Thursday, June 28, 2012

Getting Serious About Morris and Mandy

Last week it was time to get serious about Morris and Mandy

BFFs, Morris and Mandy - time for us to make a decision
It was actually past time.  Up until now we know we have just been lucky.

After what happened to Tweets, we know that Morris and Mandy, who have been living outside our house for months now, are not safe here.  They have been crossing the street more and more - nearly every day and more than once a day.  It was making me a nervous wreck.  And then one morning, I drove home from the park, and as I got out of the car, I saw Morris dash out into the road from across the street to greet me.  Seconds later a car whizzed by.  Had he dashed out any later, it could so easily have hit him.

Morris, such good company

Mandy, sweet and very vulnerable - she loves Morris and follows him around

Jazzy was following along on these adventures, too. They all three would follow each other across the seafront road to the vast agricultural field, recently plowed, in front of the sea.  Perhaps it is a good place to hunt mice now that it is laid bare.   So night after night, unable to sleep because of concern over it, I would watch the three going back and forth, back and forth from the upstairs windows. As much as we love them and want them with us, and that is a lot, it was time for us to do something - to make a hard decsion. 

A vacant apartment in Nicosia is available to us at the moment.  We sadly packed up Mandy and Morris and moved them there.  Nik, who works in Nicosia, checks on them morning and night, cleaning and filling their food and water bowls, scooping their cat litter, and spending some time with them cuddling and playing.  Morris made himself at home right away; for Mandy it took a few more days.  Now they have both adjusted.  I miss them very much.  It was a hollow feeling to go outside and not see them there the day they left. 

The field directly across the street from us, in front of the sea, has recently been plowed, perhaps making it an attractive hunting ground for field mice

Jazzy, who has became pals with Morris and Mandy since his alteration, has been joining them on these dangerous adventures

I miss going outside and seeing this - cuteness and sweetness galore, and super company when I am in the garden doing chores

We now have to think about Jazzy, too, but he is feral, and we don't know how he would adjust to such a situation.  And Amber also, because she has moved back into the garden now that Mandy is gone.  Amber is not feral.

Amber, still vulnerable outside

It is only a temporary solution.  If we cannot find a better solution, we will have to take them to Paphiakos Animal Shelter, because we cannot stand by and watch these beautiful, loving cats that look at us so trustingly get hit by cars.  If we haven't learned our lesson by now, then we really are stupid.

Adorable Mandy is safe for now

Neither Morris nor Mandy is feral.  These are two of the most devoted cats we have ever known.  What we really want is to keep them with us, but until we find a more appropriate place to live, it's not acceptable to let them roam around outside anymore.  And the house inside is full at present.  I mean full. 

Mandy and Morris, devoted to one another and to us

I guess you could say they are in a sort of prison right now, though they seem to be enjoying themselves immensely, according to Nik's reports; but I side with the saying: "Better a live dog than a dead lion."  Whatever better solution we can come up with for Mandy and Morris, it has to start with them being alive.  

We really miss them and it was a hard, but, we felt, necessary decision, and in their long run best interests.  Perhaps now, they will actually have the promise of a long run, and not end up like Tweets. 

PS  Mandy and Morris are both on our adoption page!  Please visit it and have a look and if you are interested in adopting them, please contact us!  Thank you!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sonata and Solo

I was in no way prepared for the surprises I got at the park last week, or the hunger of the cats that showed up at the park to be fed. 

Nearly all of the kibble bowls we leave behind for the cats were licked clean.  When the bowls are licked clean like that, it means either one of two things to us - either a stray dog has come through and found the food (but usually you can tell if it's a dog, because the bowl will be upside down or something canine crazy like that), or for one reason or another, the cats are extraordinarily hungry and there are more cats feeding.  Judging by the way the cats were behaving, and the dissonant chorus of mewing as I laid the plates out to be filled every morning, I think this week the cats were really hungry. 

They are going through more food than ever!

This week at the park we had as diners: Agamemnon, Strike, Blabby, Greyboy, Baby, Moonpie, Mustafa, Petey, the cat we thought was Braveheart ( but we have our doubts anymore, and now we call her Wanda), Coral, and also Baby's kittens who came down from the hill to test the waters - (we have counted a total of four kittens for Baby now), and a few cats up top we didn't recognize.

The cat we thought was Braveheart, but we don't think so anymore.  Now we call her Wanda.

Baby and three of her four kittens

 Baby's kittens have been venturing close to the table and enjoying a little soft food, too.


I didn't mention Gunther, because he has in the last two weeks migrated up to the apartments to eat.  He disappeared for about 5 days recently, and I was terribly concerned until one morning Nik called me down at the park from the apartments, and said Gunther was there.  Phew.  That was a relief.  Of course we have missed him on the table top.  We are not sure why he has migrated up there.

