Thursday, March 20, 2014

Backyard Birdwatching

Welcome to the wonderful world of backyard bird watching!  Your host today - me - will walk you through a couple of basics when it comes to starting your new hobby of watching birds in the backyard!  I will walk you through a couple of easy steps to attracting birds and then go over a few of the species that you'll see regularly if you live in the North/Eastern United States.

Okay...actually, that's pretty cut and dry stuff.  Actually this blog is more about showing off pictures I've taken in my backyard, but I thought maybe putting some educational stuff in there too might be a bonus.  I've been feeding birds in my backyard since I was pretty young.  My mother had a bird feeder that hung from the eaves outside our patio window and she'd fill it from time to time.  Growing up I thought these little birds in the picture above were "chickadees" - they are not.  They are House Sparrows.  (I'm only capitalizing the names of birds as I name them, don't freak out all you English major types.)  I had a small, metal windup toy of one of these sparrows and for some reason I got the wrong assumption that they were chickadees from a mix up of my grandmother talking about the song of a chickadee (chick-a-dee-dee-dee) and this little toy bird.

Since then, I've learned about all sorts of birds.  I especially love feeding them out in my backyard as my cats get a bit of a kick out of seeing them, and I just like to see what other types of birds I can attract.  Without feeding birds, you might only see these nesting in nearby bushes or trees or typically the birds will hit in a group after mowing the lawn or because of overgrown weeds.  Other birds that are common are Robins, Starlings and a few other species that pass by.  It is possible to see birds without feeding them, but if you wish to see their antics up close, it's good to buy a nice feeder.

My backyard setup at the present are two different feeders (one standard seed, another for thistle which they call something else but I have no inclination to walk downstairs for the proper spelling as I'm lazy - njyger maybe) on hooks that I have attached to my fence - these can be hooked onto back porches and other flat surfaces like tables if you're so inclined.  I also have a new yard hook (shepherd hook) that has a suet attachment and eventually a birdbath if I start to feel ambitious.  It only takes one feeder to bring in birds, and be patient, it sometimes takes a full week or more for birds to find it and start using it, but they'll be all over the place once they do!

Before long the birds start coming and drain the feeder within the span of an afternoon.  Typically, this large hole feeder (which, by the way, I do not recommend as it can be emptied within an hour by an industrious gang of sparrows) attracts all number of small brown birds and their larger cousins.  Starlings tend to love emptying them and I've had a number of flocks of these birds in the past take over the feeder until all the seed was on the ground.  What this does, however, is encourage the birds who don't, or can't sit on a feeder, to come and feast on the fallen seeds. The Mourning Doves in the top photo have taken advantage of this for the last three years and they have multiplied from only one nesting couple the first year I moved into my house to three nesting couples and a lone sibling.  They will just sit under the feeders sleeping for hours until a flock of rowdy sparrows or starlings comes and empties the feeder.

Two other birds which enjoy this mass-emptying are the Junco (slate-gray in this case hopping on the fence) and the Song Sparrow (seen by himself in the photo below).  This particular sparrow is a very vocal sort of chap, and loves to drive my cats crazy by sitting in the bush that sits in the front yard in front of the window and sing until it's lungs give out.  I tend to only see one of these at a time, so am inclined to think it's the same bird over and over, but I could be mistaken.

One misconception that I've had myself over the years is to believe that the birds you see out in your yard are the same birds.  Now, it's possible.  However, many times if you see a species you are unfamiliar with, they are simply migrating through.  Quite a few species, especially starlings for example, might appear in your yard multiple times during the week but then they move on in their large flocks and won't come back until months later, even though you've seen a very similar group come by once a week, normally these aren't the same birds.

On the other hand, my mourning doves do return year after year as I've taken pictures of them to compare coloration and markings.  Doves like to find a good nesting ground and they will return.  My group, as I explained before, were just a single nesting pair that chose to use my fence for their nest.  Since then I never count more than seven birds at a time, have watched the most recent three grow up from small babies.  A few in this group are almost pink in color.  Some are avid singers (as seen in the photo below where he's belting out a tune), though others sometimes coo quietly, the loud singers tend to wake me up by sitting on the fence under my bedroom window.

