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In to the Wind

February 21, 2012
By Mike Gilchrist , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

I've said it before: "If all else fails, write about the animals."

Of all the animals in the menagerie here at Gilly Hollow, one of them occupies the top spot in our living room. Garth is able to escape Wink's persecution, and occupy the "cat bird seat."

One of my hair brained ideas was that it would nice to have a "cat tree" in our living room. The idea was if the cats had some place to scratch, they'd leave the furniture alone. If it also had a high perch, then the cats would enjoy the vantage point and be more balanced, centered, or whatever it is a well adjusted cat becomes.

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It didn't take too long to figure out through Internet searching a cat tree comes with a premium price tag. I saw some that cost almost a thousand dollars. I love my cats, but not that much.

A benefit to being a woodsman, and cutting ones own wood for heat, is an intimacy with the trees, their parts, and what makes them strong, or weak. I walked the edge of the timber, where several old elms were felled and processed, until I came across what I felt was the "purrr-fect" tree top to use to make my own cat tree.

I dragged the top up to the house and plotted my strategy. First, I cut it a little longer than eight foot, which is the distance from the floor to the ceiling. I brought it in the house and rotated it until the branches were close to the wall, so it didn't stick out into the room too far.

I had a scrap of furniture grade plywood, from which I freehand created a shelf or perch. A couple anchors in the wall, a couple screws securing the perch to the tree, and I had the start of a cat tree. Yes, I did poke a hole in the ceiling to help secure the tree in place.

It took 150 feet of sisal rope to wrap the tree and give the cats a way to grip the tree and also a place to scratch when they have the urge. Since Wink, the one eyed cat loves to climb, I figured she would claim the perch as her domain. She is at best indifferent to the tree, but will scratch on the rope at the bottom.

I figured Garth, the three legged little black and white "tuxedo cat" would have a hard time climbing to the top sans rear leg. Was I ever wrong! He can scramble up the tree and through the hole I cut in the perch in the blink of an eye. He has claimed the catbird seat as his own.

The cat tree is not finished yet. I am on the lookout for some silk leaves and stems I can fasten to the creation to make it look, well, like a tree.

Garth is the fifth animal in our menagerie. This one is a plain old run of the mill black and white alley cat -- with personality. I have learned, again by Internet searches, that Garth is a tuxedo cat. It looks like he is wearing a tuxedo, and has the eye mask and symmetry of markings which make him a classic tuxedo. He was rescued by the Tama County Humane Society. He was found in someone's garage. He had suffered some unspeakable trauma which had to be excruciatingly painful. He had a compound fracture of one of his rear legs which healed with the foot and leg pointing backwards. A humanitarian campaign was launched by the staffers of the Humane Society, and money was raised to pay for amputation of Garth's deformed leg.

Garth is the master of the underworld. He is intimately familiar with every dark and secluded place in our house. He will disappear for hours on end and not be seen. I am sure I know some of his hiding places, but not all. Garth does not like company. A visit from an unfamiliar person will cause Garth to go into hiding. No amount of coaxing or cajoling will cause him to make an appearance either.

Garth has earned a permanent place in our house and in our hearts. It helps that he is a deft mouser. You can tell by his patient posturing when he has detected a mouse in the house. He will stalk and lie in waiting for hours to capture the prey. In my opinion, he earns every morsel of food he receives. What do you think?

Until next time--

You can read past columns by visiting and clicking on "view all" next to "Local Columns."

In to the Wind and this column are copyright 2012 Mike Gilchrist. Readers, feel free to contact me at via email, or write to me at P.O. Box 255, Toledo, IA 52342.



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