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

 

 

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

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.

 

 

 

 

Farewell to another feline

If every feral cat that we’d fed/watered/had neutered or treated at the vet’s, had stayed with us, we’d have 17 cats living around our finca in rural Mallorca. But as The Boss often says: “They are only passing through.” We have to expect that a feral cat will one day hear the irresistible call of the wild, and leave behind the regular meals, companionship of siblings, and human attention. But even knowing that these cats are only in our temporary care (however short or long that may be), doesn’t mean that we haven’t fallen in love with all the felines that have ‘adopted’ us. We’ve given every one of them a name and enjoyed watching their characters develop.

Loved and lost

There have been some sad losses over the years: a  pretty female kitten lost her life when she jumped from an almond tree straight into the path of a neighbour’s car. The Boss buried her at the bottom of the field (her grave is marked by stones) – just yards from where she came into the world. Another – a gorgeous little chap we named Bluey – was killed by one of the relatively few lorries to visit the valley (he too has his burial place). Bluey had once left us, setting off on his great journey to an independent life. Eleven days later he was back – and thereafter left our land only at night. If I was kneeling to do some weeding in the garden, Bluey would ‘supervise’ from his perch on my shoulder. If I spent any time relaxing on the lounger on the terrace, he’d jump up and make himself comfortable, tucking his head under my chin. If I went anywhere on our land, he’d follow me. As much as I had tried not to become too fond of the young cat, which we’d seen grow from a kitten, it was impossible not to; I was devastated when I found his inert body in the lane.

El Tel returns

On one occasion – between the death of Bluey and the arrival of a black kitten we named Jetta – Bluey’s brother El Tel arrived at the house. He’d left us quite a few months before and we’d not seen anything of him since. But, on this particular day, he paid us a visit. He hopped up into the dining room window recess – a place where he’d often dozed during the day – as though he’d never been away. A short while later, having checked out his former home, he left. We’ve never seen him again.

Amazingly, five members of our current cat family – from two litters, but the same mum – are still with us, more than three years after they were born. Shorty, a ginger kitten that simply turned up one day, is now a well-nourished and affectionate two-year-old. He was clever enough to ingratiate himself with the existing cat clan, thus ensuring a harmonious life in his new surroundings.

Along came Peanut

Peanut – another ginger kitten, but female – arrived last October. She was tiny, but squealed like a banshee whenever she was hungry. Which was most of the time. The other cats weren’t quite as welcoming as they had been with Shorty, but Peanut was persistent and eventually they tolerated her. She spent much of her early time with us pouncing on the older cats and play-fighting them, but had matured in recent months. We’d taken Peanut to be spayed when she was around six months old – only to find that the deed had already been done (at what must have been a very early age).

The cats often stay together for some time after dinner, appearing to enjoy each other’s company (and ours if we’re outside). But Peanut eventually took to going off on her own, returning for breakfast the next morning. Then, two weeks ago, Peanut didn’t come back . . . and we haven’t seen her since. We’ve no evidence that any harm has come to her, so we’re telling ourselves that this feisty little ginger cat is one of those felines that couldn’t resist the call of the wild.

Buen viaje, Peanut. You were fun to have around . . .

 

A very small Peanut, in October 2013.

A very small Peanut, in October 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

What do you give a cat on its birthday? A fishcake!

They say the old jokes are the best. They lie, of course. Corny jokes aside, Beamer and his blue-eyed brother Dusty – two of the glaring (love that collective noun) of cats that have adopted us – are three years old today. It hardly seems possible that three years have passed since the memorable day they came into the world.

On this date in 2011, their heavily pregnant mum Jetta – a feral who’d adopted us – was huge, clearly uncomfortable and showing signs of going into labour. She kept wandering off, then returning to the front door of our house to mew at us in an agitated fashion.

She seemed to want us to follow her down the field, which we did – with her stopping every few seconds and looking back to see if we were still with her. It was quite an emotional moment when she struggled up onto the wall and turned to miaow at us as if to say “I’ll be OK now”, before disappearing to the place she’d chosen for her happy event, in the abandoned casita in the neighbouring field.

Four little bundles of joy

Post-delivery, Jetta came daily for her food, as usual, but it would be quite a few weeks before we saw her kittens: four tiny scraps of furry fun, who obligingly came to meet us for the first time while my dad was holidaying with us.

The little female – a dark tabby – sadly died in an accident in the lane while very young. The Boss buried her at the bottom of our field, just yards from where she’d come into the world.  Bear, the black cat, was with us for a lot longer but eventually went off one day and never returned. We like to think he’s out there, walking on the wild side, and still looking like a mini panther.

Home sweet home for the brothers

Today, only Beamer and Dusty remain of those four kittens, but they are very much part of our feline family and at home around our finca. And we had them both neutered as soon as they were old enough, as our contribution to keeping the local feral cat population in check.

I won’t be making fishcakes for Beamer and Dusty today. I’m sure they’re happy with their cat food and the local fast food (the vermin that’s not fast enough to avoid being caught!). But I may just make fishcakes for our own dinner. And that’s not a joke . . .

