Who lit the cat-shaped beacon?

We know we are crazy cat people. As soon as you pass 2n cats, that is your fate. It is not even (entirely) our fault, we only had two of our own (Slow Top and Azami), the others were either given to us (Rasputin), rescued off the road (Amaya), or moved in and adopted us (Jake).

But there are always more cats, poking around the periphery, hoping to find a free space.

Last year around this time it was “Mittens”, a black cat with white paws and brisket who would sneak in to steal food. Then she (?) was replaced by the singing cat, a tabby with white paws that would always announce its presence in the house with a series of long meows.

Now we have “Not Kitten.” This is a tabby that, at a distance, looks nearly identical to “Kitten” (Amaya- who I rescued as a kitten from down the road, and who was known as “Roadkill” for her first few weeks). On numerous occasions over the last 2 months we would emerge from the lounge only to see “Not Kitten” scurry across the dining room and down the stairs.

Last night I came in, to find him/her in the dining room, crouched but not running. I approached slowly, and made “hello friend?” chripy noises. And Not Kitten came over and marked my hand. By the time Tam got home s/he was walking around at my feet in the kitchen, demanding attention. Very friendly!

But then Kitten arrived and sent the doppleganger packing.

You are nice and friendly Not Kitten (and also in great shape, no starving feral there!), but the Inn is Full! No more cats allowed!

Old friends rediscovered

Five and a half years ago we bought our first three alpaca; Oak, Chris and Pointer. Chris died of liver failure only 8 months later, a sad and somewhat traumatic introduction to owning camelids! But we had lots of fun with Oak and Pointer, taking them on walks all over the place (up and down the valley, beach walks, forest walks, into town).

But for the last few years we have not done much with them. As numbers grew we found that all our time was taken up taking other alpaca (and now llamas) out for walks. Oak and pointer were consigned to living on the back hill with the main boy-mob, and while I saw/checked them daily, interaction was minimal. We were actually thinking of selling them along with the next batch of pet boys. It would be wonderful to see them go to people who would have a small herd, and have the time to put into them- taking them out for walks again.

Then Oak started to have joint problems. We first noticed in January, but thought it was just a sprain. Then it started getting worse. I noticed he was spending more time kushed than any other ember of his mob. When we brought them in a month ago it was heartbreaking. He could barely walk (jumping the stream coming off the back hill made him collapse). He had lost 10 kg in just a month, probably due to the pain and the inability to stand and graze enough. We kept him and Pointer in the paddock next to the house. He got his AD&E jab along with everyone else. I started talking to the vet, as in that state we would probably have to have him put down soon.

But the vet is always flat-out busy, so she did not get a chance to come out and see him immediately (as this was a progressive disorder, it was not an emergency). And over those weeks, he stopped getting worse, and maybe, just maybe, he was a bit better.

Talking about this on various forums, a vet & alpaca breeder in Australia suggested it might be Rickets (hypophosphatemia). We wondered how this could be, as he first started showing symptoms in summer after he had been shorn- the time when he should be getting the most VitD from the UV of our powerful southern sun. Her thought was that his massive obesity might be playing a role- all the fat-soluble VitD is partitioning into his adipose tissue, leaving the serum level too low. So we started treating him- more VitD (being careful not to overdose, we are giving low-dose weekly injections), plus some phosphate supplement injections.

He is still not right, but he is not as bad as he was. I don’t know if he will make a full recovery or not, but it is nice to see him up and grazing more (and hopefully not is so much pain anymore, with camelids being so damn stoic, it is really hard to tell). We will weigh him again this weekend.

But having Oak and Pointer down by the house, and interacting with them every day, has been a joy. Pointer is an amazingly groovy dude. Sure, he is really pugnacious to other alpaca (as neighbors who hear his frequent “fight! Fight! FIGHT!” screaming can attest), but he will let me walk right up to him in the paddock, rub his neck, and give him a hug. He doesn’t step away if you rub his neck from across the fence. That is really quite rare/unusual in a camelid. I am hoping Oak’s legs improve to the point where we can take them on fun walks again. They both enjoy the adventures, and it is fun to rediscover old friends that have been neglected too long.

Winter Mix

Back in Boston, the standard “winter mix” — in the context of weather, that is — is a meteorological salad of rain, snow and sleet. Yum. Except in Boston, it doesn’t usually come screaming in sideways at gale force.

The first Monday in June is celebrated as “Queen’s Birthday” here, and you get the day off (unless you work in certain retail establishments of course) — a nice mini-holiday. Well, except for the weather. We spent our weekend making sure the alpacas were situated for the exceptionally crummy weather Sunday and Monday (especially Sunday). Basically, that meant making sure everyone was in a paddock with a suitably sheltered gully to keep out of the wind, and making sure they all had plenty of hay to eat to keep warm (digesting hay warms them up). We didn’t stuff everyone in the shed this year, because the shed is full of hay.

There was enough room in there, however, for the two new mothers that we’re looking after for our suri breeder friend while she’s in the US.

Becky dropped a little brown girl on Tuesday — we’d had pretty much two weeks straight of horrible weather, and Tuesday was ever-so-slightly-less-sucky, so she decided it would have to do. Both the little girl’s ears were folded back over her head when she was born (kind like Nabaztag’s, only both of them), and although they’ve straightened out a little bit, they still curl in like horns, so we’ve been referring to her as “Devil Girl” until she gets a proper name:

Becky and Devil Girl

Pebbles, the giraffe-spotted suri female we looked after last year is back again. She held out until Saturday to drop a wee little 6.5 kilo boy, right before the nasty nasty storm, naturally.


Even in the shed, with two covers on and two-hourly warm bottles, he was having trouble with the cold, so we built an alpaca hovel in the back corner of the shed, so we could have a space small enough to heat with the oil column heater from the guest room. It looks like a homeless shelter, if the homeless had access to a pile of horse covers (thanks, Yvonne !).

The alpaca shanty

It did the trick, though. We had all four of them in there all day Monday and overnight, and 24 hours not having to fight the cold with his limited resources really let little Pip (actual name pending) get his feet under him. Literally as well as figuratively. When we build the barn, we’re planning to have a special heatable pen/stall for just this sort of situation. Until then, they’re stuck with the shanty.