Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cats Part Two

Well, the cats have been home all week and we are finally on some kind of feeding schedule.  I'm pretty sure they have forgotten or forgiven me for having their you-know-what's removed.  I suppose regular food and water help ease their troubled minds.  We even settled on names.  Since they are the Feral family, they are Will, Colin, and Mamma Mia.  I can usually resist a pun, but this time I could not.  Our task this week is to begin building them shelters for the winter. 

Armed with plans from the fine folks at All About Animals Rescue, one 4' by 8' by 2" thick mylar coated sheet of styrofoam from Lowes, my husband (who is game for anything that involves power tools) and I set out to build two shelters for our new family.

1 - It is easiest to use a table saw with this material.  There are plenty of other plans online for other styles of shelters if you don't have the tools or skills or someone who can take care of this for you.  Luckily my husband has found out that as long as I benefit from the use of his tools, I won't complain when he buys more.
2 - Mia is intrigued*. 
3 - Caulking gun?  Check.  Tubes of silicone?  Check.
4 - Run a wiggly line of silicone along two sides.  Do the same along the back and up the sides of the walls you've already put up.  Make sure they have maximum contact.
5 - Measure 2" in on the front (the side without a styrofoam wall yet) and run another wiggly line of silicone down each wall and across the bottom.
6 - One more line of silicone around the top and then place the roof. 
7 - Fasten the "feet" on the bottom, weight the structure with something that is not too heavy (I used an inverted card table with some books) and let it set up over night.
8 - Almost ready for painting.
*FYI the printed film on the sides should have been removed before I started gluing.  Also, I should have sealed the inside joints with silicone.  I tried after the fact, but it took way longer than had I done it before the roof was added.

Next post: Cats Part Three - Actual plans for your very own cat shelter, our finished product, and the hunt for the elusive daddy cat.

The Butcher

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Post for the Cat Lovers

I need your help

Mom and the boys (as we found out later)
For the record I really don’t like cats, but I don’t want to see them suffer either, which brings me to my kind but misguided neighbor who feeds the feral cats in our neighborhood and is now responsible for a growing population of mating, pooping, stinky, noisy cats.  When one exhausted momma cat took up residence in our yard with her second or third litter, my husband and I knew we had to do something.  After a little research we came upon this article on Trap, Neuter, and Release (TNR) programs and decided that this was the route we needed to take.  Let me say right now that my husband has been the best sport about all of this.  He’s been a victim or more than one of my goofy schemes, but he usually just rolls his eyes and puts up with them.  This adventure was no different.

Pre ear clip and with his you-know-whats intact
I started out by trying to gather what information I could about local programs.  I was soon put in touch with All About Animals Rescue, and they could not have been any more helpful.  If you take one of their monthly classes on trapping feral cats, they will loan you all the equipment you’ll need and provide low cost spaying and neutering.  As luck would have it, they were having a big “Feline Fixing Frenzy” (that really is what they called it) the next Sunday.  In my own frenzy, I borrowed four traps - I wanted to start with the momma and her two babies that were living in our yard – and headed home.   It was mid October, and I didn’t see the Michigan weather getting any better, so I picked up some tuna and cat food and prepared to do a battle of wits with our cat family.

I’d been worried about putting out food and getting vermin.  Thankfully, the class taught us to put out food for one hour and then take it in.  We did this for a few days prior to setting the traps.  Cats are smart enough to learn when to come for dinner, and it worked like a charm.  Thursday, the day before we set out the traps, we didn’t feed them, per the instructions of the animal rescue staff.  On Friday, by the time we put out the traps, it took all of 15 minutes to trap the three of them.  Once we got those three fed and watered in their cages all covered and cozy, we decided to put out the fourth cage in hopes of catching the tom cat that has been amazingly prolific.
"I'm so embarrassed"

Saturday morning we woke up horrified to find to a huge raccoon in the trap.  I am guessing he weighed in at about 30 lbs.  My poor husband, who had been my semi-willing partner in this escapade, was worried.  He’d seen trapped raccoons and knew how vicious they could be.  We couldn’t leave it in the cage and he didn’t want to release it at the risk that it would attack us.  Luckily the county animal shelter would take care of it (note, it was tested for rabies and released) if we got it to them.  With no other choice, we prepared to struggle with a ferocious raccoon.  To our surprise, it was really docile.  It actually looked a little sheepish and it occurred to me that it was probably filling up on the cat food our neighbor put out.  Heck, it probably thought it was a cat too.
Not what any of us wanted to be doing early Sunday morning

Sunday, we were up at 6:30 to get the cats to the shelter by our 7:30 appointment.   According to the staff they had over 211 cats scheduled for neutering.  For $10 each they examined the cats, gave them a rabies shot, spayed or neutered them, and clipped their left ear which is the universal sign of a neutered feral cat.  One of our kittens had a hernia and they repaired that as well.  The next morning my husband was back down there at 7:00 am (why do cat people do things so early?) to bring them home.  We will be feeding them from now on (our choice), and hope that they will continue to keep the mice out of our house and the squirrels out of the garden.  I’m not an animal person, but this is a partnership I can live with.

I suppose you are wondering why I need your help.  I need you to help me stop the practice of feeding of feral cats without regards to their unchecked breeding.  If you or someone you know is feeding stray cats, and is overwhelmed by their numbers, you need to know that there are places that can help trap and neuter them for less money than you’d think.  Kind hearted people start out with only a few cats, but as the population grows, they find themselves surrounded by more until it becomes totally unmanageable.  Often times the food they leave out attracts vermin (no offense Mr. Raccoon) and the smell and the noise angers the neighbors. 

