The Catio, Part IV – Escape? Really?

Never underestimate the brain power of an animal who wants out. We learned our lesson when we kept finding Morpheus on the freedom side of the deck. How was he doing it?

Remember that post that went from deck to ceiling near the gate, with the six feet of wire on it? Remember I said Morpheus could jump and put his claws into wood

Green wire on top.

like a master? Even though the drop off from the deck at that point is well over 15 feet he managed to swing himself around the post, then easily drop onto the railing and ultimately the deck. And of course his bad influence rubbed off on Torbie, who quickly learned to do the same stunt.

We always knew the catio would be a work in progress, we just didn’t realize how quickly we would be installing Catio 2.0. Fortunately, for a quick fix, we had materials at hand; a roll of green wire, about three feet high, that was looking for a job.

We started at the gate side and fastened the wire high up and this time definitely bent in and preventing any grabbing of the post. The we rolled it around the deck until we ran out. There’s a bit of a gap on the doorway end of the deck, but the cats have never offered to escape that way – the wire is way too wiggly and there is no convenient post to grab. We fastened everything with the ubiquitous and oh-so-handy zip ties. Then we let the cats out.

The escape route made inescapable.

Morpheus immediately went to escape central and realized his exit route had been eliminated. He did try, though. I watched him take a leap, hang there for a moment, and then come to the conclusion that things would not end well were he to continue. He was miffed. The set of his jaw indicated this was unacceptable. Didn’t have my phone handy, unfortunately, or we could have had a fun video. Torbie also gave it a shot, but her attempt was pretty half-hearted. I think she secretly likes having an excuse to stay confined and protected.

Lynkx, the other (former) barn boy, took at look at the new arrangements and I swear he shrugged his shoulders. He’s pretty philosophical about life.

Tolstoy enjoys a little chair time.

Tolstoy, Ry and Aloysius were just happy to be allowed out again, and basked in the sun.

At our other house, Malamute Niko was separated from the cats by a large fence. He lived in the fairly expansive back, barn cats had free rein in the front yard out to the barn. Niko tends to chase anything furry, and while he has learned that in the house the cats are his buddies and not to be messed with, he tends to forget that when he’s outside. Instinct takes over. One of the reasons Morpheus and Lynkx are no longer barn guys, aside from the fact that they seem to have little interest in reclaiming that job, is because the barn at our current home is not separated from Niko’s running around area.

Morpheus and his favorite chair.

So Morpheus and I reached a compromise. Since he and his brother Lynkx used to live in the barn and are pretty savvy about things in general, when the dogs are in the house I will let him out the front door. During the day. When we’re home. He doesn’t stay out long and doesn’t go far. It’s the idea of the freedom that he likes. After a little taste of adventure, he happily spends the rest of the day on the catio, lounging in his favorite chair and dreaming of whatever is in cat’s dreams.

Niko, 0; Porcupines, 2

You would think our big smart dog would learn, but nooooo. He is spending his second day at the vet getting quills removed from his nose. Not as bad this time, so perhaps he has learned SOMETHING. And he didn’t complain. Glenn said he actually looked pretty abashed when he got taken to the vet AGAIN.
Home from the vet. A little woozy. Duuuuuuh.

We were both pretty upset with him this morning. Second day in a row when our lives have been turned upside down by his insistence in putting his snout where it doesn’t belong. There was talk of finding him another home, as he is a total rascal, doesn’t listen, and is headstrong and absolutely has to do things HIS way. That is the Malamute / probable wolf in him – they are self-sufficient. Knee-jerk reaction on our part; this isn’t the first time we’ve threatened to move him on down the road, and he’s still with us.

