Catnip Tomfoolery

Slinky Malinki has impaired hearing and her overall senses are dulled, but her sense of smell is superb. How else to explain her catnip tomfoolery?

A domestic cat’s sense of smell is about fourteen times as strong as human’s. Cats have twice as many receptors in the olfactory epithelium (i.e. smell-sensitive cells in their noses) as people do, meaning that cats have a more acute sense of smell than humans. Cats also have a scent organ in the roof of their mouths called the vomeronasal (or Jacobson’s) organ. When a cat wrinkles its muzzle, lowers its chin, and lets its tongue hang a bit, it is opening the passage to the vomeronasal.- Source: Wikipedia

Working in the garden at dusk, I looked up to see Slinky crossing the patio with determination. She headed toward a small mulch-covered patch of earth. Mouse the Cat looked on with interest, but kept a respectable distance. Slinky is a cranky, aging cat, and not one to be trifled with. He (generally) knows his place.

slinky finds some catnip

Mouse the Cat keeps his distance, hiding behind the love-in-a-mist

As I watched, she bowed her head, twisted it to one side and dove in. What odd behavior.

I crawled towards her since I was down at her level anyway pulling weeds, to see what she’d discovered. Sure enough she’d found a tiny sprig of catnip (Nepeta cataria) growing near the edge of the patio.

slinky finds some catnip

Slinky enjoys a catnip moment

slinky smelling catnip

Mmmmm, this catnip smells yummy

I planted catnip several years ago and it thrived.  Last year it died off, another causality of the drought. This year, thanks to the recent rains, volunteers are sprouting everywhere.  There are many things I didn’t set out to grow, happily filling patches of bare earth. Nepeta is one of them. It’s nice to see this perennial come back, and even nicer to see Slinky enjoying it. The plant is small and partially crushed after her romp, but it looks like it will recover.

slinky guards the catnip

This is my catnip. Don’t make any false moves

I suspect that once Slinky is slumbering on her cushions nearby, Mouse will help himself to. Lindy is quite a fan as well.

I too enjoy the subtle, herbal scent when you crush the leaves. The herb is also sold as a tea. It’s easy to understand why the kitties enjoy it so much.

I guess I better get in line.

Cats With Hats

You know the old saw: kids prefer the box to the gift wrapped inside?

This year the “kids” are 15 and 18 and the proverbial box is actually a miniature Santa hat. The last item unwrapped was a gift basket full of goodies from our friends next door. A bottle of craft brew sported the tiniest of Santa hats. Santa’s chapeau weighs about as much as a tissue.

Slinky was sound asleep under the Christmas tree. Since she’s hard of hearing, she was oblivious to all the activity around her. My son reached over and deposited the tiny hat on her head.  Eyes open, she posed as we all lunged for our camera phones.

Slinky in Santa Hat

Slinky wonders what all the fuss is about

The game was on. Could they get Lindy and Mouse to wear the hat too?

I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking.

lindy in santa hat

Lindy was game. The hat is so light, she didn’t seem to notice

Mouse with santa hat on his nose

Mouse brought it to his nose first

mouse holding santa hat

…then he took a nibble.

Mouse sleeping with Santa hat 2

Finally asleep and oblivious to his mega-watt cuteness.

mouse wearing santa hat 1

One parting shot because he’s so darn cute.

Photos courtesy of the Milner-Francini boys.

Time to Recover and The Garden Goes Native

Felines post surgery

Clockwise: prepped for surgery, Lindy snoozing on my elevated pillows, Slinky snuggled in, my cast, Mouse in my arms

If you’re a regular here, you know I went in for surgery last week to repair a torn tendon in my left foot. I have a wonderful doctor who thought my case was “cool” and “different”. Dr. Sheth is the kind of doctor we should all have. She’s funny, smart, kind, thorough, patient and above all, a skilled surgeon.

It’s a mystery to everyone that I wasn’t in more pain and that I walked around for so long with a near-complete tendon tear and encapsulated cyst. Happily, the surgery went well and I’m on the road to recovery. I had a few rough days following the surgery, but I’m feeling much better….as long as I’m sitting down.

Our felines rallied immediately. Like children, I think they sense when things are amiss. They’ve been keeping a close eye on me since I came home.  In the “old days” I would have spent the night in a hospital. Instead, I had surgery at a surgical center and was home by noon the same day. Impressive, eh?

