two separate blocks and connect them together via another bit of wood; oh well.)

Heated shelter for outdoor cats

It’s a little chilly at present… like dipping down to 25° F / -4° C overnight. Which is fine for us, and as discussed is okay for the chickens, but not entirely pleasant for the feral outdoor cats. Sure, they can snuggle together in a sheltered place, but I still felt bad for them.

So, I decided to get them a heated shelter. I bought an outdoor multi-kitty A-frame shelter from Amazon, that is big enough for several cats, and includes a pad that emits a bit of warmth.

I placed it next to the deck, under which the cats often shelter from the elements. I put a camera pointed at it, so I could see if they used it:

I really wasn’t sure if they’d try it, or avoid it as something strange, being cats. But pretty much moments after I left, they started “investicating” it, and soon afterwards some of them went inside. They looked very comfy in there:

I think it might be a success. But we’ll see how it goes long-term… and whether or not the raccoons cause trouble for the cats.