A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 7, 2008

Safe Haven?

Filed under: alpaca, General — Tags: , , — alpacalady @ 6:53 am

Our newborn kitten in our chiminea

Our newborn kitten in our chiminea


Monday afternoon I was headed out to check on water buckets and give the alpacas their afternoon shower (hosing down their legs and bellies), as I set off from the house I heard a noise, a small squeaky little meow.    For a moment I thought perhaps it was a bird making a sound similar to a meow but then I heard it again.  Somewhere nearby was a kitten.


I knew that one of our barn cats had given birth last Friday.  Our barn cat “herd” is now down to three with a visiting tomcat.  When we first moved to this house we inherited 20 or so cats with the property.  The previous owner had asked us we if wanted a “few” barn cats, it turned out his idea of a few and our idea of a few were completely different. 


I spoke to our small animal vet about our barn cat situation, I am a big supporter of spaying and neutering pets and it went against the grain for me to now own 20 or so wild cats, none of which were spayed or neutered.  We couldn’t afford to spay or neuter all of those cats and there wasn’t (and still isn’t) a low cost spay and neuter program in the area.  Our vet told me that over time the cat population would probably hold stable, some cats would be lost to coyotes, others would die from illness, some would just disappear.  I was a little skeptical, I know cats can reproduce at a phenomenal rate, but as it turned out our vet was right.  Over the years some of the cats have died, sadly our neighbor’s dogs killed several of them and then an outbreak of illness saw more of the cats die.  Coyotes and owls (yes, owls will take a cat) have removed some more of the cats and these days we are down to three.


One of the barn cats is amazingly one of the original mother cats; she must have a tremendous immune system, as nothing seems to touch her, and the nothing touching her rule includes us, as she is completely wild.  Another of the surviving cats is the daughter of the mother cat, hopefully she has inherited her mother’s immune system, but she is a little strange in behavior and we come across her in the oddest of places around the farm.  She likes to catch rabbits and we hope that she does her share of mousing duties around the farm.


The third cat we call Kit Cat.  He is part Siamese and thankfully neutered.  Someone dropped Kit Cat off at our farm when we were not here along with another cat who had a broken pelvis.  The cat with the broken pelvis, we called her Blackie, survived for several years but eventually developed cancer and we had to have her put down.  Kit Cat though is a survivor, and most likely was at one time a house cat.  He tries to get in the house, but unfortunately he still sprays like a tomcat and so he has to stay outside.  He is the sweetest of cats, tolerant of small children, affectionate and an absolute devil when it comes to stealing food, or what he thinks could be food, from people’s cars, trucks, purses and bags.


So it seems that the visiting tomcat had a liaison with our mother cat, the end result being one little smoky grey kitten (the tom cat is a beautiful solid smoky grey).  With past litters the mother cat has hidden her brood under one of the old boxcars we have on the property, but unfortunately tomcats like to kill kittens and so there have not been any survivors.  The last kitten the mother cat had she hid in a livestock trailer that one of our clients had parked here, but some visiting children disturbed her and so she moved the kitten back to the box car.  We saw the kitten once or twice after that and have not seen any sign of it since.


In recent weeks the mother cat and Kit Cat have become quite attached to each other.  They spend their days lounging in the sunshine, grooming each other and enjoying watching the activity at the farm.  Whereas in the past the mother cat was wary of coming up to the house she has started to come to the house with Kit Cat and it has not been usual to find her sitting on the front porch with Kit Cat by her side.


The mother cats confidence in us has increased, so much so that she apparently has decided that we are a safer option for her kitten than the box car location, for she has brought her kitten and placed it inside our chiminea!


When I heard the kitten meowing it took me a while to figure out where it was, but eventually I found it.  The mother cat was not nearby and so I took a chance and placed some straw inside the chiminea for the kitten to bed down on.  I wore gloves to keep my scent off the straw and made sure I didn’t touch the kitten.  Mother barn cats can be very wary of any strange scents on their offspring and the last thing I wanted was to have her abandon or move her kitten.  I had time to snap a couple of pictures of the kitten before making a hasty retreat before the mother cat came back.


As of today the mother cat has still got her kitten in the chiminea.  We can stand inside the front door and watch her as she goes in and out of the chiminea, sometimes to feed her kitten, other times to groom herself and her kitten and sometimes just to curl up contentedly with her little furry offspring.


