Sunday, 25 June 2017

Turf wars: tackling Tootsie, Truffle's neighbourhood nemesis, with a pungent personalised potion from Papillon Perfumery

'Anti-Cat' by Papillon Perfumery
After Charlie Bonkers died, and long before I ever thought of getting another cat, I noticed an occasional feline visitor to the garden and window sill of my new house. My first thought was how handsome he was, and how much he reminded me of Undina's famous orange and white cat Rusty. Much later, I learnt through a friend that this was in fact none other than Tootsie, who lived in the next street to me and was well known for 'breaking and entering' into anyone's house that took his fancy, especially those where the owner had thoughtfully installed a cat flap and left it on a two way setting. But back then, in blissful ignorance of his thug-like persona, I briefly changed my profile picture on Facebook to a photo of Tootsie(!), and went public with the comment:

"I would love to be cultivated by such a cute cat!"

The following exchange ensued - oh, that I had paid attention to the warnings contained within...

Jane: "This one could be staking you out...;)"

Gary: "A lot of feral cats have taken to wearing dinky little bells, just to get inside a trusting human's house and wreak HAVOC."

Jane: "Yep, sneaky little buggers they are..."

Gary: "The only way to be sure is to shave it and check for tattoos."

Jane: "I have tattoos but, sadly, no bell. ;) "

Gary: "Me too, loads of them, but I'm not trying to get into Vanessa's house and wreak HAVOC."

Jane: "That's what you are saying in public..."

Gary: "You can tell by his eyes that his focus in life is to soil some Farrow & Ball..."

Vanessa: "F & B desecration?!! Right, that moggy may not last the week if that is true."

Truffle surveys the double decker interlopers

Three years later, I was a cat owner again, and Tootsie was displaced as the Top Cat in the neighbourhood, who could claim every house and its garden as his own. It didn't stop him still trying to claim them though, and he became an ever more regular visitor to the garden, engaging in long, malevolent staring matches with Truffle from the safety of a high wall. Soon the situation escalated, and Tootsie would come into the house and steal Truffle's food, have a crafty p**s behind the kitchen door, and take a passing pot shot at Truffle if she happened to be about. Once, when I was away for a week, Tootsie managed to bludgeon his way into the house despite the cat flap being locked, and stayed there long enough to soil - not anything Farrow & Ball as such(!) - but several layers of bedding all the way through to the mattress. Months later, I found his unexpected calling card of a fossilised poo under the bed...

And there was worse to come...more recently, Tootsie bit a chunk out of Truffle's ear during a particularly vicious fight. When I confronted him outside - trying to make myself look as fierce as possible by screwing up my face into an expression of pure hatred, whilst waving a lump of wood in an agitated fashion in his general direction - Tootsie shot me a look of withering derision, his eyes as urinous as the puddle he had not long left on the utility floor. Then he lunged at the bit of wood with a dismissive swipe of his paw, and sauntered back along the wall, with an insolent swagger that was as defiant as it was maddening.

Truffle's 'cloven' ear

I happened to mention my bother with cat incursions to Liz Moores of Papillon Perfumery, with whom I have periodic exchanges via Messenger. Well, no one in Perfume Land knows more about animal matters than Liz(!), and she promptly offered to make me up a cat-repelling potion to deter Tootsie from trespassing in future. Ideally, I should get close enough to spray his fur with the disgusting liquid - a mix of hyraceum (as used in Salome, but only in trace amounts!) and civet. It was designed to fool the cat into thinking it had had a brush with another - big, scary, but not quite identifiable - predator. Failing that, I was to spray the wall or other familiar routes Tootsie used to enter the garden with the mixture, thus creating a similar, if more ambient, impression.

The 'Anti Cat' remedy, as Liz had dubbed it, smelt truly ghastly. I diluted it and put it in a spray bottle, and soon had my first opportunity to try squirting it at Tootsie as he ran away down the garden. Unfortunately the trigger mechanism jammed at the key moment, and if Tootsie had thought to look back at this point and note my disarray, he would surely have uttered a disdainful guffaw at my technical malfunction.

Anti-spray bottle!

In fairness that bottle had only cost a quid in Wilko or something, so the next time I was in Lidl I popped into Wickes and picked up a more heavy duty-looking receptacle for a  fiver. Slight overkilll, given the quantity of Anti-Cat in question(!), but I sensed the nozzle wouldn't let me down, and so it proved.

