Mallorcan rural lifestyle suits Minstral the Birman

Regular readers of this blog about our life in rural Mallorca will know that we share the outdoor areas of our finca with seven cats that have adopted us.  But we share our indoor space – our home – with Minstral, our adorable Birman cat.

“I share my home with a couple of humans – one of whom is forever trying to take my photo.”

We adopted him when he was four years old and yesterday was a bit of a landmark in Minstral’s life: it was his 20th birthday. Our vet has told us this is a surprising age for a cat on Mallorca, let alone one that is a pedigree (his is rather impressive). He’s in pretty good shape for his age – Minstral, not the vet (although he’s probably not doing too badly either); however, like many older cats, his kidney function is not what it was.

We’d love to have given Minstral a special treat to eat for his birthday but he’s on a low-protein diet designed for cats with kidney problems, so it was breakfast/lunch/dinner as usual for our much-loved senior ‘catizen’.

An official birthday photograph was deemed “a good idea” but, as anyone who has tried to photograph cats will know, they’re not always very obliging models. Curiosity means they usually come straight towards the camera to check it out. And so it was for much of yesterday. Until this…

 

Cat

“Why are you pointing that thing at me?”

 

©Jan Edwards 2017

 

 

 

 

Good news at our finca in rural Mallorca

Animals can be perverse. You boast to a friend that your cat always does a certain thing: for example, you say its name and it flicks its tail; you say its name twice and it flicks its tail twice; that kind of thing. Of course, the fickle feline never obliges when you try to demonstrate this amazing feat to your friend.

So, perhaps you can guess what happened after I posted about our little cat Sweetie’s eight-day absence…. yes, she turned up last night.  Looking rather thin but otherwise apparently fine, she wriggled under our gates and came to greet her siblings, who sniffed around her as if trying to work out where she’d been (which was probably what they were doing…none of them told us). Beamer seemed particularly pleased to see her and immediately began to give her a jolly good wash.

And Sweetie was back, as she always had been before, for her breakfast this morning. She seems pleased to be back again and, thankfully, Pip has chosen to ignore her.

We’ll probably never know where she was, what she was up to, or why she didn’t come to our finca in Mallorca as usual. We’re all just pleased she’s back and unharmed.

The prodigal daughter gets a good clean-up from big brother Beamer

 

 

Food service as usual for our feline birthday boys

Six years ago today our cats Beamer and Dusty were born. These two fellas are the only survivors of the litter of four born in the old abandoned casita on the other side of the wall at the bottom of our field. They’re also the elder siblings of three cats born later in the same year to the same mum.

Our finca quickly became their finca and their favourite restaurant. We serve a pretty good breakfast and dinner, apparently, even if the food is the same at each meal!

Being a bit of a softie, I’d love to treat them to something special to eat on their birthday. But, on the few occasions (such as Christmas) when we’ve bought them fresh chicken breast or rabbit, they’ve turned up their cute little noses and demanded their usual dry food diet. Cats are notoriously fussy…

Beamer and Dusty were, however, seemingly happy to pose for their birthday portraits. In fact, they were attentively waiting for the breakfast that they could hear The Boss preparing in the kitchen. For these semi-feral cats, having their food served to them twice a day probably makes every day seem like a birthday. Happy birthday, boys!

Beamer: “I can hear cat biscuits being poured into a bowl.”

Dusty: “Why sit on a stone wall when you can sit on a wooden chair warmed by the early-morning sun?”

 

 

 

 

 

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 …

 

 

 

Cats on camera

The past few weeks have passed in a whirl and, although I have written several posts in my head about living in rural Mallorca, that was as far as it went. Perhaps the most frustrating of the recent events that have kept me away from writing what I wanted to was a problem importing photos into Adobe Lightroom – something I tried (and failed) to resolve (even with some helpful suggestions from friends) for three days.

It was hardly a major disaster in the great scheme of things, but annoying when I had captured an image that marked a significant milestone in the lives of our feline family. Thanks to a sainthood-deserving member of the Adobe customer support staff, the problem was finally resolved (after a few hours of on-screen chat and remedial action!).

Long-time readers of this blog will know about Pip, the tiny kitten that ‘arrived’ in our garden in September 2014. She has grown (and how!) into an adorable cat that’s full of fun, affection, and charm. It didn’t take her long to befriend two of the other cats in our feline family, Nibbles and Shorty, with whom she used to have fearless rough ‘n’ tumble play-fights on a regular basis when she was only a third of their size.

Pip has calmed down now and left those mad kittenhood days behind her. She eats with the rest of the gang and sometimes follows them down into the valley as they head off to their respective favourite spots for a snooze. But mostly she stays close to the house, sitting in the deep recess (the walls are 60cm thick) of our dining room window – a space she seems to have claimed as her own.

One of the family

There’s never really been any animosity between Pip and the other cats, but Beamer – the alpha male – always ignored her, and would simply walk away if she approached him. He was such a good big brother to the other cats when their mother Jetta went AWOL, that I always hoped he would do more than just tolerate little Pip. And then, just before Lightroom went loopy, I spotted something that made my heart sing: Beamer had jumped into the window with Pip and was giving her a wash! Once she was cleaned to his satisfaction – and after a little reciprocal licking – they curled up and slept together for the best of the day.

