Rivenrock Gardens Cactus Blog

Sponsored Links

Critters in my mug

   We have a few cats that live outside year-round.   They sleep under the porch and in some of the sheds and trees we have on the property. They serve the vital function of helping keep the numbers of rodents down. some of our neighbors are overrun by packrats and mice…. we don’t have any such trouble… generally…

   That’s because outdoors cats eat rodents outdoors.

   We’ve also got two kittens we bottle-fed as their mother had been killed. They barely had their eyes open when we found them…. the rest of the litter had died, and these two were cold to the touch, unresponsive and immobile…. but we warmed them up, and got them hydrated again using an eyedropper and kitten milk replacer….Chica the chihuahua served as a surrogate mother to them.. and they still run to her to say hello. They have some dog social habits…  we raised them as indoor kitties but let them in and out the doggie door as they pleased, and when we walk the property… we often have the two dogs and the two kittens all accompanying us. It is cute seeing the kittens playing in the field with the chihuahuas.

   All was fine until they started to hunt…. and I don’t want to discourage them from this activity as their predatory instincts… while deleterious to the local small animal population does reduce the numbers of gophers eating our cactus, mice getting into sheds (and house), and rabbits causing HUGE damage to our terraces with their large tunnels.

   But we have to draw the line at them bringing rodents into the house to play with and eat. For months we’ve found bloody evidence of their nocturnal forays…. we’re happy and proud that they are great hunters… but please, don’t bring rats into the house!  They tend to bring them in alive and play with them before killing and eating them…. and some of their prey have escaped… and I’ve had to catch them….. usually I can be found with a drinking mug in hand… when a cat brings a rabbit, rat or mouse into the house and drops it near our feet… I quickly spring into action… I down the last of my liquids quickly, and set the mug over the erstwhile prey… and take it outside to be released….

   We’ve now taken to closing the doggie door at night, the cats can go out, but they can’t come back in…. so for a couple of weeks, we’ve been able to keep the carpet clean(er) than before. And I don’t have to gulp liquids down so I can use my drinking vessel as an emergency capture device.

   Here’s the last two critters the kittens brought into the house… one is a large shrew.. the other is a small cottontail bunny such as are so common here, and a major food source for local predators.
   I took both critters outside and released them.  It’s a strange thing to release critters when I’m wanting the cats to eat them anyway… but I can’t bear to give a little critter back to a cat, that seems a bit unfair even if I took it from the cat in the first place… and I don’t want to kill them myself….


 A joke:     Why don’t bunnies make any noise when they mate?
Answer:   They have cottonballs!


bunny in mug

bunny in mug



Tony and Chica

Domestic tranquility

Chica raised this little kitten named Tony.  They are still very close.


R.I.P. Little-Dude

    It’s said mankind has been living with their animals for some ten thousand years….    I’ve heard ‘civilisation began when people started hurling words instead of stones’….    Maybe also it can be said civilization started when someone picked up an orphaned baby animal and raised it up… finally figuring out how this could improve the lives of people… the dog was perhaps the first domesticated animal… the social needs of dogs is similar to humans.. so we naturally get along well as a family unit. The keen noses of dogs would alert of intruders.. etc. Dogs are a good animal to have on a homestead. We also like our cats as they eat the gophers that plague our cactus. Actually, I need to talk to our tax man and see if we can expense the cats on our taxes for the rodent control they do… maybe the dogs too since they bark at the deer and alert me to run them off if they try to get in our seven foot high fence.
  Nah.. better not try that. 

  Here’s a photo of our Chihuahua Chica and the two kittens she raised up.
   I imagine heaven is a bit like this… animals that would be naturally antagonistic brought together in love through the Grace of God.
Chica raised these two orphaned kitties for us… giving them the warmth they needed while we fed them kitten milk replacer from eyedroppers. It is so heartwarming and precious to see the way they’ll come in from their nocturnal hunts and lay down next to their momma the dog.  They chase each other around the house in their little play times. Dang… we’ve got it good here…. we were without a TV for years… but the animals always kept us entertained. Between the sheep that acted like goats (Barbados), the goats that looked like sheep (angoras), the domestic and wild Russian boars we’ve had…. rabbits, fowls… etc.