Gunther, formerly getting a tan at the park, now is doing his sunbathing up at the apartments

And then, you could have knocked me over with a feather, when on Wednesday, I sensed another cat behind me, and I turned around and saw Sonata.  


We have next to no pictures of Sonata, because she is a cat we normally feed up at the apartments, and we simply don't have many opportunities to take pictures while there, because we try desperately  not to attract attention for the safety of the cats.  Many people who live and weekend up there think of the cats as a nuisance.

That's Sonata, on the right, in a rare picture from the apartments

Sweet Sonata

Sonata is Solo's littermate.  Solo is our precious pet cat we picked up and adopted from the apartments last summer when she was just a kitten, after we saw that the kitten she had been inseperable from until then had been hit by a car.

Solo as a kitten, the night we picked her up last summer

Last summer there were many kittens there at the apartments, many of them long haired tabbies like Sonata and Solo.  And then slowly they started disappearing. After we found Solo's playmate hit by a car in the road, every time we drove by the apartments after that we would look and see Solo sitting by her lonesome next to an ancient food bowl someone had put out; she was one of the last kittens left.  (We know the cleaning ladies had at one time been feeding kittens there, but we didn't see any evidence of feeding anymore.)  I couldn't bear it any longer, and one night when Nik was working late at his second job, I went down there with a carrier and told myself, pretty inexperienced at the time, "If she runs I will let her go; if she doesn't put up a struggle I will  bring her home." Well, she purred the minute I picked her up and the entire way home, and she continued purring as I sat down with her in the guest bedroom.  We fell madly in love.  She looked just like a ragamuffin.  And she had the craziest big furry paws.  She had worms, earmites, fleas, and a terrible case of ringworm.  I was so glad I had gotten her. 

Solo is a treasure

Solo really inspired me artistically, and I drew many pictures of her:

"Crazy Feet" was an ode to Solo's remarkable paws
This one I called "Classical Solo" because it seemed she walked on music and air

Here Solo was sleeping sweetly

 Here I drew Solo as the Ragamuffin kitten she was at the time

So when we discovered months later during a feeding that there remained a Solo lookalike at the apartments, we felt a special connection to her immediately, as we knew this was one of Solo's long lost littermates.  One major difference though is that Sonata is completely feral, and as yet we have been unable to get her anywhere near a trap for altering.

Sonata showed up at the park twice last week.  Why was she there?  Is something going on at the apartments?  Is it all the new people there for summer vacation?  Too many new cats?  Bullying?  We don't know.  Is she perhaps, like Mustafa, migrating?  Did she have her kittens near by?  We know she knows Mustafa, because she used to play with Mustafa and his littermate Lionel last winter when they were small kittens.  It was cute.  She looked like the young adolescent babysitting the younger kittens.  We were glad then to see Sonata had some friends.

Mustafa, above, and Sonata used to play together at the apartments, though Mustafa is a several months younger

Sonata is a cat that holds a special place in our hearts since we have her sister.  We really would like to be able to trap her and alter her and get her to a safe haven, but that has proved to be a challenge. 

Solo, Sonata's littermate today

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Building a Balcony Pet Enclosure

A long time ago I had this idea, and then I completely forgot about it.  And then something happened, probably we got very crowded with cats, and I remembered it.  The idea was to enclose the back balcony with a pet enclosure so the cats could safely use it, using something very secure and see through like metal fencing.  If we had an enclosure on the balcony, I thought, we could leave the upstairs back sliding glass door open, and the cats could enjoy some fresh air, a more stimulating view of nature, and more space all around to boot.  So last weekend we set about to make it happen.

At first we tried adverstising on Anglo Info Cyprus for professional fencing.  After two weeks, that brought out only one man for an estimate.  That didn't go well.  As it became clearer and clearer he was more worried about our not being able to use the balcony anymore to hang our laundry to dry, and that he was the victim of an old world Cypriot view of animals, I had to come right out and ask him, because I am getting a little smarter than I used to be,

"Do you like animals?"

"Me?" he answered, "I have dogs."

"Do they go inside your house?"  I asked.

"They are hunting dogs." he replied

"Oh, do you like to hunt?"

Well he just about did back flips, "YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSS! - " he exclaimed, and then caught himself too late, realizing we might not be fans of hunting.

Hmm.  So I figured he was not the best person for our particular job, knowing how hunting dogs are treated here.  I humored him for the rest of his estimate, which was mostly a lecture on what would "be better", and told myself, "Only if we are absolutely desperate will we have this man do the work!"  It just didn't make sense to me that he could possibly understand what we wanted, or where we were coming from.

And then our friend, Ron, who has done a lot of building at his own house for his and his wife's Anne's pets - 4 cats, a rabbit, and a dog - stepped up like a hero to lend us a hand.

