The Nest

About a month or so ago I let Herbie inside out of the rain. He was dripping wet. Not just a little bit, his feet were slipping on the floor boards, his tummy was all wet from the grass, he was saturated. He is normally really good at seeking shelter when it rains so this was quite out of character. Franklin on the other hand doesn’t seem to mind getting wet and makes no effort to avoid the rain. But any way, I digress… Herbie was really wet.

I did not want him to get on my bed, or the chairs, or the couch really for that matter. But that felt cruel. So I got a couple of towels out of the old towel pile in the laundry (usually reserved for the bottom of the cat travel cage or for wrapping my jars if I am making yoghurt). I put one out folded in half but laying flat. The other, knowing Herbie’s love of feeling secure and surrounded I rolled into a long snake like shape and made a circle. Popped Herbs in there. He didn’t leave for the whole day.

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You can just see envious Franklin trying to edge his way in. They have tried to share it before but two big lads just don’t fit…

The moment he did Franklin jumped in. For the last month there has barely been a 10 minute window where there has been no one in the nest. They tag team. Franklin is in there at the moment. It is ugly, it is one of the first things you see when you walk in the front door. My sister said it has to go, I have won so far, they love it too much. My other sister even had an illness induced nap in there with Herbs, everyone loves the nest!! I opted not to take a photo of her and respect the sanctity of the innocence and trust of sleep.

I will keep fighting for the nest to stay til the boys stop loving it so much. If it is hot they spread out,

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if it is cold they like to be snug and wrapped in.

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If the nest is taken they choose between the chair, the box, or my bed

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Long Live the Nest!

Finishing touches

It has taken me a while, some near professional level procrastination. But I fixed the roof line of the chicken house.

BEFORE:

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AFTER:

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Initially I was going to use a jig saw and cut a fancy pattern into some wood to cover the roof supports. When it became evident that this was unlikely to happen. I decided to take the lazy person path. I took the already cut pieces off the old dog kennel, cut them to size and put them on the chicken house. Don’t look too closely as they are not even. I neglected to measure anything.

They are fragile bits of wood, they have been out in the elements for years. I pre-drilled the holes but still managed to split the top bit that covers the join of the 2 nice side pieces. A bit of glue fixed that. I have decided to leave it unpainted. Less work, plus it seems like closing the gate after the horse has bolted. Not much life left in the wood to bother protecting. As it is non structural and should suffer no weight on it I am hoping it lasts quite a long time! Job done!

Now for the bunting, I think every chicken coop could use some bunting…

The path that led me to chickens

We had chickens growing up. Then there was a decade or so of no chickens. Then my dad got 4 chickens. Life happened, stuff changed and I inherited them. The coop and the ladies were transplanted to my backyard. I had not intended to get chickens. Now I had 4. Speckles. Boss. Runt. Vanilla.

Speckles and Runt after a flooding rain.
Speckles and Runt after a flooding rain.
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Boss
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Vanilla, Runt in the background
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Of course Speckles isn’t inside…. That would be unhygienic….

Sadly Vanilla died of natural causes after about a year here. Runt mysteriously vanished into thin air. I felt the backyard could take a few more ladies. So I went to get 2 more chickens (apparently you shouldn’t introduce just one as it will be picked on). I came home with 3. Bobby. Hugo. Priscilla. I learnt that it is hard to tell brown chickens apart.

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Bobby and Hugo
Priscilla with Herbs in the background
Priscilla with Herbs in the background

I loved having chickens!! I did little to keep them. I didn’t lock them up (I live in the city). They gave me eggs and so much entertainment.

One morning, about 2 and a half years after they arrived, I went into their area to find them all dead. Decapitated. Foxes had moved to the city. I was beside myself. Rage, Guilt, sadness, emptiness. I couldn’t believe the hole they left in the backyard. It was too quiet. I had no one to give the manky kale leaves too. What in the world was I supposed to do with the caterpillars now??