Today was my first post-operative appointment, and coincidentally our first thunder-storm of the season. Rain is a sparse commodity around here, and thunderstorms even rarer. It was wonderful to sit back and enjoy the show. It was short-lived, with the skies already clearing by noon, but it was a treat nonetheless.

I’ve been pampered beyond belief with cards in the mail, friends bringing prepared meals every other day, gifts, and a few brief social visits. Mike took the first few days off of work and is now working from home when he can. It will be several weeks before I can drive or put any weight on my foot, but I’m lucky to have a rented knee scooter to help me get from room to room.


In other news, the Garden Goes Native project is finally under way. R J Landscape started tearing out the lawn the day before my surgery and continued work through Friday of last week.

landscape revision tools and cleared area

Back Garden: Under Construction

landscape improvements back garden view of circle

Back Garden Under Construction: Alternate View

A crew of four removed what was left of the dead lawn and the existing sprinklers and will soon amend the soil. They prepared an area for gravel and a few paving stones for our garden swing and outlined a small walkway extension in the back garden.

front garden, lawn removed

Front Garden: No More Lawn!

landscape improvements removed lawn front garden

Front Garden: Another View

Mouse with eyes closed

Sleeping on the Job. Sheesh!

The front garden is pretty straight forward: California natives will replace the lawn front and back. I’m pretty excited.

I hope you’re off to a good week.

Dogs Have Owners, Cats Have Staff

Don’t you love that expression? If you live with a cat, you know what I’m talking about.

I grew up with cats, though a stray dog or two crossed my path now and then. I once shared my cramped twin bed with an Irish Setter for a week  before we located the dog’s owner. I was 12 at the time. Though I knew we couldn’t keep him, I burst into tears when we had to let him go.

I love all animals, but in my years of renting, living with cats made more sense. The number of cats in residence fluctuates, since word gets out; before you know it you’ve got six cat bowls lined up on the kitchen counter.

The current count is one husband, two teenage boys and three felines.

Okay, I strung that sentence together for the sake of diplomacy. The felines run the place and the rest of us fall in line.

Here’s the current line up:

Lindy-Lu is our senior feline. We adopted her from our local Humane Society when she was about three for my son’s 8th birthday. My son turns 18 this June. Lindy is mellow and sweet and loves to be near us, but she never sits on our laps.

lindy in the garden

Lindy in the Garden

She enjoys sleeping next to my pillow at night, or draped across the arm of the sofa. Lindy-Lu takes her cat naps at the foot of our bed or in the stream of sun on the living room floor, but when she’s ready to hunker down for a long sleep, she disappears into the bedroom closet for a long snooze. I’m careful to always keep the door cracked.

lindy on the bench

Lindy Practicing her Adorable Pose

Lindy sunbathing

Sunbathing on the bed

Slinky is our mystery cat. She’s borderline feral, and about 90% hard of hearing. She used to bite when startled and will take a swing at you if your hand moves in a suspicious manner.


Pet me…or else

It took a long time to coax her indoors, but after a year of living in a shelter in our side yard, she came to appreciate the comforts of indoor living. She now spends most of her time asleep on my desk.

slinky in front of computer

Slinky does her neck exercises in front of the monitor

slinky in her bed

Slinky color-coordinates with her bed

Slinky is afraid of Lindy, poor little thing, but stands up to Mouse, even though he’s younger and twice her size. Slinky is a petite six pounds while Mouse weighs a whopping 16 pounds.

Mouse has an official home, but he doesn’t let on. He takes all his meals at our house, sleeps on our beds and generally makes himself comfortable.

Mouse in the garden

Mouse in the garden

mouse with catnip

Mouse enjoys his catnip toy

He’s charmingly adorable. Mouse lives for treats, so I’m partly to blame for his expanded waistline. He collects kitty snacks from others as well, including my sister on her frequent visits.


Mouse lends moral support around homework time

Mouse has many admirers, and would probably be insufferable if he were a man and not a cat. He assumes everyone loves him, and frankly why wouldn’t they? If I could change one thing about him, it would be his stealthy hunting skills. He loves the game of catch and release.

This brings me to our fourth creature-in-residence, the elusive and cunning Mr. Rat.  One of my boys noticed an overly attentive Lindy parked near the entertainment center this morning. After they left for school, Lindy backed away and Mouse took over. Here was my chance to show Mr. Rat the door.

mouse hunts the rat

Mouse on the alert; Lindy strolls past the barricade


I gathered boxes, boards, baskets and whatever I could get my hands on, then rolled up the carpet to make a barricade. I opened the door wide to the fresh air and knew I  was ready. Meanwhile, Mouse single-mindedly entered and exited all the cabinet compartments, determined to find his prey. I mentally thanked him for ‘directions’ before putting him in one of the bedrooms.

