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 . . .

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas from rural Mallorca

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This photo would have included either Pip – the latest kitten to join our feline family – or Minstral, our elderly Birman. But they both declined to pose in front of the Christmas tree for the camera. Well, they do say never work with children and animals . . .

A Merry Christmas to you and thank you for reading Living in rural Mallorca during 2014. Feliz Navidad, or Bon Nadal, as they say in these parts.

 

 

 

7 reasons to love a log-burner in rural Mallorca

The first snow of the season fell on Mallorca this week, in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tramuntana mountain range. The magnificent mountains are a long way from our home, but it still felt pretty cold here in our valley. Like other parts of Europe, we’ve been battered by fierce winds for a couple of days.

Indoors, at least, we’re keeping warm – thanks to our much-loved Jotul wood-burning stove. We often say that this chunk of metal, in our north-facing sitting room, is the thing we love best about winter.

Here are the reasons we’re so glad we invested in this essential piece of kit for winter on Mallorca:

Our winter warmer

Our winter warmer

It keeps us – and the house – warm around the clock. We feed it a big chunky log just before we go to bed and it burns gently through the night.

It makes great jacket potatoes. Once prepared, with a good bathing of olive oil and dusting of flor de sal, the potatoes are wrapped in a double layer of aluminium foil and placed on the fire bricks lining the sides of the wood-burner. One hour later, we have fluffy jacket potatoes with crispy golden skin. Bring on the butter!

Plate-warming is easy: we’ve placed a small metal trivet on top of the stove and I put the plates on top of this to warm them while I’m cooking dinner. If you try this, do make sure the trivet and plates are well-balanced. On one occasion,  I placed the plates slightly off-centre on the trivet and they crashed to the ground, smashing into dozens of pieces on the stone hearth. Plate-warming fail.

Cooking soup on top of the wood-burner is a breeze, and saves butano.  I simply prepare everything on the kitchen hob and then when the soup has started to bubble gently, the pan goes on top of the stove, to sit there cooking gently for the morning until lunchtime

It successfully proves bread dough. I never make my own bread in summer because it’s much too hot to have the kitchen oven throwing out even more heat. But, in winter, I bring out my inner baker and get kneading. Unlike our old home in England, we don’t have an airing cupboard in which to prove the dough. Instead, we use the log-burner: placing the bowl containing the dough on a table in the same room as the fire makes easy work of the proving process.

It keeps Minstral, our elderly Birman cat, happy. It’s only in the past couple of years that Minstral has decided he likes the warmth of the log-burner. Once upon a time he would give it a wide berth as he walked past but, at the age of 17, he’s finally realized that there’s nowhere more inviting than the rug in front of the hearth.

Home is where the hearth is . . .

Home is where the hearth is . . .

It makes everywhere dusty. OK, so this isn’t exactly A Good Thing – unless you love dusting (which I don’t). But with so many benefits, The Boss and I can forgive the Jotul for endowing the sitting room with a layer of dust more befitting Miss Havisham’s home.

Throw on another log . . .

 

 

 

 

Pip’s progress

If you come to live in the Mallorcan countryside, you’re likely to end up sharing your life with a few animals. We arrived on the island with two cats: Minstral, our Birman, and Smokey, our Maine Coon (who died a few years ago from lymphoma). Minstral lives indoors, and has done so happily for just over 17 years – 13 of which have been with us.

For three years we have also had a ‘glaring’ – a highly appropriate (at least at feeding time) collective noun for a group of cats. Five of these were born (in two litters) to a black feral cat we named Jetta who, after being with us for more than a year, went off one day and never returned. Our land has always been the territory of her offspring.

Along came two more . . .

Shorty arrived (dumped?) as a tiny ginger kitten, dragging an injured back leg. His incredible tenacity enabled him to wheedle his way into the existing feline family and, today, he’s a handsome cat with a love of cuddles (and a tendency to dribble all over you). Peanut – another dumped ginger kitten – stayed for several months but went off one day and didn’t return. It had taken some time for her to be accepted and although she was eventually tolerated, she clearly felt the need for her own space.

Shorty

Shorty

And another . . .

On September 18th this year the latest addition to our feline family arrived. We came home late from Nit de l’Art in Palma de Mallorca to find a little scrap of a kitten just inside the gates, cowering near the dustbin. Another dumpee, it seemed. She clearly wasn’t feral, as she readily came over to us and The Boss was able to pick her up. She purred like a train – probably pleased to be out of the reach of the other cats.

We call her Pip and, since her arrival, she’s been living in our annex bedroom overnight and when we’re out and unable to keep an eye on her. We can’t be sure how old she is, but the vet has suggested we have her spayed during the last week of November/first week of December. Until then, we’re keeping her out of the reach of any passing tomcats, and keeping an eye on her interaction with our other cats. Initially it seemed as though she wouldn’t be accepted but, apart from the very occasional paw swipe from one of the big boys, tolerance generally prevails.

