A trio of birthday cats

Yesterday was the fourth birthday of three of our ‘glaring’ – the small community of cats that have made our finca in rural Mallorca their home. Jetta – a black cat that had ‘adopted’ us early in 2011 – had already produced a litter of four kittens at the end of March 2011. Two of those – Beamer and Dusty – are still with us.

Before we knew it, Jetta was pregnant again and this time there were five kittens produced on July 31st, 2011 – although it was some weeks before we had a glimpse of any of them. Her first nursery had been the old ruined casita on the other side of an old wall at the end of our field. For her next litter, she chose a different spot, but still close by, so that she could return to our place for her twice-daily meals and source of water, without leaving her little ones alone for long.

Of the second litter, we still have Nibbles, Chico, and Sweetie. Nibbles is very communicative and loves human company; one of his favourite activities is jumping onto a lap and being stroked. When he’s had enough he has a way of letting you know – which is why we changed the original name we’d given him – Left Patch (imaginative, eh?) to Nibbles.  Chico and Sweetie – even after four years with us – are still quite nervous around humans, but will allow us to stroke them while they are eating.  White Face and Baby Bear – the other two from the second litter – were around for several months before they stopped coming back for their meals.

Black and white kitten

Nibbles at 10 weeks old

Yawning cat

Not a sabre-toothed tiger, but the four-year-old Nibbles mid-yawn.

After the birth of her second litter, Jetta seemed to trust us enough to allow us to stroke her and, if she was in the right mood, pick her up. It wasn’t long before we scooped her up and took her to the vet’s for The Operation. No more kittens for her.

Sadly Jetta is now only a fond memory, as she went off one day and didn’t return. As with White Face and Baby Bear (and Bear from the first litter), we like to think that Jetta went off to find a territory she wouldn’t have to share.

We feel privileged to have had these lovely cats in our lives for the past four years. Here’s to many more – years, not cats!

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

A Mallorcan moggy mystery

Something weird has happened. And I don’t like it when something strange cannot be logically explained.

When we took on the role of ‘adopted parents’ to some Mallorcan feral cats, we decided that we would have them all neutered when they reached the appropriate time. On Tuesday it was the turn of Peanut, the tiny ginger kitten that arrived – seemingly from nowhere – at the end of October 2013.

The Boss delivered her to the vet’s in the morning for the operation. The veterinary nurse pointed out the nick in Peanut’s ear – it looks as though she’d either been in a fight or had the defect at birth. The Boss explained it had been there when she arrived. The nurse called in one of the vets to look at it, and then a second. The trio of animal experts informed The Boss that a nick in the ear like this is usually an indication that a feral cat has been neutered.

Peanut was no more than two months when she arrived at our finca – and probably more like a month – so surely sterilization was unlikely? A battle scar or birth defect seemed more likely. The vets took her to the operating theatre.

Patient discharged . . .

When we collected her a few hours later, we had some very surprising news: Peanut had already been sterilized – as our vet discovered when he opened up our little bundle of fun. He sewed up the wound and sent her home.

Of course, we’re delighted that Peanut isn’t facing a few days of discomfort, medication and convalescence in our annexe bedroom – but we cannot understand how a tiny kitten of probably less than two months of age came to be neutered.

Have you ever come across anything like this before? We certainly haven’t.

Homeward-bound Peanut, sporting a cute leopard-print plaster on her leg.

Homeward-bound Peanut, sporting a cute leopard-print plaster on her leg.

 

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!

 

 

 

Goodbye Jetta

This is the post I didn’t want to write, but it’s now been more than a week since we last saw Jetta – the little black cat who gave birth to two litters of kittens – most of whom have adopted us and our finca as their home.

In autumn 2010 we saw Jetta for the first time, when we arrived home to see a tiny black kitten on our large terrace. It scuttled away into the shrubs and we didn’t see it again for some time. But it wasn’t long before the little black cat was a regular visitor; it spent much of its time at the holiday home finca of some vegetarian friends from Yorkshire. They would treat it to a bowl of leftover vegetarian casserole from time to time – which she evidently demolished happily.

Sometimes the little black cat – we named her Jetta (she was jet black) – came to our finca, where we fed her cat biscuits and made sure there was water available for her. When our friends returned to the UK in February 2011 after their winter break, Jetta realized that her future source of food – other than anything she could catch – would be us.

Eating for a clan

Jetta became a regular visitor, with a voracious appetite. It wasn’t long before we decided we were feeding her too much, because she was becoming rather portly around the middle. It wasn’t long afterwards that we realized that she was pregnant. We’ll never forget March 31st of that year, when this small bewildered cat gave birth. She’d been spending a lot of time in the adjoining abandoned finca and we assumed it was where she’d decided to have her litter.

Pregnant for the first time

Pregnant for the first time

On what turned out to be The Big Day, Jetta was very restless, crying pitifully, and lumbering around the terraces. She seemed to want us to be with her, so we watched, waited, and tried to comfort her. It wasn’t long before she waddled slowly down the field to the next-door finca, stopping every few yards to check that we were with her. As she reached the stone wall, she turned to look at us, as if to say she’d be OK now. She scrambled up over the wall and disappeared to do her duty.

She gave birth to four kittens, although we didn’t see them for a few weeks. One was sadly hit by a car in the lane while still quite young, but Beamer, Dusty, and Bear are all still with us. And – now two years old – have grown to be much larger than their mum.

And again . . .

Jetta – obviously rather liberal with her favours – had her second litter almost indecently soon afterwards: this time there were five kittens – three of which (Chico, Sweetie, and Nibbles) are still regular visitors for food. Once she’d recovered from this pregnancy and had finished feeding her kittens, we took her to be speyed. When we went to collect her after the operation, the vet told us she had been in the early stages of yet another pregnancy. What a hard life for such a young cat.

Enough already!

Despite her young age, Jetta was an excellent mum, and wouldn’t stand any nonsense from her large brood. For a while, she wanted to put some distance between herself and the kittens, choosing to wait for her food at the back door, while the hungry little mouths mewed insistently outside the front door. She’d hiss at them if they tried to approach her, and sometimes give them a little swipe with her paw if they tried to sneak a crafty suckle.

In recent months she’d become more accepting of her family and been a regular visitor, coming twice most days for her food, which she now ate in the company of her family – and the little interloper Shorty, whom she eventually tolerated. Occasionally we’d see her giving one of her brood – all of them larger than her – a quick wash around the ears, or some other area she felt they’d been neglecting.

Happy memories 

Jetta was a good mum, and gave us a lot of pleasure. She’d come to us if we called her and, if she was at the bottom of the field, she’d lope up towards the house, then brush against our legs. She’d have made a lovely domestic pet – although Minstral, our Birman, would have had other ideas!

She’d been such a regular visitor recently – and content to be among her family – that we can only assume that her absence for more than a week is not good news. We’ve seen no sign of her in the lanes, but much of the terrain around here is not accessible as far as mounting a search goes.

We’ll probably never know what has happened to Jetta, but we do know that she had a lot of love in her short life – and has left a legacy of adorable cats who will always remind us of her.

Thank you, Jetta. God bless.