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July 23rd, 2022

Dealing With A Heatwave And Mosquitoes

I’ve taken to putting out a bowl of ice next to the water bowl on the porch when it gets this hot. The calico won’t have anything to do with the ice, but when it’s halfway melted she’ll drink from that bowl first, then finish up with the regular water bowl. I’ve no idea what that thought process is.

There’s plenty of shade on my porch, under the trees and she rotates lounging spots. I keep inviting her inside but she won’t have it. So she stays out in the heat. I make sure she has plenty of water. It’s the best I can do.

I got the birdbath going again this morning. At some point I need to adjust its footing and make it level again. Right now I just have some wedges in place. I bought a twirling thing some years ago that keeps the water in it moving, supposedly to discourage mosquito egg laying. Customers usually come pretty quickly in this sort of heat. Mostly they drink, but every now and then I see someone taking a bath in it. The twirler takes up a bunch of space in the middle and I think that keeps most of the bathers out. But at least they get a drink.

I’ll put some water dishes out back, I just have to remember to take them back inside at night and run them through the dishwasher to rid any mosquito larva out of them.

I have a mosquito kill fogger I run every couple days to spray under the deck, a space that I can’t keep standing water out of. It discharges a very dense fog of mosquito kill and it’s very effective, but I have to warn my neighbors when I’m about to use it to keep their pets indoors for a while. They don’t seem to mind I think because it does very effectively keep the mosquitos away. But I can’t use it out front by the outdoor faucet because there are cats out and about there. There is a “natural” mosquito repellant spray I Can use however because it’s pet friendly. It definitely stinks of some spicy plant and after I use it the two street cats that hang out here turn up their noses and avoid the area. I can verify that it keeps the mosquitoes away too, but only for a couple days.

by Bruce | Link | React!

November 2nd, 2021

The Sea Cats of Baltimore

This came across my Facebook stream a moment ago, and I just have to share

From Mikhail Voloshin (Facebook):

I just want to take a moment to gaze in awe at that cat’s face. If one were to try to imagine the hardest, saltiest, snarliest leather-skinned sailor to ever chill the ocean to ice with his mere gaze, and then imagine that that sailor was a cat, then you still would fall short of Herman here. This matted fluffball is a physical embodiment of the Platonic form of “sea cat”. This is the face of a cat who lives on jerkey and rum, who has sung shanties through both doldrums and typhoons, and who thinks nothing of scaling the rigging amid a squall. This cat has exchanged broadsides with Portuguese frigates, dual-wielded cutlasses in boarding duels, slit the throats of mutineers, and rescued crewmates both from cannibal spitroasts and governors’ gallows. He’s torn up his Letter of Marque, bribed a portside prostitute for the route of the Treasure Fleet, and held a dagger in his mouth while climbing up the side of a prize ship in the dead of night. He is eight months old, fifteen inches long, and weighs eleven pounds, and I would not want to cross him in a dark tavern.

Ray Chael says: “I would still pick him up and give him kisses and treats.”

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Sea Cats of Baltimore

June 11th, 2020

Madam Is Not Well Lately And I Am Very Worried

Madam calico is not well. A week or so ago it looks like she got into a fight with another cat somewhere. I’d seen her walking along a block over on 41st street as I was walking back home. Now I wonder if she got into a fight with a cat she wasn’t familiar with over there. But I’ve no idea. She had bite marks on both her ears and what looks like a small puncture wound on her nose that might have come from a cat’s claw.

For several days afterward she seemed withdrawn and sickly. She let her fur get a bit matted and unkempt. But then she seemed to improve. Now she’s looking sickly again, and there’s a patch on her left cheek she’s scratched completely clear of fur. Down in there is what looks like a bloody scab. I’ve no idea what’s going on with it.

Amazingly, she still hunts. Sickly though she seems. And she’s still good at it. After the fight she wasn’t doing too well and one morning I was making a fuss over her at the front door to try and perk her up a bit. She has this routine of coming inside then going back outside…in and out in and out… I can’t leave my station at the front door when she’s doing this or she’ll panic and shoot back out like a rocket. So I open the door and close the door and open it and close it and so on. I usually close the front door and walk away after a while because I have things to do around here. But I left it open only closing the outer storm door which has a full length plastic window that lets her look inside and check up on me. Sometimes when I do that she curls up and naps right on my doorstep. I spent more time than usual with her that morning and she seemed to perk up a bit. Then I went inside with only the storm door closed and after a while I heard this tiny little meow outside and I looked over and she was staring back into the house. So I went over to fuss over her some more. She’d brought me a freshly killed sparrow.