The new kitten is growing – in size, character, and confidence. She’s a fanatical tree-climber (The Boss has once had to resurrect his boyhood tree-climbing skills to rescue her when adventure overtook ability). She loves playing with the stones on our drive – grabbing one between her front paws and tossing it into the air. And her dribbling skills (of the football, rather than Shorty variety) with a small ball could teach Real Mallorca a thing or two.

Needless to say, our initial thoughts of finding her a new home have been forgotten. Welcome to the glaring, Pip.

 

Cuddle time

Cuddle time

A walk on the wild side

A walk on the wild side

"Scared? Moi?!"

“Scared? Moi?!”

Operation Shorty

No longer like a toy that's lost its stuffing

No longer like a toy that’s lost its stuffing

If you’re a regular reader of Living in Rural Mallorca, you’ll know that we have quite a clan of cats who consider our finca to be their territory – and local restaurant. The latest addition to our cat family joined us in August 2012, making his first mark on our lives by biting The Boss (who subsequently required a hospital visit and a tetanus jab).  Little Shorty was ginger, only a few weeks old, dragging an injured back leg around with him, and so thin that he looked like a soft toy that had lost its stuffing. We had tried to catch the little thing to take it to the vet’s for treatment, but hadn’t expected him to be quite so feisty.

Long story short, Shorty is now a firm fixture in our feline family. He’s wormed his way into the affections (and food bowls) of the other cats – who are all from the same mother. He’s the one who sits closest to the front door when it’s feeding time, and is the last to ‘leave the table’, having cleaned all of the bowls of any crumbs. He is, as the Spanish say about something so cute, a bomboncito.

But Shorty has recently been exhibiting signs of impending manhood: spray-marking, getting a bit aggressive with some of his adopted ‘family’, and yowling for a bit of female action. This week, we decided it was time for him to be neutered. Catching him was easy: Shorty loves a little cuddle in the mornings, so afterwards we scooped him into the travelling cage and took him to our local vet’s.

It’s a snip

He’s the seventh feral cat we’ve had neutered, so we’re rather well known there. It’s a pity they don’t have a loyalty scheme, really. We have huge respect for the whole team there, and everything they’ve done for our adopted and our own cats.  When we moved to Mallorca, bringing our rescue Maine Coon and Birman cats with us, I was concerned that we wouldn’t find the level of expertise and care that we’d experienced at our local practice in the UK. I needn’t have worried: I doubt we’d find better veterinary – or pet owner – treatment anywhere. (When our Maine Coon was diagnosed with lymphoma and had his first session of chemotherapy, the veterinary nurse brought us coffees and a couple of chocolates to sustain us as we sat with him.)

After his post-op recuperation in our annexe bedroom, Shorty is now back to his normal cheeky little ginger self. We have no idea where he came from, but wherever he goes in the future (as much as we’d love him to stay, he’ll probably make his own way in the world one day), he should be safer now that’s he neutered.

Only Chico is left to have his ‘little op’ now. And the most nervous member of our little cat family will certainly be a challenge to catch; pass the falconer’s gauntlets please . . .

Bless ’em all

"So, what do you think of it so far, Rover?

“So, what do you think of it so far, Rover?

We’ve just come to the end of one of the most important weeks in the calendar of Manacor, our nearest town, in the east of Mallorca. Sant Antoni is the town’s patron saint, so it’s not surprising that the locals take the celebrations around this date rather seriously. Locally, it’s known as the Gran Semana – the big week.

Shops, businesses, and schools were closed on both Wednesday and Thursday, although supermarkets opened just for the morning on Wednesday, and our bank closed early every day of this past week. Almost everyone seemed to have bought themselves a sweatshirt or fleece emblazoned with this year’s Sant Antoni fiestas emblem and, costing around 16 euros a garment, they seemed a reasonably priced way to enter into the spirit of the event and keep warm.

Party on

And keeping warm has been necessary. The weather’s turned chilly and damp on Mallorca but, as we’ve seen on many occasions, the Mallorcans are rarely deterred by unpleasant weather conditions when there’s a party beckoning. We, however, wimped out and watched most of the celebrations on the local TV channel IB3, sitting in front of the log burner.

I was sorry to miss this year’s slow-moving parade of animals and imaginatively decorated floats around Manacor’s streets, on Thursday morning. On the morning of the saint’s day, animals of every sort – farm and domestic – are taken to be blessed by the local priest.

Attending previous animal blessings, I’ve considered taking Minstral, our Birman cat, but I suspect he’d be thoroughly miffed to have been removed from his favourite chair to mingle with animals the like of which he’s never seen. And, of course, we couldn’t take Minstral and leave behind the other eight cats that now call our finca home. I wonder if the local priest does house calls for animal blessings . . .