Catio, Or, What Goes Out Eventually Comes In

Kevin-the-contractor finished the catio yesterday, perhaps because I met him on the driveway wringing my hands and wailing. Always effective. Well, it’s 99% done (nothing is ever DONE DONE in home improvement land). Everything is wired, the screen doors are on and latched, the roof panels are attached. And the hole in the house for the cat door was cut and the door installed. What’s left is some cosmetic stuff around the cat door and Kevin’s mysterious desire to do something or other with some miscellaneous boards. I have no idea what he’s talking about.

Pre-Mingo’s miraculous resurrection, I’d been planning a catio but I’d planned to paint the house and refinish the deck first. That can’t be done until the summer, so when the catio became urgent Kevin designed and built it to be modular and easy to take down and put back up. He asked me, suspiciously, how frequently I planned to do this. Probably because in reality he will be the one doing it. I assured him once, for the painting. The next time will probably be after I am dead, so once the deck is refinished he can weld it to the foundation for all I care.

The screen doors are very nice for human access to the front deck and to the side yard but I’m suspicious about those latches. Mingo doesn’t have opposable thumbs, or he’d be Master of the Universe, but I can see the latches wearing a bit over time, a strong wind, or human carelessness. I’m going to get sliding bolts. There’s no reason to make things easy for Ming.

Ming has already mastered the coming-in bit. He should have the going-out bit down soon. The cat door has a magnetic catch but since he’s learned to shove it in one direction he should be able to shove it in the other. Right now I have to open it for him. Maybe he simply likes servants. You think?

Squeaky is confused by the whole thing. He’s been going out on the deck for several years but now there’s all this new stuff and wire and doors and he can’t get down into the yard. You can see the cat door boggles his mind; he watched Ming go through it as if he were a rabbit vanishing into a hat. I’ll get a volunteer and we’ll pass him back and forth a few times. That might help.

Sophie ventured out today when I held the deck door open. She carefully smelled her way around and retreated back into the house. It was even more encouraging because she and Mingo were out there at the same time without hissing or chasing. Time. This will all take time. I can’t do the pass-the-cat routine with Sophie since I can’t pick her up. She’ll sit in my lap, she sleeps next to me, she enjoys being petted as long as I follow the rules, but No Picking Up Cat. So I’m hoping she’ll see Ming or Squeaky go through and get the idea. Otherwise I’m going to be holding the deck door open a lot.

I’m posting pictures of the completed catio below. Obviously, it needs furniture: at least one climbing post, some boxes and ramps, god knows what. Maybe I’ll get Mingo a trapeze.

Reintegration, Or, Some Of Us Are Not Happy

I knew, I KNEW, reintegrating Mingo back into the household would be difficult. Integrating him as a kitten was fraught and he’s not a kitten anymore. His personality is completely unchanged by almost two years growth and two years away: he’s dominant, stubborn, persistent, and he does not share.

After Ming disappeared from the yard I spent days beating myself up for letting him out of the house. I still think it was the wrong decision, obviously, but now I have a little more sympathy for past-me.

On the bright side, no one is actually bleeding.

Kevin-the-contractor is building the catio. It’s going to be lovely; unfortunately (there’s that word again) it is not finished. He didn’t show up yesterday but he’d better come today and finish the job or else he’s going to make history as the first Midnight Contractor of Boulder Creek. Because the pressure of too many cats in a very small house is overwhelming. I speak as The Overwhelmed.

Before I let Mingo out of quarantine I put pheromone collars on him and Squeaky. I thought if they smelled alike they’d be less inclined to kill each other. I did not put one on Sophie because I don’t have six arms. I also plugged in Feliway dispensers. It’s been years since I’ve had to use the dispensers. I mention this in my own defense because there’s no kind way to say this: I plugged them in upside down.

Yesterday I discovered a big bald patch on Squeaky’s neck under the collar. I instantly removed the collar, and I took off Ming’s for good measure. I cleaned up the oily mess from the Feliway dispensers, and removed those also. Have I mentioned I’ve changed the cat litter for another type entirely?

Cats hate change. So I’d removed the calming elements and made major changes. This would go well. WHAT WAS I THINKING?

This morning Squeaky woke me at 5 am. I fed Mingo and locked him in the back room, then fed Sophie and gave meds to Squeaky and fed him. I staggered back to bed and crawled out at 8 am. It was obvious I had to clean the litter boxes and while I doing Ming’s  Squeaky marched behind it and peed on the floor and against the wall. Right in front of me.

And they say cats can’t talk.

