cat flap

all in a day off

Like everyone else we look forward to the weekend and a couple of days off work.  Sometimes though I wonder how ‘normal’ people do weekends.

We woke early …. middle of the night sort of early … to cries from Rufus saying he was locked in the bathroom.  He’s obsessed with the washbasin and spends hours in there.  The other attraction is that the kittens favourite toys … the ones with long strings that say “only under supervision” are stored away safely in there, wound around the hooks on the back of the bathroom door.  He never learns that as he jumps up trying to get them he pushes the door closed and locks himself in.

Kind of aware as I woke again in the morning that there were fewer paws thundering around than expected.  Rufus playing with Basil but no sign of Jenson.  Sometimes Jen sleeps downstairs so I wasn’t too worried but then when I got downstairs there was still no sign of him.    Then I remember that on Friday evening they’d been playing in the extension.  The plasterer had run his power cable through the cat flap thereby wedging it slightly open.  I’d removed Flipper from there a couple of times and Jenson once.

but when I looked in there there was no sign of him. Great! He’s with us for months, finally find him the purrfect new home to go to …. in a couple of hours time ….. and he’s AWOL. Move all the builder’s stuff that’s piled against the door and go in to make sure … maybe he’s got out of the cat flap that goes from extension to outside …. but I’m certain its locked … and it’s the thumb proof version after Flipper managed to open the normal locked ones. I finally find Jenson cowering and terrified behind a sack of plaster. No photo of this … we were both to anxious to do photos .. no idea how many hours he’d been stuck in there terrified. He looked like he did when he first arrived here though. Such a shame when this was his adoption day and he’d made so much progress.

Jenson on arrival in rescue

He comes out and has some breakfast and we’re back on track. Except Amber doesn’t seem very well. She’s our semi feral who can’t normally be touched. I go to look at her and she lets me stroke her. Is this good? Stress again and no photos. All fed watered and cleaned we go off to new home with Jenson. That goes well. Lovely family, excited though slightly nervous Jenson.

I get back home, call Henderson and there’s no reply. Grab some lunch. Call Hendo again and still no reply. He was like this when he first started going out .. but of late he’s normally appeared when called. Drive to Doncaster with new but broken TV. Suspect it’s been weed on (not to point the finger … but 99% of weed on things around here are courtesy of Hendo)… but still under warranty … and it appears that although I bought it from well known electrical store 5 minutes down the road from me, if its broke it needs to go an hour down the motorway.

Coming back there’s more animal stress and for once not from cats. A regular motorway commuter I’ve seen the triangle warning signs with deer in them daily for years … but in 30 years never any sign of deer. Today I’m driving home, musing about adoption plans for Jasper & Basil and suddenly 2 deer (young or female) charge out into the road ahead of me. I’m in the left lane …. I see one first …. dashed into the middle lane, panicked, turned around to run back in front of me towards hard shoulder again. I swerve towards hard shoulder to avoid him/her, only to have second one set off from hard shoulder in front of me. To my amazement I manage to slide between the pair of them. I don’t want to check rear view mirror to check other drivers been so lucky .. but I have to. Thankfully and incredibly we all came through this unscathed.

Get home, call Hendo again … and this time he appears. Collarless, with bits of fur missing, growling and seriously not happy. He slinks off into his bed and refuses to let me examine him properly. Very unlike Hendo he refuses food. I note that its just vet closing time … and have flash backs to Jango being ill 3 weeks ago at vet closing time.

I try again to not panic. Make a coffee and try to chill a bit. Then facebook pings: “Hi, I’ve got the stray caught” . To understand this message you need some background. On Thursday a friend tagged me on a facebook group post because someone was giving away some free cat food. By the time I saw it someone else had claimed it saying they were feeding a stray. One thing led to another .. a trap was borrowed ….. and …..

He’s safely here and hidden himself now. From the smell we’re pretty sure he’s an unneutered tom but not really in a position to check yet.  Meanwhile … Hendo is feeling a little better … still growling …. still in his bed … but agreeing to eat specially cooked chicken …. so hopefully don’t need another trip to emergency vets.  Amber also eating chicken so maybe she was just a bit overwhelmed by all the building work and ok really. We’re trying to make arrangements for Jasper (in foster care) to meet Basil (in our care) to meet as they may have a home together ….. long complicated story which we’ll share another time. At the same time Jenson is messaging as he’s met his step rabbits … half sibling adoptive rabbits ….. there’s not a simple relationship word to use.

I love the weekends but sometimes look forward to Monday so I can go back to work for a rest

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at sixes and sevens

Our 6 cats became 7 as Jenson returned from his foster home last weekend. It should be easy to manage really … we’ve had over 20 cats here at peak times in the past, though with builders around it’s a bit more challenging.