Mourning doves are prolific breeders and can nest multiple times during the course of the spring and summer.  I have found multiple nests all over my fence line which causes some pretty messy situations after the babies have hatched and choose to poop all over wherever they are currently sitting.  I wouldn't encourage this behavior necessarily as it takes a lot of scrubbing to get bird poop off of porches, chairs, tables, fences, etc.

Another popular bird that can be spotted without a bird feeder is the robin.  Growing up in Michigan, this was our state bird so if you didn't know what a robin looked like you were pretty much stupid.  I remember children coloring in our state bird to look like a blue-bird (blue with a red breast) and would have to argue with them that robins are more brown or gray.  Pale robins without the darker head as seen in these photos are females.  I caught two males sneaking suet from the feeder.  Worms and bugs are tough to come by after this cold winter so these two hung around for a few days before moving on.

Just like starlings, robins migrate.  Often they don't stay around more than a few days, unless they are nesting, that is.  I have had a nesting couple in the maple in my front yard last year and have had a few fat little baby robins pooping all over the porch.  I suppose I need to do a short blog on baby birds sometime this spring to show off some of these photos I've taken over the past few years.  However, because robins migrate at the first signs of cold and then return at the first signs of spring, they are good indicators that spring is coming when they show up.  My mother always believed spring was here when the first robin showed up in Michigan.  However, warm weather typically is marked by the red-wing blackbird.  Unfortunately, even though I have had two of these visit my feeders this year already, and can hear them singing by the train tracks near my house, I have been unable to photograph the buggers.

Now to change tracks just slightly and visit the prettier birds that I've been able to attract to my feeders.  This is the smaller thistle feeder which attracts mostly finches.  Gold Finches, in this case, have been visiting since early February, and I tend to see these birds year round in Ohio, so it's possible they don't migrate nearly as far if they have a good food source.  This male is just starting to show his summer yellow.  During the winter the main distinguishing feature of a gold finch is its black and white patched wings.  They are darker than any other species I have locally and even when the birds are brown in the dead of winter, it is easy to tell which type of bird they are.  As the month wears on this male will shed the brown feathers and become bright yellow.

Another less noticeable finch is the House Finch (not to be confused with the house sparrow) which has a red coloring on its face and chest.  These pretty little birds often show up about the same time as the sparrows and I've seen them fly off together in little groups and next together.  They're about the same size, but the males are brilliantly colored.

The last birds I will cover for now are also two very flashy birds.  One probably wouldn't include the Grackle as a 'flashy bird' but I believe they are one of the sharpest birds that grace my backyard.  There is something about this jet black bird with the purple/blue/green iridescent head that just really stands out to me.  They tend to stay in groups and sometimes appear with starlings or red-wing blackbirds.  This one will call his friends to come over when the feeder is freshly filled and they will do everything possible to empty the feeder so they pick from their favorite seeds.

The cardinal is one of the most recognizable birds in the Northeast United States and oftentimes people know what this bird is even when drawn in very abstract ways, so long as it has red plumage and a black face, most people know the name of this bird.  Females are more brown, but still as recognizable.  Perhaps this is the reason that so many states (including Ohio and West Virginia and many others) actually have this bird as their state bird.  I've had a pair of these birds at my feeder, but they really loved my sunflowers last summer, so they tend to like larger seeds in the feeders.

 For now, this concludes your backyard bird watching lesson!  For now I'm concentrating on birds I've taken photos of only this year rather than ones I've seen in previous sessions (plus the photos are prettier with the new camera).  Be sure to click on the photos to see the large versions as some of the earlier photos have a multitude of birds in various angles in flight.  I hope you've enjoyed this short lesson in bird watching!

