Our Cats in Mallorca

Yes, we still have cats, even though you won’t have read much about them lately (although there are occasional sightings on my mallorcajan instagram page). Our feline family now numbers six and, if you’ve read about our cats in previous posts, you’ll realise we’ve lost two. It’s heartbreaking when this happens.

We were devastated in April 2018, when Beamer – the alpha male of the outdoor cats – disappeared. This beautiful big black-and-white boy went off one day and didn’t return.

The evening before he left, he was sitting on the low wall separating our back terrace from the garden and seemed to be sniffing the air. Was he curious to find out what was beyond his territory? He’d always been much loved by his siblings, who came to him for washing, approval, and sometimes a bit of play. Perhaps he’d had enough of the constant attention from them?

We’ll never know what happened to Beamer, but it was out of character for this eight-year-old cat, who spent a lot of his time close to our house. Of course, we searched for him – as far as it’s possible to look for a lost cat in what’s a natural environment of open countryside and scrub vegetation. I spent many months last year hoping he’d stroll back onto the terrace for his food one day. I was convinced he’d come back but eventually accepted that he was gone.

In late July last year we had to say goodbye to our beloved Birman, Minstral. As they say in cricket, he’d had a good innings, being twenty-one years old at the time of his demise. We’d adopted him in the UK and brought him to Mallorca with our rescue Maine Coon, Smokey – who sadly died of leukaemia in our early years here.

Minstral was on medication and diet food for the kidney problem that often affects older cats; he’d been the most chilled-out cat we’d known, but let us know when he’d had enough. Twenty-one is a good age for a cat in Mallorca and our vet hadn’t seen one of such seniority at his practice. We brought Minstral home and buried him alongside Smokey in the garden. We had him for 17 years and I miss him every day.

Had we lost another?

What a yawn! Those teeth are made for nibbling

Nibbles – one of Beamer’s siblings, younger by just four months – is The Boss’s favourite of our cats. Despite being of feral origins, Nibbles likes to jump onto his lap and play the affectionate card for a few minutes…before living up to his name and nibbling any body parts he can reach (usually a hand).

On his eighth birthday (July 31st), Nibbles came for dinner as usual – but limping. He wouldn’t let us examine his paw and leg, and it was too late to take him to the vet’s that night; we set up a blanket in a box under our porch and placed food and water right next to it, so he wouldn’t need to venture far.

“We’ll take him to the vet’s first thing,” The Boss said.

Nibbles might have heard us say that: in the morning he was gone. We didn’t see him again for eight days and wished we had captured him and taken him into our house for the night. For a few days, The Boss scoured the countryside for him, even venturing into the jungle that is our valley-within-a-valley for the first time in many months.

“It’s impenetrable down there,” he said when he returned, defeated, sweaty, and covered with bits of vegetation. With temperatures at the time in the high 30s, we feared that Nibbles wouldn’t survive the heat if he couldn’t at least drink. An air of sadness and helplessness hung over us.

On Thursday, August 8th, we attended a start-of-the-grape-harvest party at a local winery. It was a fun evening, which proved to be a brief distraction from thinking about Nibbles’s likely fate.

The prodigal puss returns

Our cats were waiting on the terrace, as usual, for our return. They must recognise the sound of our approaching car and time their arrival to coincide with ours. The Boss will often top up their food bowls at this point and, whilst he went indoors to fetch the cat chow, I stayed outside.

One of the cats was standing on our solar-powered fountain, drinking from it. I thought it was Chico until I realised that the leg markings were those of Nibbles. He was home and, although still limping, had survived the heatwave. As we hadn’t seen him for a week, he had probably conserved his energy by limping to the terrace for food and water at night, when the heat of the day was gone. I scooped Nibbles into my arms and was holding him when The Boss emerged from the house, carrying the box of cat food.

“Look who’s back,” I said turning around to face him. We were overcome with joy at seeing this much-loved cat again – but disappointed to see that he was now walking on only three legs.

Nibbles spent the night indoors this time and, in the morning, we took him to the vet’s. He hates the car and howled all the way there and back. The vet diagnosed a bite on his leg, gave him an antibiotic injection that would last fifteen days, and prescribed anti-inflammatory medicine for us to give him each day.

He’s still indoors and has become quite the home cat – so far showing little interest in the outdoor world and plenty of liking for sitting on soft cushions and having food and water within a few paw-steps. He’s now walking on four legs, albeit still with a slight limp; by the end of this week, Nibbles should be back outdoors with his feline family. Domestic life will return to normal. As normal as it ever is when you live in rural Mallorca and have a semi-feral feline family.

Jan Edwards ©2019

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What Do Cats’ Thoughts Turn to in the Mallorcan Spring?