So that is what we did last weekend.  We started building a pet enclosure.  The beauty of it is we can take it with us when we leave, because it comes apart very simply.

It is hot here right now, so I have to hand it to Nik and Ron.  When the sun hit the balcony they were sweating like kefalotyri cheese in a green house. 

When I saw at first that it didn't fill the whole length of the balcony, I had them make some changes,and that made it a little wonky, so if you see wonky, that's my doing. 

We need something like this because we don't have an open door policy for cats here, for three reasons.  Firstly, we have handicapped cats that simply cannot go outdoors.  Secondly, we live on the Indiannapolis 500 race track for Cypriots, and we don't want our cats to get hit by a car.  And, thirdly, an outdoor pet cat's life expectancy is less than 5 years, while an indoor cat can live 12-20 years.  (BTW, a feral or street cat's average life expectancy is 2 years, although some say 3.)

We hope we will finish it this weekend.  We are really excited to introduce the cats to it.  We think it is going to make them very happy.  We will let you know how it works out!

PS  You can see the cats enjoying their balcony pet enclosure here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Good Laugh

We all need a good laugh now and then.  Thanks to Gabrielle from The Big Apple who sent me this funny video.  Check out the link and enjoy her wonderful artwork.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Remembering Tweeny

It's hard to believe this is our 100th post.  We wanted to do something special and remember Tweeny.  It's difficult to revisit those times because we miss him so much, and it's hard to believe those peaceful autumn and early winter days at the park are just a memory now.  We wish he could have made it through the transition to spring at the park.  Better yet, we wish we had kept him at home with us when we had him here. We made many mistakes.  We let him down.

Tweeny chilling on the table at the park

When we first met Tweeny he was in a drive, up under a car, parked just off the seafront road. With him were his two female siblings, Tiger and Miss Marbles.  He was just a kitten then and summer vacation in our village was coming to a close - August 15 is the cut off point. All the folks from Nicosia would be spending less and less time here; those from abroad would be going home.  This meant that all the people who had been handling and feeding the cats and summer kittens would no longer be around to love on them and put out food.  They would leave them behind.  You would see the cats and kittens waiting patiently and with full faith outside these houses sure that their someone was to return.  (Can a cat hope?  Sure they can.  And they can experience disappointment, too.)  Of course, their someones wouldn't return for months or possibly even a year, and maybe not ever if they were holiday rentals.  But still the cats and kittens would wait. Often, getting very hungry by this point, they would follow strangers down the road, maybe hoping it was their vanishing caretaker?  Maybe hoping for a scrap of food or a little of that love and affection they knew?  We don't know. We just saw them following any and all strangers.  And we saw them ignored.

An adolescent Tweeny in the grotto

The man who owned the particular house Tweeny, Marbles and Tiger were camped at, feeds kittens in the summertime.  He must have some very good qualities, this man, because all the feral kittens who pass through his hands turn into the sweetest of cats. 

But then he leaves.  He comes for shorter and shorter visits, until he is just coming on the weekends.  He would put food out for the kittens, and they would go around the back of his house then.  But during the week they were on their own and waiting for him in his drive.

We saw them every day.  They would be playing so close to the road.  They were climbing the telephone pole just off the curb.  When we drove by they were there.  When we walked by with our dog, Muji, they would be there.  It was making us crazy.   Finally one night I took them some food.  I threw it up under the one car he leaves behind, and the kittens went ravenously after it. And then more kittens started coming,.. and more.


The man must have found the remains of the food, because not but a few days later he had called a security company.  I saw the van parked out front.  In case he had put in a camera, our food tosses were over at his house.

All we could do was hope and pray these three kittens would find the kibble bowl in the grotto at the park nearby.  Sure enough, one night we found them there.  It wasn't long before we figured out they were Cindy's kittens. Perhaps Cindy had been this man's cat, too. 

Cindy, Tweeny's mom, back when we first met her

 She still had a flowered collar with a bell on then, but underneath all that fur she was emaciated

The 3 kittens started growing and getting to know us.  They were so funny with their antics.  We called them The Banana Splits, if you are old enough to remember that kids' show, if not:

Soon it was time to have them altered.  We didn't have traps then, but it was not a problem because they were hand friendly enough to just pop in the carriers.  So we altered all three of them, about the same time we altered their mom, Cindy.

We put Tweeny in one carrier

And we put his sisters, Marbles (front), and Tiger (rear), in another larger carrier

We brought them home for an overnight after their surgeries, and we have regretted ever since that we did not keep them all.  I am sure we have pictures somewhere of that sleepover, but I haven't been able to find them. 