   Here’s Whitey and Little-Dude…. both are shelter-dog rescues. Both were abused in their lives…
   Trauma can do so much harm to a mind and spirit….
   Whitey was found by us before he was mature… after some six months with us he jumped onto my lap for the first time. We had Little-Dude for almost three years… in that time he only jumped up on me a few times in the last weeks before he died.  I always had the worry it would be when he’s old and sick before he loses the edge of fear that kept him from me.  Even then he was wary… eying me suspiciously when I stroked his fur.  No one knows the trauma he went through… he had broken ribs and a tail with several breaks in it. He would cling near to Vickie and stay between her and me as if to protect her… whenever I approached her he would get scared and bite me.. but he was so old.. his teeth worn down to little dull nubs.
   Little Dude had a little spot on the grasses near the garden in which he liked to sit in the sun… we’d laugh and call him ‘Viejo’ which means ‘old-man’…. he so reminded me of some of the southern villages in Europe… where you used to see the old men sitting on benches alongside their houses…. their dark clothes in many layers… a beret-type cap on their head… smoking smelly cigarettes… how the mind works, that a little old chihuahua can remind me of my childhood in Europe.
  Little Dude passed on about a month ago on April 13 … he’d come in from his little warm-spot in the sun, and collapsed by the refrigerator…. he went through some spasms for a time, shuddered and stretched, and stopped breathing.  We buried him at the little spot he liked to sit in the sun…. it was touching because both Whitie and Chica sat on that spot in the sun for the next few days, and would nap on the little blanket he always liked to lay on. Some folks say animals don’t realize death…. but I know they do. When you’re working slaughtering animal after animal as I’ve done in the past… you soon realize the first couple trust you… proceeding along the line willingly… until the smell of death starts to get to them.. then they start to realize something is amiss…. they start to protest and panic… yes, animals in slaughterhouses do get scared… and it makes a difference in the taste of the meat.
   Most cultures have a way of assuaging the guilt of the people when they kill an animal…. they pray that the animal uinderstands the need to take their life and eat them… they pray for forgiveness, and that the animal will understand…. we don’t have that in this modern time when you have others do the killing for you…. if you’re gonna eat animals… I think it is best to kill them yourself… it seems more honest somehow.

   As for Little Dude…. I wish we could have gotten into his mind to see what happened to him….
   At least we gave him a secure home, with good animal friends he could try to be close to. I think he had as good a time for that few years as he possibly could given the internal torment he had.

   R.I.P Little Dude… see you at the Rainbow Bridge one day.

Tony and Rocky


031010TonyRockyKitten      031110tony1

    Tony and Rocky have grown up into fine looking and healthy young cats. They’ve both been ‘fixed’ so that they are less likely to roam… but they still enjoy roaming the grounds and hunting for mice and gophers.

   They both tend to bring  a live rodent into the house on a weekly basis…. I usually catch them in a drinking mug, and release them outdoors.

   Having cats around keeps the rodent population down…. mice aren’t an issue for our cactus, but gophers are, so having these fellows keeping the numbers down helps a lot…. I wonder if I can deduct food and vet costs since they are integral to our business?

   Tony in particular seems to enjoy having his photos taken.  He tends to hold  a pose long enough to get good photos.  When I’m on the terraces and he sees me, he comes to say hello…. a very friendly little guy he is :-)

Chica and Tony



Here’s Chica and tony in Oct 2009.
They are so close, he follows her around even though he is now much larger than her.
I think she would try to defend him if she thought he was in danger.This has been a very interesting thing, watching the development of the relationship between these animals. When we got Tony six months ago he was a tiny dehydrated little kitten with eyes barely open, and sunken into his skull. We had to force-feed him with a dropper…. a drop at a time.

Chica surprised us by offering herself to them, she’d lay down and let the kittens snuggle to her warm belly. She licked them and kept them clean…. as they learned to walk they tottered around after her. Now they are larger than her…. it’ll be interesting to see what the next six months brings.

If you want to change the world… start with yourself

   Chica is the Chihuahua who raised up the two tiny orphaned kitties we found. We bottle-fed them, but she slept with them, cuddled and comforted them.  Even now that they are six months old and larger than her, they cuddle and play together. She licks them and searches their fur for fleas. It’s really a sweet sight to see them together… it makes me happy and reminds me that life is so very mysterious……

Chica and Tony

Chica and Tony

Everyone wants to change the world… to make it better.
but the world is like  a person, you cannot enforce real inward change.
what a person believes you cannot change by force.

If you really want to change the world, all you can do is change yourself,
when your own harmony and tranquility is seen by your family,
you can slowly change them by serving as an example to them.


the stillness and tranquility of your family might cause your neighborhood to change ever so slightly,
,the harmony in your neighborhood might spread to neighboring areas.

your local areas might bring change to the state and then to the nation.

If you want to change the world… start with yourself

Lord… let it begin with me

Tony the Terrible Kitten and Chica the Chihuahua

Here’s Tony the orphaned kittie and the Chihuahua who adopted and raised him.
He’s now almost five months old, and a bit bigger than his ‘mama’.
Looking at his feet, you can see he’s got a lot of growing to do yet.
I hope he always stays close to his mother.


Tony has grown bigger than his 'mom' in four months!

Tony has grown bigger than his 'mom' in four months!

Rocky on top, Whitey and Chica, and Tony the Terrible
Rocky on top, Whitey and Chica, and Tony the Terrible

Here’s Tony siddling up to his ‘mama’.
Whitey doesn’t know what to make of this kitten who tries to sleep with dogs.

