Minstral our Birman lives the good life on Mallorca

Beamer (left) checks out the fluffiest tale he's ever seen (on Minstral).

Beamer (left) checks out the fluffiest tale he’s ever seen (on Minstral).

Our beautiful Birman cat Minstral is now eighteen-and-a-half years old – an age which amazes the good folk working at our local veterinary practice. They often tell us that Mallorcan cats rarely live that long; we have noticed that many of them (particularly in the countryside) are either feral or left to their own devices. Certainly there are many dangers lurking out there – among them being shot, poisoned, or run over. Sadly we have a couple of little burial spots on our land to prove it.

Of course Minstral is not the only cat in our lives: we have seven ‘adopted’ now semi-feral cats (although it would be more accurate to say that we were the ones who were adopted). They live outdoors and spend a lot of time around close to the house – returning twice daily (as a group) to be fed.

Minstral was a ‘bonus’ we brought to Mallorca when we moved here in 2004. In September 2001 we had been to Sussex to see a distressed Maine Coon under foster care, with a view to adopting him. He was with a woman who fostered cats, but also bred Birmans. I’ll never forget her house: a fluffy Birman cat or kitten was on every horizontal surface. Big blue eyes stared at us from every direction. Gorgeous.

Smokey, the Maine Coon (aged six), immediately took to us and we took him home. And Minstral too (aged four). The fosterer said that the pair had become inseparable and thought we should have them both to save any separation issues Smokey could have. Well, I wasn’t going to refuse, so neither could The Boss. We sadly lost Smokey to lymphoma a few years after we moved to Mallorca, which led to concern that Minstral would pine for his old pal. Fortunately, plenty of love and affection from us and a fair dollop of feline ‘la dolce vita’ prevented that.

Minstral has been an indoor cat all of his life. We were told by the breeder that he had no road sense at all and it would be unwise to let him out alone. He’s never been very bothered about going out, except for the occasional supervised stroll into the garden to chew grass, or onto the front terrace to sniff a greeting to some of the outdoor cats.  There’s no animosity between him and the others; it looks like a mutual appreciation that he and they are different.

Our recent visit to the vet’s – for Minstral’s rabies jab and annual blood tests to check his kidney function – brought good news. Like many senior cats, his kidneys are not working as well as they used to. He’s been on a special diet for some 18 months and has a daily dose of a medication designed to alleviate the condition. His latest blood tests revealed that his kidney function had slightly improved . . . testament to the great treatment our vet’s in Manacor have always given our extended cat family.

We came home delighted with the news. And Minstral? He celebrated by nabbing the prime spot on the sofa, in front of the log burner. According to http://www.catyearschart.com, Minstral is now aged the equivalent of 88 human years. If and when I make it to 88, I’ll be doing that too . . .

 

 

 

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Pip’s progress

If you come to live in the Mallorcan countryside, you’re likely to end up sharing your life with a few animals. We arrived on the island with two cats: Minstral, our Birman, and Smokey, our Maine Coon (who died a few years ago from lymphoma). Minstral lives indoors, and has done so happily for just over 17 years – 13 of which have been with us.

For three years we have also had a ‘glaring’ – a highly appropriate (at least at feeding time) collective noun for a group of cats. Five of these were born (in two litters) to a black feral cat we named Jetta who, after being with us for more than a year, went off one day and never returned. Our land has always been the territory of her offspring.

Along came two more . . .

Shorty arrived (dumped?) as a tiny ginger kitten, dragging an injured back leg. His incredible tenacity enabled him to wheedle his way into the existing feline family and, today, he’s a handsome cat with a love of cuddles (and a tendency to dribble all over you). Peanut – another dumped ginger kitten – stayed for several months but went off one day and didn’t return. It had taken some time for her to be accepted and although she was eventually tolerated, she clearly felt the need for her own space.

Shorty

Shorty

And another . . .

On September 18th this year the latest addition to our feline family arrived. We came home late from Nit de l’Art in Palma de Mallorca to find a little scrap of a kitten just inside the gates, cowering near the dustbin. Another dumpee, it seemed. She clearly wasn’t feral, as she readily came over to us and The Boss was able to pick her up. She purred like a train – probably pleased to be out of the reach of the other cats.

