International Cat Day is today, August the 8th. And since we became international by moving to rural Mallorca, we’ve had plenty of cats in our lives.
Seventeen feral or homeless felines have called our finca home over the years we’ve lived here. We currently have Dusty, Shorty, Nibbles, Sweetie (all born on the finca and now ten years old), and Pip. Pip arrived as a tiny kitten – dumped, we believe – and inveigled her way into our home after our own cat Minstral died.
We’ve taken responsibility for each of the cats that have spent time around the place. As a result, we’ve named them, fed them, looked after their welfare, and neutered them (not personally, you understand). In return, they keep the rural rodent population away from our house. Believe me, it’s a good deal.
Find Yourself a Feline
We’re not running a cat refuge here, although at times we feel as though we are. However, there are plenty of people in Mallorca who look after stray and unwanted cats and kittens. On International Cat Day, I salute their dedication. If you’re on the island and would like to adopt or event foster a feline, I’ve posted some links below to a few of the animal sanctuaries in Mallorca. All of them are always grateful for donations towards their costs; Eden Sanctuary especially needs urgent financial assistance as the property owner is selling the land Eden Sanctuary has been renting.
This particular cat refuge is a figment of my imagination and plays a major part in my debut novel. Write about what you know, they say. Well, Daughter of Deià features a radio presenter, cats, and Mallorca. I think I’ve ticked the ‘write what you know’ box.
Daughter of Deià will be published in early September. If you’re not a subscriber to this blog, click the follow button for updates and further news.
Real Cat Refuges in Mallorca
Some of the below also care for other unwanted animals.
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.
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
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.
Wisteria in bloom at Alfabia Gardens (photographed in a previous year). A spring sight that few will see this year.
Really? Day 33? I would never have imagined spending such a long time at home and going out only once in all that time. But here we are, Easter already over, and halfway through April. With the lockdown in Spain likely to be extended to almost the middle of May, this will surely be known as The Lost Spring.
We have a list of jobs to done around the finca and I’m itching to get on with them, so that there’s something visual that we can look at and say, that’s what we did during the lockdown. But Spanish tax returns loom and The Boss is mired in paperwork and spreadsheets. Must start gathering my own together soon.
Meanwhile, I’ve been making impressive (for me) strides with The Novel. Well, it was about time, as I had the idea for the story when I moved here in 2004. Much has changed from the original storyline, but I think that the long gestation period has been beneficial – and the writing of it takes me temporarily into a world where there’s no COVID-19.
By this evening, I should have reached 51,000 words. Only another 30k or so for that first draft to be done. Say it quickly enough and it doesn’t sound too bad.
A New Chapter for Chico?
People who know me may guess that cats feature in the story. And one of our cats – Chico – features in this latest blog post. And sadly it’s not good news: Chico has been missing for a week.
Chico (right) as a kitten with his big brother Beamer
Chico (right) waking from a snooze in the dining-room window recess with Beamer (left) and Shorty.
A recent picture of Chico (right) with his brother Nibbles
Chico was one of the second litter of ferals born to Jetta in July 2011 and, unlike his siblings, he’s always been wary of us (and any other humans). We’ve never done anything to hurt or scare him (except take him to be neutered when he was a kitten and old enough), but he’s always the one who waits at a safe distance until we’ve walked away from putting his food out. He’s also nervous of having his photo taken and, because of that, we have few photos of him.
Yet, he’s also been happy to sit in our dining room window recess, as long as we’ve ignored him, and spent most of the daytime snoozing somewhere within sight of the house.
We have no idea why he’s so nervous around people but have witnessed that, of all the cats, he is the one who’ll chase any ‘outsider’ felines who dare to intrude on his (shared) territory. Bravery lurks within.
Plenty of Questions; No Answers
It is nigh on impossible to look for a lost cat in open countryside – especially as we’re in lockdown and not allowed to go out of our property except for shopping etc. Losing a cat, in whatever way, is always upsetting. What’s happened? Are they lying injured or sick somewhere? Have they found a new home? Too many questions and no answers. All we can hope is that he’s safe and well on his solo adventure.
