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

Snakes on a Plain

Snake encounters have been increasing on Mallorca – and not just on the plain (the flatter central area known in the local language as the pla). Local media reports have revealed that people in 14 municipalities on Mallorca had found unusually large snakes … mostly in urban areas.

One friend posted a picture on Facebook of a snake she’d found in her garden in an area of Santa Ponsa. To someone who doesn’t know much about snakes (that’ll be me, then), it looked like something that had escaped from a zoo or exotic pet shop – in other words, rather large and bearing distinctive markings. My friend didn’t seem too happy to be sharing her urban garden with this creature. She was lucky: other people have been startled by finding these snakes in their store rooms, garages, basements, and water tanks.

The Horseshoe Whip Snake

While at the vet’s yesterday buying more kidney-diet food for our cat Minstral, we were talking to one of the veterinary nurses about snakes and she told us that Horseshoe Whip Snakes (not native to the island) are increasingly being found on Mallorca – having come onto the island in trees imported from the peninsula.  They seem to be breeding very successfully.

Because of the very hot weather we’ve been having, these snakes have been seeking out cool places, such as garages, store rooms, cellars etc. Only last week, someone found a Horseshoe Whip Snake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis) allegedly measuring two-and-a-half metres in length – although I’ve read that they usually grow to up to a maximum of 1.5 metres.

Coincidentally, it was in Capdepera, back in May, that we saw a few snakes amongst the attractions at the annual medieval market in the northeast Mallorca hilltop town. I’ve no idea what type of snakes were being wrapped around bystanders’ necks but, then, I didn’t get close enough to find out (thank goodness for long lenses).

Man with snake

It’s a wrap!

A little girl discovers that snakes don’t feel slimy.

Snakes at our Finca

Our own encounters with snakes at the finca have been few. My first was while weeding in a damp and shady area of our finca that we call Marie’s Garden (after the former owner, who created it). As I moved close to one of the large rocks dotted around here, a snake suddenly darted out from its shelter and slithered away at great speed. It happened so quickly that I didn’t note too many details about its appearance, except that it wasn’t particularly large. It did make me jump though …

Not long afterwards, on another part of our land, I found part of a snake’s skin that had been shed; something I’d never seen before. Rural life has introduced me to many new experiences. Sadly, most of our snake sightings have been roadkill; not everyone is as careful as we are to avoid hitting wildlife that ventures onto the roads.

What to do if you find a Horseshoe Whip Snake

These non-venomous snakes are not considered dangerous to people, although they can bite and are a tad feisty. The authorities recommend that you report any findings to COFIB by phoning 971 144 107 and presumably they’ll come and remove them.

©Jan Edwards 2017

Helping Stricken Wildlife on Mallorca

Some interesting emails have arrived as a result of writing this blog. I have written before about the production company for UK reality TV show The Only Way is Essex, which contacted me to ask if I could ‘arrange’ for a “typical  Mallorcan farmer and a goat” to be available to them while filming on Mallorca. Er, no, sorry.

Pigeon in Peril

This weekend I had an enquiry I was happier to tackle. Sue – a British holidaymaker – was staying in Palma Nova, a resort in the southwest of Mallorca, and had encountered a pigeon in trouble. It seemed to have string tightly tied around its foot, which was swollen as a result. Sue had fed the stricken bird by hand but wanted to get help for it. But how?

Photo courtesy of all-free-download.com

Sue spent some time searching the Internet and found my blog about life in rural Mallorca. At some time after midnight, she sent me an email explaining the problem and asking about bird sanctuaries. When I found the email next morning, I realized that I didn’t have an answer.

Thankfully, a quick ‘shout out’ on social media gave me details, which I was able to pass on to Sue. I hope the story had a happy ending…

So… if you find a wildlife creature on Mallorca that needs help, contact the following organization (which is part of the Balearic Government’s department for the environment, agriculture, and fishing):

COFIB – Consorcio para la Recuperación de la Fauna de les Illes Balears – Tel (+34) 971 144 107

Must go; just seen an email arrive from a production company planning to film on Mallorca for an American TV programme … let’s hope no goats are involved.

NOTE:

I’m grateful to those who responded to my plea on social media and, particularly, to Vicki McLeod – who responded almost instantly. Vicki is a brilliant professional photographer on Mallorca and can be reached through Phoenix Media Mallorca.

Text  Jan Edwards ©2017

Tortoise Alert in Rural Mallorca

Signs of spring are springing up all over Mallorca and, in our neck of the woods, these include sightings of Mediterranean tortoises. We’ve seen quite a few in the past couple of weeks, either plodding across the lane or negotiating their way across our lumpy land.

Mediterranean tortoise, Mallorca

The spring o’clock alarm has raised this one

These are dangerous times for the sleepy adults that have recently emerged bleary-eyed (I assume) from their winter hibernation. Life can be even more hazardous for the newly born tortoises as they are almost impossible to spot in the undergrowth.

Yesterday our part-time neighbours- and very dear friends – from Yorkshire told us they’d found three baby tortoises in their garden – each no more than the size of a British 50-pence coin. Sadly it’s all too easy not to spot these cute little creatures as they amble around the land; our neighbours fortunately saw their ‘foundlings’ before they came to any harm.

As a follow-up to my last post, if you’re planning to light a bonfire on Mallorca, please check the pile before setting it alight. In fact, if you’re lighting a bonfire anywhere this spring, it’s worth raking gently through the heap first: the heart of a large pile of vegetation makes a cosy winter refuge for hibernating creatures of all types.

©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