Moving With Cats (or why has our whole world come crashing down around us?)

Today I’m going to use a few drawings to illustrate what it was like moving across the country with our three cats. Because my rendering of said cats will simultaneously make it appear that they all look the same, yet always a little different, I’ve gone ahead and given each cat its own identifier:

MoJo – He is the gray male cat. You will recognize him because he is wearing a top hat and his collar says, “Boy.”

Olive – She is the chubbier of the two female cats. You will be able to identify her by her round torso.

Lindie – She is the other female cat and is often considered my favorite. Shh. Don’t tell the others. She will have little hearts floating around her at all times to signify her status as the favorite.Cats

Okay, so now to the story. We began our preparation for the big move like any family would. For months we talked about all the things that needed to be done, created lists, and packing strategies. We then spent the final week essentially dumping the contents of all our drawers into boxes.

This was also the cats’ favorite part of the move. There were boxes to hide in. Human trinkets littered the floor and morphed into playthings to be batted under the couch.

Cats and boxes

Little did they know, all the trinkets would soon be in the boxes and they’d be left with a single blanket on the floor for them all to share.

empty house

They spent a lot of time fighting for the blanket and staring wide-eyed at the empty house.

At this point they thought they’d experienced the worst of it. But then their worst fears were realized: the rise of the carriers.

cats hate carriers

MoJo and Olive were placed side by side in the back seat. Lindie’s carrier was placed on top of Olive’s. Like this, but not really:

moving with cats

The one in the top hat wailed like a wounded child for about an hour and then they were silent. I assume this is because they were communicating telepathically.

traveling with cats

Once we arrived at the hotel, we let them explore their new world. See, kitties, it’s like an adventure. People travel to new and different places all the time. They actually do it for fun. Give it a try…

cats in hotel

cats in hotel

After two more days of driving, we arrived at our new abode. We set the kitties loose again, but this time the experience was much different.

cats in new home

And then a few months later…

cats in new home

was it just a dream

 

And a NaNoWriMo word count update: 21,586 words written so far! Not too bad for a lifelong procrastinator 🙂

To Trap a Marmot

Imagine you’re walking along a path and you encounter an overpass. On one side of the sidewalk, there is a hillside covered with rocks and on the other side there is a small gravel area and then a creek. Like this:

marmot overpass

Sitting in the small gravel area, are two people in camping chairs, facing the rocky slope, eating and reading books.

marmot overpass

Would you think this was strange? Would you have the nerve to say something to these people? Or would you stare straight ahead, hoping they wouldn’t lure you over with a chocolate cupcake?

crazy cupcake lady

What if I told you there was a marmot in those rocks? And these people were trying to trap it, so it could be returned to the mountains where it belonged?

marmot overpass

That wouldn’t seem so crazy, would it?

You better be shaking your head no, because that’s exactly what we did about two years ago….

One day, on my regular walk during lunch (because I am very diligent about my exercise routine, as you all know), I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. There was this creature standing on one of the rocks, up on his hind legs, surveying the area.

yellow bellied marmot

Now, I’m no expert on the genus Marmota, but this was certainly a yellow-bellied marmot, and he was not supposed to be living this close to the Cherry Creek Mall. If he needed a new winter coat that badly, he could stop at the outlets in Silverthorne – much closer to his desired habitat of 6,500 feet or higher.

marmot mountains

I contacted the Division of Wildlife and was essentially told that if I trapped the marmot, they would take him back to the mountains. Um, okay. You’re the Division of Wildlife, and I’m a nurse who works in an office and have had zero training in setting traps, handling a wild animal, and preventing the spread of zoonotic disease, but sure, I’ll give it a go.

Instead of going right to the animal trap store, because that would be silly, I made a few more calls and was finally referred to Jack. Jack was a very busy man. You see it was raccoon season and he had a huge shipment of raccoon feed coming in for all the rescue raccoons residing in his backyard. But, he’d already had calls about this marmot. Yes, my marmot was famous. He’d been tracking the little guy as he made his way down the creek, from one neighborhood to the next.

I convinced my boss to let me go early, because, duh, there was a marmot that needed tending to at the creek, and this took precedence over people with complaints about their healthcare.

Jack set up his trap and we watched and waited, and watched and waited. An hour and half later, Jack had to go. There were more raccoon centric chores that had to be done and it was getting late.

That’s when my poor husband got involved. The next day we tried the trap that my dad let me borrow. We set up our chairs and intently watched our baited trip on the rocky hillside. Within minutes a bunny sniffed out the booty. I jumped up and shooed the saboteur away. A few minutes later he returned. And again, I shooed him away. As soon as I was about to panic, the marmot’s head appeared from within the rocks. He scampered over to the trap, triggered it and then ran right out. The trap was too small.

