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?”

 

 

 

 

 

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 …

 

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 …

 

 

 

It’s a dog’s life on Mallorca

"All I want is a forever home . . . "

“All I want is a forever home . . . “

If you live in rural Mallorca, as we do, chances are you’ll end up owning a dog. The Boss grew up with dogs and, although he’d never owned one as an adult, I fully expected that we’d soon have a dog after we moved to the island from the UK.

It so nearly happened. During our early time living here, we went out one Sunday morning for a coffee and returned later to find an enormous black dog stretched out in the shade under our bank of solar panels in the back field. And I mean enormous. It looked like a small black horse. But where had it come from?

It had been abandoned. Someone who can’t or doesn’t want to look after an animal any longer takes said dog or cat for a one-way car trip into the country. It’s so cruel, but it happens. Some English neighbours acquired their own little Mallorcan terrier that way.

But we weren’t in a position to adopt this large dog, as we owned two cats we’d brought from England. And this fierce pooch didn’t seem like a potential pussycat pal or pet. When a neighbour strolled down the lane past the field, the creature went ballistic, as though it had been instructed to guard the field.

Seeking refuge

It was a hot day and we were concerned the dog would dehydrate, so we gingerly walked down the field with some water for it. Luckily we also had a few dog biscuits, as we’d taken to supplementing the diet of a dog in the valley that spent its life chained up on a farm and seemed to survive on leftovers from the owners’ meals.

At that early time of living here we had no idea who to call about this, so we started with the local police – who referred us to an animal refuge. Quite a few phone calls later we finally found a refuge that was prepared to take this big boy (yes, his gender became obvious when he stood up). The refuge van eventually turned up, we gave the man from the refuge a cash donation (feeling a tad guilty that we weren’t able to keep the animal), and the large black dog hopped into the back of the van to begin the next chapter of his life story. Heartbreaking.

Dogs For U

I remembered this occasion recently when I visited Dogs For U – a charity based in the countryside near the Mallorcan town of Inca, and founded by a caring and hardworking German woman called Cornelia Kudszus. Cornelia and her small band of volunteers rescue German Shepherds and other large hard-to-home breeds and look after them until they can rehome them.

I visited Dogs For U last month in connection with an article I’d been invited to write for an off-island magazine. I’ll post the weblink here when it’s published.

In the meantime, if you live on Mallorca – or are moving to the island – and you’d like a dog to share your life, please consider visiting Dogs For U to see if they have a dog that would suit you. Or, if you have spare time and live in the area, perhaps give them a little of your time as a volunteer helper. They always welcome people who are happy to walk dogs, or able to foster a dog for a short period to help ease the workload at the refuge.

There were 18 beautiful dogs there on the day I visited and I’d love to have brought a few home with me, but I don’t think our colony of finca cats would have approved . . .

If you don’t live on the island but love dogs and would like to help Dogs For U financially – feeding and vet’s bills are just some of the ongoing costs – please consider donating just one euro a month (less than the cost of a cup of coffee) to the charity through their microfunding teaming.net page https://www.teaming.net/dogsforumallorca

 

 

 

 

 

Cats keeping cool in Mallorca’s heatwave

It’s 37 degrees Celsius in the shade on the terrace of our finca in rural Mallorca. During the current heatwave (back-to-back with the previous one) our ‘family’ of adopted cats is taking life very easy. They appear each morning for their breakfast, but eat less than usual, then disappear for the day to hide from the sun, until hunger – or habit – draws them back for dinner.

At this time of the year they tend to seek shelter closer to the house, so that their various sources of water for drinking aren’t too far away. Occasionally we spot them in their hiding places. Dusty likes to sit under the turntable (which hasn’t turned for years) that supports our solar panels. It’s a spot that gets no sun at all, and he’s made it his own. Beamer heads for the dependencia, snoozing next to the stock of winter logs. When it’s hot like it is now, it seems unbelievable that we need log fires in the winters . . .

Cooling his ‘bits’

Our newest cat – little Pip – favours the corner of our dining terrace, settling in a sun-free spot near a large pot plant. And one of her best friends – Nibbles – often joins her. Nibbles (who does occasionally live up to his name) has an amusing habit: in the evenings, when we dine on the terrace, he sits nearby on the wall, with his legs dangling down on either side of the wall. We assume this is to cool as much of his lower body as possible.

Cats sleeping

Pip (left) and Nibbles have found a cool spot on the terrace.

Cat lying on a wall

Nibbles chilling out on the wall.