She’s probably something like 12 years old now, which is old for any cat but astonishingly old for a street cat. I wish I could do something more for her than just feed her and make sure she always has fresh water. But she’ll have none of it, and I won’t betray her trust by trapping her inside. I’m keeping my fingers crossed she gets better, but we’re both old bodies that don’t heal as well as they used to. Whatever life she has left she’ll be as free as she was when I first gained her trust and she decided to make my front porch her hangout, and that I was safe enough to allow closeness.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Madam Is Not Well Lately And I Am Very Worried

April 27th, 2020

Cats And Their Little Ways Of Expressing Displeasure

I get just a little late putting food out for the calico and when I do go to put it out I step in my bare feet on dead bird remnants that are all over my doormat. I need to start looking down first. Yes madam, I was late. I need to put BEWARE OF THE CAT signs around my feeders.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Cats And Their Little Ways Of Expressing Displeasure

February 24th, 2020

Warm Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Nice weather over the weekend in Charm City. The Calico approves.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Warm Lazy Sunday Afternoon

April 8th, 2018

Don’t I Feed You Enough??

Feline love. I have the front door opened and the outer storm door closed to let more sunlight in. I look up from my lunch to see the neighborhood calico on my doorstep looking in. So I walk over thinking she would like some food and maybe some fresh water. But…no. She’s presented me with another offering of dead bird…the fourth one in two weeks. Feathers are everywhere on my front porch, and the fresh kill right on my doorstep. 

As I open the door she fixes me with that unnervingly steady cat gaze. Where’s all that cat food coming from…how come I never see you kill anything…here, let me show you how it’s done…

Yes dear…I know you love me. Another one I have to give a proper burial to in my garden. As I wrap the bird up I wonder if Klingons leave the dead bodies of their enemies at the doors of their boy/girl friends as a token of love…


by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

March 16th, 2016


Madam Calico on my front porch steps, in the afternoon, after work…

madam calico

I’ve had a few head butts lately, and some body rubs, if I just sit there and don’t attempt to reach a hand out to her. I’ve been letting her dictate the level of proximity, rather than trying to get closer myself. I don’t think she’ll ever let me actually touch her. But she’s reached a point now where she’s willing to sit very close and occasionally slide up against me as she passes by. Up to this point its been rubbing up against every object on the porch, the chairs, the railings and the door when I open it, but never me.

Still won’t stay inside the house for very long. She’ll come in on cat curiosity and look around…she’s even wandered upstairs once. She investigates the furniture and anything new I’ve brought into the living room, like a bag of groceries for instance. But pretty quickly she gets a look on her face like Oh Dear God What Am I Doing???   And then she bolts. I’m trying to get her to understand that I will always open the door for her. But that lesson might never take. She’s afraid. That’s probably a good thing for a street cat to be in the city.

I was hanging out on the front steps smoking a cigar and saw something laying in the street that looked like a neighbor’s cat had been run over and I panicked and ran to it. It was just a black plastic bag of some sort. My aging geezer eyes decoded it wrong. And a fear I have now that never goes away probably added to the illusion. I’m never getting over it I suppose…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Trust

March 12th, 2016


Madam Calico and me hanging out on the front porch.


It’s taken me five or six years to gain this level of trust out of her.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Trust

November 16th, 2014

Neighborhood Calico

I keep forgetting I can take video now with this little pocket device I’ve been carrying around for years. It’s the still photographer I am. I forget that pictures can move too, if the occasion presents. So the little feral calico cat that’s made herself something of a home around Casa del Garrett has become friendly enough toward me now that she’ll come to greet my car when I return home. Yesterday it was after a trip to the grocery. She’s four, maybe five years old now, which is so I’m told about as long as outdoor cats live and it’s getting on toward the winter cold, and I’m starting to worry about how much longer I’ll have her in my world. So I’ve started recording some moments with her…something now I deeply regret not doing with Claudia…


Toward the end of the video I have a geezer moment and I get the term “tabby cat” confused with “tom cat”. Her dad, obviously, was a tom cat. One of her parents was a tabby.