I'm not sure what the next blog topic might be on, perhaps cooking.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Olivia's Journal #1

The cat journals this week conclude with Olivia; cat number one.  The story of this little gray fluffy cat starts when we bought our home.  In fact, maybe even before we bought our house as I was dreaming of a cat from the moment I moved into a cat-free apartment building with my then boyfriend (now husband) who also wanted a cat.  We waited out the three or so years in the apartment until we could afford to get married and get a house of our own.  And in January of 2011, we walked through the house that would be ours and I could picture certain places in the house and how a cat would be in those areas.  There's a small ledge at the top of the staircase that I imagined a cat sitting on waiting on us to come out of the master bedroom.  I imagined how they would like to wander up and down the stairs and peek out through the railings.  I got pretty sentimental about the house even before we were finished house-hunting.  This wasn't a beautiful home by any means as there were so many things that needed to be fixed before adding a pet to our home.

But by spring, we were popping into pet stores and looking at adoptable cats.  I saw a particularly cute one around April or so of the year and begged my husband to let me fill out the paperwork to adopt it.  I'm going to put this right out there though - adopting through a pet store that's just showcasing cats for other shelters is a bad run.  It took us a lot of time to even get the paperwork from a cashier who said it wouldn't get faxed in until the morning, and then we waited a week to find out that they had never faxed it in, nor had they even any record of us filling out the paperwork, and the way...the kitten was already adopted.  Too bad, so sad.

Frustrated by the whole thing it would be another week or so of visiting the local Humane Society and a last-minute evening trip that would give us only about a half hour of looking time when I spotted the kittens in the front glass enclosure.  A gray kitten!  Just like the one I'd seen at the pet store!  I rushed in, almost bumping another woman out of the way in my efforts to grab for the kitten... and some how this little gray furball actually came up to me.  I scooped her up and except for when we got to play with her in the little bonding room, I hardly let her out of my arms until the paperwork was signed and she was in the new carrier on our way home.
As you might be able to tell, Olivia is my first child and my favorite.  Mina might be an adorable, purring cuddler, and Tenchi might be a rough and tumble head-bumper, but Olivia is my buddy.  Her name at the Humane Society was "Brioche", although I have no idea why they'd name a gray kitten after a type of bread.  We were fans of the television show "Fringe" and that's where Olivia's name came from.  She was every bit the strong female lead in the story that would become our family of cats.  She still is, in fact, as she's able to strand lying near Tenchi and jump neatly away from his advances of playtime.

Brave cat that she is, Olivia scales the highest heights of the house, managing to climb on just about anything in efforts to get to a good vantage point.  She climbs the rafters in the basement, managed to get up to a ledge at the top of our cathedral ceiling bedroom by balancing on a bedpost, can make it to the top of our kitchen cupboards...well, you name it, she's gotten up there.  She's lightweight, and small, only about 7 to 8 pounds on her heaviest days.  Small pink toes, a warm pink-gray in most lighting situations, and an extra-thick layer of fur that is almost wavy.  Unfortunately that also comes with a ridiculous penchant for shedding and even worse when she lays next to my face in bed and I get a mouth full of fur!

When Olivia was a kitten we would get up every morning and make an effort to play with her.  Sometimes she would get so excited she would start panting and have to lay down.  It took us awhile to figure out this was normal and even good to wear a cat out like this, but our first time cat-parent selves were always cautious of her.  She fell off a tall shelf in the basement at one point, hurting herself and she limped for a day.  Another week or more went by with Olivia squinting and barely opening her eye.  This was followed by a week of wearing a cone and putting in eye drops prescribed by the vet.  And then followed by the realization that Olivia squinted with that eye when she was irritated with us for bringing home Mina.  In fact, she squinted more for putting the medicine in her eye so that when the cone was removed and the drops ended, the squint only reappeared when she was irritated.  That was a couple hundred dollars and lots of cat humiliation that could have been avoided!
Olivia still likes to play, but she doesn't like to do it around Mina.  Even when Mina was a kitten Olivia wasn't a fan of her younger sister.  They would tolerate one another at windows and in sunny spots, but if Olivia was playing with a feather toy in one room and Mina popped in, all interest in the toy dropped and Olivia simply walked out of the room as if she were never playing at all.  It took nearly a year before she would return to asking for playtime in the mornings and they went from long, pant-inducing bird hunts to short, crazy jumps until Mina joined the fun and then she would watch from nearby until Mina tired out enough for Olivia to return to her playtime.

