Category Archives: cats

Latest Local Birder News

Yesterday a flock of Indigo Buntings flew through the area. The males are deep blue and the females a sparrow-like brown. There is an empty lot next to our home currently filled with ripe-to-bursting wild peas of some sort, and indigo buntings apparently love to eat seeds and berries.

And I do mean literally bursting – as I went out recently to check on our newly planted honeysuckle and blackberry bushes, I realized I was hearing an odd popping sound. I stood quietly and looked around. Gradually I realized the pea pods on the wild plants were now fully ripened and dried, and since the sun was hot enough, the heat was literally making them explode open, spreading the tiny black “peas” in each pod in every direction when they burst. As I watched, one split and hit me in the face.

These plants must be very popular with the local birds because I have also seen our resident nesting cardinals fighting other birds over rights to feed in the lot, as well as significant blue jay activity there, along with the inevitable small brown birds you see all over.

We saw a hawk last weekend – I think a young one, it seemed clumsy, as if it had recently become accustomed to stretching its wings. It only appeared to be passing through, because after a moment it was gone. Other recent sightings include a flock of about 20-30 Monk Parakeets, and a close up sighting of a buzzard.

Currently two ducks seem to have taken at least temporary residence in a pecan tree across the street. I am not clear on their relationship – sibling or mates? Young ducks tend to stay close in family groups until mating time, and these look very similar in color, and small. Possibly they are both young mallards.

Our four cats remain convinced that if I let them out they could catch any of these fascinating feathered creatures, but the only cat I have known to have caught a bird is the feral cat who graces our doorstep and whom we feed to discourage her bird-hunting ways.

Summer PhotoBlog

This Summer we bought our first home.

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So I’ve been doing a lot of gardening and work around the house.

Probably the best part of the garden so far is the sunflowers:

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Of which the bees seem to approve:

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We also have a New Orleans yard classic, banana trees, although they aren’t very large yet:

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As well as a number of other plants in pots and around the house.

The cats have slowly settled in. Once they became acquainted with the local wildlife it all became a bit easier for them:
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And before we knew it, Rosh Hashanah had rolled around again.

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All in all remarkably busy – and that is just a brief overview! More to come soon!

Shelob’s Noisy Boyfriend

I was up very late last night. Hopefully this post won’t be too incoherent as a result!

Longer days and increased light exposure make it difficult for me to sleep as the summer solstice approaches. Even though this far south the day-night differential is less pronounced, there is still about a 3 hour difference. Also, of course, it is much warmer than it was even a month ago. This, along with the copious rain we have had over the last week, has encouraged a vast surge of life in our urban swamp.

As I sat in the darkened, quiet house, I could hear the cats inside, the crickets outside, and – a hissing sound? The sound continued, just at the threshold of hearing. I turned off the lamp and peeked through the blind. It seemed like the sound of someone whispering nearby, so softly that I could only hear the sibilant lisps of the esses and soft cees. But no one was on the street. No one in the house was awake. Curious.

I sat down and listened. A bird? A bug? I could hear the gentle chirping of crickets and small frogs. But just as I would decide the hissing had been my imagination, I would hear it again. There was a strange quality to it, with a little grunt or squeal at the end of the hiss that is hard to describe.

I soon determined there was no imminent danger – we have security bars on the house anyway – and it was very late, so I began getting ready for bed. I wandered into and out of the living room a few times in the dark, but then I did need to turn the light on for a minute to find something. The cats were eagerly jumping on something in the corner of the room, and I went to investigate.

From out of a box in the corner, leapt a large, male huntsman spider in perfect condition. Giant orange fluffy cat also leapt up with glee and put his paw squarely on him, pinning him to the wall. I lifted his paw up and let the spider run away. The cats stared at me with deep disappointment, and then at the spider as it ran far, far out of reach. I laughed at them and went to bed.

Research shows that huntsman spiders, among others, can produce sounds when threatened or when mating through the process of stridulation – rubbing the legs together. I suppose a giant orange clawed paw reaching into your box cave repeatedly to destroy you would qualify as a fairly serious threat!