Here’s a coincidence: Chico’s departure was exactly two years ago to the day that our beautiful Beamer – the alpha male of the glaring – disappeared. Beamer was adored (visibly) by his siblings (and us). He enjoyed being around us when we were outdoors and loved to be fussed. But he still disappeared. As has Chico.
Could it be something to do with the arrival of spring? A touch of wanderlust inspired by the rebirth of Nature? For Chico, it’s not so much The Lost Spring, as lost in spring.
Be brave, Chico, and come back one day if you can.
Here we are on the last day of March already. In some ways, 2020 is flying by.
Gratuitous sunset shot – not that we’ve seen one like this here for a while
This perception is aided by the fact that lockdown has reduced our accessible world to our own homes. Without the punctuation points of going out for walks by the sea, shopping trips, restaurant meals, seeing friends, and even medical or dental appointments, the days are blurring into one another.
Flashback to 2011
But today, March 31st, is a significant date for us. On this date, back in 2011, Dusty – our blue-eyed outdoor cat – and his three siblings were born just the other side of the wall at the far end of our field. You can read about his mum, Jetta, here.
Dusty is the only one of the first litter of Jetta’s kittens who’s still with us. Nine years old today. It’s not a bad age for a cat that was born feral and lives outdoors. He comes twice a day for his food and, although he has his own little territory somewhere down the lane, he also spends the majority of his daytime around our property.
My Dad suggested the name; he and his brother Ray were here for their spring holiday in May 2011, when Jetta decided it was time to bring her kittens up to meet us all for the first time. What joyful days we had watching these little bundles playing on the terraces and in the flowerpots. Dad said that the blue-eyed kitten reminded him of Dusty Springfield – and the name Dusty stuck. Not sure what Ms Springfield would have thought about that.
A Character of His Own
Like all our cats, Dusty has his own individual character traits. He loves to spend time in our company. If I go into the garden to do some weeding, he will appear suddenly and sit and watch what I’m doing. He loves to rub his head against our legs and goes a bit gooey when you stroke him anywhere on his head or neck.
But Dusty won’t be picked up, sit on a lap, or come into the house. He sometimes appears later than the others for his breakfast and – although the cats’ food bowls are always in the same place on our covered terrace – he usually sits outside our front door until one of us goes out and escorts him – à la maître d’ – to where his food is waiting. It’s as though he doesn’t want us to think he’s taking being fed for granted. Amusing cat.
Anyway, happy birthday to Dusty. He, of course, has no idea it’s his birthday, or that he’s nine years old (in human years). In cat years, that makes him around 52.
To mark the occasion, here are a few photos of the birthday boy.
Dusty’s turn at the watering hole
Heat rises: this annexe contains a water heater. Dusty is no fool to sit up here warming himself
Dusty perched on the balustrade – surveying the glaring’s territory.
Meet Nibbles. He’s one of the second litter of cats born to Jetta (a feral), in the old ruined house just over the wall at the end of our finca’s field. He is now eight years old and – like his remaining siblings – still comes to us twice a day for food.
There’s a touch of the sabre-toothed tiger about Nibbles…
When the kittens were born at the end of March 2011, we didn’t intend to give them names. We expected they would go off their own separate ways once they were weaned. My dad and Uncle Ray were fortunate to be staying here for a spring holiday when Jetta decided to bring her first kittens up to the house. They were just the cutest things and full of mischief and made that family holiday particularly memorable.
“That one has to be called Dusty,” Dad said, taking photos as the playful kitties performed their antics around a flowerpot on the front terrace. “With those eyes, he looks like Dusty Springfield.”
Before you could say Son of a Preacher Man, we’d named all of Jetta’s first litter: Dusty, Beamer, Bear, and Brownie.
We tried to catch Jetta and take her to be spayed, but the sleek black feral cat proved to be as slippery as fallen leaves on a pavement after heavy rain (and, boy, we had a lot of that in Mallorca on Tuesday night). A local tom cat had better luck catching her: before long she was pregnant again. And this time, she had five kittens – one of which was Nibbles. You’ll be relieved to learn that we did manage to catch her this time; I think she was too exhausted by her mothering duties to run away from us.