I started feeding her two hurricanes ago, after I saw her huddled in one of my basement window sills in a torrent of cold driving rain. I knew I didn’t dare go out to try to coax her somewhere dryer because she’d just run off and I was afraid I’d find her dead there in the window sill the next morning. But next morning she was gone. I put a dish of tuna on the window sill and when I checked it later it was empty. I’d deliberately used a very visually distinctive old Fiestaware bowl, and the next time I saw her I put some more tuna in it and walked out on my porch with it and held it up so she could see it. She seemed to recognise it, and I put it down and went back inside and watched from the front window. She came up and chowed down. I knew I was making a commitment then, but she’d been hanging out on my street for about two years by then and I was getting attached. This was before Claudia.

Later that day, while I was doing some lawn work by the front steps, I saw her come over and sit down on the sidewalk about five yards away from where I was, and she gave me a long level stare like I’d never seen a cat do before. I thought, I’m being sized up. Then she walked off.

After that, my feeding her became a thing. Later my neighbors on either side got into it too. One even built a small winter shelter for her out of one of those big plastic storage containers. So she knows she this side of the street is a safe space.

I’ve no idea how much longer she’ll be with us. Five years is a long time for a feral. But she won’t be coaxed least not for more than a few seconds. I’ve gotten her to peek inside the house maybe three times and it’s never for more than a few seconds and she bolts out again. You can’t get too close. She’ll come sniff my shoes and that’s about it. But I got her to trust me and that’s happiness enough.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Neighborhood Calico

January 11th, 2014

Cat Dreams…

Some weeks ago I brought a new cat into the house.   Her name is Isis.   She’s an eleven year old black domestic short hair I adopted from the Maryland SPCA.   More about that later.

I’m down in the art room working on the computer. Isis comes in and sits in my lap for a while, then hops off and lays down on a cat bed I’ve given her for down here. I keep working and after a while I hear a little sound, like a little cat snore. I’ve heard her snore occasionally since I brought her here and usually it stops after a moment or two. This time it gets louder. Then it gets really loud.

Alarmed, thinking she’s in distress, I get up and go check her. She’s laying curled up in the cat bed, and seems sound asleep. But she’s growling. It’s the same noise she makes when she’s at the front window and sees another of the neighborhood cats. You’ve probably all heard that set your teeth on edge slow drawn-out growl that’s the prelude to an all out cat fight. This was the sound she was making. But she was sound asleep, eyes closed, paws twitching slightly. I figured she was having a bad dream. I remembered a passage from Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley when Charley, his dog, was having a nightmare after seeing his first Yellowstone bear:

In the night I heard him whining and yapping, and when I turned the lights on his feet were making running gestures and his body jerked and his eyes were wide open, but it was only a night bear. I awakened him and gave him some water. This time he went to sleep and didn’t stir all night. In the morning he was still tired. I wonder why we think the thoughts and emotions of animals are simple.
John Steinbeck, “Travels With Charley”.

So I place a hand on my cat and for a moment it’s as if she doesn’t feel it at all. Then she startles awake, head up, eyes blinking. (What…what???) I give her some friendly pets and chin scratches and stay there while the dream leaves. She gets up and sits in my lap for a while and I keep petting the bad dream away. Eventually she wanders upstairs to the food dishes. I suppose cats do comfort eating too.

I wonder sometimes what animals that dream think of their dreams. Do they understand the dream wasn’t real? They must have some grasp of it. How else does a cat reconcile waking up from a dream of, oh say, stalking some tasty birds and then suddenly they’re in their cat bed inside the house. Or do they just casually accept that reality is like that? Not linear from past to present, but bouncing here and there like hot water on a griddle.