So the next day, we went to the ranch and home supply store and asked for the traps.

“What’re you trying to trap?” asked the man.

“A marmot,” I said.

He shrugged. “That’s a first.”

I shrugged back and sipped my iced soy latte with cinnamon.

“You’ll want the raccoon sized one,” he said.

I nodded like this was quite obvious.

We placed the trap and waited. Now it seemed like he’d never show himself again. More and more people started to pass. We got strange looks, curious looks, sideways looks and suspicous looks.

marmot overpass

A few people came right up to us and asked what we were doing. I began to keep a tally. Passerby’s fell into three categories: avoids eye contact, gives strange/distrusting looks, or says something. At the end of the day, most people fell into the ‘avoids eye contact’ category.

We spent almost the whole day there and yes, the marmot did show himself. He walked right up to the trap, gave a sniff and then grabbed onto it and shook it. When it didn’t trigger, he walked around to the to the back, stuck his hand through the bars and tried to reach the food. He couldn’t reach it, but he also didn’t go back in the trap. He’d figured out.

We tried again a few more times, but never caught him. Then one day I never saw him again. I tell myself he found a ride back to the mountains, and now he bores all his marmot friends with the story of how he outsmarted two humans and ran off with their apple.

Using my Superpowers for Good (Or Rescuing a Stray Cat)

The first time I heard it, I thought it was the cry of an injured animal. The next time, I thought it might be the wail of a small child. Unable to take it any longer, I yanked the curtains open to see what was making such a dreadful sound.

I expected to see a grotesque mythological creature whose limbs had been torn off and was bleeding from the mouth, but instead it was just a cat. And it looked okay. Fine really. So, why was it screaming like a small child who just got their iPod taken away?

A few days later the cat was hanging out in my backyard, and I got a glimpse of his backside. Oh, that’s why. He wasn’t neutered. An unneutered stray cat. Great.

Using the special sense that allows animals to identify me as a sucker for their cute little faces, he quickly realized that my backyard was a good place to take up residence. He proceeded to spend his days eating the food I put out for him and either lounging in the sun or yowling as he paced around the house. Obviously, I’m the encourager of bad behavior.

stray cat

Here he is lounging with my cat.

This began in August and didn’t stop until February. By then I couldn’t take it any more. The temperatures had been dipping well below freezing and he began crying at the door, desperate to come inside. So, this is what I did:

1. I waited for my husband to be out of town to take action. This would have been much easier to handle with his help, so naturally I tackled it on my own.

2. I got my trap and set it right by the window so I could watch the events unfold, aka stare at the trap all day, using my telepathic powers of suggestion to get him to go in it.

Flashback: I tried to trap a yellow-bellied marmot two years ago, which conveniently led to me having the perfect sized trap to catch the cat. See, things do happen for a reason. Or perhaps I have precognitive superpowers, as well.

3. Like I said, I patiently waited for him to cross the yard and, well, walk right into my trap. He he.

4. After almost catching two squirrels and my own cat, he finally went for the bait. The trap didn’t trigger, though. I knew from my marmot trapping experience that this was a problem. If he got full without triggering the trap, I’d have to try again another day. Or worse, if the trap was triggered but he managed to get out, I may never be able to lure him in again.

5. I tried to use my telekinetic abilities to trigger the trap, but I was having an off day. So, I opened the back door and startled him into triggering the trap–just as I had planned, or so I told myself.

cat in trap

Here he is in the trap. I don’t think he was very happy with me at this moment.

6. I celebrated for a second and went into full animal rescue mode. (Yes, in addition to procrastination-panic mode and spousal-manipulation mode, I also have animal rescue mode. I’m quite versatile). So, I prepped my car and donned my non-regulation animal trapping gloves.

DSC06225

My husband’s snowboarding gloves. I’m sure the people at the animal shelter were impressed.

7. Then I was forced to use my superhuman strength to carry the cat. The cat weighed strikingly more than my cats and was thrashing about in the cage. Certain I would be scratched and die from some rare cat borne illness, I held the cage as far from my body as I could and set him in the back seat of my car. Don’t worry; my use of superhuman strength was discreet so that I didn’t call attention to myself. The last thing I need is to end up helping people move.

8. I wasn’t sure what kind of music he enjoyed, so I kept the radio down and talked in that soft, calm voice that lulls all animals into a state of relaxation. You know the one I mean.

9. At the intake center of the Denver Dumb Friends League (DDFL), I explained our situation. This time I used my verbal powers of suggestion to sell all his good qualities and explain how he would make a wonderful pet. I did so well, I almost walked out with a new cat.