 Introducing Tenchi a year later after that and Olivia returned to her snooty "I don't want to play now that that is here," attitude, and again she fell silent to asking for playtime for nearly another year.

Jump back in time now since I forgot to mention how much of a vocal little thing this cat can be.  She asks to play.  She asks to have her 'snicky-snack' (aka hairball medicine which I'm sooo glad she takes on her own since she has such problems with hairballs).  She asks to go out to the garage.  She asks for closet doors to be opened.  She meows at ceilings and random spots on the wall.  She meows in the half-bath on the first floor where, for some reason, she'll howl for fifteen minutes straight if you let her an we're still not sure why three years later.  She chirps when you wake her up from a nap.  She meows to make me roll over to cuddle with her.  Oh yes...she won't shut up until I roll to face away from my husband in bed so that she can knead on my left arm until she feels it's soft enough to curl up against and shove her face in my face and nibble on my nose.  That doesn't happen every night...but it used to before Tenchi arrived.

For the most part, Olivia is a cuddler.  She likes cozy spaces like piles of warm laundry, and my computer chair or now, most recently, my lap.  The two girls fight over it, but refuse to share it.  If Mina is on my lap, Olivia will come up and meow at me and sulk off.  Mina will come up to sniff Olivia if she's in my lap and then go lie on the floor with her head on her paws looking at me all pathetic like, as if she were saying "Why don't you love me anymore?"

If Olivia gets chased off of my lap she might go into CRAZY CAT MODE.  I'm sure most cats have this, right?  That moment where the energy builds up so much they just have to release it by running around the house at full tilt?  Some do.  Mina and Tenchi get out most of their tension by chasing after one another through the house or chasing Olivia.  Now, Olivia on the other hand, barely ever instigates a chase (once in awhile, but not usually) as instead she enjoys suddenly going crazy, meowing her head off and doing kitty parcour against the back of the sofa.  Then, if you turn to look at her, she'll go wide-eyed and high-tail it out into the kitchen.  Eventually this act, plus running into the bathroom and meowing to high-heaven, will get her a playmate of one of the other cats and they'll go racing out of the room and upstairs.  There will be the sound of a great thundering stampede in the ceiling until eventually they race back down again and into the basement.

 Cats are weird that way, I cannot deny it.  Olivia is for the most part, very sweet.  She doesn't mind her toes trimmed.  She loves to be petted in the master bathroom, even my husband gets love from her there.  She loves to meow at us after we come out of the shower until she gets to rub all over our ankles and hands.  She stays out of the way most of the day by finding a nice place to nap.  She doesn't struggle when picked up, but doesn't like it either, usually using it to her advantage to get a good spot on top of our shoulders to see if she can find a good jumping place somewhere she couldn't reach before.  Her main flaw, I suppose, is that she teaches the other cats bad behaviors like trying to get into the catnip (which we've had to lock up due to Tenchi's aggressive nature and fact he's chewed his way through the butter-tub shaped container we have it in).  But because of her bravery, she doesn't hide from storms and gets to play while the others are hiding.  She will bat at the vacuum cleaner if you get the hose too close to her, but she doesn't stand down.  She enjoys spending time watching TV as well, and I've caught her more than once, en rapt with the moving objects on the screen.

And that about does it for now on the three cats in my household.  I hope you've enjoyed reading about them!  If nothing else...this is my own personal memory at this point in time of my three cats.  As other events happen to these sweethearts, rest assured that there will be new journals posted with new adorable photographs.  I hope you have enjoyed what I've posted as well.

Next time on WhatcherStudios... most likely something about backyard birding as I've been doing a lot of that lately.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mina's Journal #1

 In part 2 of the cat introduction, I present to you the black cat Mina.  She came to us a bit of a raggedy kitten, found as a stray by a different coworker.  It does seem like cats come from people you work for - they always seem to pawn cats off on unsuspecting people!  But that's not where Mina's story begins...

