A catio for our cats

We have been talking about getting a catio for our furry girls pretty much since they came into our lives, and they’re five now so it’s been an epic conversation! I’ve never had house cats before, in fact I never considered it, but when we moved into our house, our previous cat, Willow, was hit and killed on the road, so we made the decision (controversial to some) to keep our girls as house cats. They were tiny kittens when we adopted them so they’ve never known the outside world. I wouldn’t keep a cat inside that was used to going out.

Over the last few months we’ve been home with the girls a lot more and have had more time to consider and research the catio. There are a number of companies who sell ready made catios, but boy are they expensive! We started looking at them and then did some research on YouTube and decided that we’d be able to build our own at a vastly reduced financial outlay, so I got planning.

The catio is essentially a wooden frame with cat safe wire mesh attached to make it secure, but it was actually harder than I anticipated to design it. The basic shape was easy enough, but then I had to consider exactly where the screws should go to avoid drilling into another screw where three lengths of wood needed to be joined, and I had to bear in mind the width of the mesh and where we would need additional struts to allow us to attach it. Even with all my meticulous, pencil-chewing planning, we still had to tweak the design as we went along, but we got there.

I think we ended up with three trips to B&Q for supplies.

It’s a good job I’ve got quite a long car because we needed eight 2.4 metre lengths of wood in order to make the catio big enough to clear our back door.

Our first attempt went a bit wrong – I’m still not entirely sure how it happened, but I think it must’ve been something to do with the conversion from inches which we measured in, to centimetres which we cut in! We won’t dwell on that!

Newly measured, and double, triple and quadruple checked, we got going again – luckily we were able to reuse most of the bits of wood that we’d cut so we didn’t waste much, and this time the frame fit over the door and window. We decided not to include a door because this would’ve made the design more complicated and expensive, and we have another door into the back garden so it’s not necessary.

So far, so good!

The timber we used was only thirty eight millimetres wide so the frame was quite flimsy whilst we were still assembling it so we had to be really careful as we moved it around.

Soon we got to the stage where we could staple some of the mesh onto the frame so it became more stable.

We chose the mesh carefully because the cats may decide to climb it which could hurt their little paws. This mesh is plastic coated and is sold as animal proof. We made sure that all the edges are secured and/or tucked away so curious paws can’t find them.

I picked up a few hanging pots to go on the outside of the catio, as well as some quirky additions to prettify the whole thing and I moved some of my existing posts to make a feature of it. We picked up some cheap fake grass for the bottom to soften the look. We’re really pleased with how it turned out.

I picked the plants up from Webbs last weekend. I needed plants that wouldn’t get too big for the four around the sides, and two that will trail for the top corners. Obviously they all had to be cat safe too, just in case!

I’ve wanted an ornamental kale for ages and this was the perfect opportunity.

The cats were a bit hesitant about the whole affair to start off with …

… but they’re getting more and more used to it now. Tink even scratched the door to ask to go out there yesterday.

Next job then, it would seem, is to get a cat flap so they can let themselves out there whenever they fancy. It’s nice to know they can get outside in a safe and secure way to get some air and some sunshine.

Six on Saturday 5th September

September … a bitter sweet month for me. It’s my birthday in September which is generally a positive, or at the very least conjures up memories of when birthdays were something that seemed to take an age to arrive but were worth the wait, and when becoming another year older was a good thing. However September also heralds the end of my favourite time of year. I’ll soon be swapping my Summer front door wreath for my Autumn one. I’ve worn boots for the first time since March. The heating’s been on and the Winter duvet is on the bed. I do not do cold! I haven’t had to turn the SAD lamp on yet, but it won’t be long.

Anyway, enough with the doom and gloom – maybe we’ll have an Indian Summer – and on with the business of the day

First up, an update on the tourniqueted Sunflowers and, well, you win some …

… and you lose some!

At least I tried to save them both. I’m pleased that one of them has thrived despite the squirrel assault.

Harvest time is coming to an end, but I did bring some produce back in with me after my usual Saturday morning potter around the garden.

These are my first ever peppers and I’m stupidly happy about them. The courgette is somewhat squat! I don’t know what I do wrong with my courgette plants. Most people get a glut of courgettes but this is only the second one I’ve had – all the rest have rotted. I have had loads of runner beans though, and the carrot crop will keep us going for a while. I’ve chopped everything up and frozen it so nothing gets wasted (apart from the courgette because they go mushy – we’ll have that next week in a stir fry most likely).

My lovely Berberis is getting its gold edging back for the first time since I bought it.

I bought this from Hop Pocket, a lovely shopping village near Worcester which is filled with crafty things, home baked goods and, importantly, a garden centre. However, when I planted it in the garden, all its leaves fell off and it really didn’t look happy, so I whipped it out again and kept everything crossed that it would recover in a pot. It survived but never returned to its former glory until now. It looks like it’s coming along in leaps and bounds.