Silly human…the whole world is unstuck in time, you just don’t notice. Which of course means…because clearly I’m better at noticing these random time warps than you are…that it’s breakfast time whenever I say it is…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Cat Dreams…

September 18th, 2013


I walk through the neighborhood on my way to Cafe’ Hon…a favorite dinner spot.   Along the way I often encounter various neighborhood cats.   We’re not exactly swimming in cats here in Medfield, but Claudia was hardly the only outdoor domestic cat in the neighborhood. They all usually come up to me for a pet or two when they see me coming…somehow they always seem to sense that I’m a friendly human, even the ones I’ve never laid eyes on before.   Apart from the ferals there is only one neighborhood cat who won’t come near…a big grey one that lives at the other end of my street.   But that one’s even more of a diva than Claudia was.   Claudia was a diva too, but a friendly one.

So I cross paths with the black cat that lives across Falls Road, who reminds me of my first cat, and yesterday as I walked to Cafe’ Hon, a little black & white one a few blocks away I’d never seen before, who came up to me for a pet.   It had a name tag exactly like the one I gave to Claudia after she became mine.   I reach down to give them a few strokes before I go on my way, and now I have a new patter I say to all the neighborhood cats as we exchange greetings.

Please be careful…Please…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Cats…

November 16th, 2012

Mercedes Love…Proceedure For Cats

Nice car…   Bluetec diesel is it…?

…I’m here to make sure its residual engine heat does not go to waste.   You’re welcome.


Won’t come near me or sit in My lap…oh noooo…but my car is obviously another story.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Mercedes Love…Proceedure For Cats

November 5th, 2012

(sigh)…Cats! (continued…)

So this morning before leaving for work I see one of the bird feeders needs topping off and as I bring it down off the tree I see the calico watching me from under my car.   She’s seen me get into and out of it often enough now to have associated it with me and I guess that makes under my car a safe space.   Fine.   But now she’s staring at me as I’m bringing down the bird feeder and next thing I know up the stairs she’s coming and I can see where this is going: she wants fed in the morning too.

I thought we had a routine going; she gets food from me but only in the afternoon.   I am the afternoon meal.   You’re feral lady, you don’t want human companionship.   You’re on your own for the rest of the day.   That’s the bargain, right?   But of course the bargain is whatever the cat wants it to be.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on (sigh)…Cats! (continued…)

November 3rd, 2012


She’s an adorable little calico and she’s feral so she won’t let anyone get too close.   But for several years now she’s been lurking around my street and occasionally visiting Casa del Garrett, to check the menu around the bird feeders, and every now and then catching something.   I keep the feeders well off the ground, in part to keep city rats from getting into them and in part to keep little calico cats away from the customers, though I suppose she, and the occasional hawk, also consider themselves that.   I’d rather she left my birds alone.   But she is the most amazing hunter I’ve ever seen and part of me respects professionalism in every endeavor.

And bravery.   I watched one day as she stalked up to the edge of a fenced in yard that usually contains two very large dogs. She would have been a bite sized snack for either one but cat sense must be far superior to spider sense as she seemed to know even though she could not see the entire yard from street level that the dogs weren’t in there.   But a small flock of birds was, feeding on some seed that had been put out. I watched her suddenly leap over the fence, run up the hill, run back down and back over the fence and across the street with a small bird in her mouth. It happened that quick.   Another time I was serenely watching the birds at my feeders from just inside my front door and she suddenly leaped over the top step (where you see her sitting in that photo) and tried to snag one of the birds that were inadvisedly ground feeding there.   What caught my attention was when she made her sudden leap her front claws were striking in the air above the sidewalk, not where the birds were, but where she knew they would be.   That time she missed but was close…one of those birds must have felt the whiff of air as a claw passed by.   I have seen the occasional feathery left overs scattered around my walkway.   Usually it was a pigeon.   She can have all of those she wants.

In a heartbeat I’d take her in, but as I said she’s feral and those cats will never accept human companionship. But somebody has been watching out for her because her coat is usually very clean and well kept and one ear is clipped (you can barely see it in this photo) which means at some point someone scooped her up and took her to the vet to be spayed and given her shots). I’m guessing the city doesn’t mind at least some feral cats prowling about, provided they’ve been spayed/neutered and topped off with anti-rabies, as they’ll help keep the rodent population in check.   And at least until recently someone must have been feeding her.   Good as she is hunting, I don’t think that’s enough to account for the her overall good condition. Most ferals I’ve seen looked pretty tattered.   He coat is always shiny and clean.   Or at least it was until recently.

