Coffee heat rising

Wildlife Update


So now we know what happened to the bird whose feathers formed a flotilla in the pool: Harvey the Hayward Pool Cleaner ate it.

The last I saw of Harvey yesterday, he was whipping back and forth on the back of the pool at a great rate. No problem. This morning, not so much. The dove feast gave him a bad case of birdstipation, and he had come to a dead (heh) stop.

So Harvey is down at Leslie’s, there to be discombobulated and cleaned out. The Leslie’s guy was less than perfectly pleased. I suggested that maybe we should throw the thing out. He said, “No no, don’t do that…I’ve (gulp!) done gross jobs before”

“We could bury him in the backyard,” I said.

“With the bird inside?”

“Sure… A $300 bird casket.”



Finished mounting the last few strips of carpet tacks atop the castle ramparts. These should repel the neighbor’s effing cats, with no problem.

I’m feeling pretty pleased with this project. The things look a lot better than they did after my first effort, installed a couple years ago. This time I secured them with a zip tie through every decorative cinderblock hole — about 32 zip ties per column-to-column length of wall. That many ties pulled good & tight tight forces the wooden strips to lie down flat flat atop the rows of block.

So the lash-up is surprisingly unobtrusive. Along most lengths, you can’t see them at all. In places where you can see them, they’re not obvious.

But…they surely will be obvious to any wall-jumping cats.




Yes: Feathers in the pool. Wads of feathers.

But: No dead bird. Whaaa?

Normally, if a bird falls in the water and drowns (which they very rarely do), they get sucked into the strainer basket. But there’s no sign of a Deceased anywhere around, except for a flotilla of feathers swirling around the surface.

So I figure one of two things must have happened:

Possibility the First: A hawk or an owl nailed a dove or a pigeon in flight as it happened to pass over the pool


Possibility the Second: DuckDuck came back for a visit and took up her favorite perch on the coping. Other Daughter’s Accursed Cat somehow came over the wall (there are some places on the eastside where the beast could still get in), pounced DuckDuck, and was beaten back. In the ensuing fight, DuckDuck lost a few feathers, but managed to fly away.

Really, even if you were a cat (maybe especially if you were a cat) you wouldn’t want to do battle with DuckDuck. She has a hooked beak that could, in theory, inflict some noticeable damage.

WhatEVER. I’m reminded that east-side wall does need to be shored up . Yesterday I finished installing fresh cat-repelling tack strips on all the walls around the backyard. But the east side still has a short stretch that needs to be cat-proofed. This morning I strapped up enough to cover one stretch — eight strips of carpet tacks. In about five minutes I have to leave for choir practice. This afternoon it will be too hot to install eccentricities — it’s in the 90s here now. Tomorrow morning I’m out the door at 6:30 a.m. And Sunday, of course, we have the Easter Frenzy, precluding any construction projects in the cool of the day. So it’ll be Monday before the job gets done.

But…done it will be.

PLEASE Keep Your Cat Indoors!

Maine_Coon_cat_by_TomitheosWhy do people insist on letting their cats roam loose?

Okay, I know the answer, which I’ll tell you in a minute.

But first let me inveigh against this habit. Obviously, if you let your cat roam around the neighborhood, you don’t care about wildlife and you don’t care about your neighbors. But presumably you like your cat.

Letting your pet out to roam as an “outside cat” is a form of animal abuse. It puts the cat at risk of injury, disease, and violent, painful death. In short, it’s criminal.

Outdoor cats run a good chance of being run over by cars, attacked and killed by dogs and coyotes, infected with feline leukemia and a variety of unpleasant parasites, infected with rabies (cats are now the main carriers of rabies to humans in this country), attacked and injured by other cats, carried off by hawks or barn owls, bitten by raccoons, accidentally poisoned by lapping up leaked antifreeze or rat poison, and deliberately poisoned, trapped, or shot by angry neighbors.

If you loved your cat, why would you put it at that kind of risk?

The answer, of course, is that you would not. Therefore, it’s only reasonable to assume you hate your cat (and your neighbors, and the wildlife for a mile in all directions), and you are deliberately abusing the cat.

Oh, no, you protest. You love your cat! It just won’t stay inside! It rips out the window screens and claws the paint off the doors trying to escape. To that, say I, bullshit. Who’s the human here?