All you need to remember is that 2 of them must not be allowed outside at all, another can be allowed out but isn’t able to use the cat flap to get back in and tends to wander off. Another is able to use the cat flap, but only one of the available flaps, she’s scared by the noise of the other – hence us having two. However that flap is the one that another cat can open when its supposed to be locked on “in only” …. so it has to be completely locked, but only after scaredy cat has come in.

None of the cats should be allowed out whilst we have builders here … not without checking that it’s going to be safe for both parties. The builders have been very careful with cats and doors but you do need to have an eye to the fact that they unplug the plug in flap to thread their power leads through. That’s the flap that doesn’t have a two day microchip scan, so tends to be locked on to “in only” permanently so no one gets out who shouldn’t be out. A slightly wedged open cat flap with power leads running through it is an open door to feline adventure. Which means that mostly all the cats need to be kept out of the kitchen whilst the builders are there so they don’t slip out of the flap .. and the ones who aren’t allowed out at all need to be kept out of the lounge too so they don’t rush through into the kitchen when I open the door. Oh …. and did I say that if the flap gets unplugged it reverts to being open to anyone and everyone both in and out! So you need to check that before allowing anyone with restricted access into the kitchen at the end of the day.

Got that? Good. That’s the easy bit.

Now to sort out the food. Whichever room / group of rooms a cat ends up spending the day in, they need to have access to food, water and litter tray. One of them seems to need lots of food regularly available as we believe he’s on the edge of thyroid issues. Another needs to have just special gastro food for his food allergy. So he needs to not eat anyone else’s food or have his food eaten by them. At the same time he doesn’t want to be shut in on his own. Ideally he needs to have an exclusive litter tray so we can see the ‘results’ of various different diets. Another has a short term tummy upset.  A couple of the others ask for food then when we put it down walk away, asking to see the menu to re order.   Another is a big lazy lump who waits until he’s really hungry before wandering into the kitchen.  We have covers to put over all the food bowls to limit access to forbidden foods .. but then one of them likes to pick food out of the bowls and bat the biscuits around the floor, losing them in obscure places all over the house … of course to be found by the one who shouldn’t be eating them.  They all want to eat when they want to eat .. and to take their time over a meal.   They want the food so I remove the cover ….. they change their mind …. I cover it up …. they change their mind again …  repeat …… +++ ….. x7 cats.

So long as that’s all sorted there are just a few other things to take into account:

One of them is semi feral and cannot be picked up, herded or otherwise induced to move from one room to another.
Another isn’t feral .  …. but is very skittish if being chased …. so ditto the above.
The two younger ones are a pain to the older ones and must not be shut in a room with them.
The two younger ones also fight with each other
One of them has a tendency to spray and pee more or less anywhere if there isn’t a clean litter tray within paws reach.
I have a day job
I need to retain some sanity.

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Henderson abroad

Henderson has been with us a while now … how long I’m not entirely sure without checking our records.  It sort of feels like furever but he wasn’t here at Xmas … so maybe not. Nevertheless there’s been enough time for him to arrive here apparently on death’s door, rally round sufficiently for it to be sensible to microchip and vaccinate him, take him for his second vaccs 3 weeks later … and that still seem like quite a while ago.

He’s made himself at home … and is a much loved resident, despite his rather unreliable grasp of litter tray etiquette. He’s mostly been content to just snooze and eat …. and cuddle but started to show some interest in the outdoors a couple of weeks ago. It is quite literally a building site out there so not entirely easy to let him begin to explore.

henderson asking jango how the cat flap works

We decided that the safest way would be for him to borrow Rufus’ jacket.

As a back up, Flipper was unusually helpful and definitely on his case. As soon as he was out the door she flanked him and began showing him around. It was so sweet to see her keeping an eye on him, even when she started to be a bit more subtle about it.

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He enjoyed it …. so we repeated it a couple of days later and then last weekend while it was nice weather we decided he’d come out jacketless and help me clear the shed. We don’t normally use collars but we have some special ones with our phone number on expressly for the purpose of letting rescue cats out for the first time – kindly donated by Kitty Collars.

The plan initially went well and although he wasn’t terribly helpful with the shed he stayed close and supervised. Then the next time I turned round to look for him he was gone. We’ve all been there … letting cats out for the first time. The logical part of me has learned that they usually disappear for a few hours and then they saunter back as though nothing has happened. The feeling part of me is nevertheless worried sick. The therapist part of me watches quietly as head and heart battle it out, with the dice heavily weighted towards the heart.