Spring weather has finally arrived in Mallorca. The dust-generating woodburning stove (which I do love, despite the extra dusting) is now off duty until late autumn and there have been mutterings of safaris to the depths of the wardrobe for short-sleeved shirts. It pays not to be too hasty though. In England, we remember the old saying “Ne’er cast a clout ’til May be out”. Here in Spain they have something similar: “Hasta el cuaranta de mayo no te quites el sayo.”  The 40th of May takes us into June and, for sure, I won’t be wearing an overcoat in Mallorca then; we can safely assume it wasn’t an islander who came up with that pearl of wisdom.

It’s true that Mallorca’s spring didn’t get off to a promising start but, on the plus side, all the rain has resulted in an abundance of wildflowers and fields of emerald-green crops. The two main reservoirs in the Tramuntana mountains – Gorg Blau and Cúber – are also full, which is positive news ahead of the busy tourist season.

Captured on camera

For a good few days now we’ve had plenty of sunshine and some pleasant temperatures. Yesterday we even spent some post-paella time relaxing on the beach at Muro with Mallorcan friends. I brought out my inner child by paddling in the sea with their sweet three-year-old daughter Julia and was surprised to find the water was quite a pleasant temperature.

The Boss and I ended our enjoyable Sunday by sitting on our back terrace with a glass of wine…and almost all our cats. Our furry felines seem to enjoy being with us when we’re outside during warm evenings. As most of them were born feral, we’re always touched that they stick around – even after they have had their dinner! Once darkness falls and we come indoors, we imagined that the cats reverted to their full feral status and went off on their individual ways hunting.

A lovely Polish couple has recently become our neighbours, although their finca is on the other side of a steep valley from us. They installed a security camera at their finca and sent us a still image captured from the first-night’s footage, which they thought we’d be interested to see. Recognizable by their markings, three of our black-and-white cats were visible, chilling out around the finca‘s swimming pool. At least they weren’t sipping cocktails. So much for feral behaviour!

For fellow cat fans, here are a few pictures I took last evening.

 

©Jan Edwards 2018

 

 

Never a dull moment with Pip

Never usually one to miss a meal…

It’ll be three years in September since the kitten we named Pip arrived in our lives. She’s still very much like a kitten (albeit a rather plump one): playful, inquisitive, and ready to eat anything in sight. Every day she does things to make us laugh and remind us how fortunate we are that somehow she turned up at our finca. But yesterday we feared we had lost her…

Pip when she first arrived three years ago.

Cat-astrophe?

Pip seems to be a bit of a petrolhead: she loves to get into cars. One morning earlier this year she didn’t turn up for her breakfast; this was not usual Pip behaviour, as she always appears to be starving in the mornings, but we assumed she was sleeping off a busy night doing feline stuff. Some time later, The Boss called me and pointed out of the kitchen window at our car. Standing up on the driver’s seat inside, with her front paws on the side window, was Pip. The Boss had been cleaning the car out the previous evening and Pip had managed to hide herself away in it while all the doors and hatchback were open – and had spent the night trapped inside. As you may imagine, there was a little more cleaning to be done afterwards…

We’ve been super-careful ever since. If friends come to visit, or we have a delivery or tradesman calling, we’ve always made sure that Pip hasn’t somehow managed to get into their vehicle.

Chill-out furniture delivery; not-so-chilled cat mum!

Do not disturb.

Yesterday we had a delivery of some new chill-out furniture for the terrace. The two guys who brought the stuff left the large van’s back doors open while they were carrying the items from the drive to the back terrace. As well as our furniture, there were protective blankets and other stuff inside the van. It was another hot day so we assumed Pip would be asleep somewhere on our land.

It was only later, as we were having lunch outside, I remembered that we hadn’t asked the delivery men to check the back of the van for a feline squatter before they left. Had she jumped up through the open doors into the back of the van? Was she on her way to who-knows-where?  We abandoned lunch and repeatedly called out to Pip; usually she appears when she hears us (in the expectation of food). We even shook the large plastic box that contains the cats’ biscuits. Nada.

Stowaway alert

At this point I had a mini-meltdown, imagining her trapped in the van and what would happen when the doors were opened – either back at the store or on another delivery somewhere. The consequences didn’t bear thinking about but that didn’t stop me thinking about them! I phoned the store to alert them to the possibility of a stowaway in the van and the helpful woman there rang the drivers to warn them.

Needless to say, after an afternoon of anxiety, Pip turned up later in the day for her dinner. I went outside and there she was stretched out under our car. We’ve never been as pleased to see her as we were last evening.

“What was all the fuss about, hooman?”

Cats can be such a worry sometimes … or maybe it’s just that this cat-mum worries too much about them!

©Jan Edwards 2017

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

©Jan Edwards 2017

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?”

©Jan Edwards2017

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 …