We're having single-digit temperatures, and soon we are forecast to have a LOT of below-zero days. It's miserable now, and I feel so bad for the animals. Especially old Mama Kitty. She carried what was left of her litter of kittens over here when her owners moved, 12 years ago, and never left. Mama Kitty scrounged for a living for a while before I took pity on her and her brood and started feeding them. I didn't want her to become one of those window-screen destroyer-cats, and I didn't want her hanging around at the front door, so I fed her and her babies in the barn and didn't pet or handle them.
Mama Kitty (MK) has lived on her own before she came here, eating out of trash cans or killing mice to eat. She does not want to live in a house with people. Put her inside a building and she panics. One time we set a hav-a-heart trap near the chicken house to catch a raccoon; Mama Kitty smelled the bait, went in, and was trapped until morning. When I found her and opened the cage door, she flew out. And now, if she sees a baited trap, she ignores the bait. When we go somewhere nearby in the car, Cliff often leaves our garage door open. Usually MK will be in that garage sitting on the seat of a Famall B tractor as we approach, but by the time we are in the garage, she has streaked out of there. She's been shut into buildings a few times and does not intend for that to ever happen again.
She didn't show up for supper on Sunday, and yesterday I still had not seen her around. Then after noon, I went in the barn looking for something and there she was, greeting me with her almost inaudible "meow". I gave her some dry cat food, then came to the house to get some wet food for her, for which she was very thankful. She's usually a slow eater, but she made that wet cat food disappear pretty fast. I took out a little water, knowing it would turn to ice before long. I take the chickens hot water to pour on the ice in their water pan and melt enough for them to have a drink. I do that twice a day, and they seem to do OK with that.
I plotted and schemed: How could I make a warm place for her? Cliff has a little space heater going in his shop to keep the water from freezing, so maybe she'd be OK in there. I tried to call her out of the barn and lead her to the shop, but I should have known better. She wouldn't even touch one foot to the snow, when I opened the door of the barn. I had cat litter from when Blue was a kitten, and I had the pan to put it in, so I took that to the shop. Then I picked MK up and carried her into the shop, shutting the door behind us. I should have known better, because she remembers being accidentally shut in there a couple times. She went crazy.
So I tried something else: When we first got my cat, Blue, Cliff took an old ice chest and cut a hole in the side for a door; you've probably seen this suggested for feral cats on the Internet somewhere. It's a small enough area that the cat's body heat will keep it somewhat warm in frigid temperatures. I took it to the barn, thinking perhaps if she got in it she might feel warmer and like it. Ha! I opened the lid to put her in, because I knew trying to thread her through that hole that serves as a door would terrify her. Well, when I put her in via the top, I couldn't even shut the lid fast enough to hold her in. So I am at the point where all I can do is take her food and water. She's lived through at least 11 winters, maybe more. She'll likely be fine. But I still had a slight problem.
Remember, I said Blue would not be be a house cat. Now that it's cold, he does spend most of his daytime hours in here with us. If nature calls, he goes to the door and waits for me to open it. He's almost perfect as a house cat, but if I let him stay in at night, he'll be on counters and tables and tearing up the curtains; he needs to be supervised. I've never kept him in at night, but I know his ways. And I will NOT have a stinking litter box in the house. I could take him to the shop at night; he'd be fine. But he's a destroyer, so I'm scared to do that. He was still a small kitten when he completely ripped up a $300 tractor seat that was ON THE TRACTOR all by himself. Twenty years ago he would have died for that infraction, but Cliff has gotten soft in his old age.
All day I stewed about what to do with Blue at night when it's below zero. I've been putting him out the door when I'm ready for bed, hoping he has a nice, snuggly place to sleep somewhere; but I sure did feel guilty. Well, enter the cooler condo Cliff set up last June. I brought it to the front porch, threw some comfortable rags in it, and hoped for the best. I was pretty sure that Blue would take to these night quarters: He's one of the smarter cats I've had, and he is fearless. He's never been trapped or hungry or hurting, and for the most part he trusts me... especially if food is involved. So I placed a small dish of dry cat food in one corner of the "condo". At 9 PM I stepped out, opened the top, and lowered Blue into his new bedroom. As I shut the lid, I heard the sound of cat food being crunched between Blue's teeth.
This morning, 4 AM, I snapped the leash on Gabe and took him for his morning constitutional. I went out the front door, turning on the porch light to see if I still had a cat. I paused about five seconds, then Blue's head was peeking out the door of his bedroom. He chose to stay there while Gabe was doing his business, so it is a smashing success! I wish I'd gotten a picture with his face looking out at us, but I had just gotten out of bed and Gabe was in a hurry to get his job done and get back in the warm house. Stepping out into 6 degree weather while half asleep is something I wouldn't recommend, but millions of dog owners do it every day. By the way, so far there is no awful odor emitting from Gabe's posterier today. I'm hoping he's over his gas problems, because we don't have any more book matches left in the house. I ordered some from Amazon, though: Matches are the best defense against bad cases of gas, whether it's coming from animals or humans. It's redneck air freshener!
I highly recommend this cat house. After all, my genius cat approves of it. I'm thinking of renting it out on Airbnb or VRBO.