I didn't have long to wait before I found Tootsie in the corridor leading to the back door one night, and promptly locked the cat flap to cut off his line of retreat. Tootsie proceeded to head butt the flap in annoyance, giving me ample opportunity to spray his back thoroughly in Anti-Cat. I was careful to avoid his head, as that might have been a cruel and unusual punishment too far - I was sorely tempted, mind. With Tootsie now well wetted, I opened the flap and he scarpered sharpish, suitably freaked out by the foul smell of his own furry person.

Sadly, as happened that time Truffle fell through the hole in next door's garage roof, only to do the exact same thing again a couple of days later, cats have short memories, and Tootsie seems to have forgotten all about his unpleasant ordeal, and is as much of a pest as ever. Many thanks to Liz for concocting this stinky potion though - it was certainly worth a try!

(On a more fragrant note, the latest release from Papillon Perfumery, Dryad (review here) is due to be released on July 10th.)


Anonymous said...

How funny your friends caught the cut of Tootsie's jib from that first pic. What a little menace.

Good of Liz to brew up some Anti-Cat. Have you tried the commercial equivalent? The lion manure cat repellant? I guess it wouldn't bother Truffle too much if it were just around the border.

Tara said...

Hi V, it's me in case you didn't guess from the random screen name!

lady jane grey said...

V, you shouldn't give up after just one application

Anonymous said...

How distressing! I'm particularly sad because Tootsie looks very like a dear departed kitty of mine and he was an absolute darling who never put a paw wrong or had a malicious bone in his body. Tootsie letting the side down.

I would keep up on with the anti-cat spray, and when you have run out of that, use plain water. All the manuals recommend squirting water at marauding cats as they really don't like it; I suspect that it's not that Tootsie has the memory of a goldfish, more that he's stubborn and thinks you will give up ...

Give poor little Truffle a big hug.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps you could try leaving a bowl of food and water at the point he usually enters the property. He may decide you are a friend rather than foe. And leave Truffle alone as he's getting a need met and learns that it will always be there for him.
Ever optimistic. ☺

-- Lindaloo

Hamamelis said...

Hi Vanessa isn't it the idea that you spray Anti-Cat on strategic spots in your garden, very much like a tiger leaving scent warnings by spraying urine, rather than spraying it on Tootsie? I suppose tigers don't urine on each other but leave 'keep out I am much bigger and fiercer than you' messages in their urine and markings. As we had a mouse problem (living in the woods) we had a man come round with an Anti-Mouse pheromone spray, a concoction of various pheromones of Mouse-Eaters, and surely we have a lot less of them.
BTW very enjoyable post!

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Yes, their words did indeed come back to haunt me...I must say I had not heard of a lion manure cat repellent. This stuff of Liz's is as vile a smell as I have ever smelt, but it could be an extra weapon to introduce at some point. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Lady jane grey,

Have no fear, I certainly won't, though my comment about cats having short memories and it being 'worth a go' might have suggested otherwise. It just emboldens me to have another go. For only last night Tootsie came in and wolfed down some salmon terrine right under my nose. I am going to have to rethink where I sit in the dining room so I can have more sight of the bowls. Plus I plan to move the Anti-Cat bottle a bit closer to the feeding station, so I can grab it faster!

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

Thanks very much for your sympathy, and how sad that two cats with such diametrically opposed characters should have inhabited similar bodies.

As I was saying to LJG above, I will persist, and squirt something. Tootsie doesn't seem too bothered by water (I tried that initially). I just think his hubris is so immense that he is not easily deterred. And I agree that he probably thinks I will crack before him!

Truffle thanks you for the hug.

Vanessa said...

Hi Lindaloo, that is an interesting gambit that didn't occur to me. One with a long and distinguished Biblical precedent too. Let me think about that. ;) I did wonder about asking his owners what they are feeding him.

I learnt too from the friend who tipped me off initially about Tootsie's name and MO, that the house he used to go into routinely has had a change of occupants recently, and the new people apparently own a big husky. They have not had any problems with Tootsie! I don't know if an inflatable husky and a tape recorder might be coordinated in some way to create a similar effect. I am pretty sure Truffle would not welcome an actual dog into our household. I am not a dog person myself, come to that!

Vanessa said...

