Balcony

Caution! Double-check your plants

A last smarty-pants post on the balcony: make sure to double-check poisonous plants to cats! I was lucky enough that I only lost money, but I could have ended up with an injured cat too.

I was very disappointed when I found out that I bought toxic flowers. I actually spend a lot of time in the flower shop, checking each plant I liked. I relied on a well-recognized and seemingly reliable source: ASPCA . While I do believe that ASPCA is in general a very good reference, mistakes happen to the best of us.

I fell in love with these flowers and checked the latin name Gypsophila elegans on ASPCA’s webpages. “Non-toxic to cats”. Great!

However, I accidentally found out that ASPC had two articles on Gypsophila elegans under its common names Baby’s Breath and Maiden’s Breath. 

Source: Aspca , 06/25/17

The latin name is identical so we are dealing with the very same flower – but one is toxic and the other non-toxic. Obviously, ASPCA made a mistake here.

I didn’t mean to shame a great society, and I’m sure that they do put a lot of effort into their great list of toxic plants. However, mistakes do happen, and I’ve definitely learned a lesson: to double-check. Keep in mind that many webpages (including blogs) refer to ASPCA, so double-checking doesn’t help when both websites use the same source!

Opinions and research on toxic plants to cats differ, and you’re likely to find contradictory statements. Oh yes, I spend many hours googling a replacement for my flowers. In the end, I had a small list of flowers which a) most sources considered non-toxic, b) I liked, c) were not too expensive and d) suitable for sub-arctic climate and an eastward balcony.

P.S. I already emailed ASPCA and asked them to control their entries on Gypsophila elegans. I’m sure they do their best to keep their pages updated and reliable!

 

Cat versus human logic

Okay, we do admit that Mom made a great effort to catify our balcony, but keep in mind that she wanted to build a cuboid. We only demanded free access to the balcony, nothing more.

She also needs to become more efficient; it took her two days to build the cube. Way too long! Indeed, Kajsa and I were not satisfied. Mom took this picture while she was “working” on the balcony and saw two impatient cats through the window.

Don’t really understand how she had the nerves to take pictures – shouldn’t she spent all her time on her work? Would she play with her smart phone if her boss supervised her at work? Certainly not. Bah.

However, we were thrilled when she finally opened the balcony door! Kajsa, our Queen of Indecision stood the first hour on three legs in the living room holding the fourth paw through the door frame. The important decision “in or out” always requires a very long working process.

I again was very excited about exploring the world from our balcony. So many new perspectives and views! So I spent the entire evening on the window sill, observing the living room through the balcony window.

Can’t really understand why Mom got so annoyed. She normally complains that we ignore things she does for us. So here we were, on the window sill and in the door frame, exploring the world, appreciating our new freedom and her hard work, but she was still frustrated ?!?

Turned out that she wanted us to look at something else than the living room and the door frame. Human logic … wasn’t it her who enjoyed observing us in the living room earlier that day? And doesn’t she always stress that we’ve to be careful when exploring new places? So what is wrong with Kajsa’s careful decision-making process and me observing the living room?  Sigh.

 

 

Our new catio !

Catproofing the balcony of our new apartment was very tricky.

It’s relatively easy to cat-proof a balcony when you’re not living on the top floor: in most cases, you only need to lattice the distance between the handrail and the balcony above. And best of all – you can actually buy adjustable poles to fasten a cat net without drilling! Simple, effective and surprisingly cheap. (I had no idea that it was so easy and cheap to secure standard balconies, so I thought that some of you may find this information helpful)

We faced several challenges: first, we live on the top floor, so our balcony doesn’t have a roof. Second, I wasn’t allowed to drill holes into the outer wall. And third, but not last: a 10 cm gap (for snow / water) between the floor and the handrail. Plus some smaller problems which are too complicated to explain here. Thank you “Äiti” Karin, for your help – she actually designed our catio!

The basic design is a cuboid of wooden poles. I fastened the net with a staple gun to the poles. The frame itself is secured with cable tiers to the ceiling.

Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons

I put under each corner clothespins to allow water running underneath the bottom poles.

The white wall is attached to the exterior wall of the house with small joints – perfect for cable tiers!

I also had to secure the white wall because of this 10 cm gap between floor and wall.

The clothes rack was a perfect opportunity to attach the upper pole to the wall.

I paid about 150 € for the material (not including tools and transportation). I took my time to choose the wooden poles: it’s often more expensive and very time-consuming to buy cheap wood because you need to protect it with waterproof paint. I recommend fence material as fences are typically designed to resist the weather of your region!

Please pay attention to different sorts of cat nets – you need a material animals can’t bite through. I wrote “animals” instead of “cats” for a reason: even if your cats don’t have teeth, you’ll still need to protect your net against squirrels and other animals!

I’ve no idea how I succeeded, but I actually build the catio all by myself without any help (apart from the design). You’ll need a power drill and staple gun to save a lot of time and nerves.

 

Why cats are more successful managers than humans

We’ve to acknowledge that Mom has learned from her mistakes: the first thing she saw when she met the real-estate agent at our new place was a thief.

Do you remember that we didn’t have any squirrels at our old residence  ?? When she saw this little fellow, she decided immediately that she’d do her very best to get this apartment. Indeed, we’ve trained her so well that she would have signed the lease on the backyard without even looking at the apartment!

We’re sorry for the poor quality, but Mom didn’t want to frighten Mr. Squirrel away before he got to meet us. A wise strategy which really paid off – look who welcomed us when our moving van arrived! Bad luck that we were in our transportation boxes, though.

Now it’s important to praise humans every now and then because praise keeps servants motivated and happy – that’s at least what most leadership courses will tell you. So Kajsa followed the books when she got really excited to see our new neighbor climbing on the fire escape ladder next to our balcony.

Can you imagine that Mom didn’t open the balcony door?? She said we can go out after she has cat-proofed the balcony. Bummer. These business school rules about praising inferiors are clearly not working, and frankly, we cats have known this for centuries!

Dear feline friends, what’s the best reaction to anything humans do for us? Exactly. Ignoring any human effort is a worldwide well-known and very successful feline approach to absolute power.

 

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