Stockholm Syndrome in Mallorca

Can cats have Stockholm Syndrome? I recently wrote about our eldest cat, Dusty, having a biopsy and convalescing inside our home. He’s an outdoor (born feral) cat and we expected ructions when we kept him indoors for a couple of nights, but he appeared to cope well with his confinement.

Dusty in July 2011 sitting on the terrace

He’s an affectionate cat — but on his own terms. He doesn’t like anyone to pick him up, and won’t normally sit on a lap. But when the mood takes him, Dusty will come around if we’re outside, and rub his head on our legs to ask for a stroke.

During his weekend indoors, Dusty frequently nuzzled against us and we rewarded him with the fuss he seemed to want. Once, he even jumped onto the sofa and rested his front legs on my thigh and gazed at me with his gorgeous blue eyes. It made my heart flutter: was he a convert to lap life at last?

Alas, all changed when his confinement was over. For around a week, he ran off whenever he saw us approaching. Dusty — who waited patiently with the others for breakfast and dinner — would scuttle away when he saw us coming. Once we were at a safe distance away again, he’d return for his food.

This behaviour seemed in such contrast to the way he’d been when he was in the house. It made me wonder whether cats suffer from Stockholm Syndrome — the psychological response when hostages bond with their captors. Anyone know?

Diagnosis & Treatment

Dusty in July 2011

The biopsy results weren’t good: Dusty has a cancerous tumour in his nose: However, our vet Joana, explained a relatively new treatment — electro-chemotherapy — to remove these tumours (common in sun-loving white cats). She showed us photos of cats that had undergone this, and appeared positive about the outcome for Dusty, who is otherwise a healthy cat.

The procedure involves the use of specialist equipment to remove the tumour, and one dose of chemotherapy, both on the same day. The equipment is based in Valencia, but comes over to the veterinary hospital Canis in Palma de Mallorca for one week each month. We were fortunate in the timing of the equipment’s next schedule arrival on the island and they gave Dusty an appointment for Wednesday 3rd February.

All well and good. There was just the simple matter of catching a wary Dusty to take him to Palma. After much discussion, we decided to attempt this on the Tuesday, so that we’d have another chance on the Wednesday morning if our first attempt failed.

When we went out in the early evening to feed the cats, Dusty was waiting. Was luck on our side? Err, no. He shot off as soon as he saw us and disappeared down into the undergrowth in our valley. Stress! How could we possibly catch him when he was super-wary of our intentions?

Within an hour, Dusty was back in the house with us. I’d found him down in the field, stropping his claws on the almond tree trunk that fell during the recent storm. I spoke softly and crept towards him and was able to grab the scruff of his neck and carry him indoors. Suffice to say, he wasn’t impressed.

His procedure went without a hitch the next day, although he didn’t enjoy the car journey to Palma. He wasn’t the only one. I’d sprayed his carrying case with Feliway in advance, ostensibly to calm him for the journey. If that was calm, what would he have been like without it?

Dusty spent the next couple of nights indoors, making himself at home. So much so that the sofa became a favourite place to sit. He treated us to head nuzzles, purring, and lap time.

Unfortunately, Pip didn’t appreciate our temporary house guest at all and practised her tiger growl whenever Dusty was in her vicinity. On Friday lunchtime we were able to let Dusty out again. I opened the front and back doors of the house, so he could choose his exit but, for a few minutes, it looked as though he was reluctant to leave.

Needless to say, since he returned to his natural, outdoor habitat, Dusty has made himself scarce whenever we’re around. We’re hoping he’ll forgive us soon — and that his treatment will ensure a full recovery.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share two of my favourite photos of Dusty as a cute kitten.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2021

Cat Tales from Mallorca

Those beautiful blue eyes!

Our house has been a cat convalescent home again this weekend. This time our patient was Dusty – the eldest of the cats we look after – who had a biopsy on Friday. When we brought him home from the vet’s, we kept him indoors for a couple of nights to keep an eye on him and manage his post-biopsy medication.

We’re devastated that the poor boy has a tumour in his nose, and a piece of the tissue has been sent to Barcelona for analysis. We must now wait for the results to know the art of the possible in terms of treatment. I am praying it’s benign.

