animals


We have tried to automate our cat care.  That puts the idea in a short nugget.  Further explanation requires many more words.  Cats are normal jumpers.  Fences are an enjoyable path along the side of the lot – not that a cat as any respect of man-made property limits.  Dogs, for the most part are respecters of fences.  I say the most the most part, because there are exceptions where they have jumped over or just put a hole in the fence.  This is an important concept to us as we have a canine who thinks cat nuggets are a wonderful commodity to munch and leave around the house.  (knowing cringe here is appropriate)  By utilizing the characteristics presented, we have installed a block from the dogs and managed to keep nuggets where they belong.  Initially, this began as a set of shelves in the corner of the bathroom.  The bottom shelf is relatively even with the counter and above the toilet.  In the corner nearest the sink, a hole allows tubing to connect from the water supply to one of those automatic dog waterers.  That job took a week to get plumbing to match and stop leaking.  Frustration level – orange.  Around the corner of the same shelf is a blue bowl.  There is a piece of downspout leading to the second shelf.  The cats were smart enough to discover that if they dug into the spout of the food dispenser, they could obtain additional supply.  Placing the food dispenser on the next shelf stopped that behavior.  Yes, the food is measured and dispensed at three times through the day.

The dispenser measures the amount of food and the motor runs producing a low noise calling the most food aggressive cat – Whiskers to the first shelf before the cycle is finished.  This has been going on for a few months, so the amount of food consumed is reasonable, I guess.  All weights of the cats are being maintained, except Whiskers.  She has doubled herself since her reproduction factory was removed.  I guess the cyclic cat cry was replaced by an appetite.  There remains a little food about 1/2 hour post administration and this is eaten prior to the next cycle, so I’m not of the mind to change the settings any more.

That leaves the cat pan.  Put a clothes pin on your nose, here comes the cleaning again.  Remember we have three cats.  Take your normal olfactory sensation and triple it.  We tried regular litter, sand, scoopable, and finally had two pans – one with scoopable litter and the other with pellets and a pad underneath to catch the urine.  The combination worked all right.  That’s when I noticed the Cat Genie.

The Cat Genie is expensive.  It’s not as much as a couple of other styles utilizing scoopable litter, but still takes quite a chunk of change.  Also, there is the need to have cleaning fluid and replaceable pellets returned to usage.  The unit is designed to force the buyer to use only the brand supplier.  There is a radio code placed in the package of the soap which ostensibly identifies the authentic soap and times cycled for the machine.  One cannot refill the cartridge and replace it.  The machine will reject a reintroduction of the same cartridge.  I guess that is the reason there were empty cartridges available on ebay for $9.  Anyways, we purchased this machine and have been using the supplies as required.  The machine has had a couple of hicc-ups and required a cleaning and removal of two foreign objects at different times.  The first time was a ball.  All the poop was collected in the chute and filled the thing.   A superball was enough to block operation.  Another time it was making a ferocious noise and this time I had to tear down all the way to the pump to discover a picture holder – one of those bent metal pieces you hammer on to the wall on which a picture is hung.

The unit has been running well after the objects were removed.  Placement of this unit was consideration.  We had it in our bathroom for a while and worked around it.  The dogs would remove treasures from time to time and the cats were so-so about consistent usage.  We would have treasures here and there and the shampooer was well used as well as several things run through the washer.  A better placement needed to happen.  There is a closet next to the bathroom.  I cut a hole in the wall between the closet and the bathroom allowing a cat to enter the bottom of the closet.  Next we obtained a duct fan, motion detector with 10 minute timer and LED light strip.  All these were utilized in the bottom of the closet so that when the cat peeks through the opening, the light turns on as well as the fan which is ducted into the attic and out the vent in the roof.  The bottom shelf was extended to cover entirely to the door and separate that area from the rest of the closet.  Next a water supply was added as well as a drain set into the tub drain.  The Cat Genie was placed in this closet and all operate well.  The dogs can’t get into the closet and the cats have seemed to adopt this new location as we haven’t received any more treasures in the bedroom.  One, and we don’t know who, has occasionally placed an offering in the tub.  I don’t want to fuss too much as this location is phenomenally easier to clean than other locations which were formerly utilized.  One additional observation I have made is that when the bath mat is left in the tub, there are no treasures left there for us.  You can guess where the bath mat has been left.