I have a friend who can fix or make anything. He offered to fix their home. So an extension was put on and it was fox proofed. I got 5 new ladies. The backyard is better again. 5 different chickens, unique in appearance and personality. I can’t imagine not having chickens. I still think about my old ladies frequently. I still accidentally call Bella Speckles. I love my new ladies (now almost 2 years I have had them) but I miss the old too.  I am somewhat paranoid about foxes (there are pictures of them everywhere, cute cartoon pictures on every childs backpack, sweater, coffee mug, everywhere! They Are Not Cute, apparently I hold quite the grudge..) . Even if I wake up super early I won’t let the ladies out til well after dawn. They are locked up by dusk, with out fail. Luckily for me my brother lives next door so if I am running late or plans change he is happy to lock the ladies up for me. Payment for thanks is in eggs.

Next I want baby chicks… I have started the research for this.

Lucy-fur

Lucy. Sometimes known as Lucifer. I mean Lucy the cat who has fur. Lucy-fur…

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My sister got her from the animal shelter almost a year ago. She is 11 or 12 years old. She is a really beautiful cat. Unfortunately she is one of those cats who just do not photograph well. You can not possible know how lovely she is unless you see her in the fur/flesh. No photograph does her justice, trust me I have tried. Approximately 7000 times. All to no avail. She glares at the camera. Quite the judgey face on her…

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She also has an unusual personality. 90% of the time she is glorious, friendly, happy, a delight to be around. But that 10%, wow, she scares the shit out of me. She is bat shit crazy. She gives no visible warning when her emotions have changed. You only know when she is wrapped around your arm sinking her fangs in that she is done.

I am usually quite an expert at reading cat body language, Franklin has taught me well, the devil is in the detail. I can discern no change in her, she is still purring, still sitting on your lap, still appears relaxed and comfortable. Then she is not. The switch has flicked.

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An example. My sister was reading in bed, Lucy was asleep next to her. She finished reading her book and turned the light out. About a minute later, in the dark, Lucy latched on to her arm and bit her repeatedly in a frenzy, kicking, scratching, biting. Luckily my sister was wearing thick clothing. I don’t know how she continues to sleep at night…

Lucy does not like her paws to be touched. Ever. Respect this. Don’t even look at them for too long.

Lucy2I have a very healthy level of respect for this cat and her possible craziness.

She does not like to be ignored during reading time.
She does not like to be ignored during reading time.

When she is in the 90% she is the best cat. She plays soccer, you roll a ball to her she swats it back, the game can go on for quite a while. She would make a great goal keeper. She has the quietest sweetest meow. She loves to sit on your lap. She has the softest fur of any cat I’ve known. She loves to be patted. She likes to sniff peoples faces. She is adorable.

90% of the time.

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Fat Herbs

I am not wanting to fat shame Herbie. He is beautiful inside and out. It is just that there is so much of the outside to be beautiful.

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We got him when he was around 5 years old. The animal shelter named him Herbie The Love Bug.  He was super super friendly and quite thin. Around 4 -5kgs. We kept his name but shortened it down to just Herbie for day to day life. Turns out he was so friendly because he was hungry. He is now 10 years old, he is 9.6kgs. Still friendly, still loving, but that element of desperation that was part of the love when we got him is no longer present.

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Herbs has a fairly sedate life. He lives mostly inside. He used to spend time sleeping outside in the old dog kennel but I closed it up to stop the chickens laying their eggs in there. Sedentary doesn’t even begin to cover his lifestyle. Random episodes of crazy energy that last approximately 30 seconds to a minute. Then he is done for a few days.

I have threatened him with a treadmill. He doesn’t seem concerned. Both the cats only eat dry food which I believe is high in carbohydrates. They are underfed. The vet has said there is nothing wrong with him except that you can’t get your hands around him and you cannot feel any of his bones ie. Obese. I think his problem is due to his absolute lack of activity. Franklin is slowly losing weight and Herbs is gaining. He must be eating the lions share!

Oh Fat Herbs what am I to do with you???

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Fat Herbs 1fat herbs 2

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hhhh

My cherub Franklin

I am facing a great internal conundrum.

I will start at the start. When I first met Franklin he was at the animal shelter behaving all adorable, he was approximately 6 months old (street cat so they don’t know when he was born) I wasn’t looking for a new addition to the family but he won me over.

Who wouldn't love that face?
Who wouldn’t love that face?

