A very long time ago, a little black kitten showed up in a desolate back corner of our acre. She was barely three weeks old. She couldn’t even meow, but squeaked pathetically. We checked all over the neighborhood to see if someone had lost her. There was no sign of her mother or sibling kittens. We couldn’t see any marks or injuries on her, but we couldn’t help imagining that a bird of prey had tried to carry her away, then somehow lost it’s hold on her over our backyard. She was named Baggy, short for Bagheera from The Jungle Book.
Our 12 year old son was interested in taking care of Baggy. This required mixing up some powdered goat milk that we found at D&B, then nursing her with an eye dropper. She needed to be fed about every two hours. He diligently got up in the middle of the night, too. Since he was taught at home, we were able to adjust his study schedule to accommodate this parenting role. The grateful kitty followed him around like he was her mother.
Fourteen years later, Baggy is an old cat. She has raised several litters of kittens and was the best mama cat I’ve ever seen. Our kids were able to watch as she taught her young ones to venture out on the lawn or hunt squirrels and mice. She was always friendly with our family and her kittens were well handled, making them easy to find new homes for.
This fall, her fur started to come out in clumps. She is not able to keep it clean, and it is matting up. Otherwise, she seems healthy and happy for her age. But I have rules about cats in the house. They can be in the house during the day if kept in pre-approved locations and always under supervision. At night, they go out. No roaming in the house. This is not the African plains.
However, we are taking pity on her. My husband and one daughter spent some time out in this arctic cold making her a heated cardboard box using scraps of metal, wood, and carpet. They used one of the resistors we bought for making the chicken water heaters. My husband had even already spliced an old electrical cord to it.
First, a piece of particle board was cut to fit in the bottom of a 15 x 17 inch cardboard box. The size of the box matters some, in that the resistor is only going to be able to heat up a limited space.
Next, pieces of wood were screwed in along a couple of edges, so that the wood would sit up off of the bottom of the box, leaving a space for the resistor to be under it.
A small rectangular hole was cut in the middle of the particle board. This is where the resistor will hang, kind of upside-down from a person’s point of view. The hole was begun by using the drill press, then the jigsaw blade was able to fit it and cut out the rectangle. It didn’t need to be pretty.
A piece of aluminum was cut from a large sheet of it in my husband’s stash. He used a regular table saw. The aluminum is the same as was used for the chicken water heater. The resistor was screwed to it. Any screw ends sticking up were sawed off so that they wouldn’t be poking into the cat. Then the metal was screwed onto the wood, with the resistor hanging down through the rectangle that had been cut out.
Finally, a scrap of upholstery fabric was cut so that it would cover the wood and wrap down under the board to keep it in place. A piece of carpet would probably work, too. The whole apparatus was set up on an old, broken washing machine in the garage (who knows why that is still there).
Baggy has been spending a lot of time in the box. The fabric covered base is warm to the hand, but not hot. One of Baggy’s grown offspring often joins her. The box seems to be preferred over warm car hoods, too. I’m pretty sure she thinks ours was a pretty good yard for her to be dropped into!