In the weeks before Sandy hit I noticed she seemed a bit…disheveled.   Her coat had started to look a bit…worn.   And she seemed tired all the time.   She’s been around the neighborhood for some years now and I thought perhaps age was beginning to set in.   Or maybe one of the other ferals around here had bullied her out of her place wherever she was getting food and shelter.   Or maybe the crazy older lady everyone in the neighborhood suspects is feeding the strays had stopped for some reason.   I hadn’t seen the woman around her house for a while.   She’s easy to spot when she goes for her walks.   She’s the one who always wears a heavy winter coat when she goes for her walks, even in a brutal heat wave.   She has family that stops by regularly and I began to wonder if maybe they’d finally taken her away.

So I began to worry about the little calico.   Then Sandy barreled in.   During the worst of the storm I caught a glimpse of the calico huddled in the basement window sill and I felt frustrated I couldn’t just bring her inside.   But any move I might have made toward her just then she would have bolted into the storm which would have only made matters worse.   So I let her be, afraid the next morning I’d find a little dead kitty in front of my basement window.   But somehow she survived it.   Maybe she moved on to wherever it is she normally beds down for the night.   There are crawl spaces under some of the houses, and somewhere under one of those maybe there would be shelter and heat.   I have no idea.   All I know is after the hurricane she was gone, but later the next day she showed up again.   And the next day I did something I swore I wouldn’t.   I put some food out for her.   I knew the moment I did that I was making a commitment I wasn’t sure I wanted to be making. But I did it.   It was the sight of her huddled wet in the basement window sill and I couldn’t do anything but hope she wasn’t going to die of exposure.

A couple days later after work I got a distinctively colored and shaped bowl out of my kitchen cabinets and put it on the basement window sill where I’d seen her during the hurricane.   It had one of the cans of tuna from my winter pantry.   I had about a half dozen of them I knew I wasn’t going to finish by the sell by dates on them, so I figured they weren’t going to waste if I gave them to the cat.   The next morning I saw the bowl had been eaten from, and I hoped it was her and not a city rat that got into it.   I brought it inside and cleaned it out.   I had a plan.

The next day when I came home from work she was there on my front steps.   The front steps are one of her usual perches where she stalks my birds.   I spoke to her and she moved away, but not too far.   I went inside, got the bowl out, put another can of tuna in it and walked outside to where she could see me.   When she saw the bowl her face lit up.   There was a reason I picked that particular oddly shaped and colored bowl.   Seeing me holding it she could make a connection between it and me.   I put it down on the basement window sill, and nearby on the front porch, a smaller bowl of water.   Then I went inside, walked down to my basement art room and peeked under the curtain in front of the basement window.   There she was, eating.   When she was done, she moved away and I came back upstairs and took the bowl back inside.   I don’t want to be feeding all the neighborhood cats, let alone the city rats.   Just her.

A few minutes later I walked back outside.   It was Halloween night and I wanted to put up some decorations and attract some goblins.   As I was stringing some lights on the front steps rail, she came out from under one of the cars parked on the street, walked closer to me on the sidewalk then she ever did, still well out of arm’s reach…sat down…and stared right at me for a time, never taking her eyes off me, like she was sizing me up.   For a good five minutes she did that, as I tried talking a calming patter to her while I was stringing lights.   Then she seemed to shrug, and walked away.   The next day, promptly after work, she was sitting on my front steps, waiting.

So now we have a routine going.   And her coat is looking nicer again and she seems to have more energy.   I have no idea if that’s me or her other source of food is back online too.   But it’s good to see.   I’m too single to have a pet and this is in many ways an ironic echo of the story of my life.   It seems no matter who I take a fondness to I always get kept at arm’s length.   So in a way this is a relationship I’m used to.   But she’s lived on the city streets for years now, and the other side of that coin is I probably don’t have to worry about her too much if I go away for a while.   I might be able to talk one of my other neighbors into putting some food out for her while I’m gone.

The other day I bought some nice stainless steal cat bowls, one for water and one for food.   And some cat food.   Today she ate from both.   She actually seemed to like the cat food better then the human food.   And thus Bruce, walking the stations of life, steps into that crazy old man who feeds stray cats stage.   Oh well.   I guess I don’t mind.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on (Sigh)…Cats…!

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