10. The man explained the process and reassured me that they would do their best to get him adopted. He also said they might be able to do a TNR (trap, neuter, return) if he wasn’t a candidate for adoption. I made it quite clear that I would be happy to take him back and let him live in my yard. I entered spousal manipulation mode as I pondered the cute little cat house my husband would be encouraged to build for the backyard.

11. For the next month, I used by ability to obsess over things to check the DDFL  website at least daily, sometimes hourly, to see if he was on there. With each day I began losing hope. His little face never appeared on the adoptable cats page and I hadn’t gotten a phone call asking if he could be returned to my yard. I tried to convince myself that they were busy socializing him. Who knew how long he’d been living on the streets? But I had a terrible feeling that he might have been euthanized.

I began to question whether I did the right thing. My superpowers were only supposed to be used for good. What had I done?

I’ve wanted to write about this experience for some time, but I didn’t want to do it unless I knew there was a happy ending. I was perusing the Internet yesterday (instead of writing this post) and that’s when I found him. He’s up for adoption!

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 2.57.03 PM

His adoption bio. It compares his life to a book, which is strange because I’m a writer. Cue mysterious music.

I will now use my telepathic powers of suggestion to persuade someone who lives in the Denver Metro area to take a trip to the DDFL. Everyone reading this: you’re getting sleepy, very sleepy. (Wait – that’s hypnotism. Oh, well. It could still work.) You’re on a beach, with the sun shining down. Then a cute brown tabby jumps in your lap. You fall in love instantly and begin filling out the adoption papers…

Less Wordy Wednesday – A conversation between seals

Here comes Less Wordy Wednesday! Today I’m featuring a group of critters who popped out of the water to brighten your day. See the captions below to find out what they’re really thinking or saying to each other.

We’ll start with one of my favorites–the seal. These photos were taken in La Jolla, CA and by the number of pics I’ve posted you can tell they weren’t camera shy.

fuzzy seal

Oh, great. Look over there Stella, Bob’s having trouble pulling himself onto the rocks. Am I going to have to help him … AGAIN? Jeez, I just got dry.

climbing seal

I can do this. I can. I just wish everyone would stop staring. It’s the kelp. Yeah, it’s the kelp’s fault. It’s just so slippery. Hey, is Leroy laughing?

laughing seal

Bob, buddy, you’ve gotta hit the gym. Maybe do a few push-ups or something. You’re like a limp fish over there. Even the mollusks are laughing at you.

Another character that was all too happy to pose for the camera, although we were a little fearful, is the Louisiana Alligator.

Scary gator

I’m not hungry, just bored. Lean a little further this way…

Um, this was not taken with a zoom lens. We were in a small boat out in Cajun Country and our guide reassured us that it was too cold for the gators to eat (it was February). Right after that he informed us the gator could be in our boat in seconds if he really wanted to. Very reassuring. I will say he didn’t move at all, I’m not even sure he blinked. Different from the ones we’ve seen kayaking in Georgia and the Carolinas, but that’s a whole other story.

And now, the best for last. They’re not really the prettiest creatures and they’re not really hard to come by. The experience was just so bizarre I had to include it. The carp at The Spillway in Pymatuning State Park, PA.

spillway sign

carp

I love bread. Me too! Especially when it’s devoid of all nutrients! Hey, does anyone up there have Twinkies? Ooh, yeah. Or Cheetos. Those are my favorite.

This is an actual attraction listed in my travel book. People flock here to toss bread to the carp that have found themselves hanging out in the spillway. The carp become so thick that ducks supposedly walk across their backs trying to nab a bite of bread. We did not get to witness this, but it was still somewhat entertaining.

Bread is sold along the highway and even at the local liquor store. From what I understand, a few years back the parks people became concerned with the nutritional deficiencies that could be caused by eating loaves upon loaves of Wonder Bread. They decided to install those pellet machines, where you can by a handful of pellets for a quarter. Well, I guess the people were not having this–they wanted to toss bread and bread alone.

Thanks for checking out my photos!

I’d love to hear what you have to say. Any interesting animal encounters? How about your own caption for the gator or seals? Or leave a comment with anything else that jumps to mind 🙂

Being a squirrel momma: a tale of hope, love and exhaustion

I was inside lounging on the couch, sipping a cool glass of ice tea, when my husband stopped his yard work and bounded into the house, beet red and sweaty.

“Oh dear, it looks hot out there,” I said, squeezing more lemon into my tea.

“Why, yes it is,” he said, wiping the sweat from his brow. He turned and pointed to the pine tree. “But, you must come quick. There is something you have to see.”

My fingers loosened on the lemon, letting it slip into the glass. Whatever could it be?

