Archive for February, 2007

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Snow Cats!

12 February, 2007

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Here are some photos of my cats enjoying the snow last week – the UK was hit by its first major snow storm of the winter on Thursday 8 February.

In London, the North of London was hit the worst.  When the cats woke me up at 6am there must have been at least 2 inches of snow, and it was still falling in heavy flurries.

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Here’s a photo of Teddy’s paw prints in the deep snow as he rushed to use the flower bed as his litter tray, and the cat house which Teddy had been occupying just before I took the picture.

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As you can see from this photo, Ananda wasn’t very impressed by the snow.  She’s a Maine Coon, and well-kitted-out for the outdoor life, with a thick fur coat and tufts of fur on her paws, but ooh – the dirty look she gave me when I put my foot under her bum and tried to get her into the snow!

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Not so Maya, the tropical Bengal.  You would think a short-haired cat with tropical genes would be huddled under the radiator, but no – she loved the snow and charged through it, chasing Teddy!

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Yes, Maya loved the snow so much she decided to help me build a snowman. 

It looked quite off-putting at first, like something out of Ghostbusters, so tried to make it look more friendly:  I used the old seal on the old cat flap (see previous post) for the snowman’s smile.  The trendy mohawk is the dried remains of an artichoke plant, and the eyes are rosehips.

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Here is Maya inspecting the workmanship.  I don’t think she was impressed because she succeeded in pulling off the eyes and the headpiece!

Teddy was convinced the snowman was some visiting entity and ran away back into the house when he saw it!

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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!