It was time to make my move. Mr. Rat made a run for it. I stomped my foot hoping to startle him toward the door. He ran toward some potted plants instead and then disappeared right before my eyes. How can this be!!!

I stood there dumbstruck. How could a six-inch rat disappear so quickly?

For the record, I’m blaming it on the vertigo. How else to explain his disappearance.

Three different live traps and two direct interventions later, the score remains disproportionately in the rats favor. That’s what I get for giving Mr. Rat a name. Like all the stray cats, he probably assumes that he too is welcome to stay.


Garden Walks

One of our favorite summer pastimes at the end of a hot day is taking a walk.  The days are long so the sun is still up past 8 here in Silicon Valley.  It’s nice to simply head out the front door and meander through the neighborhood.

Mighty Mouse likes to follow us down the block, though on our last walk, he encountered a territorial feline.  ‘Words’ were exchanged, but he thought better of an altercation and returned home. I worry about him when he heads toward the park, so if he insists on coming we just circle the block instead.

Aside from the balmy weather and my husband’s good company, I love checking out all the gardens. It’s a great way to get ideas for your own yard.

I wish I could identify all the plants we see, but since half the fun is speculating, I’ll let you guess along with me.


A fabulous pumpkin growing along a cute picket fence.

pink rose

I love this shade of rose. Do you know the variety?

white rose

More roses

striped green foliage

Gorgeous foliage, unknown plant.

orange flower

Any ideas? It’s a bulb of some kind.


I didn’t think we could grow apples in the Valley. I thought they needed a good frost.

flower hip

I wonder what this was? It reminds me of a rose hip, but the foliage looks like a different plant entirely.

Oh, and I think Mouse’s ears were burning when I greeted this kitty at the curb. I couldn’t help but notice the resemblance. This sweet kitty has personality to spare as well.

Mouse and doppleganger

Thanks for joining me on my virtual walk. If you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by.

Kitty Bouquet: Catnip on a String

It’s always nice to bring your hostess a bunch of flowers from your garden, but what about the resident cat?  Since kitty usually calls the shots in feline-centric households, it only seems fair.  I propose catnip on a string.

Not all cats are susceptible to the intoxicating oils of the catnip or cat-mint plant.  When presented with a fragrant bunch of greens, about half of all cats will respond.  Be sure to offer your gift in an appropriate setting.  If kitty drools green catnip all over your hostesses white couch, you probably won’t be invited back.

Catnip with Bow

Hostess Gift
Catnip with a Bow

Cat inspecting the catnip

I hope this is organic

Cat with catnip

Shall I go ahead and give it a try?

Tasting the catnip


Catnip Bouquet Tutorial

  1. Turn at least 70% of your growing space into a catnip garden.
  2. Pinch a few leaves from the plant once it’s fully grown.
  3. Tie a bow around the bunch (six inches or less, please so kitty doesn’t get tangled).
  4. Deliver to your feline host.

If you follow these instructions carefully, you’ll be invited back again and again.  Enjoy!

California Gold

Tall, graceful golden grasses grace the garden.  I’ve tried capturing that movement with my still camera for a year.  While poking around with my camera yet again, I decided to record 10 seconds of movement and song instead.

Here is my own little homage to our beautiful golden state.


We inadvertently matched the walkway to one of our cats

Golden cats abound: the neighbor's cat blends in

Golden Field Stone

X Marks the Spot

Nestled below the Magnolia

Storm's Brewing

Cats Among the Plants

Without further ado…

Life Among the Ferns

“I tawt I taw a puddy tat…” ~ Tweety (Looney Tunes)

Kitty Hammock

This better be important...I was napping.

“Nature abhors a vacuum, but not as much as cats do.”                         ~ Lee Entrekin

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“Cats always seem so very wise, when staring with their half-closed eyes. Can they be thinking, “I’ll be nice, and maybe she will feed me twice?” ~ Bette Midler

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“Meow is like aloha – it can mean anything.” ~ Hank Ketchum

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“There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.”                ~ Author Unknown

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Slinky Takes a Walk on the Wild Side

Just Visiting