While I was walking our other three dogs this morning, the ones who actually like being with people and come when called, I had time to reflect on my reaction to his actions, and to ponder what L-O-V-E(tm) might reveal to me.
LISTEN – aside from yesterday’s shrieks of surprise when he came up with a painful nose full, he hasn’t said much on a physical level. So what was he trying to say from what I’ll call his soul self? I get the definite feeling he is protecting his family by calling out what he considers danger. If the puppies got involved with the porcupine, that could be very bad indeed, as they are not quite 5 months old and have no experience with the more dangerous side of existence. So from his perspective, he’s doing his job.
OBSERVE –  When he came home yesterday, friend Porcupine was still under our front deck, and Niko really, really wanted to get in there. Of course we kept him on a leash, and then once the Animal Removal person arrived and capture Mr. P in a humane trap, to be taken away to an animal reserve, Niko was released. Even though I had (I thought) blocked off access to the deck, he bulled his way under it to make sure the danger was gone. Interestingly, once he knew it wasn’t there any more, he was no longer compelled to go anywhere near the underside of the deck. Making sure the world is safe for his little brood. Glenn is the pack leader, I’m second in command, but Niko works really hard to let us know that as our Lieutenant we can rely on him to go where it might be difficult for us to do so. Like under the deck. And then this morning he came home with more quills, although an inspection of the area revealed no other porcupine. Could he have found a place where Mr. P rested before going under the deck and got himself another snootload? We don’t know. The Animal Removal man did say Mr. P was missing a LOT of quills, and thought he might be dehydrated.
VALUE – Even though his actions are annoying, if I look at Niko’s actions from his point of view, it makes sense. Let’s be real here, it’s fun to be a hero, and rooting out interlopers is a big part of what he does and who he is. But he also bore the brunt of the danger, literally in his face, so we knew there was a potential problem lurking on the property. If he hadn’t done that, Mr. P could still be under the deck, and puppies or kitties could easily have a very nasty encounter. So I choose to value his sacrifice of his nose and sensibilities to keep us all safe.
EXPAND – Just thinking about the situation in this way is an expansion. Turning it this way and that, mulling over the implications of not knowing we had a prickly visitor, and respecting Niko’s willingness to leap into the fray whenever needed. He is truly a magnificent dog, and I can thank him for helping us keep our property porcupine free. And ask him to just bark at the next one to get our attention instead of touching it (hopefully the news has gone out on the Porcupine-vine that our place is to be avoided at all costs).
It is truly all about L-O-V-E(tm) – his for us, and ours for him.

The Catio, Part III – Wire goes Around

Roll, roll, unroll the wire.

We had the gate up, now we needed wire. Six feet high and angled in a bit at the top, we felt, would do the trick.  The hardest part was unrolling it, because, as anyone who has ever worked with rolled up wire can tell you, it can be a bit unruly. However, with the two of us using all of our strongs, we wrestled it into position and fastened it to the railing with post staples.

Six feet of wire. Gap can be seen above header which we covered with wire.

Over by the gate, we used those zip tie things and fastened it to the gate on both sides.

I was a little concerned about the gap above the header. I know our cat Morpheus. He is a fierce climber and is completely capable of leaping six feet straight up to put his claws into wood. So we added wire above the header to discourage any leaping over the gate.

Torbie strides out, Ry hesitates a bit.

Once it was all in place, the grand unveiling took place. The cats had been waiting patiently for days – weeks even, if you were to ask them. They were lined up at the door in our master bedroom, which is how they access their own private space.

As the door was opened, they peeked out and one by one made their way onto the deck. Ahhhh! Fresh air! Sunshine! Freedom, sort of. For the former barn boys,

Torbie contemplates “the other side” and sizes up how high she’d have to jump to get out.

Lynkx and Morpheus, it was better than nothing but still not optimal. Torbie, our only female, was rescued from life under a deck at about 4 months of age, so  despite her diminutive size (all four pounds of her), she is fearless and also an amazing climber. The other three cats are more of the “house” variety, and found the catio to be a huge outdoor playground, with lots of things to look at. They can only stand it for so long and then have to escape back into the safety of four walls.

All in all, the first encounter was a success. Happy cats, happy people.

The Catio Part II

Well, it’s moving along. I measured, I dreamt, I thought about what an awesome space we’ll be giving the cats (two sides of our deck). Then we got real.

Glenn measures the header.

If we want to get this done soon, with all of the other things that are going on in our lives, we need to downsize a bit.

  • Gone was the walkway to the “chicken coop”, at least for this year.
  • We made the area on the deck about half the size.
  • We decided we did not need to fully enclose it, since our cats are not idiots and won’t try to jump a leaning in 6 ft wire fence when the ground is about 15 feet away. Seriously. They are smarter than that.

So it’s a little smaller, but it’s still a great space, and they are going to LOVE it!

We started by purchasing materials – a roll of six-foot wire and a really nifty gate, which cost more than the rest of the materials combined. But it will look nice, and it’s very sturdy.

The Header in Place and Awaiting the Gate.

First step was to figure out how to put the gate up, since it is five feet wide and the gap is a bit more than that. Our house is also stucco – have you ever tried to fasten anything to stucco? It’s quite the adventure. My husband came up with a header design that will do the trick nicely. We have lots of lumber left over from other projects, and a 2 x 6 board was just what we needed. Oh, look, we’ve got one laying right there in that pile of wood!

Affixing the Gate to the Header

After measuring and cutting and then finding some brackets we had laying around (I love that!), we got the brackets in place and then added the header – after shaving off some more of the 2 x 6, since the screw heads stuck out just a teeny bit on both sides.

The gate itself is “hung” from the header with brackets. We put other brackets into the post next to the house and then for good measure a couple into the deck. It gets a bit breezy here; we didn’t want the gate to do any dancing in the wind.

Gate Hung with Wild Husband on Other Side

Wire will wrap around to close the gap on the outside deck area, and a little more wire on the house side to close the gap above the post.

Next time: The Wire Goes Up