All the cats are enjoying the new solar-powered water feature I bought earlier this year. It has become yet another source of water for them. This one has an additional benefit: the fountain seems to give off a fine mist when it’s in operation and when any of the cats comes over to greet us in the evenings, they usually have a light dampness to their fur. They’re clearly enjoying this way of cooling themselves.

Cats need water.

Nibbles drinks from the fountain.

And us? We’re spending the heat of the day indoors, with our Birman Minstral, enjoying the benefits of airconditioning. Come the (slightly) cooler evenings, we’re outside – topping up the water in the places where the cats like to drink . . .

 

 

 

 

No Pip squeaks during another trip to the vet’s

Pre-op spruce-up for little Pip

Pre-op spruce-up for little Pip

Pip – who arrived at our finca as a tiny kitten (almost certainly abandoned) – has this week joined the growing list of felines we’ve had neutered since we have lived in rural Mallorca. At around six months of age, she was beginning to show signs of coming into oestrous. With a large, rather aggressive tom often wandering through our finca, on the prowl for the kind of action she would soon have been willing to offer him, it was time for yet another visit to our excellent local vet’s in Manacor.

The cute little poppet had previously been there shortly after her arrival, where she had been photographed, fussed, examined, and presented with her own passport (after being vaccinated). Unlike Minstral (our Birman, who lives indoors) and the rest of our adopted glaring – all ferals – she doesn’t seem to mind travelling in the car and didn’t utter a single squeak from inside her carrying case.

Pip was sterilized on Tuesday morning, and the patient is now supposedly taking it easy for a few days. She had a short supervised outing in this morning’s warm sunshine, on the terrace, bouncing about like a little lamb. Apart from the shaved patch on her flank and the dressing over the incision wound, you’d never know she’d had an operation.

Her sterilization wasn’t the only thing the vet dealt with. Apparently our pretty kitty also had acne on her chin, which has now been treated. Who knew that cats could get the condition most often associated with the trials of teenage life? We certainly didn’t. It seems there’s always something new to learn when you have cats in your life . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yet another kitten arrives at our Mallorcan finca

Last Thursday evening we returned late from Palma (where we’d attended La Nit de l’Art with the previous owners of our Mallorcan finca, who are now dear friends). As usual, when we come home late, our glaring of cats – a family of ferals that have adopted us – came to greet us, in the hope of a little more food.  The Boss went out to add some more biscuits to their bowls before we locked up for the night. He’d been outside a few minutes when he called me back out of the house to come and see something.

There, cowering near the dustbin, was a tiny kitten. Another one. Only a few weeks have passed since our last ‘arrival’ – Peanut – left us, presumably in search of a territory of her own.  After her departure, the rest of the cats seemed much calmer:  Peanut had been a bit disruptive to their peaceful lives around our place and, although she’d been with us for around 10 months, they had tolerated rather than enjoyed the presence of the little ginger female.

This latest arrival immediately ran over to us and seemed to be seeking attention. We were  able to stroke it and pick it up. Clearly this was no feral kitten that had wandered away from its mother and become lost. Its ease with humans suggested that this was an unwanted kitten that had been dumped in the countryside and left to fend for itself. This kind of thing happens frequently around here and such cruelty makes me furious . . .

Short shrift from Shorty

The other cats were not impressed. Shorty – who was the first of the ‘outsiders’ to arrive and successfully infiltrated the ‘family’ – surprised us the most, growling at the small kitten in a very aggressive and un-Shorty-like way. He clearly didn’t remember that he was once the scared kitten in need of food and care. We didn’t want to bring the kitten into the house in case it was carrying any disease (we have an elderly Birman living indoors), so for the little one’s safety, we put it overnight into one of our large cat-carrying baskets, along with food, water, and a litter tray.

On Saturday morning we discovered that Itty-Bitty-Kitty (well, we had to call her something) had been sick and seemed to be a little feverish. We had The Boss’s sons staying for the weekend, so I left them at home to have some ‘man-time’ and headed off to the vet’s with the kitten. Our vet always records a name for the animals it treats. Clearly I’d have been there a long time if I had to spell out Itty-bitty-kitty in the Spanish alphabet, so little one became Pip. Easy to spell, and appropriate, given her diminutive size. Yes, it’s another female . . .

A few days’ medication later, Pip seems to have recovered from her virus and is eating well. The vet says she’s about three months old, although she looks very small. Today we are taking her to be vaccinated and for blood tests to make sure there’s nothing nasty lurking within. As for the future, who knows? It will certainly be brighter than if Pip hadn’t found a feline-friendly place to hide . . .

The latest arrival

The latest arrival

Chilling out on the terrace.

Chilling out on the terrace.

Such a small creature in The Boss's arms.

Such a small creature in The Boss’s arms.