Lizards… be aware, and beware

Lizards… be aware, and beware


Back in May our son called us and told us of a litter of semi-feral kittens outside his apartment in Oceano.
The mother had gotten hit by a car, and he’d heard the little ones mewing in the bushes.
When he got them from the bushes, the majority were dead, and the two still alive were just barely hanging on.
We took them in and forced them to take ‘kitten milk replacer’.
We force-fed them as they were dehydrated and wanting to give up and die.
After a couple of days they were able to crawl around a bit, and their eyes had filled out again
(they were sunken into their skulls, they were so dehydrated).While feeding the striped one which the neighbors named ‘Tony’,
I would tell him of the great life he’d have if he lived,
of all the little creatures he could catch,
of the trees he could climb and the animals he could see

Gradually, they grew stronger,
and were adopted by our female Chihuahua Chica,
herself an orphan we rescued.

I hate to anthropomorphize animals, and ascribe human traits and compulsions to them,
but it seemed as though Chica received the ‘mothering’ she never got by giving it to the kittens
and the kittens had a nice warm tummy to snuggle to and knead with their paws.

I suppose in so many ways we give out what we never got but wanted
and it is in giving we receive what we need through substitution


Here’s  photo of  Tony and Chica a week or two after we introduced them
he’s her size now, just four months later.
And they are still close, it is touching to see the way they snuggle together.

Chica has some odd facial characteristics, she looks mean but is actually very sweet
That’s merely a cowlick on her face… not a scar
but I kid people that she got her head caught in a mechanical cactus-picker

but there is no such machine, we pick our cactus by hand

Alligator Lizard in the air
Alligator Lizard in the air

Tony seems to have learned a lot from our little ‘talks’
He’s been bringing lizards into the house now.
Here are two Alligator Lizards he has brought into the house in the last few weeks
We give the lizards a little talk, warning them to stay clear of the kittens
then we let them go back into the cactus garden from whence the kittens got them

I suspect lizards don’t taste good, our mature cats ignore them
the kittens play with them for the fun of it, but don’t eat them (as far as I know)

You can see that this lizard has already lost his tail.
It’s pretty rare to find a mature one with an original tail….
but when you do, they are impressive

Alligator Lizard in the air

Alligator Lizard in the air

The animals here like this place as much as we do.




   Here’s a  video of Chica and Tony together.
It’s cute, but has no audio….
If anyone owns the rights to some nice music you’d like us to put into the video,
let us know
We’re interested in making our videos more appealing by having nice music

Tony and Rocky, sitting in a tree




   Tony and Rocky have been getting out a bit more lately. One day last week, we found them climbing in the oak trees in front of the house.

   It scared Vickie a bit… they got twenty feet and more up, and their inexperience shows… they were on little twigs as small as a pencil…. I wandered under the trees ready to catch them if they fell. We had a pretty good time. It made me laugh, because just three months ago, when we got them, we were concerned when they crawled out of their little box we kept them in. We were worried they might fall six inches… but they were little itty bittie things then.  Now they are starting to toughen up a bit.

   It’s a bit sad in a sense having animals…. we can’t take them to the vet like we’d like…. our animals will get torn up by some wild critter, and there’s not much we can do other than to doctor them ourselves the best we can. I try to assuage my guilt by rationalising that these are all animals that wandered in from feral parents, or were found orphaned somewhere and we rescued them… if we had not taken them in,  they’d have died long ago.  One thing I’ve noticed about our animals… they are all really tough and durable survivor-type creatures. If they were not, they’d have never made it as far as to our door.

   Often I will watch our critters doing their thing in the wilds…. and I have to say, they really do have a good life. They have plenty of little things to stalk, deer and foxes and other animals to watch (and be aware of).  Our animals for sure do not live in gilded cages.


   Here’s some photos of these little kittens in the tree.


Chica and Tony


1 Corinthians 13:11

When I was a child,
I talked like a child,
I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man,
I put childish ways behind me.



  Chica was a rescued little puppy when we got her almost two years ago.  No information on her past was available… she was tiny, emaciated, nearly starving and full of worms.  But she had more energy and life from the beginning than I have ever seen in my life.


   Perhaps due to early separation from her mother, she had a tendency to want to suckle on anything she found…. blanket corners, towels etc.


   Then we came by two little dehydrated kitties who’s mother had been killed. We had to work hard to save them… they had to be bottle fed for a week or two, then we switched them to lapping milk replacer, and then slowly to finely ground wet cat food.


   Chica the orphaned Chihuahua took pity upon the poor little kitties, she would often nestle carefully with them in their little box…. she’d gather them to her and treat them as if they were her puppies.  Now they are very close…. and the kittens are approaching her size. Within the next few months they will greatly outclass her in size and jumping ability.


   A surprising side-effect…. Chica is no longer suckling on anything she sees….. she has advanced to the next stage of life thanks to the little orphaned kitties.  And she has taken the trauma she went through at losing her mother too young, and given herself as a replacement mother…. hopefully the good she is doing will help the two kitties grow up with little trauma at having lost their mother so young.




  Here’s a  little video showing how close Chica and Tony are


Matthew 23:37

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
who kills the prophets and stones to death those who have been sent to her!
How often I wanted to gather your children together
as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,
but you were unwilling!