Sunroom Cats – Watch the Birdie Show

Sunroom Cats -- Shadows on the screen
Shadows on the screen

Our two cats, Mist and Smoke spend a good deal of time in our sunroom. This room used to be our open-air patio — that is, it was outdoors and Mist and Smoke are indoor cats.

Now, however, they are allowed into the sunroom and can get some ten feet closer to the birds. We have lots of Mourning doves, hummingbirds, sparrows and similar birds and the occasional crow, Coopers hawk and squirrel. Sunroom Cats -- Shadows on the screen

In the morning they crowd the feeders and the ground under them. In the afternoon their shadows appear on the shade which my wife has lowered to prevent the sun from shining in her eyes.

Sunroom Cats -- Shadows on the screenMist, the female and smaller of our cats, finds these shadows fascinating. She watches them from the floor, the chair, the TV table and Charlie’s “wheelie/walker.” For about two hours, until shortly before sunset, we can find Mist, and occasionally Smoke bird watching while Charlie reads or watches TV. Sunroom Cats

We enclosed our patio and built the sunroom so Charlie would have a room of her own to read, play games, watch TV, drink tea, smoke and enjoy her garden. It’s nice to have a room that her cats also enjoy and can spend time with her.

Sunroom Cats

Sunroom Cats -- Shadows on the screen

The Cat.

By Oliver Herford

OB-SERVE the Cat up-on this page.
Phil-os-o-phers in ev-er-y age,
The ver-y wis-est of the wise,
Have tried her mind to an-a-lyze
In vain, for noth-ing can they learn.
She baf-fles them at ev-er-y turn
Like Mis-ter Ham-let in the play.
She leads their rea-son-ing a-stray;
She feigns an in-ter-est in string
Or yarn or any roll-ing thing.
Un-like the Dog, she does not care
With com-mon Man her thoughts to share.
She teach-es us that in life’s walk
‘T is bet-ter to let oth-ers talk,
And lis-ten while they say in-stead
The fool-ish things we might have said.



Purrprints on the Heart

Skipper at home in Arcadia
Skipper at home in Arcadia

When I was about ten and my brother eight, dad took us to the local animal shelter. We were going to get a dog. We ended up with a cocker/lab puppy. I don’t remember anything about the shelter, only the ride home. John and I in the back of our station wagon, in the days before mandatory seatbelts, with our small black pup. We named him Skipper, after our grandfather’s cocker spaniel.

Although he was our dog, he was more mine. I fed him, cleaned up after him and took him for long walks. John joined the Air Force, dad passed away on a Christmas Eve and Skipper grew old. I got a teaching job in Orange, which lasted for forty years, and mom was moving back to Minnesota. Skipper was on his last legs and was both deaf and blind; I cradled him in my arms as the vet put him to sleep. He grew still and I cried for the remainder of the day.

Merlin and Magic in window nest
Merlin and Magic in window nest

Eighteen years ago my wife got a Burmese kitten from a local pet shop; she named him Magic. He was a small bundle of fur who stole our hearts. Because we both had full-time teaching jobs, he spent workdays alone – so we got him a playmate. A local breeder had a Burmese kitten returned to her and contacted my wife. We drove across the county to see this little kitten and he was a very little kitten. He didn’t like being held (my wife thinks he was mistreated by the people who returned him). My wife let me name him; I called him Mandrake after the magician in the comic strips I had read as a kid. She didn’t like that name, took back the naming rights and called him Merlin.

A young Merlin in bed
A young Merlin in bed

Three year old Magic was a laid back cat; Merlin, although quite a bit smaller, was aggressive. Eventually they grew to tolerate and then to like each other and would play, chase and sleep together. They enriched our lives and we grew quite fond of our two “little boys”. The years went by and they grew old.

Over the last two years they would occasionally get sick and recover, after years of never getting sick. It was obvious they were aging. They had less energy, would sleep more; Merlin gained weight and Magic lost it.

The vet examined and tested Magic a couple of months ago and recommended a special diet for kidney health and fluids (IV) a couple of times a week. He stabilized at about six pounds. Merlin’s health deteriorated a couple of weeks ago and was given a lot of tests. Over Washington’s Birthday weekend an ultrasound indicated cancer (around the heart and lungs and it had damaged his nervous system). On Washington’s Birthday the vet put him to sleep while my wife held him.

Merlin and "his" lovebirds
Merlin and “his” lovebirds

On the 28th I took Magic in for fluids and dental cleaning. About three in the afternoon the vet called my wife as I was driving to pick her up at work. Magic was dead; he died during the dental treatment, probably stress according to the vet. Unlike with Merlin we had no chance to prepare ourselves or say goodbye. I had tears in my eyes all the way home and cried for the next hour. Magic meant more to me than I had thought; my little guy was gone. No longer would he wake me at four in the morning for breakfast, yell at me when I got home after four in the afternoon and fed him late, push his way onto my lap and nap the afternoons and evenings away.