I learn by experience that Henderson is not an easy name to shout multiple times in succession and reflect on my choice of simple two syllable names for my other cats. I plod up and down my own road and the one that backs on to ours, calling and peering into gardens. I berate myself for not having made a more careful assessment of what i suspect is partial deafness. Then again … any auditory assessment of a feline has to allow for selective deafness. Our old Sooty (RiP) could be oblivious to me hoovering round him, but hear the fridge open from 3 gardens away.

Flipper and Honey picked up on my anxiety and decided to join me in the search. Flipper chattered loudly and excitedly each time I shouted, drowing out any possibility of hearing a reply from a disorientated Hendo. Round the corner we were joined by a couple of other friendly cats who wanted to know what all the fuss was about and the daughter of a friend. I began to look like the Pied Piper and neighbours would point behind me if I explained I’d lost a cat. Then the big bully tabby from up the road joined us and Flipper stopped in a garden to argue with him. Honey and the two hangers on set off back towards home and then we encountered another neighbour with his dogs.  Traffic was temporarily halted while the crowd was dispersed and cats were posted to safety through hedges.

Henderson was still not found. Difficult to get on with anything with the worry of that,  but I’d force myself to do something for 20 minutes before repeating the search circuit – back bedroom window to check gardens, front bedroom window to check road, up my road, back down my road, round the corner, up the next road and back down. Strepsil to soothe the throat. Clamber over the building stuff in garden to check bits I can’t see from bedroom window.

And finally … at the end of one the circuits, Flipper shouting excitedly. I follow her and there’s Hendo at the bottom of the garden. With some effort I suppress the traditional greeting for a lost loved one … you know the “where the hell have you been …. don’t you think I’ve been worried sick ….. etc”

Poor lamb …. he was exhausted after his adventure and just crashed on the table. Flipper still wasn’t taking her eyes off him though.

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The return of the N key … and other short stories

We’re very relieved to have had a new N key (plus hinge) arrive through the letter box a couple of days ago, and expect our readers are too!  The little E Team are still very keen on following the IT module in their kitten socialisation course … but since Elijah’s little accident have been asked for form an orderly queue on my lap and take turns on the keyboard.

E team IT lessons

Their mummy is doing well at Sheffield Cat Shelter and is advertised for adoption on their website.   I think she’s enjoying having some space, and her little ones are definitely coming out their shells much more now they’re not being slapped by mum every few minutes.   The older kittens have welcomed them into their gang for playtime, and cuddles, and my adult residents (normally a grouchy lot) have been there to mother them a bit when they’ve needed.  Thanks especially to Honey, our only resident who has been a mum for stepping up to the line on that one.

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Readers with good memories and considerable stamina will perhaps remember the series of cat flap saga posts, as we switched between the pet porte microchip cat flap and the sure flap dual scan flap (with a diversion into the pet porte ridiculous sized all singing and dancing flap along the way). We thought it had all been resolved a few months ago by having a hole put in the other door of the patio doors and having both installed, one in each door … the Pet Porte one permanently locked so our old lad Sooty could be kept indoors, but available as a safe entry that our semi feral cat Amber would trust as she’d been terrified of the sure flap when we installed that.  Whilst the  Sure Flap one would allow out just the cats we’d scanned to be allowed outdoors.  In effect it became a bit of a one way system as no one seemed to want to use the Sure Flap to come in.

IMG_5948

It all worked pretty well until one morning when I got up and Flipper wasn’t home.  I always get them in when it goes dark and lock the cat flap so they can’t go back out.  I was certain they’d all been in before I went to bed … I can’t settle to sleep without knowing they’re all home and safe ..  but thought perhaps she’d slipped out when I’d opened the door to call Amber in, or maybe even that I’d mistaken Amber’s tabby stripes curled in an igloo for Flipper’s … but it seemed a bit unlikely.  They were all home the next night so I put it to the back of my mind.  However later in the week it happened again.  Flipper was out when I got up.  This time I was 100% sure Flipper had been in when I went to bed, but only 90% certain of my sanity.  I tried pushing on the flap when it was locked and couldn’t see how she could have got through it without breaking it.  I started looking for none existent windows that I’d left open, and imagining holes in the wall or the floor that I’d not previously noticed.

rather grumpy residents locked in for the night

rather grumpy residents locked in for the night

In the end I wasn’t sure whether to contact Sure Flap or a psychiatrist. I opted for the former. I was surprised to get a very prompt and helpful reply saying that: “We do know that a very small percentage of extremely clever and persistent cats have been able to ….. hold the grey catch down and simultaneously claw the door open inwards.” Much as I love her, I’d not really had Flipper down as “extremely clever” but I will give her “persistent”. Customer Service took the serial number of the flap we have and assured me “Our design team have developed a solution to this which we would be happy to send out to you”. I waited for the arrival of some sticky tape, or something to put across the front of the flap so it couldn’t be pulled inwards. However a week later a complete new cat flap arrived with the legendary label “thumbproof”!

thumbproof cat flap

Let’s see what the little monkey makes of that!