A relaxed Beamer in summer

A relaxed Beamer in summer

Dusty perched on the balustrade - surveying the glaring's territory.

Dusty perched on the balustrade – surveying the glaring’s territory.

 

Beamer’s nine lives take a hit

A confident Beamer on gatepost duty - before his bad experience.

A confident Beamer on gatepost duty – before his bad experience.

Anyone who has been ‘adopted’ by feral cats will know that it’s impossible not to become emotionally involved with them. Things can happen that can break your heart. And they do. Jetta, the pregnant stray who adopted us in early 2011, produced four kittens in her first litter. One – a pretty little female – lost her life at an early age when she jumped from an almond tree straight into the path of a car driving down the lane.

Her thriving siblings Beamer, Dusty and Bear were soon joined by Jetta’s second litter of five kittens. Bear – a lovely black cat who was possibly The Boss’s favourite – went off one day earlier this year and just didn’t return. The same thing happened with Jetta, who had become so friendly and contented after we had her sterilized. Both cats came every day for food at the usual times, and had done so for some two years. Why would they stop? We found nothing to solve the mystery of their disappearance.

The Boss had to remind me of something that my emotional attachment to our cat family makes me overlook: these are feral cats and they behave instinctively. Perhaps the call of the wild had finally caught up with Bear and Jetta? I still find it hard to accept but that’s only because I apply human rationale to their actions.

‘Bye ‘bye Beamer?

I was particularly upset a fortnight ago when Beamer – the alpha male of our outdoor cat family – didn’t appear for dinner, or for his breakfast the following morning. It was totally unlike Beamer not to be sitting on the steps near our front door, waiting for his bowl of food. But he had shown some uncharacteristic hostility towards Peanut, the little ginger kitten that appeared – dumped – on our land late last month. Could Beamer – a normally sweet-natured cat – have been driven away by this mewling little mite?

“He’s a feral cat,” The Boss had to remind me (again). “Wandering off is what they do. It was obviously his time.”

I was far more upset than I should have been, but Beamer had always been a special cat with a gentle and apparently caring nature. When Jetta became tired of providing milk for her second litter, the little ones took to sucking on Beamer’s tummy fur. He must have wondered what was going on, but happily laid back and allowed his little siblings to snuggle up to his tummy and attempt to find something that didn’t exist! Even though the kittens are now just over two years old, the bond between them and Beamer had remained strong. I couldn’t believe that he would have left, and feared he’d met with an accident or a hunter’s gun.

The return of Beamer

“You’ll never believe who’s here,” The Boss said on Sunday afternoon when he looked out of the window and saw Beamer crossing the terrace towards the house. But as we went out to meet him, it was obvious that all was not well. Someone had knotted plastic twine around his neck, leaving a length of it trailing like a lead. I felt sick thinking about why someone would do such a thing to a cat. The Boss held onto him as I rushed indoors for scissors to release him from the restrictive ‘collar’. It was so tight we didn’t dare cut the twine for fear of cutting him too, so we made another of our emergency visits to our vet’s which, thankfully, is open seven days a week.

Released from his twine ‘collar’, Beamer remained subdued. Tests established that he’d lost weight, was dehydrated, had a low potassium count, a high temperature, and a grazed nose. We came home minus 175 euros, plus lots of medication and, most importantly, with Beamer. We kept him in our annexe bedroom for a couple of nights, giving him plenty of affection and some quiet time to recover from his ordeal. He seemed pleased to be back with us and we’re relieved and delighted to have him back.

Physically he seems to be making a good recovery. But who knows how he is feeling about life and the world after what must have been a really distressing episode in his life? At least he managed to find his way back from wherever he was to our finca. And, yes, I’m projecting human emotions onto a cat again, but surely that means he feels that this is home . . .

Welcome home, Beamer.

 

Read about the latest flavoured salt launched by Flor de Sal d’Es Trenc, Mallorca, on my other blog: www.eatdrinksleepmallorca.com

The kitten gets a name . . .

We worked out the other day that no fewer than 17 cats and kittens have ‘adopted’ us since we moved to live on a finca in rural Mallorca.  They are not all still here, of course, otherwise The Boss would give himself another hernia just carrying all the bags of cat food we’d need each week.

Sadly, feral cats – even given food, water, affection and any necessary veterinary attention – are vulnerable to a whole heap of hazards. Traffic accidents, poisoning, feline illnesses and bullets from the odd trigger-happy or myopic hunter are some of the things that can rob a country cat of its life here. It’s truly heartbreaking to lose a feline friend to any of these things. We have two small graves in our field as a result of losing two kittens to accidents in the lane.

Less than a fortnight ago our feline family of six became seven, with the arrival of another small and starving ginger kitten. We’re convinced it must be related somehow to Shorty, the kitten that arrived in August 2012 and tenaciously worked his way into the existing cat clan. The new arrival has a way to go before it’s really accepted by the others, but at least the hiss-fest seems to have ended, and little one has even been seen to rub up against one or two of the cats without being whacked by a paw. It’s eating well and has put on weight too. So progress has been made.