In October of 2011, we had settled into our new house with our new cat Olivia.  I'll tell her story in the next blog, but it's important to note that Olivia had been an 'only child' for a good six months before Mina came into her life.

We run Tsubasacon, in Huntington, WV, so when the convention was over that year we had talked about getting another cat to keep Olivia company.  Perhaps, we thought, having another cat would keep Olivia occupied so she wouldn't constantly bug us to play with her.  Maybe a buddy would help?  Well, I told my husband that if we were to get another cat, it would have to 'come' to us.  I know there are a lot of people out there who don't believe in God, but for those of you on my side of the fence, I believed that God would bring me another cat if that's what was to happen.  Not two days after I got back from my leave from running the convention, a coworker said to me, "You have only one cat, right?  Weren't you talking about getting another cat?"
            "Yes...we were talking about getting another eventually," I replied, wondering where this conversation was going.
           "Well, I have this stray running around my house, and I've been feeding him but my cats don't like him and I can't have another right now... He's a real sweetie."  We talked about this kitty and my coworker told me about how she'd seen him being dragged around in the arms of a toddler a few houses down when he wasn't fending for himself out and about.  Of course when you hear about a cat being tortured by a child I immediately went home and told my husband about this desperate situation.  He agreed we could go look at the cat.
            After a week or so we arranged to go to my coworker's house and she arranged to catch the kitten and have him ready for us to look at.  We made the almost a half hour trip out to nowhere land and there was this kitten in a carrier out on my coworker's back porch.  She brought the cat out and he wove in and out around our ankles and climbed around the back porch area.  I looked up at my husband with big eyes, and begged to take him.  He called the vet on the drive back, because he knew he didn't have any argument about the little raggedy black cat with the silly white hairs sticking out of her chest and back.
              At the vet, just as I'd already assumed after seeing the cat in person, that 'he' was actually a 'she'.  My coworker didn't realize it with how long haired she was, but I knew immediately.  We passed back and forth dozens of names on the drive to the vet and already had a name picked out by the time we got there to have her checked out.  "Mina" was a character from an anime (not originally an anime though, an opening sequence anime to a Japanese drama called "Densha Otoko").  I'd wanted to use the name when we got Olivia, but didn't due to other reasons.

 Olivia is a pretty easy going cat, but for some reason the moment Mina came into the household she lost interest in playing.  Mina basically took over being the kitten with all of the energy.  She'd silently run into a room while we were playing and take over the battle over the birdie or mousie, or whatever feathery toy we would be waving around.  Olivia would sulk out of the room and let Mina have the run of the place.  When they were younger, Mina and Olivia would spend time near one another and sometimes even sleep near one another.  Unfortunately upon the entrance of Tenchi, they lost interest in cuddling together and everyone took up their own territories in the house.

Mina's territory is the first floor.  She rarely comes upstairs to the second level.  UNLESS of course, there's playtime going and she comes running.  She can appear mysteriously wherever a feather or string object is being thrown around.  Occasionally she'll come upstairs to check out if everything is okay, but Tenchi usually runs her out.  Where she shines though is the first floor where she loves to look outside and watch us when we're in the yard.  She stalks the birds and the bird feeders.  She runs in and plops down on the living room floor and will roll over to show you her belly.

Unfortunately a few quirks still exist from her kitten days.  Mina does not like to be picked up.  Almost immediately this normally quiet cat will start to yowl like I've pulled out a toenail or something.  She absolutely hates to have her claws trimmed, which is sort of ironic as she also doesn't use scratching posts so if I don't trim them, they curl back on themselves.  I'm not sure why she has such an aversion to having her feet touched, but the only time she allows them to be touched is when she's completely asleep or she's forced into the trimming.  Luckily she only struggles and yowls, doesn't bite like Tenchi will try to do on occasion.