The next wonderful observation is that entering the room doesn’t have the aura of cat presence to the olfactory observer.  Our air is actually cleaner as a result of this set-up.  I can announce pleasure of that result.

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We have three felines.  They are each distinct characters.  Jake has been around these parts the longest and is the male.  He has been surgically altered, but is still the male cat.  (Funny how that doesn’t change things much.)  Next came Pearl.  She is the silent one of the group.  We have actually been training her to speak.  If she wants a treat, she has to meow.  She mostly would rather avoid confrontation with any others and stays by herself.  We have been working with her for a few years and she is actually starting to come up and spend time with us.  The tail end is Whiskers.  She is the youngest cat, and a hormonal teenager.  (in cat years that is)  She hasn’t been surgically altered, but that is in her future.  We’re hoping it will quiet her cycles.  Quite being the operative word.  That would be associated with sleeping through the night.

Anyways, what these three have in common is basic life needs: food, water, cat pan.  The food dispenser is a battery powered unit which was programmable and provides three meals per day.  With much battle, a water bowl was added to the automated list and has been operating for a couple of months.  The last item needed to attain full automation would be a cat pan which would scoop itself.  Well, there is one which comes close.  It is the Cat Genie.  The thing had promise of small pellets which would be washed and dried daily to allow a continuously clean cat pan.  No scooping.  Yea!  Once the opportunity presented itself, we obtained a unit.  It does take up a bit of floor space – about two feet by 19 inches.  The bowl is round in front and the mechanism is box-like on the back.  Amazon has them and one was showing the other day cheaper than we paid for this one.  Anyways, we unpacked it and started assembling it on the bedroom floor.  Jake immediately started to use the unit.  We moved him off and started the hook-up in the bathroom.  While there, before the hook-ups were finished, Whiskers blessed the unit with its first baptism.  We finally got the hook-ups and spouseinbox started programming it.  The unit ran its first time.  The scooper moved down to the pellets and the bowl started to turn.  The valve for the water opened and all the retained air in the line made an immediate exit with the appropriate pow sound.  All the cats jumped.

After that first cleaning, all three felines sat at respectful distances and eyed the unit.  Whiskers proved more brave than the other two while approaching with back feet stretched and back low to the ground.   She inched forward until her nose was near the front and just as her nose was about to touch the rim, jumped backwards just like rubber bands stretched from the bathroom door had done their deed.  Jake maintained his superior stance on the counter overlooking the unit and would sit there and stare.  Pearl just avoided it and would hop on the toilet, then over to the food and water.  The automated cat pan was off to a bad start.  Nothing like scaring the crap out of the users to set up a new relationship.

The booklet which came with the unit advised to leave the old pan there, but not clean it.  We tried that stance and were rewarded with poop on the bed.  No one can say the cats don’t know how to express themselves.  Since there were three, we had no real idea who the real culprit was, but had a guess.  Now what to do.  We started locking the cats up in the bathroom with the unit for most of the day.  That way, they would be there when the machine did its cleaning and have to experience its behavior.  This would also assure us a clean bed.  Win, win, I thought.  We would let out the cats when we were home and washed full bedding two more times – for urine.  I was having pictures of placing wires across the blankets and hooking them up to an old Ford spark coil.  Of course that would be a lot of work and I didn’t have the time.  Oh well.  We kept doing the cats in the bathroom for a while and as of last weekend, I took the horrific old cat pan out to the garbage and dumped the residue.  If anyone wants some material for biological warfare, I know how to supply.

We kept in the cats for a couple more days, and started to notice first Jake, then Pearl, and finally Whiskers used the automated unit.  As of today, the cats were provided freedom and the bed is good for us to sleep.  Yea!  We finally have the cat care automated.  It only took about three weeks of retraining.