The pictures wouldn’t win any photographic prizes, but they won a place in my heart. And in the story of Pip.

Two felines

“You need a good wash, young lady!”

A snuggle of appreciation.

A snuggle of appreciation.

Snooze is next on the agenda . . .

Snooze is next on the agenda . . .

 

 

 

 

 

Minstral our Birman lives the good life on Mallorca

Beamer (left) checks out the fluffiest tale he's ever seen (on Minstral).

Beamer (left) checks out the fluffiest tale he’s ever seen (on Minstral).

Our beautiful Birman cat Minstral is now eighteen-and-a-half years old – an age which amazes the good folk working at our local veterinary practice. They often tell us that Mallorcan cats rarely live that long; we have noticed that many of them (particularly in the countryside) are either feral or left to their own devices. Certainly there are many dangers lurking out there – among them being shot, poisoned, or run over. Sadly we have a couple of little burial spots on our land to prove it.

Of course Minstral is not the only cat in our lives: we have seven ‘adopted’ now semi-feral cats (although it would be more accurate to say that we were the ones who were adopted). They live outdoors and spend a lot of time around close to the house – returning twice daily (as a group) to be fed.

Minstral was a ‘bonus’ we brought to Mallorca when we moved here in 2004. In September 2001 we had been to Sussex to see a distressed Maine Coon under foster care, with a view to adopting him. He was with a woman who fostered cats, but also bred Birmans. I’ll never forget her house: a fluffy Birman cat or kitten was on every horizontal surface. Big blue eyes stared at us from every direction. Gorgeous.

Smokey, the Maine Coon (aged six), immediately took to us and we took him home. And Minstral too (aged four). The fosterer said that the pair had become inseparable and thought we should have them both to save any separation issues Smokey could have. Well, I wasn’t going to refuse, so neither could The Boss. We sadly lost Smokey to lymphoma a few years after we moved to Mallorca, which led to concern that Minstral would pine for his old pal. Fortunately, plenty of love and affection from us and a fair dollop of feline ‘la dolce vita’ prevented that.

Minstral has been an indoor cat all of his life. We were told by the breeder that he had no road sense at all and it would be unwise to let him out alone. He’s never been very bothered about going out, except for the occasional supervised stroll into the garden to chew grass, or onto the front terrace to sniff a greeting to some of the outdoor cats.  There’s no animosity between him and the others; it looks like a mutual appreciation that he and they are different.

Our recent visit to the vet’s – for Minstral’s rabies jab and annual blood tests to check his kidney function – brought good news. Like many senior cats, his kidneys are not working as well as they used to. He’s been on a special diet for some 18 months and has a daily dose of a medication designed to alleviate the condition. His latest blood tests revealed that his kidney function had slightly improved . . . testament to the great treatment our vet’s in Manacor have always given our extended cat family.

We came home delighted with the news. And Minstral? He celebrated by nabbing the prime spot on the sofa, in front of the log burner. According to http://www.catyearschart.com, Minstral is now aged the equivalent of 88 human years. If and when I make it to 88, I’ll be doing that too . . .

 

 

 

Life behind bars in Mallorca!

No, The Boss and I are not currently residing at His Majesty’s pleasure in what some people dub ‘the Palma Hilton’. (That nickname for the island’s prison must really annoy Mallorca’s real Hilton hotel, Sa Torre Hilton near Llucmajor). Neither am I pouring foaming pints of beer for British holidaymakers in a lively Magaluf bar. I’m referring to the iron window bars, known in Spanish as rejas.

They’re a common sight at the windows of houses in Spain and something that made an impression on me when I  saw them, quite a long time ago, during my first visit to the country that is now my home. At the time I thought it would be horrible to live with bars at the windows, but I’ve now become so used to these things that I now couldn’t imagine not having them. Presumably many others feel the same as these traditional features are still incorporated into many new properties.

Keeping some out . . . others in

They are first and foremost a security feature, enabling windows to be left open for fresh air, with a degree of protection from anyone who may wish to enter the house without an invitation. They also help prevent unsupervised young children from falling out of a window (or teenagers from doing an unauthorised late-night exit through their bedroom window to meet friends!).

At one time, of course, many houses wouldn’t have had windows fitted with glass (which is still quite expensive on the island), so bars in the window space would have been essential as a security measure. We saw an example of this once when we stayed for a night in a townhouse in Pollensa: our bedroom window in this charming old property had shutters, but no glass! Thankfully it was a warm(ish) night . . .

Another maintenance job for the property owner

The downside of these things is that they do need to be painted from time to time to keep them looking good. And it’s a very fiddly job (and one that’s often bumped down the ‘to do’ list in our house as a result).  The upside – apart from the security benefits – is that property insurance companies may give a discount on premiums if bars are fitted.

For our cats too, there seems to be a feeling of safety sleeping behind the bars. Pip certainly seems to take advantage of a ‘protected’ place to snooze away the daylight hours. Her favourite window – the smallest in the house – is in our small guest suite. She’s actually the only one of our cats that can fit into it. No need for a ‘do not disturb’ sign here . . . unless I’m around with my Nikon.These bars are very good for resting one's feet on . . .

These bars are very good for resting one’s feet on . . .