Here it is: The pet column

Galley on chair.jpg
Galley Cat, in her harness (size “Small Dog”), is loving being an outdoor cat now that she lives on a quiet island in the San Juans.

NO, IIMG_7955‘M NOT POSTING ANY CAT VIDEOS. But here’s the next best thing for you petaholics: a posting on how our two boat cats have adjusted to island life.

Purrr-ty well, I will (somewhat shamefacedly) say.

We’ve given boat-y names to a succession of felines who’ve lived with us on our sailboat over the years. There was Compass and Rose, and now Bosun and Galley Cat.

Bosun, aka Bobo, and Galley have visited the Center Island cabin many times over the years, but now they’re here to stay. And the big life-change for Galley: She gets to roam outside on her own, for the first time, at age 6. Bobo, a big handsome tuxedo cat, at age 15 is too skittish and set in his ways to go out unaccompanied. (He’s between 77 and 90 years old in human years, depending on whose formula you follow; I am only 11 in cat years, I was pleased to discover. Maybe I’ll start using that when people ask.)

On the boat, both cats wore harnesses (not made for cats; typically they wear size “Small Dog”) and went out on the sailboat’s deck on tethers that kept them from jumping on to the dock. They could soak up sun and get fresh air while kingfishers baited them from the mast spreaders.

But now, for Galley, it’s like a jailbird breaking out of the Big House. She’s loving it.

Galley is a sweet, odd little ginger girl who is just about the exact color of the dried August grasses on Center Island, so she gets to play “lion of the Serengeti.” So far she has been unsuccessful at stalking birds, and if she gets better at it we will reconsider her liberation, since watching birds is one of our favorite new pastimes.  She did succeed in catching a small garter snake, but when I picked it up and moved it away, it appeared to only be playing dead, so I think she was more interested in poking at it than killing it. (The conquest earned her the nickname “Snakelips.”)

We’ve wrestled with a few parental concerns. We keep her inside after 4 p.m. to avoid confrontations with nocturnal natives such as raccoons or the occasional mink. And we’ve treated her with special rub-in drops that make her unattractive to fleas and ticks. One worry we happily don’t have: busy streets and speeding traffic. (I took her on a walk to the grass air strip once and a plane suddenly landed right in front of us, causing her to just about jump out of her skin, so I think that taught her to stay away from the field where Birds the Size of a House fall out of the sky.)

It’s been a real pleasure watching her discover the joys of running around the woods and taking her first stabs at tree climbing. So far, she hasn’t gone up far, and usually leaps right back down. (If she gets stuck up a tree, there’s no fire department to call, so I suppose I’d have to haul out the big ladder.)

Part of our new routine has become a joyful part of my day. When I make the steep climb up the rocky knoll to Wee Nooke, my writing hut, Galley invariably comes dashing up the narrow path from behind and rockets to the top ahead of me — sometimes finishing with a 6-foot climb up a tree, just to show off. (I always applaud.) When I leave Wee Nooke’s door open on warm days, she’ll wander in and out to say hello (and to get one of the kitty treats I keep in a jar). At day’s end, she’ll rocket down the trail past me, just to finish things right.

She’s gained a bit of weight, perhaps from all those kitty treats, but also from some new muscle, I think. And she’s been sleeping really solidly.

Bosun, the handsome tuxedo cat, in younger days aboard the boat.

While she gets to have all that fun, it doesn’t mean old Bosun is cooped up all the time. We put his harness on him and tether him on the cabin’s deck where he’s pretty happy to lay on the warm cedar boards and soak up hot sun on his old bones. And he smells really fresh when he comes in.

We love having cats. They keep each other company if we have to go away for a night or two. And we’ve been lucky to find a conscientious high-school boy on the island who cares for them when we’ve gone for longer sojourns.

That’s my pet column. And, OK, if you really need a cat video, here’s a disgustingly cute one. 1-anchor

4 thoughts on “Here it is: The pet column

  1. Good to see everyone settling in to island living. You can always do the bell on the collar trick to warn the birds.


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