Hi Hamamelis,

Liz said that on the cat was best, and on the territory the next best solution?, and I have tried both. I think Tootsie merely takes another route, assuming he is even bothered by the odour along the way, disgusting as it is. Also, it is a rather large area to mark with the Anti-Cat, with too many possible entry points. The problem with spraying the area immediately by the back door where Tootsie comes in might be that it would put Truffle off or upset her nose, which would be an unfortunate downside. That Anti-Mouse pheromone spray sounds great! I may need a veritable mushroom cloud of Anti-Cat in my back garden to effect real change in Tootsie's behaviour.

Vanessa said...

PS Glad you enjoyed the post, despite its containing yet another sorry cat-related tale!

Hamamelis said...

Never enough Cat stories, especially when it concerns Truffle! (and dogs for that matter, mutters my dog under her breath)

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize that you know who his owners are. I would complain about his behaviour. It sounds from the aggression, the home invasion and the marking that he hasn't been neutered. I would ask and also stress the damage not only to Truffle (poor kitty) but to your house as well. Here if you
allow your cat outdoors it needs to be licensed and neutered. Not that everyone complies. They do comply if their cat is picked up by the bylaw officers and held for "ransom" at the SPCA.
I hope it can all be worked out amicably.

-- Ll

Vanessa said...

Yes, indeed. I think I need to screw up the necessary courage to speak to them. We don't have any regulations like that - I rather wish we did. But if he isn't neutered that would make a big difference, I sense. Or some difference, certainly.

Vanessa said...

Haha, good stuff! Sorry, but you won't find any dog stories on here, except the one I did on my friend's calendar canine / pin up pooch...though that was actually posted on Cafleurebon. ;)

Undina said...

I remember that picture and I'm appalled by Tootsie's behavior :(. I would be fighting as well. Is Truffle still getting rid of her collars? Friends of mine installed a special lock on the cat door that opens only when their cats who have a special collar come close. It would allow Truffle to use the door but still keep the intruder out. And I would probably talk to the owners and threaten bodily harm (to the cat) - though, to tell the truth, I'm not sure what they could do.
Poor Truffle! Give her a treat and tell her that we all support her territorial rights! :)

Asali said...

Thanks for the story. I love that anti-cat potion, just sorry it didn't work. Rattling with some coins in a can has kept Vega from scratching in places where I don't want her to, long term! So it's possible, and yes, undina's suggestion of the door opening collar is a good one.

Undina said...

About anti-scratching "remedies": with Rusty a dual-side tape worked: we attached it to corners of the sofa - and he never scratched them again. If you cannot find a real dual-side tape, the regular packing tape connected in a circle with the sticky side out might work as well.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Unfortunately Truffle does still lose her collars - along with certain high end handcrafted metal tags with which you will be familiar ;) - so there could be a disastrous situation of her getting locked out of her own house. Also not sure if you can replace the flap I have with that kind as it is set into a pane of glass. If I needed a whole new pane that would be a couple of hundred of pounds, unfortunately. And then if that flap type didn't work, you are back to square one.

I will talk to the owners the next bad incident that occurs. I will need that impetus as I am a bit nervous about doing so.

Vanessa said...

Hi Asali,

I will keep on with the anti-cat potion, and if I can trap Tootsie indoors again, maybe douse him even more. And examine his hindquarters if I can!

Truffle is not a bad scratcher actually, other than the edges of doors she tries to prise open. Oh, and carpet edges in doorways. But rarely furniture at least.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

How interesting about the double-sided tape. What an easy remedy to improvise as well. As I said to Asali, I don't have that problem too much with Truffle, and can't point to any soft furnishings damage of hers, other than carpets in doorways. Where it is too late to use the tape trick, haha.

Blacknall Allen said...

What a rude cat that Tootsie is! Our neighborhood cats are pretty well behaved, one does tease Charcoal, but the other Cuzco, is an amiable fellow with all th eintellect of Pooh Bear.
All of them are ace mousers though, so I do not have a problem with them in my backyard. I wish the anti-cat scat had worked. My own cat repellent involves asking my neighbors with dogs to get them to lift a leg near any garbage cans etc. No peeing on lawn mind you, as you get brown grass in the middle of the pee spot.

Vanessa said...

Hi Blacknall,

Oh, I wish I had your relatively well behaved neighbours instead of Tootsie. A bit of light teasing would be tolerable. I am still hopeful of the anti-cat remedy. I think it needs repeated reinforcement, and that is tricky, given the difficulty of getting anywhere within firing range!