Pumpkin does paperwork

Pumpkin does paperwork

Friday, September 9, 2011

DIY: Keep your feline "escape artist" from climbing your wooden fence

Cats have serious claws. They can climb just about any porous surface - to a point. As long as your cat can't jump and land on the top of the fence without using her claws on the way up, this solution should work for you.

Xappa, the Escape Artist
In my case, I had already installed some cat netting on a wooden fence, but my "escape artist" was able to make a cat-size hole through the netting in the corner of the yard where she could get good leverage. It took her weeks of working the netting until she was able to squeeze through.

To remedy the situation, I obtained two 24" x 36" sheets of clear lexan, the kind of material used for picture framing, and plastic windows. I chose clear because it was available locally and would not be very visible. I got some exterior wood screws and some "fender washers" from the hardware store and put the two sheets up where the two fences met. I aligned one 24" side against the top of the fence, and 36" side along inside corner where the two fence lines met. I carefully drilled some holes and secured the sheets with 2 to 3 screws along each edge. I also made sure the edges of the plastic sheets lined up well in the middle because I didn't want any "rough spots" that could be used as a claw-hold.
Two plastic sheets up in the corner, one screw to go...
Fender washer and screw
When it was all done, it was hardly visible and the escape artist had been foiled. She was unable to dig her claws into the smooth hard surfaces, and since she couldn't get up into the netting without using the fence to climb on, the solution worked and I could relax knowing she was safely contained once more.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Conciencious pest control without needless killing or cruelty

Some wild animals that live around humans are considered pests. Around our area, we have raccoons, skunks, opossums and some rodents. Most of these critters are attracted by food and/or shelter. It is unfortunate that many people who are dealing with these critters, believe the only way to get rid of them is to kill them. This usually involves poison, shooting, or worse, and there is no guarantee more will not return. It is my opinion that these solutions subject animals to needless pain and suffering. Many larger "pest" animals also help reduce populations of harmful insects like small rodents, grubs, spiders, termites, and critters harmful to gardens.

Here are some suggestions which come from the most common issues I hear from people regarding their pest problems. In my opinion, the best solution is to make your home undesirable to "pests" - avoid providing access to the things pests want.

Most people I have spoken to who have a raccoon or skunk problem for example, reveal that they feed their own pets in areas which are not protected from wild critters. In addition, a common practice is to put food in the pet's bowl, and leave it alone. If the pet doesn't consume the entire serving, it sits around. The smell of pet food is extremely irresistible to many wild critters and they can smell it a mile away, especially if it has been sitting for a while. If the feeding area is outside or in an area accessible, to critters, it will attract the riff-raff.

Pets should be fed, then the excess food should be removed. This not only reduces the time the food is out, but it is also healthier for pets. Most veterinarians would probably agree, "free-feeding" your pet is not as healthy as controlling mealtime yourself.

Many people feed their pets in an indoor area, but also have a basic pet door which any critter can pass through.  An automated pet door which allows only the family pet (s) to come and go will ensure only "authorized" pets have access to the food, and will keep all others out. Wild critters might smell it, but once they realize they can't get to it, they will eventually move on. Scavengers are opportunists.

In addition to good pet feeding practices, pest-proofing your home is a good idea. Close or screen-off gaps, holes and cracks where critters can get in and under. Of course you need to be sure to not trap any critters anywhere. In our case, we had a family of skunks living under part of our deck. We did some research and discovered they like to have "escape routes" near their den. We screened off their "back door", and after verifying they were no longer using their den, we closed off the rest of the area. The skunks are gone, and we sleep with a clear conscience, knowing we "evicted" our four-footed squatters without causing any pain and suffering. In addition, your own pets will be safer from potential injuries and disease. Makes Sense!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Laundry Basket Becomes a Cat "Battle Tank"

Here's a fun thing to try. If you have one of those soft-sided folding laundry baskets, try inverting on the floor some day and see if your kitty will take an interest. Put a treat under it if you like. Our cat Baxter loves to dive under things (bags, boxes, papers), so this was a natural for him.


For Baxter, laundry day, is ambush day. He loves the dual purpose material. He can see through it, but still feel like he's hiding. It's hilarious to watch him lie in wait until an unsuspecting friend walks by. Then it's all over for his "victim".

Sunday, May 8, 2011

DIY: Automated bamboo birdbath for under $20; good for birds, fun for cats

Our cats love to watch the birds. The more activities we can create for birds outside our windows, the more entertained our cats are for those long lazy days of spring and summer. The birds have plenty of water and it's all fun to watch. If you already have a drip irrigation system, this little project will add a nice look and great functionality to your yard or garden. The materials for one of these spout poles was less than $20. I made two of these spout poles in a few hours.

If you don't have a drip-irrigation system, you will need a drip-irrigation timer to fit an outdoor faucet or "hose bibb", some 1/4" drip-irrigation hose, a drip irrigation "emitter" or "bubbler" and a few fittings to put it all together. Emitters are available in several flow rates. I used a 1/2 gallon per hour emitter. Make sure you follow the manufacturers directions for assembling and using the drip irrigation components and be aware of any local ordinances regarding drip irrigation systems and back-flow safety requirements.

The body of the spout pole in my case is a 2"diameter bamboo "lodge-pole." Any size will do as long as the hollow inside at the top of your spout is at least 1-1/4" across. Another smaller length of bamboo - about 1/2" - will serve as the spout itself. The smaller piece should not have any cracks.

Cut your bamboo lodge pole to length. You will probably want to bury it at least 9" in the ground, perhaps more for added stability. Make sure you leave at least 2" of open hollow above the top joint, and make sure your pole is tall enough - once buried in the ground -  for the output end of the spout to clear the top of your birdbath.

