Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ants and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails or What Summer Feedings Are Made Of

OK, well, not exactly.  But it rhymed.  Summer feedings are actually made of ants and slugs and puppy dog tails... and hedgehogs.  Winter feedings are made of rain, snails, and more ants.

Ants are people, too, so we don't like to kill them

We used to fight the ants vigorously by trying to outsmart them.  We fought them with particular gusto outside at our house and over at Sammy's (where there is paving) with chalk lines.  They worked for a time, but we had to keep drawing them because the cats unintentionally would wipe them away with their paws.  Being an artist, I eventually ended up drawing elaborate and sometimes seasonal pictures around the bowls.  I graduated to a box of colored chalk and grew in discrimination until I became a connoisseur of different brands of colored chalks.  The best chalks were the softest ones and became stubs quickly.  I bought a lot of chalk, a lot of chalk, but, no worries, chalk, like talk, is cheap and one of the last great deals on earth along with potatoes.

Sylvia with one of my faded chalk masterpieces ;)

But then there was this great revolt.  Suddenly the ants didn't care about our chalk lines anymore.  They started storming right over them.  They were like bacteria that mutated and developed a stubborn resistance to our antibiotics.  It made us crazy. We've tried many things since then: cinnamon, lemons, towels, little towers and moats, and they have overcome them every time.

The slugs are gross and leave their trail over the food and bowl.  They are very determined and not as slow as you think.  We have seen some seriously fat ones.  They will hang out all summer if there is a sprinkler nearby.

That huge thing on the bottom right is a slug.  Even Amber, pictured here over at Sammy's, is grossed out.

Snails are a winter problem.  They are fast little creatures when they know where they are going and think no one is around.  As soon as we go outside after the first fall rain (Cyprus is dry all summer), they will be everywhere.  It will be hard to walk our dog Muji without stepping on one if not fifty if not a hundred.  It's a horrible feeling to step on a snail.  We try to walk around them.

There is no shortage of snails in Cyprus.  This guy will be waking up soon.

Soon the snails will be a mighty force to contend with at the feeding stations.  They will have to be plucked out and un-suctioned off when we are wiping and filling the bowls, and they will hide under the rims where they think we will never find them.

Hedgehogs hibernate in winter but often come to the feeding stations in summer.  They are cute and don't eat very much, and don't come in in armies, so we don't mind them very much - just when they poop in the bowl, because they stand in it when they eat. Sometimes we have to pluck a stunned hedgehog out of a bowl, but that is rare.  More often it is their poop.

Dogs are another matter.  They are a real problem in summer.  There is a surge in stray dogs right after hunting season ends, just before spring, when the hunters dump their no longer needed dogs on the streets and in the mountains.  Some of these stray dogs find our feeding stations.  They eat all the food we leave for the cats and drink all the water we put out.  While we are happy that they get to eat, it can become a big problem as it was this summer at the park where dogs came regularly and scarfed all the food.

Puppy dog tails
 Dogs which we love, can sometimes feel like the enemy when trying to feed street cats

I can always tell when a dog has been at the park because, 1) the cats are not around when I drive up, and 2) the bowls are licked absolutely spotless and are usually a good distance from where they were left (and sometimes they are also mangled).  The cats occasionally do eat all the kibble we leave out, (though we try to make sure we leave enough so they don't), but when they do, they ususally leave traces of kibble, just like they do in our home.  Little bits fall out of their mouths when they are crunching and are unworthy for another go unless there is absolutely no other alternative.  At the very least when cats at the feeding stations eat all the food, there is usually a little kibble dust left.  Not so if a dog has been there. There's nothing but a spotless bowl.

So these are the things summer feeding are made of, and about which we complained to one another all summer like little whiners, along with the unbearable heat and the summer visitors from Nicosia who narrow our feeding hours.  "Winter will be here in no time," we reassured one another.  But soon we will be complaining about rains and soggy kibble, cold weather and cat flu, and of course, snails, and, no doubt, more ants, and we will say to one another, "Summer will be here in no time!" :)

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