Let me tell you the real reason cat owners let their cats roam around outdoors: They don’t want to clean up after the beloved kitty any more than you or I want to clean up after it. They let their cats outside so that the animals will deposit their urine and feces somewhere else. Admit it: if you do this, it’s because you get about half as much mess to have to clean out of the cat box (and your carpets, and the comforter on your bed, and the cushions on your sofa) as you do when you keep the animal indoors.

Before you fly into a Cat Lover Frenzy, hear me out. I have had a lot of cats in my life, beginning in infancy. Where we lived in Arabia, no dogs were allowed. Dogs would get into it with the jackals that routinely came into camp at night, and the jackals carried rabies. At that time, rabies vaccination for dogs was uncommon; in Arabia it was unavailable. So dogs were banned in camp.

But cats were not. Everyone had cats. At one point, a couple picked up a breeding pair of Siamese cats while they were on short leave in Paris. Before long, the place was overrun with Siamese cats.

Let me think…we had Buttons (an unneutered male that whose chronic war wounds were always in one of three states: open and raw, scabbed, or scarred); Whitey, a (surprise!) white female cat, which had kittens; her funny little white kitten that had a gray spot on its head, right between his ears, exactly in the shape of a pair of horns; Sheba, a seal-point Siamese; a gorgeous long-haired blue-point Siamese; one of his offpsring, a mentally retarded Siamese cat that we named Caslan,  said to be the Arabic word for “stupid.” In San Francisco, another Siamese cat (and its fleas). In Arizona, my mother’s Siamese cat. Then after I married, I ended up with my mother’s Burmese cat and its six kittens, whose chronic diarrhea was more than she could deal with. Then a lilac-point Siamese and a chocolate-point Siamese and two of the lilac-point’s kittens, all four at once. Then the famous Boozer and not long afterward two of her kittens. That would be…what? Yes.

Twenty-two cats, not counting the ones my mother had when I was too little to remember them.

The cats we had in Arabia were allowed to roam the camp. In the 1950s, that was just what people did. There was little traffic, and it was thought that cats would run from jackals, jumping up on cars or climbing trees to get out of reach. But when we came back to the states and bootlegged a cat into our apartment, my mother grasped the idea that cats are better off kept indoors.

And so for years, she and I both had indoor cats.

The last Siamese Tribe of Four, however, gave the lie to the idea that cats will always use a cat box.

Not necessarily so.

And when a cat learns that it can go outside the box, it will go outside the box. Nothing you can do will change the animal’s mind. And no, these cats did not have urinary tract infections and they did not have bladder stones and yes I did keep their damn cat boxes meticulously clean.

They peed and shat all over the house. Their favorite shithouse was the dining-room. They ruined about 2500 square feet of incredibly expensive, ultra-luxurious carpet, the like of which I had never seen before and have never seen since.

The people who sold us the house had fixed it up, planning to live in it permanently, just before the neighborhood’s property values exploded in a frenzy of gentrification. We got the house because its value had shot up so high they simply could not resist collecting. But because they’d figured to be there for a long time, they had installed top-of-the-line everything, including those amazing carpets.

The cats destroyed them.

Before my son was born, I found a new home for all four cats (believe it or not, a doting human took them all in, the poor wretch), had all the stinky carpeting torn out, and replaced it with outrageously expensive wool Karastan that couldn’t even hold a candle to the magnificent carpet the cats had ruined.


The next cats were outside cats. That would be Boozer and her two kittens.

Why? Because I never wanted to clean up a mess like that again!

For that matter, I hoped never to have to clean and disinfect another cat box again. Although I did. Two of them. About every other day.

Boozer and Blue, her gorgeous male kitten, lived to a ripe old age. But Kit-Tan was poisoned by antifreeze, quite possibly left out by a neighbor who expressed his dislike of these loose beasts, who used the raised garden in his front entryway as their toilet. She suffered hideously. My husband — by then my ex-husband — could not bring himself to put her down. So she suffered hideously for weeks and then for months, becoming incontinent (among other things) and destroying yet another houseful of carpeting.

So I can say from experience that turning a cat out to roam the neighborhood is an act of unadulterated selfishness. No matter how much lip service you give to the joys of the cat’s picturesquely predatory nature, the truth is you do it because you don’t want to deal with a cat’s filth.