I hope this kitten makes it, the mother cat is trying her best to keep it safe and hopefully she will be rewarded for her efforts.



January 21, 2008

A Few Updates

For those of you who have been following the blog on a regular basis you might be wondering on the progress of some of the animals on the farm that have been mentioned in previous blog entries.  For the most part the news is good, and I thought you would like to hear how everyone is doing.

First I will start off with Zoie’s cria Zeus who was having such a tough time gaining weight during his first few months.  I am happy to report that Zeus is doing really well, he has started to show better weight gain and is turning out to be a good looking boy with lots of fleece.  He is still compact in frame, but his sire has a compact body shape and so that probably has a lot to do with Zeus’s frame style.  Zeus is starting to develop the same heavy bone as his sire too and I suspect he is going to be quite the stud when he matures!  (He thinks he has already matured and frequently tries his hand at trying to convince the girls he is ready for a date!)

Our girl Chai still is not 100%, she eats well and her energy levels are good but despite gaining back about 20 lbs of the weight she lost she sill has a gaunt appearance.  Her milk production has increased and her cria Kanika is a little mischief and doing well.  We drew blood from her yesterday (thank you to Bob Dart from Llano Soleado Alpacas for coming out on a cold morning to do that for us) and will see what her blood levels show this time around.  Chai has been off antibiotics for a little while now and hopefully her white blood cell count will have stabilized.  When we ran a fecal test on Chai she showed the lowest of levels of parasites but our vet advised us to worm her anyway.  Chai seemed to gain weight once we wormed her and I am going to worm her again to see how she responds this time.  As I mentioned in an entry the other day Chai has experienced a return of the facial abscess that we thought had cleared up, something that indicates to me that perhaps her immune system is not quite up to par.  Chai doesn’t seem to think she has a problem though and is first in line for food and eager to eat hay.  She has even started “arguing” with the other girls if they try to steal her spot at the hayrack.

Blast, Velvet, Athena and Shiimsa have made excellent progress with their halter training and day weaning.  We will be completing the final stages of weaning in the next week or so and preparing them for their first trip away from home (with the exception of Shiimsa who has been to a show before).

On the “pet” side of things, Toby the Pomeranian has continued to make excellent progress in his recovery from his vaccine reaction.  His medication has again been reduced and we are down to visiting the vet only every other week, however recent blood tests have shown that so far Toby is still not producing enough red blood cells.  The vet is hopeful that the reduction in medication may help that situation.  Toby has gained weight and is almost back to his old self, but does tend to be a little grumpier and is most likely more spoiled than he was before (is that possible I ask!).

Snuggler the barn cat has decided that he still enjoys time outside with his barn cat buddies.  He is completely recovered from his injuries and spends most of his time outside, but has figured out that he can get food in the house in the morning and then food down at the barn as well.  He often stays out overnight, something that causes me concern as I am not 100% sure that the dog that has been killing our cats and which injured Snuggler is not still paying us visits at night.  I must say that I have been surprised that during this cold snap that Snuggler has chosen to stay out in the cold rather than to stay in the warm house at night.   There have been a couple of nights that Snuggler has graced us with his presence but most nights he wants to be out and with his friends.

And finally there is Bandit the dog who is still with us.  We did have one family contact us about Bandit but unfortunately they did not follow up on their enquiry about him.  Bandit does not seem too concerned and enjoys his twice daily walks.  He loves to fetch a ball and has figured out where all the water sources on the property are – something that is a necessity to him as he still thinks it is fun to turn over his water bowl and then throw it up in the air for fun!  Bandit has a set routine on his walk when he takes off to visit Missy and Tripster the two dogs in the back yard, he then diverts over to see Sandie our other dog who has her own side yard (she doesn’t play well with others).  Once the visits are over Bandit gallops back to me at breakneck speed and then sits and waits for the reward of a dog biscuit.  We are still trying to find Bandit a good home and the pressure is now on to rehouse him as he is currently staying in the livestock trailer which we will need to use for the show in February.

As time goes by the girls in the alpaca herd are looking more pregnant each day, its hard to believe that in a few months we will be in cria season with more “little zippers” cavorting around the pasture – and hopefully warmer weather too!


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