My Pussy Willow is starting to lose its leaves.

I bought this earlier this year before lockdown and it’s done pretty well through the Summer. Sad as it is that it’s preparing for the cold weather, the skeleton leaves do look pretty spectacular.

We built a catio for our cats over the last couple of weekends. They’re house cats because we live on a busy road, so we thought they might like a little bit of outside space to smell the air and nose around. I decided to prettify the catio with some plants hanging off it.

This is my favourite one. I’ve coveted an ornamental kale for ages. I think they’re so pretty. The plants are all on the outside of the catio so there’s no danger of the cats ingesting something they shouldn’t.

Finally, I want to ask for opinions!

What on God’s green earth are these that have appeared in the soil at the base of one of my tomato plants? Some kind of spider egg? Apart from the usual arachnophobia worries, do I need to be concerned about this?

As ever, don’t forget to check out the Propagator for more Sixes.

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

Humanity Rises

I feel compelled to say, probably for the millionth time in the last two weeks, what a weird, crazy time we’re living through.

I know you all know that already (unless you’ve just returned from a three month sojourn to Mars) but I just feel the need to acknowledge how odd it all is. It’s as akin to war time as I ever want to get.

As I stepped out of the door this lunchtime to go for my daily allowance of exercise, a big, grey, unmarked plane went over.

I didn’t quite manage to get my phone out quickly enough to get a closer photo, but it had four engines and wasn’t a jumbo and didn’t look quite big enough to be an A380 so I think it was an A340 and I’m pretty sure it was a military plane. The only regular four engined plane that goes into Birmingham airport is the twice daily Emirates A380 from Dubai, and it wasn’t that. The Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham is regularly used for wounded soldiers coming back from their postings abroad, so we do occasionally see military planes. I wondered whether they’re flying back military personnel who may have succumbed to corona virus, or whether they’re flying home troops to back up the army here who are already on stand-by, should they be needed, or, could they be repatriating people who’ve been stranded abroad? Whatever the reason, seeing that made me feel even more like we’re living in war time, although I’m obviously very grateful not to have the Blitz going on around us.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised and had my faith in humanity restored over the past few days, not least by the rousing applause that echoed up and down our street this evening at 8pm as most households stood on their doorsteps to clap, whoop and generally show their appreciation for all the NHS staff who are so bravely and resolutely continuing with their roles in order to beat this foe and keep our country safe.

My hubby works for the NHS. He’s not on the front line, but he is working hard to keep that front line going, as well as all the patients, corona virus related or not!

This is now his essential work equipment.

I also have a very good friend who is a physio who is being redeployed during this crisis to wherever needs her most, and a cousin who I assume is in the same boat, although I haven’t spoken to him.

I have friends and family who are teachers who are risking their health to look after the children of key workers so that they can continue doing their fantastic work to keep the country safe and functioning.

I have friends who are part of the half a million who have offered to volunteer for the NHS to get us through this crisis. I always thought that, these days, we weren’t made of as good stuff as all those brave men and women who voluntarily signed up to fight for and work for our country back in the last century when our security and safety was threatened, but I’m proud and humbled to find that, although this isn’t a war, there are people, in their hundreds of thousands, who are selfless and compassionate enough to put themselves out there for the benefit of society.

For all these people that I know, and all the others that I don’t know who are keeping us going, I applauded you earlier, and I applaud you again. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

Social media gets a really bad write up sometimes, and it isn’t always a good thing, but throughout this crisis so far, it’s played a big part in keeping me sane. Without my WhatsApp groups, Facebook and Instagram, I would be feeling a whole load more isolated than I do. Sitting in our spare room staring at a laptop in front of a wall all day, when my phone vibrates with a message from a work colleague or friend or family member, it lifts my spirits to know that someone’s thinking of me and that I’m not alone.

Of course, also reminding me that I’m not alone are two furry things who are delighted to have company 24/7 at the moment.

Excuse the lack of make up! There’s really no point – I’ll have beautiful skin when all this is over!

They provide their own particular challenges, or Tinkerbell does anyway.

Yesterday I was on the phone to my health insurance (bad back – thanks for asking!) when Tinkerbell decided to sit on my laptop and somehow managed to make the laptop read out the email that was open in a voice a la C3P0, much to the amusement of the lady on the other end of the phone! I didn’t even know my laptop could do that! I still don’t know how it does it other than via feline bottom!

Today said feline walked across the keyboard and managed to turn it into a French keyboard! This, thanks to Google, I do now know how to fix – luckily it understood ‘how do I fiy mx kexboard’ or something to that effect!

Anyway, my browsing of social media has, again, thrown up lots of corona virus memes which have amused me. Now, before anyone shoots me, I know that this is not a laughing matter, but I do think a bit of light relief is essential for us all to get through this and come out the other side with our sanity. So, here you go, my pick of the best to finish with.

And the best of all ….