And it’s a blatant act of cruelty.

Some people are so besotted with their cats, though, that they simply do not and probably can not register the amount of devastation the animals inflict, the filth and disease they spread, the distress they cause to neighbors, and — most amazingly — the degree of risk a roaming cat faces.

My dear neighbor, lovingly known by her father as “Other Daughter,” is something of a cat lady. She’s the reason my yard’s walls are capped with carpet tack strips — which works pretty well, BTW, to keep the cats out of the yard. She walks around the ’hood a lot, and she sees things. She was horribly distressed when she found a cat run over in the alley. She was heartbroken when she found a cat in front of her house evidently killed by a coyote — she packed it sweetly in a little box and left it out for the dead animal patrol to pick up.

And yet…and yet… It does not register with her that her cats could get run over, her cats could get eaten by a coyote, her cats are a damn nuisance to the neighbors.

The only reasonable conclusion is that she doesn’t want it to register.

Repelling Cats: The Practical Benefits

So, I’ve made a spectacle of myself by securing tack strips atop the block walls by way of repelling Other Daughter’s obnoxious cat.  Like the Ant Wars, the Cat War has gone on for some time, and as we know,

He who does battle with a cat loses.

Nice kitty kitty kitty! Click on the image for the alarming details...
Nice kitty kitty kitty! Click on the image for the alarming details…

However… Ah, howEVER… It does appear that for the first time since the last sabre-toothed tiger succumbed, the hominid is winning.

That damn cat has not been seen since I secured the last few feet along the eastside wall and figured out that I could use heavy-duty exterior double-sided mounting tape to attach tack strip lengths to the wall’s column caps, which offer no purchase for zip-ties.

She had pretty much stopped coming into the yard after I secured the entire west wall, the back wall, and the front wall — many hundreds of feet, since the house occupies a quarter-acre lot. Some of the houses in this tract have tiny yards, basically just a walkway in the backyard. But the corner houses were built on surprisingly large lots…and this is one of ’em.

How she found out about Duck, I do not know, but evidently the presence of a large, delicious meal nesting right on the ground was more than the damn cat could bear. Still, the other day’s foray was the first I’d seen of her inside the yard for several months.

A season’s absence of the damned cat has wrought some startling changes.

You need a gecko:

The most visible is the resurgence of birds and geckos, the voraciously insectivorous little lizards native to the Sonoran desert. The yard is alive with birds, from noisy, crowing (insectivorous!) grackles to the flying jewels that are (insectivorous!) hummingbirds, with every kind of tweety-bird and dove in between.

But the loveliest part is that these critters, the birds and the geckos that now find safety in the fortified backyard, EAT BUGS!

More to the point, they eat mosquitoes and they eat flies. This spring, when normally the house and yard would be overrun with the things, I’ve hardly seen any.

A year ago, I swatted over a dozen mosquitoes in the house one evening. They like to come to rest on the white ceilings, where they doze between meals. So at some times of day it’s easy to kill them. But this year, I’ve hardly had to whack at any of them. Nor have I been bit from head to toe…

And the flies? This morning I killed all of two (count’em, 2) with the electric fly swatter. That is astonishing. In the past, a half a dozen would zip in during the time it would take to let the dogs out and back in and to attend to the pool. One year we had some kind of fly bloom…I’ve never seen so many flies, and yes I do clean up after the dogs twice a day and no, none of the nearby neighbors still has a dog.

But Other Daughter has a damn cat.

Cats kill not just birds, as we all know, but also small reptiles and mammals. They can drive certain wildlife populations extinct in a given area. They’re particularly devastating to geckos.

Geckos eat massive numbers of insects. They eat mosquitoes. They eat flies. They eat crickets. They eat roaches. They eat grasshoppers. They eat worms. They eat any number of annoying, garden-chomping, disease-carrying, and unaesthetic bugs. I have not been kept awake half the night by a cricket in weeks and weeks. Happy day!

Birds eat most of those things, and many varieties eat ants.