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the saga of the girlfriend and the cat flap (2)

So having decided we had to keep Sooty in permanently … the saga of Sooty’s girlfriend changes to the saga of the cat flap.

mog at the cat flap

We’ve had a standard pet porte microchip cat flap since before we started cat rescue and loved it, but dreamed of the day when microchip flaps could offer selective exit as well as entry.  By chance we checked their website recently … and there it was!!!!   A stunning, all singing, all dancing cat flap, that would allow you to set individual programs of in and out for 30 odd cats.  Not only that, it would allow a longer relatch time for our timid Amber, sound a different tone for each chipped cat who approached it, keep records of when each cat went in and out, and had a USB connection so we could easily delete adopted rescue cats from the memory thereby avoiding every filling it to capacity.   Ok, so it didn’t empty the litter trays, do the shopping, and cook dinner,  but it looked good – a real Swiss army knife of a cat flap.

petporte inteligent

Of course it was ridiculously expensive ….. at that point (only a few weeks ago) …… £300+ ……… but then the price started plummeting …… and we picked one up on another website for just over £100.  Sadly when it arrived it was a huge disappointment ……. HUGE being the operative word!   It turned out to be several inches too tall to fit into the door panel in the photo above.  Honey and Amber could have left the house in tandem with Flipper diving over the top of them and there still would have been room.

Thankfully returning it wasn’t an issue, other than we were left with the original dilemma of how to manage Sooty staying home whilst the others went out.  A second look at the Sureflap competition  looked promising.  Initially we’d dismissed it because it seemed that there was no setting for “indoor cats” to be able to get back in if they  happened to get out.  However further investigation revealed a safety mode which allowed this.   It wasn’t all singing and dancing like the pet porte option, but it looked like it could just about hold a tune whilst it shuffled across the kitchen floor.

dual scan

We had a bit of a Goldilocks moment when it arrived as this one seemed to be too small!  A bit of careful fitting by local handyman sorted that out.  All we had to do then was get everyone scanned in … ahem .

Honey grumbled a bit but complied, Flipper wriggled and giggled but the job was done, Jango more or less slept through the process.  Sooty got a little confused about being taken to the flap when we’ve spent the last few weeks keeping him away from it … whilst we got a little confused about how to set it for him to be “in only”.   As expected, Amber was the challenge.  Having got hold of Amber only once in the years she’s lived here (a necessary but not to be repeated nightmare to get her chipped), picking her up and pushing her through the flap was not an option.  Sureflap gives you rather longer than Petporte to get them to the flap after pressing the “learn” buttons …. but doesn’t disperse the eager group of cats who would be happy to be “re-learned” if it means they can pick up the treat left out to entice Amber near to the flap.  Finally, smearing the outside of the flap with tuna oil whilst the other cats were indoors proved to be effective.

cat flap saga1

Unfortunately that’s still not the end of it – they have to learn how to use it.  Trying to stay calm whilst my annoyance with the girlfriend rises over this.  If only she hadn’t got involved.  In the last 48 hours I’ve been met by a barrage of complaints – it smells different to the old one, it sounds different, it needs a different angle of approach to get your microchip to trigger it to open.  Amber has managed to use it to get out, but is too scared to use it to come in.  Honey seems able to get in, but it won’t pick up her chip when she’s trying to get out.  Sooty is furious that he can’t use it at all.  Jango seems to have lumbered in and out once or twice … he’s more interested in snoozing in the box it was delivered in.   Flipper seems to have got the hang of it,  to the point of being able to manoeuvre a struggling rodent through it this afternoon.

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It’s been a weekend of experimenting with different methods.  Taping the flap open so they can just get used to the feel of it and the different noises it makes (though this means Sooty has to be shut in the bedroom) seems to help.  Having the flap closed whilst serving delicious treats on the other side of it also helps a bit.   Almost as heart breaking as Sooty hammering on the flap wanting to go out, is Amber silent meowing to me on the patio because she wants to come in.  Neither can understand why their little furry worlds have been so cruelly disrupted.    I silently fantasise cruelly disrupting the girlfriend’s world.  Does she have any idea how much stress and distress she’s caused?

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