Archive for the ‘Cats – Indoors/Outdoors’ Category

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Snow in April – some photos

6 April, 2008

I woke up this morning to feed the cats, and this was the scene in the back garden at 6am.  It was the first, real snow of the season with flakes that didn’t melt immediately, but settled into a pretty Christmas-card scene.

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I opened the door to the garden and Teddy and Maya decided to investigate:

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Er, mum … what’s that white stuff falling from the sky?

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 Bengal Snow Dance!

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 Teddy makes his mark too.

Teddy took to the snow pretty well.  You can see here why Maine Coons with their thick shaggy coats are made for snow and winters.

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Teddy decided to have a pee in his usual spot (ssh … don’t let him know we’re peeking!).

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Hmm … this white stuff works quite well.

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Ananda tests the snow.

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But I’m a Bengal … we don’t do snow.

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Tulip buds in the snow.

By noon the snow had melted.  Pity because I’d planned on making a snowman for the cats.

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In a (cat) flap

8 February, 2007

I had to replace the door of the cat flap today.

When we first moved into our house many years ago, we only had one cat, Sophie, a tortie girl. There was a kitchen door that led to the back garden and for a long time we contemplated getting a cat flap to save on the hassle and expense of the litter tray. But the door was double-glazed and we didn’t dare tamper with it in case something awful happened to the glass and it stopped being double-glazed.

After several years we contacted a local double-glazing firm and they put in a cat flap. This required installing a new panel of glass that had been specially-cut at their factory to maintain the integrity of the double-glazing thingy. In short, we now had a cat flap.

The cat flap we had installed was a Staywell 30. Then (and we’re talking say 10 years ago) it was a top-of-the-range model with some sort of battery-powered wizardry that meant you could restrict access to the house/garden for your cat only. The flap mechanism was magnetic and was released when a little gizmo on your cat’s collar triggered it.

I remember attaching the little gizmo to Sophie’s collar and putting the batteries into the cat flap. It took 4 AA batteries, and I was shocked when the batteries ran out almost the next day. I think it had something to do with the magnet on the flap not quite meeting the magnet on the seal of the flap. Anyway, short of wiring the flap up to the mains, it would have cost a fortune in AA batteries, so I quite quickly decided that we didn’t need all that high-tech stuff.

Fast forward ten years and a litter of kittens.

My, those kittens were an advanced bunch. By the age of 6 weeks, they had discovered the joys of the kitchen, and I remember one of them standing, its cute little head cocked as Teddy went in and out of the cat flap. I could almost see the cartoon thought bubble above its little head: hmm … Uncle Teddy push door … Uncle Teddy vanish … Uncle Teddy come back … where did Uncle Teddy go?

Before I could squash that precocious line of thought, those kittens had psychically transferred to each other the Way of the Cat Flap and worked out how to get into the garden.

Why did I get in such a flap about them using the Cat Flap, you may ask?

I didn’t know if any of the potential kitten owners who were going to buy the kittens had gardens, or indeed, were going to let their cats out into their gardens. Yes, we’re back to the indoor or outdoor cat question.

The fact was, if I let a kitten out into the garden and it got used to the joys of outdoor spaces, and it then went to a home without a garden, would it feel psychologically stifled?

So I had to keep all the kittens indoors.

Easier said then done of course – have you ever tried catching a kitten in a large garden who didn’t want to be caught? Can you crawl under a garden shed? So I decided to reactivate the electronics of the cat flap, never mind the fortune to be spent on AA batteries. I searched the house for the collar gizmos, so that I could restrict access to the adult cats only. I couldn’t find any.

I went on the web and found a company that (praise!) still maintained stocks of the collar gizmos for the Staywell 30, and ordered 3 sets, not realising that each set came as a pair, so I ended up with 6.

Came the day the collar gizmos arrived, and I opened a brand new 12-pack of AA batteries and inserted four into the cat flap. The tricky bit was programming the gizmos so that they responded to the electronics of the Cat Flap. Reader, I followed the instructions to the letter but the Cat Flap suddenly went into beep overload. What was wrong? Did the Cat Flap not like my technique? Was the brand of batteries not to its satisfaction?

In the end, I gave up and took the batteries out.

Later, I checked on the web, and discovered on dooyoo.co.uk a series of reviews on the Staywell 30. Let’s just say that it wasn’t one of the company’s more successful models. I also called the company that had sent me the collar gizmos, and implicit in the conversation was the suggestion that I would have been better off getting a more up-to-date model.

The recommendation was for a cat flap that utilised the latest in cat flap technology … infra-red rays (whizz bang hooray).

The problem is, in order to install a more modern cat flap I would have to find out the diameter of the cut-out portion, and for the life of me, I can’t work out how to dismantle the cat flap. Plus, if I did manage to upgrade, what would I do with the multi-pack of AA batteries and 6 superfluous collar gizmos?

So I’m stuck with a cat flap that was probably used on Noah’s Ark.

So why did I have to replace the door of the cat flap?

Well, to come back to the litter of kittens with Great Escape tendencies, in order to stop them from going out, I locked the cat flap. When the adult cats wanted to go out, I had to make sure there were no kittens in the kitchen before letting the grown-ups out.

One day I let Teddy out and forgot he was out. He wanted to get back in but of course the cat flap was locked. When I finally got home, there was the flap bit lying on the kitchen floor. He had pushed his way through the flap and broken it.