Mina also hates the sound of thunder.  We discovered this the spring after we got her.  The first thunderstorm that rolled through and she hid herself under the television stand.  She still does it even a few years later, and she'll stay there until long after the storm has passed.  We're not sure where this fear came from as neither of the other cats have a problem with storms and even though Mina used to run from the vacuum cleaner, she mostly stays put now that she's older and won't leave too far from her perch in the front window.

An unusual thing happened when Mina would hide under the television:  Olivia would play again.  In fact, I sometimes think that Olivia enjoys feeling like she's the only cat in the house during thunderstorms because she will play and snuggle up to me on the first floor when Mina is no where to be found.

Then, after Olivia was just starting to act a bit more normal (at least back to her six months of being an 'only child') we introduced the kitten Tenchi.  For some reason he clung onto Mina like they were going to be the best friends in the entire world.

That, of course, was not the case.  Mina hissed, howled, growled, spat, clawed...turned into basically the most nasty sounding evil cat I'd heard - all coming out of the sweetest cuddly thing you can think of.  She didn't want to have anything to do with Tenchi.  (Olivia, on the other hand sniffed at him, but overall just avoided the kitten.)  But Tenchi was enthralled with Mina for some reason.  He would find her sleeping up by the window and curl up next to her.  If she was sound asleep then he could be near her, but the moment she woke up she would sniff at him in disdain and leave.

Even a year later, Mina's admirer still takes time out of his busy schedule of eating and being an overall pain in the butt (walking his bulky 14 pounds of bony feet all over me, bringing toys to fetch and eating when he's bored) to annoy Mina.

Mina's schedule is usually like this - she sleeps on the couch, or the cat tower, and when she hears her humans get up she runs out into the living room floor and throws herself down for scratches.  If we take too long to get up she might run up to investigate which causes Tenchi to chase her out.  Then she rubs around our ankles in the kitchen, throwing herself down on our feet if we stand in one place too long without petting her.  Tenchi comes in and chases her out of the kitchen.  If I don't have to go to work and take up residence on the couch, Mina plops herself on my leg until it goes numb (about a half hour or so) and then plops down on the floor to the left of the coffee table and sprawls out until I get up and walk around.  If I sit down again she'll be on my lap within 5-10 minutes.  Repeat, lots of times through the day.  In the evening, Tenchi comes out from hiding and will lie on the floor and copy-cat her position in the floor, both of them showing off their bellies.

Mina stays downstairs when we go upstairs as that is Olivia and Tenchi territory.  Now, if we've left something on the floor - Tenchi's blue rubber bracelet for example - we'll hear her meowing to tell us that it's been left on the floor.  Mina also has a cute habit she started as a kitten, and that was fetching small objects that DO NOT BELONG.  I say this because she makes a point of making a ruckus if one of these objects is found.  The first was a bit of cement from the basement floor; she brought it up in her mouth, carefully dropped it in the living room and meowed at me.  She rarely speaks, unlike Tenchi and Olivia who are avid talkers.  So it's quite a shock, and the first time she brought me something I thought she had hurt herself.  But eventually we figured out what the meow meant.  "This does not belong on the floor," she seems to say.

Mina has brought up a list of things from the basement and also warns us if we've dropped items that could potentially be harmful to step on.  Maybe it's her foot thing, I'm not sure.  But her list includes: cement, stone, shards of mirror, screw, twist tie, some strange velcro thing and Tenchi's bracelet.  We're not sure why she's so bothered by that bracelet as it's a human object, yes, but my husband has worn it only once and Tenchi took over carrying it around ever since, so in essence it's become a cat toy.  But not to Mina, even though she's played with it herself.

It's taken nearly a year to get 'used' to Tenchi enough to get back into the routine of disrupting play time again.  Olivia got fairly used to the new boy in the house, but Mina stopped playing when we got him, all but on occasions, and maybe it's because she's got such short legs she doesn't run very fast.  She runs with all claws and can't jump very high.  Most of the time she stays on at least two feet to catch birds.  She's scared of heights as well.  She will get to the top of the cat tower, but it took months to get over wobbling with fear when we'd put her at the top.  She started lying on the bottom, then the first ear, then another until finally she would sleep at the top.  She can't jump up on counters, her legs just won't let her jump higher than a foot or so.

