We had to go to town hall yesterday morning for ‘a bit of bureaucracy’ (there’s plenty of it for those of us who live in Spain) and, as we drove out of our gates, we spotted a pick-up truck at the corner of the lane, laden with wooden posts. Two workmen were pulling various bits of kit off the back of the wagon, seemingly preparing for some action. Perhaps some work to a neighbour’s gate?
Curious, but fixed on our mission, we headed into town and thought nothing more about it. On our return, we found out what those posts were all about: our valley now seems to be part of an official walking route; the posts have been distributed along the way to guide walkers.
Walk this way…
We’ve occasionally seen hikers in the lanes around us, kitted out with their rucksacks, hiking boots, and walking poles. Cyclists regularly challenge themselves on the steep lanes, heads down and leg muscles bulging with the effort. Once we saw a whole team of speed skaters, clad in brightly hued Lycra, whizzing down the lane past our house; like most of the cyclists who pass through the valley, I doubt that they spotted much of the countryside along the way…
Our valley is picturesque and peaceful and, if we didn’t live here, we’d love to come and walk the lanes too. It’s not surprising that our municipality decided to create an official walking route through such an unspoilt area. But I found it rather ironic that, on our return, we spotted some plastic water bottles discarded into the verge – exactly where we’d seen the workmen unloading their pick-up truck to install one of the posts. Could they not have just slung the empties into the back of their wagon and disposed of them properly in town?
It’s enough to make my blood boil!
Rant over for now; I’m off to make some DIY ‘No litter’ signs…
POSTSCRIPT: A little subsequent research has revealed that the route through our valley is intended for cyclists, rather than walkers, and is part of a round-trip route of more than 40km. I’m not sure I’ll be trying that one on my trusty (or, more accurately, rusty) mountain bike…
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
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.
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.
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.
Our feral cat sterilization fund took a hit today, and here at our finca in Mallorca, we are back in animal hospital mode. After months of trying to arrange for Nibbles – one of our family of adopted feral cats – to be neutered, we finally succeeded. The patient – like his mother and siblings before him – is comfortable and enjoying a peaceful rare night indoors, recuperating in our annexe third bedroom.
All the stars were in alignment: we had no other commitments for the day, our veterinary practice was able to undertake the operation at short notice, and – most importantly – Nibbles deigned to arrive at a time that fitted within the practice surgery hours.
Littering the Finca
Our adopted feral cat family (did we adopt them, or did they adopt us?) began with a dainty little black kitten we named Jetta. Shortly after becoming a regular visit to our finca (twice a day for food), I noticed that she was putting on weight. It wasn’t long before we realised that, at only around seven months old, poor little Jetta was pregnant. In March 2011, she had a litter of four kittens; three – we named them Beamer, Dusty, and Bear – are still with us, and all are now much larger than their mum.
We decided that, once Jetta had recovered from her pregnancy and had reached a stage when she was no longer nursing the kittens, we would have her sterilized. But we couldn’t act fast enough: she quickly became pregnant again and at the end of July 2011, she produced another five kittens.
Just three of the second litter remain: Nibbles, Chico, and, the only female, Sweetie. She and Chico are twice-a-day visitors, but Nibbles is what our Mallorcan neighbours call a “va y viene” cat – he goes, and then he comes back again. Recently, he’s been showing signs of testosterone overload: getting antsy with his siblings, fighting, and mistaking poor little Shorty – the little ginger kitten that has ingratiated himself into this feline family – for a willing female. I think you get my drift . . .
Someone once gave me an alarming statistic relating to the number of cats that an unneutered female can produce in her lifetime. I can’t remember the figure, but I do remember being horrified.
As much as I love cats, there are already too many ferals around – and their lives can be precarious in the countryside. They’re at risk from hunters, traffic, being poisoned,starvation (but not at our house) and being injured in encounters with other animals over territorial rights. So we took the decision to neuter those feral cats that drift into our lives. Today, it was Nibbles’s turn. Shorty will be relieved . . . until it’s his turn to go under the knife.
If you live in the Mallorcan countryside, you can probably expect to be ‘adopted’ by a feral cat or two. We’ve had up to nine outdoor cats living around our finca: a mother and her two lots of offspring. One of the second litter – now more than a year old – recently decided it was a bit crowded around here and left in search of his own piece of Mallorcan paradise. And then there were eight . . . but not for long.
The tiny ginger kitten we spotted under a shrub on our land was even smaller than Harry, the last ginger kitten that had briefly come into our lives. There was no sign of its mother or any siblings and it was clearly starving, as well as terrified. So we put out a dish of kitten food and did our best to make sure that the rest of the cat clan left it alone. After a few days, we noticed that Shorty – we weren’t going to name it, but had to call it something – was dragging a back leg. And despite appreciating the food, it didn’t want anything to do with us.
“We’ll have to get it to the vet somehow,” I said. We located and prepared the cat basket, and The Boss set about catching Shorty. After a few failed attempts – I tried not to laugh, honestly – he succeeded. But Shorty had other plans, biting The Boss’s finger – twice – and making an escape.
No trip to the vet’s that day for Shorty. Instead, I drove The Boss into town to have a tetanus shot.