Okay, let’s back things up. I’ll get more Feliway and plug it in right side up. Duh. I’m not sure about the collar issue; I’ll talk to the vet. And I’ll do an old litter/new litter combo for a while.

Back, way back in the dim past when Kevin ripped out all the old carpet and put in the tile flooring, I had him seal the baseboards. He thought I was nuts, but ah ha ha I was right.

And that catio better get finished today, Kevin.



When A Door Opens, Or, Now I Remember

First thing up: Several readers who are not currently owned by cats have suggested I’m not really that fond of Ming. As it is possible to hold two conflicting ideas in your head at the same time, it is possible to love a cat to bits and simultaneously long to whack him over the head with a mallet. One feeling doesn’t drive out the other. Please note the adorable photo above; thirty seconds after it was taken Ming sank his teeth into my arm. I went from a puddle of awww to a shriek of owww just like that.

Anyway, after a very long week of quarantine, Ming got the all clear from the vet. I opened the bathroom door, expecting excitement and drama. Not so much: he strolled around the house like a prospective buyer, calmly inspecting each room. I thought he might say “I like the layout, can we talk about utility costs?” The climax, such as it was, came when he hopped on the bed and cautiously touched noses with Squeaky. Squeaky was around when Ming was a kitten — he’s the cat who famously barfed when he first saw him — and I’d put a pheromone collar back on him. No drama, no fireworks.


Sophie the Tiny Cat was also on the bed, but she’d crept under the blankets for a nap and she stayed there all day, obviously hoping whatever was walking on her would go away and not come back. Alas, poor Sophie.

My dear friend Kay, a self-professed cat lady, pointed out Ming had no scars from fights and that his ears were not tattered. This, according to her, meant he’d been inside or protected during his absence. After a week of Ming roaming the house, I have a different theory. I think the reason Ming doesn’t have any fight scars or wounds is because he won all his fights. Because he’s huge and he fights all the time.

I remember — now I remember — what it was like choreographing movements when you have three cats and one of them is Ming. I’m back feeling like the man who had to get the fox, the chicken, and the bag of grain over the river in a boat that only took one at a time, without any of them eating the other. It’s possible but you have to think it out.

Feeding time: I feed Mingo first, shut up in the back room. Then I give Squeaky his meds, and feed him and Sophie. Squeaky eats right away but Sophie is a nibbler. She’ll wait for Squeaky to finish and then nibble a bit. She walks away. Ten minutes later she returns and nibbles some more. I give her as long as I can before I let Mingo loose, because he immediately rushes over and polishes off whatever is left.

Squeaky weighs 11 lbs. Sophie weighs 9. Mingo weighed 11 lbs. at the vet’s, but he’s a third again Squeaky’s size and I’ve been feeding him at least 4 times a day. He eats everything I give him; he’s putting flesh on his huge bones. Maine Coons eat a lot.

Mingo has had at least one serious screaming roll-on-the-floor snarling fight with Squeaky. The fur literally flew. I separated them; neither was injured. I’m not sure whether there wasn’t time for serious biting, or it was all dominance display and relatively harmless. Sophie, being half Ming’s size, runs. Of course, he chases her. He chases her a lot. Every so often they are in the same room and we have relative peace, but not often. Sophie survived life in a feral colony; I’m hoping she can survive Ming. She is eating and she still has her nap times on my bed but she won’t sit in my lap anymore, because Ming, which is sad. I miss her.

Both Mingo and Squeaky have pheromone collars on. The collar seems to reduce Squeaky’s stress, because he’s acting normally except when he’s going north through a doorway and Ming is going south. And today they might (I say again might) have been playing, chasing each other around the hassock. His collar has no effect on Ming, except he smells like a bunch of flowers.

I think Ming is bored and easily over-stimulated into biting. According to about three cat “authorities” on the web, bottle-fed kittens frequently have biting problems because the human doing the bottle feeding didn’t teach them not to bite, as a mother cat would. Since I’m the one who bottle-fed this monster, clearly this is all my fault. Who the hell knew?

When he bites, I pull my hand/arm/limb away and disengage, ignoring him. It does seem to confuse him, although his response is to try to bite harder. He also gets timeouts, like a tantrum-throwing two year old.

In time, I hope we all get used to one another. I remind myself, with cats, it’s all about patience. It took 9 months for Sophie to sit in my lap. I’m not going to venture a guess on how long it will take Ming to stop tormenting the other cats, and for them to adjust to him.

In the meantime, I’m pinning my hopes on getting the catio built. It might cure Ming’s boredom and give him a socially acceptable outlet for all that energy. Fingers crossed.