We’ve had just one incursion from the Ant Queen’s Hordes this year. It was from a colony that set up under the deck, where the “organic” bug guy exterminated a hive of Africanized bees. Guess the guy was right that the stuff he used was relatively less harmful than standard products. Some DE sprinkled across the thresholds and around the entry to the ant nest moved the ants away from the house. But since the cat has been repelled, I haven’t seen a single out-of-control ant colony in the yard.

Getting rid of the cat has gotten rid of the insect pests.


Homotherium (scimitar-toothed cat): Cropbot at Wikipedia. CC BY 3.0
Gecko: shamelessly ripped off the Web.

Other people’s pets

How much do you figure your neighbor’s dog (cat, parrot, boa constrictor, tame alligator) costs you? LOL! I have to say, I expect my own pets to be destructive and figure the repair bills to be part of the cost of doing business. But one thing we tend not to budget for is the depredations of other people’s critters.

While M’hijito’s roommate was in Singapore visiting his relatives and hustling for a job, he left his brand-new Infiniti parked in the driveway (Roommate is the scion of a ridiculously wealthy family).

Quick backstory: Some time back, Roommate became enamored of a cat belonging to the old guy who lives in the house behind M’hijito’s place. He took to feeding and watering the beast, much to M’hijito’s disgust (it uses the vegetable garden as its litterbox), and he has thought of it as “his” cat. In his absence, the cat has taken up residence on top of the Infiniti, where it sleeps at night, out of reach of hunting coyotes and stray pit bulls.

So the other day as M’hijito was headed out to work, he noticed a couple of brown mounds on top of the Infiniti. On closer inspection…oops! Cat mounds!

The cat had deposited two large piles of cat poop on the brand-new silver Infiniti’s roof. Unknown how long they’d been there, but in 115-degree heat, it doesn’t take long for such a substance to bake to perfection. With Roommate due to surface yesterday, M’hijito drove the car to a commercial car wash. This removed the mound, but…well, the paint beneath it was etched and permanently stained.

So, that brand-new car is going to need a paint job. Hope Roommate’s insurance will cover it. Meow!

As I write this, Inez and Carlos the Knife‘s demented dog is running loose in their front yard, once again threatening to eviscerate all comers. I see their new next-door neighbors, the present and blessed occupants of the former Dave’s Used Car Lot, Marina, and Weed Arboretum, managed to dodge inside the house before the dog could catch them between their car and their front door.

Carlos, who is coming onto 90, has a little senility problem. Whenever Inez, who still has all her marbles, turns her back, Carlos sneaks over to the front door and lets the dog out. Once free, it lurks around their front yard but refuses to be caught—reasonably so, since Carlos is given to whacking it with his belt. From the front yard, it chases young children, bicyclists, and postal carriers up and down the street. Fortunately, the mail came before this afternoon’s fugue.

This antic, too, has its expenses. In addition to the potential for medical bills and lawsuits, the last time the hound got out, the post office declared our entire block terra incognita. They refused to deliver the mail to anyone until the dog was locked up or hauled off to the pound (whence it came). And they challenged us all to call the county animal control officers. It took about a week to get our mail delivery restarted, by which time my AMEX bill was running late. I had to pay American Express for the privilege of paying my bill electronically, something that made me stabby, very stabby.

But maybe I have no sense of humor.

One of my students suffered permanent injuries when an idiot’s dog, allowed to run free by the idiot, attacked her as she was jogging down the street in front of her house. She managed to fight it off with several hard, well-aimed kicks (she was a tall, athletic young woman), but it ripped a tendon in her leg and damaged a nerve, which never healed properly.  And neighbor Al carries a shillelagh around with him when he walks his little dog, after the moron 125-pound lady who owns three pit bulls and a retrieveroid had one of her “pets” dig out from under her fence and attack him and his little pooch. She paid the vet bill occasioned by sewing the small dog’s throat back together. Generous of her, eh? Same cur gives Cassie the evil eye every time we encounter the woman and her Iditarod team dragging her down the road.

Sometimes I wonder what possesses people who think their animals are their kiddies, and who imagine the rest of us don’t mind dodging their free-roaming dogs and having their cats defecate and urinate all over our homes (and cars!).

How much has your neighbor’s pet cost you? Can you beat a new automotive paint job?

Annoyed cat, Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez, Wikipedia Commons
Trained attack dog in action, US Air Force, public domain,
Wikipedia Commons