I followed him to our big pine tree and the baby squirrel squirming just below it. Upon seeing him I knew exactly what I must do: search the Internet for exactly what to do.

Isn't he a cutie?

Isn’t he a cutie?

First I needed to try to reunite him with mommy. I scooped him up, warmed him, and set him near the base of the tree.

I waited. I drank more tea. I waited some more. Then I had a glass of wine. Where was she? I had another glass of wine and cursed the terrible rodent mother. Now it was dark and my squirrel was still an orphan.

I had called all of the animal rehabbers in town and everyone was full. So I plucked up the little bundle and sent my hubby out for supplies.

That night, I slept in the spare room with Pinkie. I named him that because baby squirrels are born with light pink skin and don’t have fur yet. Hence, they are called pinkies in the squirrel loving community. You’re impressed with my creativity. I know it…

I woke up every two hours to hydrate Pinkie with Pedialyte, using a 1cc syringe. I don’t have an actual picture so here is a recreation:

Okay, so it's a stuffed animal and a lemur. It's the best I could do...

Okay, so it’s a stuffed animal and a lemur. It’s the best I could do…

I also helped him potty. I was going to recreate this, but I thought I would spare you the horror.

And I made sure his shoebox was half on the heating blanket, and half off in case he needed to roll away from the heat. I was doting, what can I say?

So, it looks a little cramped. But you get the idea.

Yes, his shoebox looks a little cramped. But you get the idea.

In the morning I tried to reunite momma and baby again. But momma never came.

When it was dark, I went out to get puppy formula. Everyone online recommended Fox Valley formula, but that had to be ordered and then delivered. There was no time for that!  He’d been without nourishment for over 24 hours now, and that’s significant amount of time when you typically eat every few hours.

Well, Pinkie must have been famished because he loved it. No, I can’t read squirrels minds. But he made squeaking sounds when the syringe was pulled away and fought with his still rubbery fingernails to bring the syringe back to his mouth. So, I’m pretty sure it was at least palatable.

I woke up every two hours to feed him, and by morning I was exhausted and fully appreciative of all the momma squirrels out there, even Pinkie’s degenerate one.

My next step, besides trying to convince one my cats to foster this thing, was figuring out what to do about work. Not only would they frown on an infant squirrel in my office, I required more than a couple of hours sleep each night.

Pinkie after one of his late night feedings.

Pinkie after one of his late night feedings.

So, I called the only person left who I thought could help, an independent rehabber I’d met a couple weeks prior during a marmot rescue (another story for another day). I knew squirrels weren’t really his thing, but I thought he might know someone who could help­—and he did.

My husband and I packaged up Pinkie and headed north.

“You know,” I said to my hubby, “this woman will likely be crazy.” I stroked Pinkie along his tiny back. “I mean, how many people do you know running a squirrel orphanage out of their house?”

Twenty minutes later we were there. It looked normal enough, though the neighbors’ stares lingered as we walked up the driveway with Pinkie’s shoebox.

At least five and a half dogs greeted us at the door. The back room housed a variety of creatures including a toothless cat. Outside, chickens frolicked with bunnies. According to the woman, a raccoon she had rescued years ago still lived under her deck. It was both frightening and endearing at the same time, so many animals coexisting in one house.

Pinkie’s new home was already set up with lots of cozy blankets. She looked him over before setting him in the glass enclosure. Over the phone she’d been concerned about his survival—young little pinkies usually don’t fare so well. But, after seeing him, she was confident he was going to make it.

I left Pinkie that afternoon and never contacted the woman again. I don’t know if he made it or not. It was easier that way. It’s easier to picture him all grown up, hopping with the bunnies and taunting the toothless cat. It’s easier to think I did the right thing, that I helped save a little life.

How I picture Pinkie today.

How I picture Pinkie today.

**Disclaimer** There are many websites that provide guidance on caring for baby squirrels. The best thing for a baby squirrel is to be with its mother. A baby squirrel is very fragile and requires meticulous, constant care to thrive. In my case, I tried to reunite my squirrel with his mother and then tried to find a rescue group with staff trained in animal rehabilitation. Unfortunately, I was not able to do either of these things and so I took it upon myself to care for this squirrel. I did extensive research before I began feeding my baby and I was still terrified I might hurt the little creature. That being said, I felt I had no other choice. I would either be a foster mom or this little baby would die. Please, if you find an orphaned baby squirrel try to reunite it with its mother. There are resources online that will give you pointers on how best to do this. If this doesn’t work,  try to get your baby to a licensed/trained rehabilitator. This will be the squirrel’s best chance at survival. Lastly, in some states, it can be illegal to keep and care for a wild animal.