I don't mind that she doesn't climb (Olivia is enough of a hassle to chase down off of things), because she's quite the cuddler.  When she's on my lap, if she's really loving she'll start up this little motor going (Tenchi, I didn't mention before, doesn't purr.  He has a tiny little rumble that will come for maybe five seconds at a time when he's feeling cuddly, but it only happens maybe once a week.  Olivia purrs, but more about her later) and put her paws on my shoulders.  She'll rub her face in mine and bury her face in my neck.  She doesn't do this to my husband (only rarely) but she cuddles with me at least once a day.

She also begs for food.  She's the only one of my three cats that care at all about people food.  She LOVES it.  Oh wait... LOVES it.  She'll plop up next to me on the bench at the kitchen table and put her paws on my shoulder and rub the side of my face and then reach over to the dish that I'm eating.  I give her occasional table scraps, but only meat, and only tiny bits as she won't eat anything over the size of a pea.  But she's insatiable.  She'll beg until every scrap of food is cleaned off the plate.  Then she'll turn around and get annoyed that I didn't share anything and leave dejectedly.

And there you have it, Mina.  Next Journal up:  Olivia, Cat #1!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tenchi's Journal #1

 This is Tenchi.  I was thinking about doing a journal for all three of my cats at one point or another to give a basic introduction to their weird quirks so that I could have it for reference in the future.  Any why not?  There are a ton of people out there who have blogging cats and they get tons of hits on the internet from people who like cats.  There's whole blogging sites dedicated to blogs about cats and cat owners and everything in between.
       I thought to myself as I was going through the sites the other day that I really should at least set it in stone (or digital stone so to speak) who my family is living in this little two-story house.  So, why not start with cat number three and work my way backwards?  Maybe then you can get a good idea of what a cat household is like.  Cat households are different than dog households or children households, in case you were ever wondering.

Cat number three came to us in May I believe, or 2013.  The reason I can't remember Tenchi's date exactly was that I have his birthday memorized as being Feburary 21st.  His mother was a stray that followed a coworker's male cat home one day.  She had four kittens in the litter, two females and two males.

The two black females and one tabby male were named Izzy (long fur), Squeak (short fur) and George.  They wound up staying with Tenchi's mother as my co-worker adopted her after Smudge, they're supposed father died after being run over.

Having been an indoor/outdoor cat, my coworker decided from that point on she would not allow any of the kittens go to a outdoor cat home and refused to adopt any of the kittens out unless they were to be inside cats only.  Tenchi would not ever run that risk as I don't like the idea of outdoor cats at all.  Two of my cats when I was growing up ran into trouble being outdoor cats.  One of which we suspected drinking coolant or some such nasty thing outside and died shortly afterwards.  Of course, in my mom's day, how you treated your pets is a whole lot different than people treat them today.  Even my coworker decided that it wouldn't be a good thing to let them have the run of the neighborhood.  She'd already saved too many strays and later remarked that Tenchi and George's dad may have been a different stray altogether as when a foreclosed house down the street was revealed to be a cat-hoarder's home, one that looked an awful lot like Tenchi wandered the neighborhood not long ago.

 Tenchi was the only one of his siblings to be adopted out, and he was the craziest of them.  My coworker called him "ornery" because he was constantly moving and meowing and running around playing.  We thought to ourselves that we have two cats who love to play and we already played with them quite regularly, so what harm would there be to adding a third to our crew?

WELL...  Tenchi doesn't tear up the furniture.

What he DOES do, however, is get himself torn up by the other two cats.  The moment we brought him home he was calm and quiet.  He had, after all, been worn down by us playing with him before we picked up him that afternoon.  I could have had my pick of any of the kittens.  I could have pulled out the quiet George or the scared Izzy, and if it hadn't been for Squeak being a black female (which I already had) I may have picked her because she'd come out to play when Tenchi was panting in the corner.