If you call animal control to catch and euthanize the cats, and food is still available, more animals will come.  If you sterilize the cats, they will keep other animals out and the population will stabilize, much of the fighting and spraying will stop and over time they will die out naturally.  Even if you can get those who are feeding the cats to limit the amount of time they keep food out,  you will be helping.  Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go over to my neighbor’s house very soon and see if we can’t work something out.  Heck, once he sees the size of that raccoon he’s been growing, and I tell him how much he could be saving on cat food if he wasn’t feeding the raccoons, I expect he will gladly hear me out.

P.S.  I have a lot of info about this that I would love to share.  Please contact me with any questions, and if I can’t help, I will find someone who can.The Butcher

It has been mentioned that I should have released the inadvertantly captured raccoon myself, and I first want to assure everyone that we handled the animal as gently as possible, the county testeded it for rabies and it was ultimately released elsewhere.  If I have any regrets, it is that we didn't plan for this better.  I would recommend that anyone trapping feral cats be aware of the possibility of trapping other animals and have a plan for addressing this. 

UPDATE:  All About Animals Rescue (the organization who helped us with our feral cats) posted this to my facebook page and I wanted to share it with you:

Just a reminder to everyone that when you are trapping ferals it is possible to trap wildlife other than your intended kitty – we advocate releasing the wildlife in the same area as they were trapped. Unfortunately, involving animal control... means euthanasia for the animal. Releasing the animal in the same area is important as it could be a nursing mother with dependent babies. Standing behind the trap and pulling the door straight up will allow the animal to run straight out.

Thank you again for all your help and your ongoing educational efforts.  I've learned so much from you all.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Ghosts of Jobs Past Parts 7, 8, and 9

AKA The Part time job years

Over the next several years I worked a number of part time jobs that were just as educational as their full time counterparts.  Often I worked a couple jobs that overlapped to accommodate my kids, their schedules and my husband’s ability to watch them.  That right there helped me juggle and prioritize my time.

Banquet Hall Busser

I worked at the Gazebo Banquet Center on and off over a span of five years (with a year off in there somewhere to have a second baby), and this job was my first service job as an adult.  There is something about wedding receptions that can either bring out the very worst or the very best in people, and the wait staff had to roll with all of it.  I learned that:   
1.   Just because there is a party going on doesn’t mean that you are there to have fun.  Have too much fun and you will annoy your coworkers, customers, bosses, or all of them. 
2.   There is nothing like working with Vietnamese, Indian, and Korean women – especially those who are newly immigrated - to make many of your problems seem small indeed.
3.   Even a clumsy girl like me can crank out their signature standing fan napkin fold if given enough practice.
4.   If I find myself at a function there and walk up behind Michael the manager, I can still make him jump by telling him they put out the wrong colored napkins.

Digital Photo Retoucher

About this time we got our first computer, which eventually led to my finding my true love – Photoshop.  I learned some retouching skills and started taking in the occasional side job.  The work was fun and engaging, but dealing directly with customers was not my forte.  I learned that:
1.   Customers don’t come to you, and if you don’t want to go to the customers, you don’t work much.
2.   If you are distractible, working from your home might not be in your best interest.  Even housework starts looking good when you are trying to avoid work.

Elementary School Volunteer

When my oldest daughter started elementary school, I started volunteering.  I was a pretty crummy volunteer too – bitter and resentful - until I read “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand.  I am probably the only raging liberal whose sanity was saved by Objectivism.  When I was working on projects that other people found important (bake sales, fundraisers) I HATED it.  Once I got selfish and only took on projects that I wanted to do (mural painting), or got paid for (academic coaching), did I come to enjoy the kids, the teachers, and the work.  Over the approximately ten years I worked in the schools my kids attended, I painted nine or ten murals.  I’m more of a technician than an artist, but how often are you going to get entire walls to work on?  It was especially good for my ego since I’ve never been praised as much.  Of course 5 year olds are easy to impress, but I’ll take kind words where ever I can get them.  I also took teams of kids to state level Science Olympiad and Destination Imagination, and one team made it to DI Global Finals.  All of this because I chose to do only what made me happy.  It worked then, and for the most part it still works for me today. 
The Butcher

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My World According to Random Buttons by Beanforest on Etsy

I spend a lot of time on Etsy, and while roaming around, I stumbled upon a store that sells only buttons.  Silly, smart, sometimes inappropriate buttons.  I find myself going to see what new little words of wisdom Vincent (the very nice man who is responsible for these) has posted.  So without further ado, I'd like to share with you my favorites:
(click on the images to see larger versions, and the captions are also links to etsy)
1. I'd might as well make the best of it 'cause I can't do much about it anyhow.
2. I don't know what I did before the concept of plausible deniability came into my life.
3. I'd like to pretend the Id isn't in control, but I'd just be lying.
4. I never really did this before, but now I do it WAY more than I should.
5. Poor cheese.  The saddest part of Farmer in the Dell.  
6. At least one is included in each day.  Even the good days.

7. Art nerd alert!
8. I repeat, art nerd alert!
9.  Who would get married on the Ides of March?  I would!  How's that for tempting fate?
10. One kid is an English major AND in med school. She knows her colons!
11. The other kid compares having a kid to having a pet monkey.  Sounds like a good idea, but then you are stuck with a monkey!
12. Look out kids, I am you in 30 years.
13. Dessert wins.  Always

The Butcher