Dusty is the only remaining cat from the first litter of feral kittens, born on the other side of the wall at the end of our field. He’s almost ten years old and, other than a night in our guest annexe after he was castrated, has lived outdoors all his life – showing no inclination to come into the house.

He has an affectionate and gentle nature, in as much as he likes to rub his head against our legs and purrs with great enthusiasm. When I do some gardening, he often appears from underneath a shrub to keep me company.

But try to pick him up or put him on a lap, and we’re suddenly dealing with a sharp-clawed octopus. Catching him for the visit to the vet’s called, as usual, for subterfuge.

On Friday evening, Dusty was still subdued after his lunchtime op. We drove the ten kilometres home without a squeak from him in his travelling case on the back seat. A first.

Our guest annexe isn’t warm enough to use in the winter, so we brought Dusty into the house to recuperate. Considering the complete change of routine and lifestyle, he behaved well. He couldn’t settle for long on the first evening, wandering around the house and checking everything out. He viewed the log burner with trepidation – unlike Pip, who sprawls herself right in front of it – and when we turned on the TV, he shot out of the room. The news programmes have the same effect on me these days.

Pip wasn’t thrilled about our temporary guest but, after an initial growl at the interloper, she largely ignored him. We kept the two in separate rooms overnight and The Boss slept part of last night on the sofa, to keep Dusty company when he cried for attention. I didn’t hear a peep of any of this, sleeping through it all. It may have been sleep time for us but the hours of darkness are when outdoor cats are most active.

The weather’s not as cold today as it’s been of late and we’ve seen some sunshine. As I write, Dusty has gone back outside to his natural habitat. In a short while from now, he’ll be waiting with the other outdoor cats for his dinner.

As much as we’d like to keep him indoors until the biopsy results arrive, our vet didn’t know how long they’ll take – and Dusty would not appreciate an extended stay indoors. Not sure The Boss would appreciate another night on the sofa either!

Jan Edwards Copyright 2021

Lockdown Log in Mallorca – Day 64

Here in rural Mallorca, we’ve been discovering the lanes of our valley again, now that we are permitted to walk beyond the boundaries of our finca. Each morning, we head off for a walk of about half an hour. It’s been a real tonic and a habit I hope we’ll continue.

After almost two months walking only around our own property, it’s been such a joy to be out in the open countryside, seeing what nature’s been up to in our absence – and encountering a few neighbours we haven’t seen for a long while.

One of this week’s memorable events was spotting a mare and her frisky foal in one of the fields bordering the lane down into the valley. The field belongs to a farmer called José. Because we know several people with this name, we’ve given each one a nickname – which is a common practice anyway in Mallorca.

A Handy Farmer

We refer to this farmer as ‘Hairy-Handed José’ – although not to his face, of course. He no longer lives in the house on his farm, but comes every day to tend his animals and whatever else Mallorcan farmers do to fill their days (and avoid helping their wives with the housework back at home in town).

The nickname came about because (a) this man’s remarkably hirsute – even the backs of his fingers are forested, and (b) his hands are huge, so it’s hard to miss them, given that Mallorcans (and most Latin-types) tend to wave them about as a side order to the spoken word.

A Horse with no Name

The foal’s mother. The foal was too far away to photograph on this occasion

A couple of days after spotting the foal – who gave a spirited little performance for my phone camera – we saw ‘Hairy-Handed José’ for the first time for more than the couple of months we’ve all been confined to home. He looked older and a bit thinner, but his hands were pleasingly as hairy as ever.

He stopped his car in the lane for a socially distanced chat. I was about to ask him what the foal was called when I remembered our first encounter, in our early months here. At the time, he had a huge black dog chained up just inside the gates of his farm. Every time we walked past it, the dog went mental, snarling and straining at its chain. I figured that if we knew its name, we could call it out when we passed, to let him know that we were friends not foes and there was no need for all the barky behaviour.

‘What’s your dog’s name?’ we had asked ‘Hairy Handed’ (our abbreviated version of his nickname) when we saw him out and about one day.