Peanut, with Nibbles (right). No prizes for guessing how he got his name!

Peanut, with Nibbles (right). No prizes for guessing how he got his name!

 

A nutty name

Normal cat hazards permitting, the kitten looks here to stay. So, as with all previous cats and kittens that have come our way, we’ve given it a name. Having first decided on Elsa, then Simba, we’ve finally settled on the gender-neutral name of Peanut. We think it’s a female, but who knows what may develop in the coming weeks . . .

Apart from the fact that the kitten is small – like a peanut – its pale ginger coat perfectly matches the wall at the back of the house that The Boss painted earlier this year. And the colour of the paint was cacahuete – Spanish for ‘peanut’. There is always some logic to the naming of those cats that adopt us, but it doesn’t always bear scrutiny!

 

 

 

How to help a cat lose weight?

We’ve noticed lately that Shorty – the waif-like ginger kitten that turned up at the finca where we live in rural Mallorca in August 2012 – has developed something of a barrel-belly. If he could speak, he might say the same about me! (Only joking, honestly). It’s obviously not a case of pregnancy, as we took the little mite to be neutered as soon as he was deemed ready and it was clear, even to those of us without veterinary training, that he was a little chap – with not-so-little chap-bits!

The truth is that Shorty has always been a gutsy cat – on every level. He wormed his way into an existing family of feral cats who’d been born, in two separate litters from the same mother, on our land. This was their home and territory, and they initially weren’t too thrilled to see a tiny ginger kitten trying to muscle in at meal times. He persisted and the five remaining cats in the family now accept  him as one of their own.

Food time!

Shorty really enjoys his food. And everyone else’s. Our outdoor cats have their own individual feeding bowls and twice a day assemble for food – each eating from their own bowl. But it’s not long before Shorty decides that he needs to be eating a little something from all the other bowls too.  He could also be supplementing his food intake with ‘things’ acquired during his ramblings. When the cold weather arrives on Mallorca, Shorty will be well padded to deal it, but we want him to be healthy at the same time.

So, The Boss and I are currently thinking about how we could put him on a controlled diet. The logistics aren’t easy, as he’s used to eating with his adopted ‘siblings’. If only there were a Slimming World for cats . . .

Shorty after one month with us. Fourteen months later it's time for a diet!

Shorty after one month with us. Fourteen months later it’s time for a diet!

 

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 . . .

Shorty takes an awayday

In the early hours of Monday I was woken by the sound of fierce winds whipping around our finca; I could hear the metal chairs rocking on the slightly uneven tiled terrace outside. My first thoughts were for the eight outdoor cats that have adopted us, hoping that they were sheltering somewhere safe and unruffled by the howling winds. Last winter The Boss built them somewhere to shelter – grandly christened by us as The Apartments – but who knows what feral cats get up to during the night?

A few hours later, the wind had eased off and the sun was shining – the start of a week of very good weather for Mallorca in January. Yesterday, the mercury even nudged the 20 degrees Celsius mark. Today, it’s the start of February, which can be the chilliest month here. The first day of the month was pleasantly warm and sunny, but the forecast is for “plunging temperatures” over the next few days.

I digress. I was relieved on Monday morning to see most of the cats waiting outside the front door, as usual, for their breakfast.  Jetta, the mother of six of the others, was nowhere to be seen – which isn’t unusual for her. Neither was Shorty, the ginger kitten who came into our lives in August when he took a couple of bites out of The Boss’s finger. This feisty little feline has become a much-loved young cat, game for a cuddle if there’s one going – and always hungry. Since he decided this was to be his home – and the rest of the cats were to be his surrogate family – he’s never missed a meal and calls the loudest of all of the cats for his bowl of food. But on Monday morning, there was no sign of him. The Boss discreetly looked in the lane that passes our finca – two kittens have previously fallen prey to passing traffic – but reported no sighting.

Going, going, soon be gone.

Going, going, soon be gone.

It was only when I saw the old ruin at the end of the field that my heart sank. Having lost the roof a few weeks ago (https://livinginruralmallorca.com/2013/01/12/things-that-go-bump-in-the-night/), the old casita was now minus most of its back wall and part of the side wall – presumably blown down in the early morning winds. My fear was that Shorty might have taken shelter in the old building and been trapped by falling rubble. The property is now too dangerous to consider going inside, but we stood outside and called Shorty’s name to reassure ourselves that he wasn’t still in there alive but trapped.

Monday was a worrying day and I found it hard to concentrate on writing an article with a looming deadline. I went outside frequently, hoping to see that little bundle of ginger naughtiness waiting for something to eat, but no. He didn’t appear for dinner either. I went to bed feeling sad, and a little annoyed with myself for becoming so attached – yet again – to another feral cat.

On Tuesday morning, all was right again with my world. First thing, Shorty was at the front door, miaowing louder than ever for his breakfast. I’d love to know where he was all day Monday . . .