You can probably guess how Nibbles got his name. He does love a fuss and will often jump onto The Boss’s or my lap if we’re sitting outside. But when he’s had enough of being stroked, he lets us know by (sometimes) gently applying his teeth to the offending hand. These little nips remind us that, however affectionate he can be, Nibbles was born feral and is still an outdoor cat – although we had him and all the other cats neutered or spayed as soon as they were old enough.
If there’s going to be an unscheduled visit to the vet’s, it will almost certainly be with Nibbles. He seems to be one of those accident-prone cats.
A bite on the head for Nibbles
One day in August last year he came home with a wound on his head, looking sorry for himself. Off to the vet’s we went for treatment. We had to keep him indoors for a few days – a prospect that filled us with dread all the way home from the vet’s. How would Pip react to having another cat in the house? And how would Nibbles react to being kept indoors when he’d spent his entire life outdoors?
Somehow we got through those few days. The cats kept their distance from each other and, at night, while Pip stayed in the dining room and kitchen, Nibbles was in our large guest bathroom, with a ‘bed’, litter tray, and food and water. He entertained himself during the first night by shredding an entire roll of toilet tissue, which I’d forgotten to remove; the bathroom looked like a snow scene the next morning. I think humans and cats were all relieved when, later that week, the vet declared him recovered enough to go out again.
And Next, a Leg Bite
Almost a year to the date later, Nibbles arrived one evening, limping. He wouldn’t allow us to examine his back leg or pick him up. We couldn’t see a wound, so we thought he’d maybe landed badly after jumping down from a tree or wall. We set up a box with a blanket in it on the terrace, with water and food bowls alongside. We hoped he’d use the chance to rest in comfort and then we’d take him to the vet’s in the morning.
Of course, Nibbles was nowhere to be seen the next day. Or the next. He didn’t come for food at the usual times. We were worried sick about him, wondering if his limp had been due to something more serious. The Boss scoured our land – even venturing down the precipitous slope into our own valley, which is an impenetrable tangle of wild vegetation. We searched daily for Nibbles but didn’t see him for almost a week.
August was a very hot month and, if he were unable to walk to the terrace for food and water, we feared that he’d be badly dehydrated. We were both subdued, imagining the worst.
Then Nibbles reappeared – just like that. I spotted him drinking from one of the water features we have around the place. “He’s back!” I yelled with excitement to The Boss, who was indoors. Nibbles limped over as though he’d never been away, looking otherwise fit and well fed. We guessed that instinct had made him avoid the blazing sun, as he couldn’t trot along at his usual food-here-I-come pace, and he’d come to eat and drink during the night.
We managed to catch him and bundle him – with care – into a cat carrier and take him to the vet’s. Nibbles was a model patient and allowed the vet to examine his leg. Verdict: another bite. More antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, pain meds and another period of convalescence.
“These cushion things are quite comfortable.” Nibbles convalesces.
It was the same routine as before: Nibbles spent the nights in the guest bathroom – after I’d removed all toilet tissue. The window shutter (persiana) was closed but we left the window itself open for fresh air, as it was so hot. The next morning, we discovered that Nibbles had completely shredded the window’s mesh mosquito screen. What a mess! Apart from this, he enjoyed his convalescence – sitting in comfort on the sofa or a chair and even watching a bit of TV one evening.
Check Out the Neck
Nibbles didn’t wait another year for his next bite. Last week, as I sat writing a page or two of my novel, The Boss called out to me from the garden: “You’d better come and look at this!”
At some point since his breakfast that day, Nibbles had sustained another bite – this time on the side of his neck. Off we all went to the vet’s again. It was like Groundhog Day.
A week later, Nibbles is back outside and has made a good recovery. Fingers crossed, he’ll stay out of trouble for the foreseeable…
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.
Shorty likes to stand up for a drink at the birdbath
In the absence of a pool, this wall will have to do for Beamer
There’s a good reason why Dusty sits on top of this….
Heat rises: this annexe contains a water heater. Dusty is no fool to sit up here warming himself
Pip stops for a drink at the solar-powered water feature – trying to avoid the next jet of water splashing her