Translated, his reply was this: ‘Name? Name? He’s just a dog!’ Supposing that the foal in the field was ‘just a foal’, we didn’t bother to ask this time. We’ll choose our own name for it soon…

Jan Edwards ©2020

Freshly Born Lambs for Our Mallorcan Valley

Meadow in Mallorca with sheep

Two new arrivals for our rural valley

Almost hidden in this pastoral Mallorcan scene you may be able to see a ewe and, with her, two tiny Persil-white lambs that have just about managed to scramble up onto their feet. We stood silently for some time watching the second one’s efforts to stand up for the first time but, with only a phone camera to capture the image, I couldn’t zoom in any closer than this.

Given the state of mum’s nether regions (probably best you can’t see too clearly, especially if you’re about to eat), these little lambs were born whilst we were taking a long walk; we didn’t see them as we passed the field the first time, but did on our return journey home.

It’s easy to spot lambs in rural Mallorca at the moment; they’re everywhere. But seeing them so newly arrived was a magical moment. And one that put spring firmly in our sights.

©Jan Edwards 2018

Look Who’s Moved into Our Valley

Donkey at a gate

One of Francisco’s donkeys…no longer in the valley

When we first moved to rural Mallorca in 2004, there were more animals than people in our valley. These were mainly sheep, or sheeps – as our German neighbour calls them in the plural form. (English must be quite a complicated language for a foreigner to learn).

For quite a few years, several farmers owned small flocks that were regularly moved from one field to another, somewhere else in the valley. The sound of an increasingly loud symphony of sheep-bells was a warning that the lane would be temporarily blocked to traffic by woolly walkers, being guided by the farmer towards another of his patchy patches of land. Sadly, we rarely awaken to the sound of dongling sheep-bells nearby these days: the field opposite our casita is no longer the part-time home of frolicking lambs or their bell-toting mums.

These beasts are no burden

We also used to hear regular distant donkey-braying – another of my favourite rural sounds. Francisco – an animal-loving Mallorcan who did gardening jobs for some of our neighbours – owned a few donkeys in a field down in the valley. If we were going for a walk in that direction, we often took a few carrots or an apple for them. When Francisco sadly died suddenly, after being ill for a while, the donkeys disappeared shortly afterwards.

It’s safe to assume, then, that I was rather excited by some new four-legged arrivals we spotted last week in the valley. Two ponies, a donkey, and a mule (or is it an ass? We really couldn’t tell) were munching their way through a different field at the bottom of the lane.  The photos were taken with my smart phone. I’ll be tottering down the hill again soon – with my smarter Nikon and its zoom lens.

Pony in a field

The new boy in town? Could be a girl – hard to see through all that fur!

Animals in a field

Settling into their new abode

Grazing pony

Pony number two enjoying the buffet

We have no idea who owns either the field or the beasts, but were delighted to see these new neighbours. Looks as though we’ll be buying extra carrots and apples again…

©Jan Edwards 2018

Mallorca for dogs (and their owners)

If you live on the island of Mallorca and own a dog – or are thinking about acquiring one – a website founded by Christina Kastin – should be of interest to you.

Christina is from Sweden and she loves dogs…and Mallorca. She’s spent the past decade lobbying local councils here to make the island more pet friendly. As a result: people can now take their dogs onto certain beaches during the winter season; six designated areas have been earmarked for dogs to swim at any time of the year, and seven bus routes in Palma will take your pooch as a passenger.

Pet-friendly places

Christina’s website guide4dogs has full details of the above, as well as information about pet-friendly hotels and restaurants. In addition, there seems to be just about everything you could need to know about matters canine on the island.

In the northeast of Mallorca, the town of Artà has been working to make their municipality a more pet-friendly place and, in collaboration with Artà town council, Christina organized a dog walk from the nearby small resort of Colònia de Sant Pere last Saturday. This is one of my favourite places on Mallorca at any time of the year; if you haven’t watched the sun setting behind the Tramuntana mountains across the Bay of Alcúdia on a summer night, you’ve missed one of Mallorca’s best sunset spots.

I was one of the invited journalists and, despite not owning a dog (what would the eight cats think!), joined a friendly group of people and pooches who met up at Restaurante Es Mollet (find it on Facebook). Participants had come from all over Mallorca for this walk and several admitted that they didn’t really know this area of the island.

