Wednesday, March 24, 2010

PART 2: How Many Cats Are Too Many?

We have several stray cats that have been hanging around our house the past month or so. One of them has been hanging around for about a year, but recently two more have shown up and one of them has been marking his territory on our front porch (not a good smell). We have a cat trap already, so I set it up and baited the trap with some canned cat food. I didn't have to wait very long, caught one of our own barn cats the very first night! Poor kitty was scared, but I set him free and he was fine. Two days later I was able to coax one of the stray cats into a large dog crate on our front porch with some cat food. It was really amazing because I expected him to be more skittish, but he acts like he wants to be nice though he is just a bit jumpy.
Today I came home from work to find another cat in the trap, but instead of our own this time it was the stray Manx. I was actually surprised to catch this one so quickly because he is really feral. So... two stray cats captured, 1 more to go. Oh, and in case you're wondering what my plans are for these strays, I like to use the TNR program (trap neuter release) because most of these adult cats aren't friendly and if taken to the animal shelter they'll end up being euthanized. I don't mind the cats living in our area, just as long as they aren't reproducing and adding to the overpopulation of cats.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Easter egg contents

Why is it every year we go to Easter egg hunts where we have taken eggs filled with carefully thought out items the week before and return home with eggs filled with sugary candy that even most adults wouldn't want to eat. If you're a parent I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Today in our 2yr old's Easter basket there were eggs with lemonheads, fireballs, warheads, bubble gum, and other assorted totally inappropriate candy. These were the eggs parents put in the bin clearly labeled for ages 2 and under. The way it works is parents who have children ages 2 and under were to bring 1 dozen eggs filled with age appropriate items a week or two prior to the egg hunt. I'm not simply complaining, I have a solution for anyone interested. Here's a list of ideas for what to put in Easter eggs for children ages 3 and under:

Mardi Gras beads
plastic rings
plastic view finders
Easter egg shaped bouncy balls (these are larger than the standard small balls which can be a choking hazard
Easter stamps (stamper with self contained ink... again needs adult supervision, but 2-3yr olds think they are fun)
playdoh eggs
mini sized bubbles
sidewalk chalk
fruit snacks
smarties (not a big fan of candy for young children, but hey this kind is safe and easily doled out in small amounts)

Okay, so some of these items may not be so great for children under 2, but sometimes it depends on the child and what they may put in their mouths. Children under 2 need to be supervised 24/7 anyway, so if a particular item is a problem, just don't let them have it. (I know... easier said than done.)

Now you're probably thinking what should you put in Easter eggs for 4 & 5 year olds. Well here are some of the things we've used in the past or received at egg hunts:

tiny toy cars
plastic view finders
bouncy balls
tiny yo-yos
Easter theme shaped erasers
plastic rings
silly bracelets
rubber lizards, frogs and spiders
tiny zoo animals or farm animals

And, for all of you who think the best part about hunting Easter eggs is getting the candy inside the eggs.... Our 4yr old has cherished his tiny toy lizards and plastic rings much more so than any candy he ever received. Candy is eaten (or thrown away) and quickly forgotten, but small toys in the pocket of a little boy are much more enjoyable.

How many cats are too many?

Here on the farm we have problems with rats on occasion. We get the population under control for 6-8 months only to have a huge problem all over again. We've used rat bait and rat traps inside our feed shed where none of our animals have access to it, but our best rat control are our barn cats. We currently have 6 cats. Paisley is our indoor - outdoor cat and is pretty much just a pet. I've yet to see her venture out to the pasture. We have 5 other cats that actively roam our 6 acres and are fed in the barn daily. They're all neutered males and most seem to be very good hunters, bringing us moles, mice, squirrels and the occasional bird. I'm not thrilled about the birds, but I've come to realize there's nothing I can do about it. Well, to get to the point, we're once again having a problem with rats. They chew holes in the feed sacks, poop all in the feed shed and make holes and tunnels in the pastures. A co-worker has a litter of kittens so I've decided we need a couple more to grow up and help out with our rodent problem. I've heard from many sources that females make the best hunters, but since the females are triple the cost to get fixed I'm sticking with getting males for now. I've already picked out an orange tabby and a cream colored one. You might be wondering what does it matter what color they are? Well if I'm going to be adding more cats I might as well add pretty ones. :o)
So, as I've titled this blog "How many cats are too many?" this begs the question, will 8 be too many? Seriously, I really want to know. We're currently going through about 16 pounds of cat food every 2 weeks. Keep in mind we have 6 cats total, even though only 5 of them are barn cats. I like to keep our cats sleek and trim... you won't find any fat, chubby ones around here.
Let me know your thoughts and I'll share pictures of the kittens once they're old enough to leave their mom.