We took pictures of their release.  The next morning all three were there for their feedings.  In fact it was at this time that our feedings became more elaborate.  We started taking canned food as well as kibble, and stayed with them while they ate.  We played with them - with all the cats that let us.  But two days later we noticed that Tiger's and Marbles' incisions looked reddened and as if they were opening up.  We should have taken Tiger and Marbles that day, but we didn't.  The next day Tiger was gone, and she never came back again.  We were heartbroken.

Tweeny's release at the park after neutering

That was Tiger in the center front

Our feedings became more involved at this point

Maybe someone else had noticed and taken her to a vet?  She was so beautiful and so sweet it is not a far stretch that someone from the apartments or perhaps even this man had taken her home with them.  Or maybe an infection had set in and something had happened to her. We were so upset over Tiger's disappearance, we took Marbles straight away to the vet to have her incision looked over.  It was decided she needed a course of antibiotics, so she came home with us and we never took her back to the park again. 

Marbles lives with us now - she looks so much like her mom, Cindy

 Cindy, Marble's mom

Nik says we brought Tweeny home, too, soon after - and I think he is right; my memory is not so good.  I think the reason we took him back was for company for his mom Cindy, who was still at the park then.  She seemed a little insecure without him, and it wasn't like Cindy to be insecure.  But she had also lost her ferocity after we altered her; two of her kittens, her best pals, were gone, and there were so many new cats at the park then for her to contend with.  That was our second mistake of many.  Since we eventually brought Cindy home to live with us, and she and Marbles are here with us now, we should have brought the whole family here from the beginning. It's a no-brainer looking back now.

But this was before we had crossed that threshold into a house full of cats.  It's when we were still trying to fortify that wall around our heart.  I love that moment in the movie "Out of Africa", when the dam is breaking, and they are trying desperately to repair it, and Karen says, "Let it go, let it go.  This water lives in Mombasa anyway."  Trying to hold our boundaries and at the same time let our love flow is a futile effort.


I remember once, when we only had 5 or so cats, we visited with a couple who alters feral cats.  Both their front door and their back door were open and there must have been thirty cats going in and out of their house.  And I turned privately to my husband and said, "This will never be me." 

And yet here we are.  They say old age is not for sissies.  Neither is what we do. And yet I am a sissy.

So what was Tweeny like?  He was 100% classic domesticated Tabby.  He didn't have a mean or aggressive bone in his body.  He was cuddly as all get out.  I used to hold him in my arms and he would stay there as long as he could.  He was one of those cats you could hold on his back, flop around and hug on and he just loved it.  He never tried to get away or could have enough.  When it was very cold,  I would wrap him snug up against me in my big down coat.  He would fall asleep there.

Tweeny and me

Tweeny couldn't make the transition at the park.  He couldn't stand all the new activity there.  He was scared of the Tom Cats who were moving into the territory.  He started crossing the street more and more. 

Tweeny on the far right - he started crossing the street more and more as workers came during the day to prepare the park for summer vacationers

We even brought him home one more time when we saw him cross the street, and, foolishly, we took him back again. 

He followed me down the street once, just before he died, and I ignored him on some of the worst advice I've ever been given in my life.  I will always regret it.  I have learned since then that saying no to life is never the right thing to do, no matter how ill equipped I feel I am to say yes, financially or otherwise.  (Waiting for someone else to come along and do it is what everyone else is doing.)  I've come to believe the yes comes first, the provision comes later.  That is the story of the fishes and the loaves.  That is the story of the Good Samaritan, and it is why Christ and Mary are called by the Orthodox Church the new Adam and the new Eve, because they didn't say no to God like Adam and Eve did.  They said yes. 

Tweeny used to follow me back to my car after the feedings - that's Greyboy in the background

We think it is wrong to release cats back on the streets after altering. And yet we do it. What we would like is to find homes for them, but no one seems to be willing to take in any cats!  That is why we want to make our next home in this village into a sanctuary for them.  We are renting now, but one day we hope to have a piece of land, so that after we alter them we can release them on our own secure land, and we can look after them. We will look after them. We won't say no again. We love them. We love them all.

I know we let Tweeny down.  We made some very bad decisions.  We have twice as many cats in our home now as we did then, and yet we thought we were at our threshold!

I guess if I would like you to take anything from Tweeny's death and this story, it's to ask you yourself if you really are at your threshold?  Can you really not fit one or two more cats into your life?  What if everybody could?

Tweeny when he was at our house

One more thing.  The strangest thing happened the morning we found Tweeny in the road.  This elderly woman was at the park, sitting down on the rocks by the sea, and we had never seen her before. It's quite a treacherous walk down there, especially for someone her age.

Her head was in her hands and she was apparently grieving.  We took a closer look.

She was all in black.  Was it a widow?  A nun?  We don't know.  But we have never seen her again.