We began the morning with a complimentary breakfast of coffee, juice, and croissant or pa amb oli (the popular bread and oil snack, accompanied by pickles and ham or cheese).  Meanwhile, we watched an interesting presentation via Skype by the Swedish animal communicator Mia Mattsson.

Two representatives from Artà town hall welcomed us and provided informative leaflets (in English) about walking and sightseeing in the area, as well as a DVD. (See notes below for useful web links).

Walkies!

From Es Mollet we set off for a long stretch of virgin beach, adjacent to the dog-friendly Naturplaya Hotel (which has an enviable beachfront location but had closed for the winter).

Once we’d hit the sands, leads were off and the dogs were free to enjoy themselves – bounding around, pouncing on the water as it lapped on the shore, and sniffing out new canine friends. Although we have cats at home, I also love dogs and it was heartwarming to see them having such fun.

Although the day was initially cloudy, the temperature was a pleasant 21°C and, by the time the group had stopped for refreshments, the sun was breaking through for our return walk to Colònia de Sant Pere.

The day was a great success and another beach walk for dogs and their owners may take place early in 2018. Don’t miss out: like and follow the Facebook page guide4dogs.com and you’ll keep up to date with what’s happening. And do check out the web links below to find out why the Artà municipality is one of Mallorca’s gems.

 

Useful websites

Artà Business Association (includes details of events happening)

Artà visitor information

DogsForU – mainly German Shepherds and other large breeds. DogsForU is just one of the many animal refuges and shelters on Mallorca, where you’ll find animals that need a good home and some loving care.

Text & photos ©Jan Edwards 2017

Mr Rat Came A-Calling

We spotted a dead rat in the lane near our home a day or two ago and it reminded me that we hadn’t seen a rodent – dead or alive – for some time. Thankfully. Having seven outdoor cats around the place is the best rat or mouse deterrent going.

Before the cats took up residence on our finca we tried a few measures to deter the rats and mice that we often saw around. The first was the large plastic owl (brought over with us from the UK) which we suspended from a branch on one of our almond trees. Our Mallorcan neighbours must have had a chuckle about that…as did the rodents, we imagine, since they weren’t the least bit put off.

There were electronic gizmos emitting an  unpleasant sound that only rodents could hear – allegedly. If they did hear anything from these gadgets, they didn’t seem at all bothered.

The Boss blocked up any inviting gaps and holes in the structure of our house and, eventually, we stopped hearing the creatures scuttling within the thick stone walls or under the roof tiles. We still saw them occasionally outside but I stopped worrying about them coming into the house.

rat

An unforgettable night

Look away now if you’re of a nervous disposition because, in spite of the various measures taken to make our home rat-proof, we had a four-legged, long-tailed visitor one night. I’m shuddering now at the memory of it.

I woke up suddenly in the depth of the night to the sound of scratching. It wasn’t The Boss – who was sleeping peacefully (little did he know …) – and it wasn’t our Birman cat Minstral, who sleeps at the other end of our one-storey home. What could it be? The noise became intermittent but closer so I shook The Boss until he groggily came to.

Silence had returned by then, of course. “Go back to sleep, you must have imagined it,” he replied after I’d explained my fears. “Nothing can get in here.” Minutes later the noise started again but The Boss didn’t stir. I listened carefully, trying to work out where the sound was coming from. The sitting room! Feeling brave, I climbed out of bed, grabbed my bedside torch and went to close the sitting-room doors. Whatever was in there could stay there until morning.

“What are you doing?” groaned The Boss when I slid back under the duvet.

“The thing. I’ve shut whatever it is in the sitting room,” I said confidently. “We can sort it in the morning.”

“You’re imagining things,” he replied sleepily, “just try and get back to sleep.”

And I did manage to drift off again. I know that because I was woken by The Boss yelling out some time later. Whatever I thought had been in the sitting room hadn’t; something had just run right across The Boss’s head! Yes, a rat.

