Monday, July 11, 2011

The Cat Yard and the On-Going Saga of the Kittens

Flower Lady asked for more info re our cat yard. The "yard" began in February as an attempt to fence Willis and his cohorts, Sadie and Sally, away from the bird feeders.
J. had a short roll of tall heavy woven wire left from fencing the main garden.

By early March we had expanded the idea to give our indoor cats a breath of "fresh air" and a chance to enjoy the spring sunshine first hand.  The dining area sliding door opens into the yard.  The boundaries were easily worked out with the cement block wall of the basement bulkhead on one side and the heating/cooling unit just inside the other boundary.  Beyond that are hydrangeas.
There is a shrub [burning bush] in the yard which offers summer shade, as do
 the maples just outside the yard.

Chester taking the air.

Willis, outside the fence, keeps an eye on Wilbur/aka Chopper who is inside the yard with his sister, Willow.
The kittens are spending the afternoon outside in the company of Maisie, the amiable but not bright momma cat [now spayed.]

About 10 days ago racoon sampled the sweet corn. It wasn't ripe but they knocked down several stalks, incurring J.'s wrath. He commandered the cat yard fence to wrap around the stand of corn
in the lower garden.
The cats were without a playground for several days.
Mid week J. bought a new roll of wire and metal fencing stakes.
The wire is not as tall as the first fence, but none of the cats have noticed this.
The new yard is squared off more neatly than the hasty original, but essentially the same size.

Willow and Wilbur took turns hanging perilously in the shrub.

Time to sharpen our claws.

I took a chair, a book and lemonade into the yard for a half hour.
Maisie stretches beneath the chair and the kittens have hidden in the cool grassy spot behind the heat pump.

Prior to the move to Wyoming, our cats were always indoor/outdoor cats.  I went to great effort to round them up and have them inside at night.  Over the years there were two or three road casualties.  Almost more distressing were the times that a cat simply went missing--never seen again. As we acquired new young cats in Wyoming I knew that I didn't want that kind of uncertainty for them--too many predators, too many ways to "lose" a pet.  On the few occasions that a cat has dashed outside, recapture has been anything but easy.
Chester, who is congenitally stupid, spent two 48 hour spans under the front porch--because he was too frightened to emerge after dashing out. Charlie-cat [source of half the stupid genes] has gotten out and then had no idea that the two people trying to round him up are the same whom he sees inside every day.
Litter boxes and an ever renewed layer of cat hair are small prices to pay for knowing the where-abouts of the cats.
That said, to introduce the three [now five] barn kittens as house residents would be madness.
While they were/are kittens they were/are caged each night
As I typed the above, yesterday afternoon, the kittens were resting in the cool grass of the fenced yard.  Tired from their excursions up and down the bush, they flopped in a heap of
stripy tails and white paws--docile, sleepy.
J. and I took turns checking on them every 15 minutes or so.
Then J. hurried in and asked, "When did you bring the kittens inside?"
I hadn't.
Round and round the yard we went, looking for any spot of loose fencing where a kitten
 might have wiggled through.
I found the escape route only after getting down on hands and knees just outside the fence.
Pushing aside the scratchy clutch of hydrangea leaves, I inserted my hand between the wall of the house and the curl of the fencing. It seemed incredible that even a very determined little creature could slink through that small space. But, the kittens were gone.
I felt like a mother who has misplaced her children--irresponsible, somehow, foolish.
An hour later, crossing the yard I spotted the kittens scuttling into their old haunt--the woodshed.
They sat and beamed me innocent big-eyed glances before disappearing between the
stacked chunks of wood.
By sundown the kittens had migrated to the garage;  they scooted behind the welter of J.'s tool chests, bins and machinery as I triumphantly lowered the overhead door.  Moments later I had Willow by her scruff, having lured her with food from a newly opened tin. Boy-kitten was elusive. We shone the flashlight along the garage wall, watched while he slid behind bulky objects.
"Right," I said tiredly. "We'll go with the hav-a-hart trap again!"
The trap was empty when I checked at midnight, and behind a row of shovels and such a small whiskery face blinked up at me, pupils wide in the white glow from my light.
The bowl of kibble in the cage enticed our fellow at some point.
A plaintive squalling greeted me as I entered the garage a bit after six A.M.
The kittens are turned out in the office/spare bedroom.  Mostly they scuttle under the bed when we enter.
But--I don't plan to give up my desk. Sooner or later they have to decide that I'm part of their world.
Maybe it will be sooner--Willow emerged for a moment just now, contemplated me with spiky tail raised in tentative friendship. She declined to come nearer, but if nothing else, I will soon be associated with FOOD!
Future outings in the cat yard are still under consideration.