I also imagine many people would be curious as to why I made the cat let the spider go free. I don’t like to kill unnecessarily, and huntsman spiders are not dangerous. In fact, they can eat insects that are pests to humans. I have been bitten by a huntsman once before, and only because I accidentally put my hand directly on it. The bite felt like the tiniest pinch and I had no reaction to it at all. Since my house is, however, almost entirely bug-free, I hope the spider went outside – it will find little to nothing to live on here and if it comes out in the open, the cats will just kill it.

But outdoors summer evenings in New Orleans – that is the time for nocturnal hunters of all sizes.

Giant spider, I wish you well.

Not Bobcats

maine coon, orange cat, cat, fluffy cat

Not a bobcat.

During the last semester I was in college, I had a class with a professor who shall remain unnamed. She made some remarks during one of her lectures regarding lesbian stereotypes and people imagining they all end up living with lots of cats when they are older.

I glanced down at the cat fur on my shirt and decided to not say a word, although I laughed about it with my wife when I got home.

I’ve had many cats in my life, but until these last few years I have never had a long-furred cat. When I got two little orange kittens from a friend they seemed like every other kitten I’d every seen – blue-eyed, roly-poly, and mischievous. They only had the baby fur that sticks out in all directions and is very short. Furthermore, their mother was a tortoiseshell calico, delicate of bone and decidedly short-haired. Their sisters took after their mother. So what happened next was a complete surprise.

Somewhere around three months, I noticed they weren’t losing their baby fluff. I mentioned this to my friend and she mentioned, only then, that the suspected babydaddy of the little orange fluffballs “might have been” a big fluffy yellow-orange cat running around her neighborhood that she thinks is a Maine Coon. Interesting!

I had heard strange tales of these cats and how big they got, but never actually seen one, or a picture. So I went to wikipedia, not really believing the whole thing – and right there on the page was a picture of a Maine Coon kitten that looked very eerily like the ones I had. And thus began our journey…

Unlike their sisters, many of the Maine Coon looks and qualities seem to have bred true for the two boys. They are not full sized as they are not purebred, but I am happy for that, as this probably also has insulated them from most of the health problems of Maine Coon cats. They have now reached their full growth. The larger boy is about 15.5 pounds and very muscular. The one pictured above weighs 12.5 pounds and at that weight is so lean I actually worry about him.  The scratching post pictured next to him is an extra tall scratching post that we had to search for because they have to hunch over to use the short ones. Even the tall ones aren’t really tall enough. A delivery person came to bring something to our house the other day and actually seemed afraid of them. I feel like I should make little signs saying “not bobcats”.

In spite of their comparatively huge size, these are also some of the sweetest natured and interesting cats I’ve ever had. Maine Coons are very “vocal”, which is a way of saying they will meow and make other cat noises at you a LOT. They are good communicators. They like to “help” you do everything, and sometimes need to be discouraged. The one pictured above likes to “help” me play video games. He prefers World of Warcraft. I have actually let him play. Once I walked away for a while and when I came back he’d typed out a message to my guild and flown around the city. I swear I am not making that up. (But the message was something like “////,..,;l,l;;;;;;;;;;;;,/.,/”. So I’m not sure what he was trying to say.)

But perhaps the most fascinating incident I’ve seen with the two of them was from the last place we lived. The two cats, being brothers, are very close. And there were brown huntsman spiders in the house. If you don’t want to click that link – these are huge spiders, huge, not dangerous, but very nerve wracking because they jump out from behind things. But to the cats, they were playthings. One day, a giant huntsman began running up the wall and up to the ceiling. And I got to watch the brothers work as a hunting team to bring him down. One leapt up several feet in the air to swat the spider off the wall and the other pounced on it. That spider never had a chance, I’m telling you, Shelob was gobbled up within seconds. It was like watching a miniature nature show in my living room. They took my breath away.

My beautiful fluffy hunters.