I still look for Purrball (Merlin) on our bed, his favorite place, when I pass by the bedroom door and am surprised he is not there. When I wake up in the morning, I wonder why Shortstuph (Magic) didn’t wake me and I miss his warm purr on my lap when I read in my lounge chair during the afternoon and evening hours.

Magic and Merlin in bed
Merlin curled up with a Magic pillow

My wife wants a couple of traditional Applehead Siamese (Thai Cat) kittens. They won’t be able to replace Magic and Merlin but we have still have room on the bed and on our laps for a couple more little guys. And there is a lot of room for them to leave some more purrprints on our hearts.


Walks – Retirement in Paradise

Walks - 3 Pelicans in flightOne of the nice things about living near and being able to walk at the beach is the variety of sights.

There are almost always surfers to see. In southern California we also have school surfing teams. Some mornings you can see the middle school and high school teams practicing at the city or state beaches. After practice a quick shower, and, at least for the middle schoolers, a trip in mom or dad’s car home or to school. There are completion meets between schools and overall regional meets sanctioned by the NSSA – National Scholastic Surfing Association. Football, baseball, field hockey and surfing, ahh, southern California. Walks - NSSA at HB

Walks - Cyril the Pelican on PierThere are also plenty of critters who like to live at the coast. We have a large number of squirrels in addition to the pelicans and other birds. Several times a week you can see dolphins and seals from the cliffs and pier, and, occasionally, a whale.Walks - Beach Critter

People watching is a constant. Twice in the last few years Walks - HB Police on PierI’ve been passed by Orange County Sheriff training platoons jogging to a military cadence. We have beach police on their ATVs and people looking for the space shuttle. Out to sea the Coast Guard practices for ocean rescues.Walks - Endeavour Fly-by

I’ve almost always got my camera slung over my shoulder on my walks. Some days I take scores of pictures, hoping that a few are worth saving and some days the camera never leaves my shoulder. 

When I began walking on the beach in the 70s, after moving to Orange County, I’d carry my Pentax Spotmatic, take pictures and hope some of them would be good enough to enlarge. Film and developing were expensive for a beginning teacher. Thanks to the advent of digital technology, I no longer have to limit my picture taking. A 16 gigabyte card holds a couple of thousand pictures and I can do my processing on the computer; I can crop and adjust color to my heart’s content and then have only those I like printed. 

Walks - Coast Guard ExerciseI import the pictures I like into an album in iPhoto and, through iTunes, show them on the television in our living room when I play my music. When we have guests and sit in the living room we don’t have a large blank TV screen in the room, we have our family pictures quietly appearing and disappearing in the background – better atmosphere than a black screen or football game.


Our Backyard Birds (in the house, too)

Hummingbirds_3aAs a kid birds fascinated me. To be able to fly anywhere at anytime. Since I couldn’t be bird, I wanted to be a pilot, yeah, and me afraid of heights. My little brother joined the Air Force after one year of junior college and was trained as an electronics technician – he worked on communications and crypto gear.

For a while he was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast. While there he built and flew a hang glider – he wasn’t afraid of heights.

Merlin and his lovebirdsA couple of years after dad died I moved mom back to where she grew up and most of her family still lived. I flew home. What a rush – the take-off was a blast. Everything was fine until we got up near cruising altitude. The view was fascinating but the thought of being seven miles in the air was not.

The next time I flew was in a single engine four seater owned by a tile contractor friend of mine. He needed to move his plane from one SoCal airport to another and invited me along. This was neat. We never got above twenty-five hundred feet and I had a great time. I’ve flown many times since and gotten used to being so high that I can barely identify anything on the ground, but I still like small planes that fly at low altitude.

As a kid I had a dog and an aquarium full of guppies and tetras but never any birds. Now I have two lovebirds; their names are Bird One and Bird Two and, no, I can’t tell them apart. Merlin likes to sit atop their cage and dangle his tail in front of them. They climb and try to bite his tail, but, to date, they haven’t succeeded.

We also have several bird feeders in our yard: eight hummingbird feeders, four finch (nyjer seed) feeders and three others. We get lots of hummingbirds in both our Bird_at_Feeder_3front and back yards, many finches, sparrows, doves and others.

I also, only half jokingly, tell people that we feed hawks. We can tell when there is a hawk around as the birds disappear or go still. Occasionally “our” hawk perches on our fence and looks for prey. He, or she, also dines in our yard. One afternoon my wife and I were on our patio and the hawk flew into one of our rosebushes to flush a sparrow hiding there. Half a minute later he had the sparrow on a neighbor’s chimney top and was dining. We’ve also seen him hunt unsuccessfully. Occasionally, we find feathery evidence of his presence and success (and also that of the neighborhood cats).

Our hawk on backyard fenceAlthough I’ll never fly like one, I still find them fascinating.