  1. Oh my goodness! What a saga. I have considered a cat yard, but coyotes can jump pretty high and the flea situation in this area is not good too dry I think. So i have given up on the idea, plus the fact that any cats I have had would eat grass and then throw up. Since Scruffy seems to have been an indoor cat all his life (8 years) -- his paw pads are smooth and he has plenty of fur between his toes. In addition, he shows no interest in going outside. We really did get a trouble free cat!

  2. What is it about cats that they demand so much of us. Even my kids didn't get so much pampering as the cats. lol
    As for stupid cats, I didn't think it possible until we had Fred (now gone to pussy heaven)he really was thick, and looked it too, he had a vacant look to his eyes but we loved him all the more for it.
    Lovely post.

  3. Having lost our last cat to pack of neighborhood dogs we decided our new cat would strictly be indoors. She wanted out so badly that I ordered an outdoor cat tunnel for her but she just lay in it. So now she gets to go out on a leash or play on the deck and that's it. Sad for her perhaps, but happy for me.
    Our cat isn't stupid, but Lord is she clumsy, who ever heard of a clumsy cat.

  4. Very interesting. No one has indoor cats here (Scotland) unless they live in a flat and have no access to the outside. Ours have a cat flap and go in and out all day. I do worry about our beloved furry friends if they stay out at night - we do have foxes and badgers, though I don't think these actually attack cats - but we usually manage to get them in around dinner time.

    Just popped over from Mac 'n Janet - really enjoyed your favourite things post too.

  5. You asked how I kept the cats off of the work space.....
    There is only one that is a real pain and that is Willow, she is what I call my work room buddy, she's always on standby ready to be up there before me once I hit the stairs, once in the workroom she does make a bit of a nuisance of herself until I use my stern voice and then she settles on a chair, content to just be there.

  6. I read this,this morning, before I went out but didn't comment so I've poped back. Chester sounds like our Sid who, having escaped, spent 3 days in the garage trying to convice us he was a box and then hidding behind a freezer so as not to be got hold of. Love your names for the new ones ...I too would have to think hard about letting them out certainly for a while your written word ... always a great read.

  7. oh dear! naughty babies, glad you rounded them up safely again. they will soon come round and realise they have found themselves a fantastic home. Just like willis!

    Leanne x

  8. I can imagine how your heart sank when the kittens disappeared from the cat yard! It's such a brilliant idea though and I feel sure that J can come up with a way of securing the possible escape routes:) Being barn cats the kittens will enjoy being outside so it will be a shame if they have to be kept in permanently especially since the yard has all the mod cons of the cat world.

  9. Gosh what a palaver chasing the kittens around, I have chased hens and quails (definitely the worst) tramped miles for other people's dogs when lost but never cats.
    They're cute the kittens, will keep you fit and on your toes, and I expect will always sneak back to a happy home;).

  10. Oh! I do love your header. And all the fun photos of your cats, especially since I'm such a cat person, too, and so looking forward to getting two new cats when we move in September.

    Anyway, just wanted to drop by and thank you for your comments at my blog these past weeks. They are appreciated! Blessings, Debra

  11. I have rolls of that wire stuff - never thought about making an area for princey! Great idea!!