Prep your spout
Cut your spout as long as you want, but make sure you will be able to reach all the joints with a drill bit so you can drill out the joints to allow the water to flow through.

Cut one end of the spout at a fairly steep angle to form an oval-shaped "catch basin" to catch the water from the drip-irrigation emitter. The "output" end of the spout can be any shape you like.

Prep your spout pole
Drill a hole at a slight downward angle just above the top joint. Make sure you drill a hole that is no larger than the "input" end of your spout. You may need to sand or file the hole a bit larger to get your spout to fit snugly.

Drill a 1/4" hole in the pole on the opposite side of the spout high enough so the emitter will be positioned above the catch basin end of the spout. Drill another 1/4" hole directly below the first hole, just above the joint. This will be the drain hole. You don't want your pole to fill with water in the rain!

Insert your drip irrigation components
Thread one end of 1/4" drip-irrigation hose into the top 1/4" hole. Push it in and work it towards the top of the pole. Pull enough through so you can attach the emitter. Attach the emitter, and pull the hose back down into the pole till the emitter snaps tight against the back of the hollow.

Insert your spout
Work the spout into the body of the pole. The "catch basin" you created by cutting the input end of the spout at a steep angle should fit nicely below the output end of the emitter. Make sure the spout is snug.

Install your pole, and attach the drip-irrigation lines. Turn on the water and enjoy!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Keep your older kitty toasty and comfortable with a heated pet pad

Our older cat Brodie has hip problems. He can still climb pretty well. He loves the lap, but the lap is not always available for nap-time. We have a multi-level cat condo with enough room for each of our three cats to have his own elevated spot. To give Brodie a warm soft spot to curl up, we put a medium sized heated pet pad in his space on the condo platform and topped it with several layers of folded towels. Some of the heated pads are too warm for our kitties and most of the pads don't have temperature controls. Having a couple layers of towels add cushy softness and help disapate the heat. He is quite comfortable with this arrangement.

It is important to distinguish between heated pads and heated beds with sides. The pads we use and what I am recommending here are flat or padded, allow maximum flexibility, rarely get dirty if you keep them covered, and most have a removable cover anyway so it can be washed if necessary.

We have three of these heated pet pads and they are all fairly low wattage (about the same as a light bulb), so you can keep them on 24/7 during the cold season. If you are concerned about power usage or safety, you can use an inexpensive appliance timer to turn it on and off automatically. Just make sure the appliance timer is electrically rated for the pet bed.

In warmer months, Brodie prefers a "cool" bed, so in the Spring, we remove the heated pet bed and just give him layers of towels.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

DIY: Give kitty a view of the world outside from an enclosed yard

Finished kitty "peephole"
We equip our yards with secure areas to protect our cats from other cats, predators and dangers from the street. This frequently includes installing fence-top barriers which prevent our cats from getting on top of the fence. Cats love to be up high so they can survey their domain. Since we do not allow our cats to get up high enough within the fenced area to see very far, they cannot see the "outside world"at ground level very well, except through the cracks between the fence boards which must be frustrating for them.

Brodie sees something interesting
In an effort to help our cats be able to see more of the outside world - with both eyes at the same time - watch other cats, critters and birds at our bird feeders, I created several little windows in the fence at about kitty eye-height. The holes are large enough so the cats can see outside with both eyes, but small enough so they can't actually fit through the hole.

The view
To make the peepholes, I drew a template on of a piece of cardboard, cut it out and marked the fence board. I drilled a pilot hole. Then I used a jigsaw to cut out the shape. I created two of these in different places so several cats could use them at the same time. We owned the property and fence, and the holes I created look out into our own "unprotected" yard where our cats never go, so there were no issues with neighbors, etc. Alternatively, we could have removed the fence board and put one in place with a peephole, then replaced the original later on to "repair" the hole.

Our cats loved their new views on the world and used the peepholes all the time. We had a couple chickens for a while and even they used them. Of course, if your cat can come and go from the yard freely, these kitty peepholes do not make much sense, but they sure are cute.

Friday, March 18, 2011

VIDEO: Cat vs. Beetle: WIN

Our cat Binky makes lunch of a Mt. Hermon June Beetle. Originally posted on YouTube in July 2010. Running time: about a minute.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

VIDEO: Cat vs. Beetle: FAIL

Our cat Binky is a hunter. Fortunately, he doesn't bring in "big game", only the occasional yard bug. Sometimes the bugs have other plans. Originally posted on YouTube in July 2010. Running time: about a minute.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

DIY: Kitty Kafe

Protected access for our cats to fresh grass and a nice view of birds and squirrels 

Kitty Kafe installed
Our three cats used to share the back yard with chickens. The chickens had "cleaned up" the back yard by consuming all the nice green grass the cats love to chew on.

The front yard was not normally accessible to the cats or the chickens so there is plenty of green grass. We decided to build a protected caged-in area which could be accessed from the back yard, through a kitty door in the fence. The "Kitty Kafe" is made from a 32" cylinder of 6" mesh 16-gauge wire wrapped with 1" chicken wire mesh, sunk into the ground and weighted down with medium-sized rocks. The access ramp is a piece of plywood surround by a shield of chicken wire mesh.

Entry way from back yard
The Kitty Kafe gives the cats access to a grassy part of the yard while protecting them from neighborhood cats and night critters. It also doubles as an observation platform where our cats love to watch all the activity around our bird feeders. Our chickens have never tried using a kitty door, so, until they do, Kitty
Kafe will be a chicken-free zone.