For most humans, 2020 just hasn’t been the best-est ever. But for the pets of the new work-from-home cohort, I think it’s been a happy time. Cats might be more independent than dogs, but I believe they still enjoy having more opportunities to make demands of their humans.
Doesn’t necessarily mean that everything‘s coming up roses for them, however.
Mac vs. the enclosure
Mac (the white cat) is the youngest and (despite the evidence of the last two photos) most energetic of the crew, and it can be challenging, at times, keeping him sufficiently entertained.
The previous summer, Zoë (only) enjoyed getting outside in a little gated area of our yard. While it contained her just fine, the first time we tried it with Mac, it took only about 10 minutes for him to figure out that he could easily climb straight up that fence and jump over (whereupon I picked him up and brought him back in the house).
I know a lot of people just let their cats run free outside. We’ve decided not to, to avoid annoying the neighbours (city bylaws do say you have to confine your pet cats to your yard); to keep them safe from cars, coyotes, foxes, and other cats; and to keep the birds safe from them.
But to get Mac outside but confined, the fence alone wouldn’t do. So we invested in some fine mesh to make a sort of “lid” over the fenced area—and while at it, bought more fence pieces to make the area bigger. It ended up something like this:
And it was effective—except when it wasn’t. Periodically, Mac would find a gap in the mesh to exploit and escape. (Gus did that once also, but spent all of his time out trying to figure out how to get back in, which he managed within the half hour.) Mac never left for long, and we could generally find the opening in the mesh and repair it.
A freak snow in May revealed another problem, however; heavy wet snow on the mesh weighed the fence down to the point that it collapsed. This wasn’t a problem for the next few warmer months; but the cats were really enjoying this new semi-freedom, so we wanted a more winter-proof solution.
Jean started researching options, and eventually came upon the idea of…
When we got the car shelter unpacked, it rather prominently warned that it wasn’t rated for snow load. (To which I wonder, what’s the point of it then…?) We proceeded with it anyway, Jean adding a few features he hopes will help it hold up over the coming months. We have had some snow and big winds already, and so far, so good.
The cats have loved having the extra space and the inclusion of the tree area. And Mac has loved finding new ways to try to escape!
And the acrobats required… It’s really quite impressive. Jumping up to and crawling along high wooden beams. Fence climbing, then rope climbing, and beam walking. Locating a slightly larger opening here. And one over there.
Each time we find him out (again, he so far hasn’t gone too far, or for too long), we have to figure out how he he escaped. Best approach is usually to put him back in, and watch. Eventually he’ll go for it again! Then we patch that area. Good thing we still have mesh!
Today is day five of no escapes.
Zoë and the march of time
If you asked her, I think Zoë would name Mac as her nemesis. Escape attempts, play time with the humans or Gus, and various toys aren’t always enough to keep his interest and manage his energy. Then, he turns to the “chasing Zoë” game, to which she always objects, usually at rather high volume. (Fun on work calls.)
But her real nemeses are her failing kidneys. This summer Zoÿë started having periodic days of being reluctant to eat, so the vet suggested a blood test. That revealed a kidney problem, along with her previously diagnosed liver issues. There is no cure for kidney failure, but her disease isn’t that advanced yet. She still has time; it’s just hard to say how much. (Zoë’s 16, so this isn’t too surprising.)
The vet suggested getting a urine test done to see if she needed medication, and putting her on special food for cats with kidney disease. We haven’t done either of these things. Instead, we focused on trying to get her to eat more regularly. She’s not the type of cat to thrive on getting the same food every day. Our girl likes variety, so we keep quite the variety of can food on hand (can food is better, as she needs a lot of hydration), and typically feed her smaller meals several times a day rather than keep her on the boys schedule of three larger daily meals.
Generally, this seems to be working well. The number of days she’s been reluctant to eat has gradually reduced since the summer. She’s put a little weight back on. She’s only had two days since the diagnosis that she really seemed to feel awful, all lethargy and avoidance. Most days she seems fine. Some days are particularly good—she eats hardily, plays, and demands her pets on the couch.
It is nice to have this extra time with her while her illness isn’t yet making her uncomfortable.
Gus conquers his demons
Gus continues to evolve into a quite different cat from the traumatized one we brought home, who spent most of his time hiding under furniture, and was afraid of us, toys, Zoë, the downstairs, and so on.
Zoë no longer intimidates him. Gus runs and jumps onto the back of couches for brushing and pets, purring loudly. He plays with the mouse toys, the cat tunnel. He demonstrates his frog-catching prowess (not my favourite thing). He asks for food with the cutest little chirpy meows.
So I don’t know that Gus has a nemesis these days. Isn’t that great?