My home is a fascinating ecosystem. There are, of course, the four horses and the four donkeys.
There are the three yard dogs, who stay in the house and share the yard sometimes while I graze, but don't come up to the barn (except Tucker, when he is "bad", according to Mother). The one female used to bark at me but has learned that I DO NOT LIKE barking, so I like all the yard dogs very well now.
The neighbors' hellhounds sometimes pass through. They are not on my list of favorites but I tolerate them well enough, since they don't usually bark.
Although they did steal the grazing muzzle for a time, that was nice of them. Perhaps I should start thinking more highly of them...
There are several house cats, two of which venture up to the barn. I'll talk more about them some other time, because the barn kitties are what intrigue me most today.
Mother says through the years there have been many barn
cats, most living lives well into their teens (except for the unlucky family that
had sudden cardiac deaths almost uniformly before age three). They have
been lucky to have such longevity in barn cats, as in most places an
outside cat will have a third of the life expectancy of an indoor cat.
There have been less than 4 % that have perished that could have lived longer
lives as a housecat. The mountain hideaway is a unique haven for cats.
The most amazing variety can historically be found amongst the barn cats. There are four current "regulars", the least barn cats they've ever managed to have. Actually, those four sport very little variety. They are all grey tabbies: two with short hair and two long fluffies. They are all well aged, as there fortunately aren't many hazards at our mountain hideaway. It is nearly a half mile to the fast road, and the hellhounds really aren't so evil as to devour cats.
The two short hairs are strictly barn cats. Aunt B is my favorite of all the kitties. She is petite (so she eats less, saving resources for the rest of us), she likes the humans but doesn't want to be pet (saving valuable human interaction time for the rest of us), and she has extraordinarily pretty eyes to offset her otherwise bland exterior.
She has also mastered managing humans. She convinces them it is time to open the cans of their food just by a glance and a meow, and she has them trained to consider it a rare treat for the humans when she brushes up on their legs.
She has a slightly younger nephew/cousin/son (? don't ask, there was the taking on of a few stray kitties 13 or 14 years ago that "critical" time came earlier than expected) named Rosie Greer. He is a human attention hog, always wanting to be pet and cuddled and taking away MY time. Mother, fortunately, is rather immune to his charms, but all the aunties fall for him at times.
The two long haired fluffies are virtually indistinguishable to me. The male is starting to suffer some old age infirmities and spends much more time down at the house. The female wandered off for some time and there was much concern, but she has returned and seems content to stick closer to home. Both fluffies are older than Rosie and Aunt B.
How do they do so well with the outside cats? The kitties have lots of hands-on contact with the humans, thrice daily feedings of good food, and we have fewer sources of peril than most people can provide to barn cats. All (except for the long-ago illusive Grey Ghostie) have been taken to the vet and had medical things go in and "unnecessary" body parts come out.
And it is this that brings us to Chunky Bob. Chunky Bob is the newest denizen, having been absorbed into the fold by his own shear tenacity. He started showing up just after feeding time, slinking in to grab any remainders of cat food. He has over the months come to hang out on the porch and partake with the others during feedings.
He has become a resident.
The task of capturing Chunky Bob to have him seen by a vet has been a topic of discussion. A live trap doesn't work very well when you will probably capture one of the four regular barn cats. Sequestering the barn cats to properly invite Chunky Bob into a live trap requires more time and coordination than the humans have been able to muster. The thought of transferring him to a container that would deter the transport vehicle from perhaps taking a direct hit of intact male spraying is fraught with its own perils. But it must be done.
Soon, Chunky Bob, soon.