Addendum: I found a video of the cleaning cycle so you can see what freaked out my clan.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeJ7hU5zcuQ

Using nature to assist in one’s comfort and enjoyment is quite a nice idea.  After all, that makes the enjoyment natural.  No one can fuss about the effect as it’s nature too.  I don’t like mosquitoes.  There are other bugs which just bug us.  I have sprayed to keep down the numbers and still have issues.  A discussion of Purple Martins took place at work.  These amazing birds fly between our fair land and Brazil.  If one can attract a Purple Martin, there is a hungry animal who likes to eat flying insects.  There are a few needs of the bird for attraction though.  They are prey for owls and a couple of other birds so like to stay in a high house with nothing around it.  Their house also needs to be removed at the end of the season so that the sparrows won’t try to take up residence.  That means the house has to be high and accessible.  We already have the food supply, so just need to attract the birds.  An acceptable house was obtained from a local farm store and that left the pole.  After negotiation with spouseinbox, we decided to place a pole which would also function as an additional support for the fence as a rough storm blew down that section of fence a few years back and we had to replace.  The height measurement was recommended to be between 10 and 20 feet tall.  The fence was 6 foot and the normal footer was two.  That meant having to dig a hole 4 foot deep to allow a longer pole to be placed and still be accessible when lowered.  small hole

It doesn’t look so from this perspective, but this hole was 4 feet deep.  It was an interesting dig as well considering the caliche.   The fence pole is a 10 foot pole, normally for an 8 foot fence.  We’re using it for support as well as the ability to place a 10 foot pole inside to obtain the required height.  The next question was how to get the internal pole up to position and return it as well.  We added a pulley to the bottom of the internal pole with garage door cable connecting from the top of the fence pole, around the internal pulley and out an external pulley.

Note the notch in the pole for insertion of the pulley frame.  The top part of the pulley was removed and then a hole was drilled through the entire unit with the bottom part threaded to allow the screw to be secured through everything.  The top external pulley was removed from its store mount and given a new mount on the pole.  This one was actually a 2″ piece cut off the pole and then split in half.  Each half was bent to location for the pulley and then drilled and pop riveted into place.  We took a fence cap and drilled a hole the size of the internal pipe and sanded until it fit.  This stabilized the pipe immensely.  We then ran up the pipe, selected a location at an appropriate distance and put a screw to hold the cable and hence the elevation of the bird house.  Once placed, there was a little twist in the wind, so per siblinginbox, I may place a pin to hold the pipes without relying on just the cable, but that is a future project.  At least it is in place now.  We have potential for Purple Martins and hopefully fewer bugs this summer.   assembled pole

Update: I published, looked at the site and then realized the photo editor removed the color when I resized to make pictures smaller for the web site.  I tried to get a smaller one with color and it wouldn’t, so here is the color photo, full size.

IMG_5552

I ignored the first alarm this morning and rose at the second an hour later.  A little extra sleep was warranted.  By bedtime last night the physical and emotional states had been through the ringer and had walked past the exhausted road sign a few miles back.  Yesterday started at an early 0300 with a formula mix for our little charge who barely took 1/2 teaspoon.  We had agreed to take her to the vet and per working environments, spouseinbox took her.  The vet weighed her at 0.8 pounds.  They kept her in the office and said they would work with a warming pad, fluids, and eating and let us know.  The call came a little after lunch.  She had passed.  I went over to the office of spouseinbox and we had a cry.  A few minutes of recovery, and work beckoned again and we completed the day.  Post work, there was the bed used as a carrier sitting there in the car.  Memories flooded again.  After another recovery time, home welcomed and Batman bounded out to check the tote.  So many memories in so little time.  What can I say?  Love hurts because it is love.  Ambivalence would have no emotional baggage.  We know the separation and feel the loss because there was love.  At least Mercy received some on her last couple days with us.  And yes, I’m crying again writing this.  We both knew she was in poor shape when we found her.  The physical signs were not good, but Spouseinbox commented last evening that it was worth all the effort.  I agree.

My optimism has taken a nose-dive.  The kitten spent the last day sitting up and being alert between naps, but there was no bowel movement, and after attempts to push fluids, we had a single wet spot in her bed last night.  Three AM was the time we heard the little cry again, and I got up and made a teaspoon of formula to try and keep the fluids moving.  Spouseinbox has decided to seek counsel of a vet in the morning.  (Technically, it is morning, but let’s say later in the morning – about 0800.)  One interesting observation to this endeavor is the amount of attachment created in two days.  The idea of her not making it past this problem leaves a void on the inside.  My psychology side wants to examine the reasons and basis for such a reaction, but humanity just recognizes there is emotion involved, and this little creature is a victim of circumstances beyond her control.  We are doing our best to assist her circumstances as much as our abilities allow.  You know, it’s amazing how easy destruction is compared to maintaining life.  There is real effort involved in keeping life alive.  It would be easy to do a religious/political comparative here, but I will not do so.