Alarm bells should have sounded when he vomited while I was filling out his adoption paperwork. They did not. I took him home, showered him with love, thought he was a docile little lamb. Was I ever more wrong? He had the cat flu. He was at the tail end of the age bracket where it is often fatal. He was so unwell he could barely breathe. I took him back to the vet so many times “fix him, make him be able to breathe” it was heart wrenching to watch and probably not a picnic for Franklin. The vets gave him all manner of medications and said if he makes it he is very lucky but there is nothing more we can do or give him. I spent many nights wide awake just watching him, making sure he was still breathing. I drove like a maniac to the emergency vet more than once for more medications when he was barely moving air.

After approximately a million visits to the vet over the period of about a month and a half (in retrospect this is a very long time so I wonder if he had something else going on as well) he was finally nearly healthy. The vets were impressed with his fighting spirit. I was wondering where the docile little lamb had gone. He was a terror. Adorable, lovable, but a terror. Turns out he is only docile and loving when he is sick. This has been a great indicator of his health over the years.

Still a bit sick but so adorable!
Still a bit sick but so adorable!

I realise now I could wax lyrical about Franklin and his life for about 20,000 words, easily, so I may just get straight to the point and come back to his shenanigans another time.

Ever since then Franklin has got the cat flu every year, vaccination makes no difference to him, give it or not he still gets it. This hasn’t really been a problem, he gets a course of 1 or 2 medications and is well again in under a week. But he is now 10 years old and has entered the other age bracket where it can be fatal, old age.

2 weeks ago he scared the begeesus out of me by not coming home in the evening. This is the first time he has done this in 5 years (the last time nearly killed him, a month of living in the vet and he scraped through, a whole other story for the next chapter of Franklin). I imagined all sorts of horrible deaths for him, I walked up and down the streets for hours during the night calling him and looking in gutters for bodies. It was horrible and in retrospect perhaps a bit of a dramatic response. I was beside myself. In my mind he was dead. That is the only reason he would miss dinner.

Around 6am the next morning I was looking for him when I noticed a funny noise. The little shit was under the house. I have no idea how he got in there, there is only one door and it is locked. He was thrilled to be let out (surely I would have heard him if he had been there all night so I still don’t know where he was all night) He was filthy. Runny eyes. His first symptom of cat flu. I hoped it was from the dust…. Wishful thinking. As the day progressed it turned to thick gunk coming out his eyes and one started swelling then the sneezing started.

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I took him to the vet the next day. He had a raging case of cat flu and an infected wound from a cat fight (the scab had been there at least a week, she ripped it off and it was gross underneath). The vet said he needed to stay inside for the next ten days, and a ten day course of antibiotics.  He needed every day of those antibiotics to get better. This is out of character for his usual recoveries. Now to my conundrum.

Is it the height of cruelty to make him an indoor cat now? For ten years he has known no bounds. His world has been as far as his legs can take him. I want to make it a 2 bedroom house. Here are the reasons why:

  1. I am hoping that he won’t get the cat flu if he is not out and exposed to the stray cats that live in this area. If he continues to get it it will kill him.
  2. He is an atrocious fighter, yet persists in fighting the strays.
  3. He has the worst immune system, his wounds get infected.
  4. I always know where he is (this gives me greater comfort than it should)
  5. He has a white nose and really shouldn’t be out in the sun.
  6. That is all I can think of now.

The reasons it is cruel:

  1. He has always been an outdoor cat, only has to be home as the sun is going down.
  2. He hates using kitty litter
  3. His world will become so small, I fear it will be like the phenomenon where you put old people in nursing homes, they give up on life and they die.
  4. He desperately wants to go outside.
  5. One of his favourite games used to be how many times can I go inside and out in one day
  6. It feels cruel

Can anyone help me make this monumental decision??? I am really struggling. I have kept him inside 5 days past what the vet said. 80% of the time he is perfectly happy to be inside, he sleeps, he wanders around. 20% of the time he is walking from the front door and the back door begging to be let out.

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Staring out at freedom

I would dearly love to let him out in the garden with me for an hour or so each day and he can chase the chickens and be his general rambunctious self and then come back inside. But he would be over the fence to freedom in approximately 2 seconds flat.

What should I do?