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Caturday 139

Posted on Monday, December 16th, 2019

Dave!Yeah, yeah, I know. It's Monday. But I wanted to get my Hallmark post up as soon as possible, which was Caturday... then it was Bullet Sunday... which leaves us Caturday on Monday. Everybody will just have to deal, I guess.

As I've mentioned a few times, there is a stray cat in my neighborhood whom I named "Fake Jake" after my brother was housesitting and let him in thinking that he was my Jake who had gotten outside somehow. He is a very sweet cat... but also an overly-enthusiastic cat with very sharp claws, so you kind of have to watch out when you're petting him.

Fake Jake belonged to a family down the street. When they moved, they took him with them... but he obviously didn't care for his new digs because he would keep running back to us. For a while there I was trapping him and calling them to come get him. But eventually they stopped coming so I stopped calling. Myself and my neighbor have been feeding him and watching out for him, so I guess it's all good.

I would have brought him inside long ago except... he is very much an outdoor cat. And he is highly aggressive towards other cats. Many a time I have caught him lunging at Jake and Jenny when they are out chilling in the catio...

And so... he gets to remain an outdoor cat.

Though that's tough for me to stomach when it's raining or cold out. Especially when it's cold out, and I see him trying to hunker down and conserve body heat...

Fake Jake sitting on my front entry rig as seen from behind my front door.

Fake Jake sitting in front of my garage looking cold.

When I got back from my Antarctica trip, I couldn't take it any more. I purchased an "igloo" cat shelter. To make sure it was warm enough, I built a berm out of pipe insulation to help keep heat in. I tried to make a door flap, but he felt trapped and wouldn't stay inside...

A rounded berm built up from pipe insulation sitting on the floor of a cat shelter.

Fake Jake took to it right away...

Fake Jake the Cat crawling into his domed cat shelter.

I installed a camera on the roof so I can check to make sure he's doing okay...

Fake Jake as seen from the roof camera, all snuggled up in his cat shelter with his paws over his nose.

As winter dragged on, the weather was getting unbearably bitter cold. I worried that he would not be able to stay warm enough, so I found an electric "warming pad" to help him out. It doesn't actually get "warm to the touch"... it's designed to rise in temperature when something is set on top of it. Basically to keep the animal from freezing. He really liked that. Now he was in the shelter throughout the day when he got cold instead of only at night.

Eventually I bought a second shelter and warming pad for the back-side of the condos (where he is fed) so he could choose where he wanted to sleep. For a while he was swapping between them. Then one day he stopped using the back shelter. Knowing that the cold weather is harder on cats as they get older, I thought that maybe a heating element in the ceiling would help to keep him warm on both sides. So I cut a removable panel, installed a ceramic element, then fixed a grate over it so Fake Jake wouldn't get burned. In freezing temperatures, it stayed at a cozy 62° which seemed perfect...

A bulb assembly sticking out of a hole in the roof of Fake Jake's shelter.

The shelters are under the eaves of the roof, so they are kept free of snow... but I wanted to cover up the electronics just the same. But before I did, I thought I would test it to make sure Fake Jake was okay with it. Turns out he was not. He would jump in, enjoy the warmth for a bit, then hop out and leave. He would not sleep there. So at 10:00 at night I finally went out and restored his old shelter. Then, as I was bringing in his newest shelter, I notice that it reeked of cat pee! So that's why he stopped using the back shelter! Some other cat came along and peed in it! Can't say that I blamed him.

I tried scrubbing everything with soap and water, but that did nothing. So now I'm trying different urine-enzyme-killing cleaners to see if I can get the smell out that way.

In the meanwhile, I was being kept up at nights worrying that the warming pad might die and Fake Jake would end up freezing because now he had only one place to go. I couldn't afford to buy the parts for a third shelter, so instead I bought a WiFi temperature sensor on sale on Cyber Monday. I sliced the berm underneath and set the sensor inside of it so it's in contact with the warming pad. I also put it on the side of the shelter where Fake Jake prefers to sleep. I then set an alert that would be sent to my iPhone if the temperature ever drops below 38°, which is way too cold for a shorthair cat to be sleeping in.

What I've found (thanks to the temperature data that the unit collects) is a bit surprising.

No matter how cold it gets... even down to 24° so far... the temperature when in contact with the warming pad hovers around 60°. If Fake Jake is sleeping where the temperature sensor is, it records temperatures over 70°!!! In fact, you can literally see when Fake Jake is in the shelter or out of the shelter just by looking at the temperature!

This morning around 1am, Fake Jake hopped into the shelter for a nap when the outdoor temperature was 27°. The sensor was reading 61° from being on top of the pad... but increased to 72° when Fake Jake was there! Then apparently he left at 2am because the temperature started falling...

Temperature readout data in the form of a graph showing a temperature rise when Fake Jake was in the shelter.

Now, seriously, how amazing is that?

Not only do I not have to worry about the warming pad failing because the sensor will alert my phone when it gets too cold... I have also been way too concerned about how cold Fake Jake gets in severe weather. Because, wow, 72°?!? That's what I have my thermostat set to inside my house! Sure, I am still a little upset that the part of his body not on the pad is getting cold... but when I look at the timelapse footage of him sleeping, it looks like he's just flipping over every 10-20 minutes. So he's seriously doing just fine!

Which is a relief, of course, but I still want to see if I can get the cat pee smell out of the second shelter with the heating element. That would be cat paradise for Fake Jake, and he'd go back to having two places to stay warm and dry throughout the winter.

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Categories: Cats 2019Click To It: Permalink
   

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