We both jumped out of bed and scarpered to the guest room for the rest of the night – having made sure that the creature was confined to our room. All I remember of the next day was a lot of banging and crashing as The Boss tried to catch and remove the creature. And a long session afterwards with rubber gloves, buckets of steaming-hot water, and disinfectant.

A cautionary tale

So how did the rat get into the house? The original walls of our house are around 80cm thick, which means a deep recess between the windows and the external shutters (persianas). The Boss had closed the shutters at dusk from the outside, unaware that a rat had taken refuge within the recess. When it couldn’t easily escape it found its way into the house through a very small hole in the old mosquito screen (which we’d been meaning to replace). A very small hole.

The moral of the story: check those deep window recesses for unwelcome visitors before shutting your persianas. Fix those old mosquito screens. And adopt a few stray cats …

©Jan Edwards 2017

Preparations for winter on Mallorca

Autumn on Mallorca means preparing for the winter, when you live in the more-exposed areas of the countryside. In the past few days The Boss has climbed the ladder to swathe our two terrace canopies in bubble-wrap and tape, as protection from the worst of what winter may throw at us weather-wise.  Walk around some of the island’s resorts and you’ll see the more vulnerable exterior fixtures and fittings of hotels that are closed for the winter similarly covered. Our terraces look a bit sad, as a result, but we had to spend a lot of money recovering the canopies this year, so it’s all about protecting our investment against the elements.

Canopies under wraps

Canopies under wraps

We do have one small terrace that catches the sun and is sheltered from the north winds, where we keep a table and chairs throughout the winter. Unless it’s raining or very cold, we often have our mid-morning coffee here and sometimes lunch too. Today, despite the gloomiest of skies, we fired up the BBQ one last time this year (before The Boss tucks it away for winter) and had a leisurely lunch al fresco.

Pip – fit to pop

Our outdoor cats are also aware of the changing seasons. They stay closer to home and, in the morning and early evening, are all waiting at the front door of our home waiting to be fed. In summer they are grazers, coming to the terrace to eat when they feel like it but, at this time of year, their habits change.

This summer grazing habit of six of our cats resulted in a bit of a barrel-belly problem for Pip – our youngest cat (an adorable calico). As she stays close to the house most of the time, any food left uneaten by her cat companions was clearly too much of a temptation. She was either being plain greedy or just ‘clearing up’ any leftovers to be helpful.

Lip-lickingly good, those leftovers ...

Lip-lickingly good, those leftovers …

It’s hard to put a semi-feral cat on a diet – she could be eating things out in the wilderness that is our valley – but we’re doing our best. Pip is now having her meals separately from the other cats and, when they have finished eating, we’re removing their bowls. The cats have adjusted well to this – probably because eating for them at the moment is more about gaining winter weight for warmth, than grazing on a whim.

Be prepared

On the subject of food, many seasonal restaurants are now closed until around Easter next year. With fewer tourists and so many places shuttered up (or swathed in plastic), a sense of the impending winter is in the air – although it’s still officially autumn and the air itself has been pretty mild some days (in the low 20s Celsius some days). The Boss – in the best Boy Scout tradition – has prepared us for what may come. He’s stocked up on logs for the stove and red wine for the rack. Winter? I guess we’re almost ready for it …

 

 

 

Pip and Pops

After a family visit to Mallorca that saw 12 of my relatives gathered on our finca terrace for a catch-up on one occasion, we’ve been cleaning the place after our visitors and preparing for the arrival tomorrow of our lovely friends from Oxford, Duncan and Kristina, for a week’s stay with us.

On top of that there has been writing work to catch up with and more personal chores – such as digging out summer clothes from their winter storage and getting them washed and ironed. Summer has definitely arrived on Mallorca!

All this has kept us busy, but it’s very satisfying that we have created a home where people can feel relaxed while staying with us. And not just people: Pip, our feline family’s most-recent arrival (20 months ago) certainly knows a thing about chilling out … and hanging out with the grown-ups.

This is one of my favourite photos from the family visit: my dad (having a post-lunch siesta), with Pip snuggled up to him. Cute, eh?

Do not disturb!

Do not disturb!

