Garden Pests – Cats and Ants

Cats

The white cat from next door (the one Alf saved from hanging) has claimed our garden as its own, including the Square Foot Gardening bed.

And a black male cat has started hanging around – I can tell it’s male by the lingering smell it leaves behind.

Stinky thing.

Tipsy – get out there and protect your territory!

She occasionally chases other cats away, but I had to be proactive, as, rather than patrolling, she prefers this:

TipsySo, to protect my delicate seedlings, I cut some shadecloth to size, hemmed it to prevent fraying and stretching, and sewed ties to the sides.

I then screwed hooks into the trellis posts, and tied the shadecloth to them.

Hooks and tiesHemming might sound like overkill – but I want this to last a long time – I don’t want to replace it in a couple of months.

With the strong winds we get here, it would stretch and sag, thereby becoming ineffective.

And if it frays, the birds will try to pull bits off when they start nesting.

As it was 10 foot long, once I put it up, it sagged badly in the middle,so I hand-stitched a little pocket halfway along and held it up with a bamboo stake.

PocketI suppose the cats can still climb up it or crawl underneath it, but maybe they’ll look for easier places to dig instead.

Hopefully in their own gardens.

The shadecloth should also provide a little respite from the strong afternoon sun come summer, and maybe even act as a windbreak.

Shadecloth barrierIt’s ugly, but it’s removable.

Red Ants

They discovered the raised bed, told their friends, arrived in droves and started nesting.

Ants excavate the soil to build their nest, which can disturb and damage the plants’ roots.

Plus red ants are aggressive and quick to bite  – the bites really hurt, and they form little blisters, which itch for days.

So I’m trying a couple of things:

a) Miraculous Insecticide Chalk

I didn’t make that name up – look:

Insect chalkIt’s dirt cheap and it works.

Draw a line on the floor or wall where ants are invading your house, and they go away.

The package insert says it’s safe for humans and pets, but as it’s made in China, and so could contain melamine, lead, or God knows what else, I haven’t licked it to see.

Two other good uses for it are:

1) on the floor around pet food bowls

2) on the wall around your little tub of gecko poison

Anyway…

I drew around the edge of the bed with the chalk, but have to redo it every time I water or after it rains, as it gets washed off.

b) Coopex

Hopefully, this is a longer-term solution.

Coopex is a residual insecticide that I sprayed on the outside walls of the bed.

As it’s made in Australia, and not China, I believe the package insert when it says that it’s safe to use around plants, pets, and humans.

When insects walk on it, they absorb it through their tiny little feet, take it back to the nest, spread it around, and eventually it kills the entire community.

It sounds a bit brutal explained like that.

I feel like a mass murderer!

Anyway, it takes a while to work, so I don’t know yet whether it’s been effective.

Poor Cat, and Freaky Day

Today, I heard a “meouw”

Over and over again.

I’m a cat person, so I recognised it as a distressed kitten noise.

It was coming from next door.

I kept looking, checking the neighbour’s trees and garden, but couldn’t see anything

For about half an hour.

I kept looking. It was definitely coming from there.

Nothing.

Then it started to rain heavily. Really heavily.

The crying became worse.

I looked again, and saw a kitten trying to run up next door’s mango tree trunk.

But it kept falling off – I kept watching as I couldn’t work out what it was doing.

It kept losing its grip, falling off the tree, then gripping the trunk in weird ways.

Finally, I understood – it had a rope around its neck, and kept swinging from the tree, then grabbing on to it again – what the hell?

It was trapped in a noose – it kept trying to run back up the tree, but the heavy rain was making its feet slide off.

Every now and again, it would hang there by its neck – quiet and dead-looking.

But its desire to live kicked in, and it struggled to get back up the tree.

I’ve never seen anything so upsetting and horrific.

I don’t mean that I just stood there and kept watching – it just took a while for me to understand what I was seeing. And to work out what to do. And to look again to see if it was still alive – I just had to keep going away.

You can’t imagine!

The neighbours were out, but their 4 dogs were home, and would no doubt bite my face off if I tried to go into their yard. I didn’t know what to do apart from cry.

So I woke Alf up, once I realised that I couldn’t work out how to save the kitten.

He’s more practical than me.

He put our stepladder against the communal garden wall, and cut the rope with a long-armed cutter-thing.

The kitten fell to the ground, continued to complain, and walked around.

It kept meowing for a while. Loud and complaining.

The neighbours finally came home. We haven’t spoken to them yet.

Will check with them to see what happened.

I know they didn’t do anything on purpose – they’re animal lovers. I will talk to them in the next few days.

It’s still meouwing in their garden.

And I’m still in shock – can’t imagine how Alf feels – he had to get up close and personal, tell the kitten it would be OK, pull it off the tree, let it dangle a bit more, so he could cut it free. I couldn’t have done that – I don’t have it in me.

I still feel ill.

Alf, is also upset, but in addition, got an injured elbow, and various other sore bits from climbing up the ladder and cutting the kitten free.

Crappy day.

But worse for that kitten.