We call her Pip and, since her arrival, she’s been living in our annex bedroom overnight and when we’re out and unable to keep an eye on her. We can’t be sure how old she is, but the vet has suggested we have her spayed during the last week of November/first week of December. Until then, we’re keeping her out of the reach of any passing tomcats, and keeping an eye on her interaction with our other cats. Initially it seemed as though she wouldn’t be accepted but, apart from the very occasional paw swipe from one of the big boys, tolerance generally prevails.

The new kitten is growing – in size, character, and confidence. She’s a fanatical tree-climber (The Boss has once had to resurrect his boyhood tree-climbing skills to rescue her when adventure overtook ability). She loves playing with the stones on our drive – grabbing one between her front paws and tossing it into the air. And her dribbling skills (of the football, rather than Shorty variety) with a small ball could teach Real Mallorca a thing or two.

Needless to say, our initial thoughts of finding her a new home have been forgotten. Welcome to the glaring, Pip.

 

Cuddle time

Cuddle time

A walk on the wild side

A walk on the wild side

"Scared? Moi?!"

“Scared? Moi?!”

Nine years of living in rural Mallorca . . .

I’ve just realized that today is the ninth anniversary of our move to live in rural Mallorca. In some respects I can hardly believe it’s that long; in others, I feel we’ve surely had more than nine years’ worth of ‘interesting’ experiences.

Smokey, our Maine Coon, enjoying a snooze shortly after we arrived in Mallorca.

Smokey, our Maine Coon, enjoying a snooze shortly after we arrived in Mallorca.

I still remember that first day on Mallorca very well. We’d booked to fly over on the same plane as our two cats, Minstral and Smokey (our beloved Maine Coon, who sadly died as a result of lymphoma a few years ago). Just days before we were due to fly out, Smokey developed a strange cough, as though he were trying to dislodge something in his throat. We’d been decorating our cottage, so it occurred to us that the paint fumes might have irritated him, but took him immediately to our vet’s to be checked over.

Stress? You bet!

Long story short – we had several dashes to the vet’s over the next few days – it turned out that Smokey had a tumour in his throat. Our vet carried out a difficult operation, which we were warned might not work. The stress levels were stratospheric.

Fortunately, the operation was a success, and the tumour turned out to be benign. But there was no way that Smokey could fly; he needed to convalesce in the veterinary hospital. We decided it would be less stressful for Smokey if he had his pal Minstral with him, during the convalescence and the eventual flight to Mallorca.

So the pair of them stayed behind in the UK, while we reluctantly flew to Mallorca, to meet the delivery of our furniture – which had already left the UK. I flew back to the UK a few days later to collect the cats and take them to Gatwick, and we all flew back on the same plane.

A rude awakening

As it happened, it was probably as well that we were alone in our new home for that first night. We fell into bed, exhausted, with hopes of a 12-hour sleep, to help counteract all the stress we’d had. No chance. In the middle of the night, I awoke to hear someone – luckily, The Boss – working a trouser zip.

“What are you doing?” I hissed into the blackness (we’d never slept anywhere quite so dark, having had a street lamp right outside the cottage back in the UK).

“Can’t you smell it?” asked The Boss. “That horrible smell?”

I sat up and took a deep sniff, noting that there was a rather unusual aroma in the air. It had a whiff of something chemical about it. Moments later we were both up, moving from empty room to empty room, sniffing like bloodhounds. We sourced the strong pong to the kitchen, where we’d earlier used a gas stove-top kettle to make a bedtime drink. During that process, the kettle’s handle seemed to have been burnt and had slowly been giving off chemical fumes. We opened windows and doors, put the kettle outside for the night, and stood out on the terrace to gulp in the cool fume-free air.

Magic moments

And then we saw it for the first time. The inky black sky – no light pollution nearby – was strewn with millions of vividly twinkling stars. Even on the coldest and clearest of winter nights in the UK, I’d never seen as many stars. It was simply magical. The stress of the move, and that first weird happening in our new home, was forgotten as we took in the extraordinary night sky above us.

Being a bit of a romantic with a soft spot for nostalgia, I could have been tempted to mark our ninth anniversary with a spot of stargazing tonight. Alas, Mallorca’s covered in a duvet of thick dark grey clouds that aren’t due to leave us for a few days . .

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 . . .