 

 

 

How to drive on Mallorca’s off-the-beaten-track country lanes …

In a word, slowly. Living, as we do, a couple of kilometres down a country lane from a main(ish) road, we have become accustomed to the potential hazards of driving in rural Mallorca. It must be said – with the greatest of respect to Mallorcan drivers – that anticipation of the possible dangers that lurk, for users of country lanes, is sometimes lacking.

Road surfaces on Mallorca are generally very good. It was something we – and our visitors from England – often commented on in our early days of living on the island; even though our lane, at the time, was just a string of potholes linked together with bits of ancient asphalt. But even with a good road surface, driving in the country can present some challenges – particularly in lanes that are too narrow for cars to pass each other easily when travelling in opposite directions. Once, a neighbour’s son (a budding Fernando Alonso) missed our car by just a few centimetres because he’d been driving too fast from the opposite direction.

Here are some other things to watch out for on Mallorca’s roads:

Cyclists

Cyclists love Mallorca's rural lanes.

Cyclists love Mallorca’s rural lanes.

Mallorca is a magnet for keen cyclists and, during these cooler months of the year, many professional and amateur club cycling teams come here to take advantage of some excellent cycling conditions. If you’re driving, there’s every chance that you’ll find yourself crawling behind a Lycra-clad  peloton.  Or facing an oncoming one in a narrow country lane. Given the speed these bikes can travel, it doesn’t pay to be driving too fast.

The rabbit and the tortoise 

Our valley was full of rabbits when we first moved here and, what with the potholes and Bugs Bunny’s numerous friends, driving down our lane (particularly after dark) sometimes called for lightning reactions. The buck-toothed population has diminished in recent years (myxomatosis contributed to this), but rabbits do still suddenly shoot out onto the tarmac from the verges. As do their larger cousins, hares.

The Mediterranean tortoise is another creature you could encounter on your travels. They will often just retreat inside their shells when a vehicle approaches, so careful driving is needed to avoid squashing them.

Stone curlews

These rather inelegant birds give out a distinctive cry and we regularly hear their spooky shrieks at night as they fly over. After dark they also have a tendency just to stand around. Sometimes, even in the middle of the road. On one occasion, we had to brake hard to avoid hitting one that we’d been sure would take off as we approached. It just stood there looking defiantly at us until one of us got out of the car and approached it on foot.

Polyester-clad bottoms 

After a period of decent rain, there’s yet another potential hazard. Mallorcan country folk (often women; often wearing polyester pinafores) wander along the sides of the lanes, bent double and collecting the snails that have been lured out by the damp conditions.  Watch out for foragers – for snails and, in season, wild asparagus – particularly as you drive around bends, as they may not be visible below the level of the stone walls. Seemingly abandoned unfamiliar vans or small cars along a country lane may be an early warning sign of foragers who have driven out from a town or village for some of nature’s bounty.

Sheep

Beware of sheep (and goats) jumping from the tops of stone walls.

Beware of sheep (and goats) jumping from the tops of stone walls.

 

"Mum, wait for us!"

“Mum, wait for us!”

 

Sheep have a tendency to escape, because of their remarkable aptitude for climbing over dry stone walls. These woolly Houdinis can be a real danger if you come across them while driving too fast. And, take it from me, it’s almost impossible to shoo them back to where they came from. Another possibility is that you’ll encounter a shepherd moving his entire flock from one field along the lane to another field. There is no hurrying these beasts.

Horses

Horses came before cars ...

Horses came before cars …

In our valley we often see individual riders and also groups of people out with their horses. Occasionally you see a trotting horse – complete with trotting carriage – out for some exercise.

Random hazards

The above are all commonplace. Some of the more unusual hazards we’ve seen in our lanes have included a team of brightly dressed speed skaters (speed skating up the hill, no less), two donkeys that had escaped from their field and gone walkabout, and a couple of piglets that escaped from the truck transporting them from a nearby farm to their unfortunate destiny. Oh, how we cheered those two little pigs on in their Great Escape attempt … which sadly failed.

Motoring on Mallorca can be a really pleasurable experience: traffic is a lot lighter than in the UK, for example, and the island’s scenery and distant views are beautiful. But don’t spend too long gazing at the views if you’re driving … you  never know what may be ahead!

Jan Edwards ©2016