I managed to mend it with some sticky-tape, but it flapped horribly, and I knew it was only a matter of time before a replacement would be necessary.

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(The old cat flap – broken in half by big Ted)

So, today was new cat flap door day, and again there’s no simple ending. I bought a new magnetic seal as well, and it doesn’t fit as snugly as the previous one, so that the flap sticks. Poor Maya found that out when she went out in the snow and couldn’t get back in. I saw her little face peering through the flap – not a happy Bengal at all.

I tried shaving off bits of the seal, but it didn’t work.  In the end it was Teddy to the rescue – he must have forced himself through the flap and dragged the seal off which I haven’t replaced – it gets a bit draughty in the kitchen when the wind is blowing:

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(The new cat flap, with the seal pulled off by Teddy)

Anyway, because this blog is supposed to be instructional, here are a few tips:

1. Cat flaps are great – don’t be put off if you have double-glazing. It cost us £100 plus to get the flap professionally-installed (not including the cost of the cat flap!), but it was worth it in terms of freedom for the cat. And if your cat learns to use the garden as its litter tray, then think of the savings in terms of cat litter! (unfortunately, only 1 of my 3 cats shares this view)

2. Think twice before buying a Staywell 30. Read the reviews on dooyoo.co.uk and you’ll see why (if you can stop laughing to read them!). Actually, Staywell 30s are probably no longer manufactured, so hey! I have the equivalent of an antique (always look on the bright side of … wheewhew … wheewhew-wheewhew-wheewhew).CatFlap3

3. Always read reviews before you buy anything. But they didn’t have the internet in those days when I bought the Staywell 30, so at least I have an excuse.

4. Never buy multi-packs of anything. It’s like with cat food. One day they can’t get enough of Supreme Cat Best Fillets of Chicken, so you go out and buy a case of it and the next meal they turn their noses up and walk away.

5. A hungry Maine Coon cat is a powerful cat, capable of breaking through locked cat flaps in a single bound. *

6. Kittens have ESP. Never teach one anything that you don’t want the rest of the litter to learn.

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* Apparently, a stud cat can do the same.  A breeder who used a cat flap to separate the stud cat from her queens blamed her children for leaving the cat flap unlocked when several unplanned pregnancies occurred.  Then one day she saw it for herself: her stud cat was turning the lock himself, using one prehensile claw!  Talk about smart!

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Cats – should you let them out?

12 August, 2006

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Before I got my Maine Coon and Bengal girls, I had moggies. I was used to letting my moggies out, and they would wander the neighbourhood. It seemed the natural thing to do.

After my Maine Coon and Bengal arrived, I kept them indoors for several months – someone had told me that if I kept them in until they were spayed they would wander less.

The first time I let them out into the garden, it was so funny to see the mix of apprehension and excitement in their little faces. The first time they climbed a tree, they sat in the branches sniffing the breeze, whiskers quivering in joy.

Both cats used to climb over the garden fence and leg it to my neighbour’s much-nicer garden. They would return home when I called them. But there were days when I would walk up and down the road shaking the biscuit tin in order to entice them back.

With moggies the fear was that they would be run over. With pedigree cats it was the same, with the added fear that they would be stolen because they were so beautiful/looked expensive.

A cat behaviourist told me that the majority of cats being run over by cars were mostly young cats. It seems once they survive past their first year as outdoor roamers, there’s a better chance of them surviving to maturity. [I need to check what the percentage is] Either they become more streetwise or they just move faster, perhaps.

A number of cat breeders I know are divided in opinion as to whether cats should be kept indoors only or allowed to roam. Some breeders stipulate in the interview and contract that the cats are to be restricted indoors. I am inclined to support them because there’s nothing more heartrending then finding out that the precious kitten you nurtured from birth to new home, has been squashed by a car.

One of the cat magazines I read (or it could have been one of the breeders’ forums) which carried a warning about a woman who kept buying Burmese kittens to replace the ones she’d let out and got run over by cars – she was on her third kitten. You would have thought the owner would have got the message about kittens not being road-savvy? What price a cat’s life? It would have been an irresponsible breeder who sold to such an owner after these multiple mishaps.

I believe that cats with access to the outdoors enjoy a richer lifestyle. However, cats can live indoors, given the right stimulation and what behaviourists call environmental enrichment.

This can take the form of sufficient cat scratching posts, high resting places, nooks and crannies so cats can hide out if they need to, sleeping places, food, litter trays (1 per cat plus 1 is the golden rule) and of course, play.

Some owners install outdoor pens for their cats. I managed to find a compromise to the indoor/outdoor problem by installing special cat fencing in the garden which meant that they could wander around the garden, but not get out.

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The cat fencing I use is from Secur-a-cat. It is made up of brackets bent at an approx. 60 degree angle, which are fixed to an existing wooden fence, and netting strung in between the brackets. It works on the principle that a cat cannot climb an unsteady surface upside down. The existing wooden fencing has to be at least 5 feet high because cats can jump anything less than that without a problem.

So far it’s worked and it’s something I’ll be recommending to all potential kitten owners. My cats now get to go into the garden and climb trees and chase birds and butterflies and I don’t have to worry about losing them to cars or catnappers.

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Cat fencing – Secur-a-cat. No web-site. Contact Roz/Steve on 01553 776 417 or securacat@aol.com

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