I never for once regret...okay...maybe once or twice regret bringing the Tench-meister home, but for the most part I love him.  He IS a bit ornery though, and he can get a bit grouchy.  He's also FAT.  He's managed to get himself up to about 14 pounds of cat now, double the size of our smallest Olivia.  Olivia, for her part, is a jumper so she can get away from him and he's got multiple wounds to prove that she's gotten him from time to time.  But for some reason he likes Mina the most.  He loves to bug her.  Mina is about a pound heavier than Olivia and she's sweet and gentle.  Unless Tenchi gets up in her face and then she growls like nobody's business.  They tear each other up, black fur and white fur everywhere.

But...they live in peace most of the time.  I can't deny that when Tenchi isn't eating (which he does every time he gets bored and there's no one to play with) and when he's not tearing around the house trying to attack the girls, he does get sweet.  He'll bump into my face like a bowling ball though (I swear I've bruised my nose sometimes when he bumps it hard enough) and he's gotten to the point that if he wants to be petted, he'll grab your hand with a paw so he can push his face into it.  However, he seems to only like to be petted on the sides of his face.  Occasionally a stroke down the back or a scratch on the rump.  He'll bite when I try to pet his belly so I have to keep his claws trimmed back.  Luckily it's never a super hard bite, and only once he broke the skin.

Unfortunately, even with Tenchi being a sweet cat, I've had my moments with him.  If you have ever watched "My Cat From Hell" with Jackson Galaxy, you'll know that cats can snap from being treated wrong.  I know that from time to time Tenchi gets this expression on his face and it feels like he's just not there.  It's almost as if a demon has taken over my cat and if I do the wrong thing or act the wrong way he'll just snap and I'll have to make a phone call to the Cat Daddy myself.

So far, it hasn't happened.  Thank goodness.  But he goes through these moods where I swear he's had enough.  I'm not even quite sure what tips it off, although I do know that he's a MEAN drunk - or should I say when he's got catnip he's really mean.  He goes for blood when he's on the stuff, and even though my other two cats are perfectly sweet and adorable and it puts them to sleep...he just wants to tear into everything.  So I have to be very careful about the 'nip.

Tenchi is hit-or-miss when it comes to strangers.  Sometimes he'll be all over them, curious and playful, but for some reason larger men really scare him.  He acts like he's never seen another human before besides my husband and myself.  He'll run and hide from our best man David and he was scared to death of the cable guy last week.  Sometimes he'll get a wild, fluff tail pose on him and scurry away like we're complete strangers too, which is that part of him I wonder if his brain has flicked over to a different cat setting.

The last thing I'll talk about is how our cat thinks he's a dog.  In fact, I compare his actions (even the crazy wild-eyed cat thing) to things I've seen dogs do.  He'll be sweet one moment, wanting to get petted, then bat his paw at me when he's had enough.  I've seen him just randomly lash out at the girls because he wants to play.  And he has favorite toys that he loves to play with.  I don't have pictures of these things, unfortunately, although I do have video I've thought of posting on my YouTube channel (which might get linked someday if I can get things together) but he has a blue, rubber bracelet and a blue chair cushion tie (that he chewed off the cushion and I never bothered to sew back on) that he drags around the house if he wants to play fetch.  He'll also play with these items on his own if he's really desperate, but most of time they wind up next to the couch where I'm sitting or on the bed when I'm sleeping, only so I can throw them across the room and he can fetch them back three or four times.  He does get bored of this, but he has been known to do it for a half hour or more if he's in the mood.

So there you have it.  Tenchi in a nutshell (or at least in ten or so paragraphs).  I think that covers all but the fact that he likes to sleep at my husband's feet at night, he LOVES fresh water out of the tap (we have a separate bowl in the bathroom just for him even though we have a perfectly good fountain) and that he hates to be picked up, held or have his claws trimmed.  Also isn't much of a height cat due to his fat, although he did just make it up on the counter the other day, much to our dismay.

Next entry will be on Mina - Tenchi's arch-rival and best friend.