Cat Accomadations

Fuzz, our newest feline addition to the Flores animal kingdom, has been growing by leaps and bounds. Since he’s the first indoor pet we’ve had here, we’ve had to step up our game and make some cat accommodations. 

We’ve discovered that although he’s perfectly capable of opening the screen door to the back porch where his litter box is, he isn’t always so inclined to do that. I’ve had to set barriers around my indoor plants. 

The downstairs fireplace is another area he’s designated as a “bathroom” area. Since he managed to find a way through the stacked boxes we set up as a barrier, we had fireplace screens made by the local herrero (blacksmith). Screens for both chimneys cost $600 pesos and are simple but effective in keeping the cat out. 

I pestered my husband to make a ledge that Fuzz could look out the upstairs window from. We even risked reduced social distancing and bought a few boards at the maderaria for that to happen. He did make an extension, but it’s not wide enough. So stacked some boxes on the table that he could lie on to look outside.

My son also set up a lounging spot in front of his window with his archery target and some books as steps. Fuzz spends hours there watching the world go by. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like his soft squishy bed much. He prefers snoodling in our bed, which isn’t exactly the most comfortable sleeping arrangements, especially when he has tuna farts. 

I bought a few toys for the Fuzzer. He promptly lost all the balls and chewed the string on the chasing toy apart. So I bought this three-level ball spinner. The balls stay in the slots. I also picked up a scratching board to try and save my imitation pleather chairs from harm, fat lot of good it did. Who knew an indoor cat would need so many things!

Fuzz has also gone through 2 more of his nine lives. The first incident was when he got himself covered in motor oil. Then in the space of three days, he had two more near-death experiences. It makes me think I’m not a good pet parent. 

The next incident was probably my fault. Fuzz has been exploring past the tinacos (water storage containers) on the new garden roof, which we don’t want. So I thought I’d deter him by using the hose to spray the area in front of where he was exploring to get him to come back because he’d gone as far as Lady’s roof and I couldn’t reach him. However, instead of retreating, he lept sideways, falling off of the roof. He wasn’t hurt but immediately, George and Fred came a-running to see what was up and that really freaked him out. He hadn’t expected to fall into the dog pit! 

Neither dog attacked Fuzz who had puffed up three times his normal size. George got a little too close to give this furry creature a good sniff, and Fuzz scratched his nose. As soon as I saw Fuzz fall, I hollered for my son to help. Meanwhile, I made my way back into the house and down the stairs to the rescue while my son held the dogs. Fuzz was shaken, gave me a few scratches when I picked him up, but otherwise no worse for wear.

The third event I still don’t know what to think about. I bought some Whiskas at the Bodega to try instead of the cheapy brand I had been buying. Well, no sooner had Fuzz gotten a good bite or two when he started puking his guts out. It was awful! I put him outside to try and clean him up but he kept retching. 

My son stayed with him with some milk. We added a little bit of activated charcoal since we are always paranoid about poisoning having lost so many animals that way. Realistically, no one could have poisoned the food since it is always upstairs, inside, but hey, we never thought Puppy, Lil’Pup, or any of our other animals would die that way either. 

Eventually, the vomiting stopped. We cleaned the poor little guy up and tucked in him for the night. He slept most of the next day, exhausted, but by the next evening, he was eating again. Needless to say, that can of food was tossed and I went back to feeding him the cheapy brand.

Fuzz has done a pretty good job of training us so far. With only one angry poo incident under my son’s bed, we now jump to meet his every need. Then Sir Cocoa Beans joined us. 

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Prepping in Mexico –Contaminated Water

Mexico has more than its fair share of polluted waterways. Nearly 70% of Mexican rivers have some type of harmful contamination.

Grupo México, the largest mining company in Mexico, has been implicated in 120 environmental damaging instances since 2000. On July 9, 2019, the company dumped 3,000 liters of sulfuric acid into that water in Guaymas, Sonora. In 2014, a subsidiary of Grupo México was responsible for a spill of 40,000 cubic meters of copper sulfate acid solution which affected the drinking water of more than 22,000 people.

However, Grupo México is not the only company contaminating the water supply. A few days after this incident, 2,000 cubic meters of water were polluted with cyanide in the town of El Oro, Durango. This time the culprit was a ProyectoMagistrals mine.

On July 21, a huge wave of toxic foam formed in the irrigation canal near the Valsequillo dam in Puebla. It was created by the mixture of pollutants, including lead, cadmium, solvents, paints and engine oil, that had been dumped into it combined with household organic waste. 

The Santiago River in Jalisco is another toxic water source. The heavy metal contamination caused by farm and factory dumping has caused a range of illnesses including kidney disease and cancer among local residents. In fact, the water is so toxic, that an 8-year-old boy died of arsenic poisoning in 2008 after falling in the river.

Up to 1/4 of all children born to lakeside communities in the state of Hidalgo have birth defects attributed to the polluted water. Sewage from Mexico City is pumped directly into the water reservoir.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), most regions of Mexico have strongly or excessively contaminated drinking water.  Up to one-third of gastrointestinal problems in the country are the result of feces-contaminated drinking water. In Oaxaca, 54 of every 100,000 inhabitants die because of bad water. Some experts estimate that more than 12 million people in Mexico lack drinkable water, especially in rural areas. 

Unfortunately, water contaminated with toxic chemicals is not safe to drink even after being boiled or disinfected, which does kill certain bacteria and parasites.

Water that is safe to drink should be clear and have no odors. You may be able to pinpoint a problem if your water appears, smells or tastes differently.

If your water is causing your fixtures and sinks to blacken, it may contain hydrogen sulfide or manganese. If there are blue/green stains on your sink, there might be some corrosion from copper, brass or another metal piping. Reddish-brown water comes from corroded iron. Mexico often uses copper or metal tubing to run water to rural communities, so be on the lookout for those stains.

If your water is cloudy, it might have dirt, sand or clay in it. It may also be methane gas making it milky. Foamy water might have detergents or sewage in it. If the water leaves white deposits behind, it might be contaminated with calcium or magnesium. Yellow water could have organic soil run-off or vegetation residue in it or it may be chromium-6, a cancer-causing chemical.

Smells also indicate there might be something wrong with your water supply. If your water smells like bleach, it might contain chlorine or chloramines. Chlorine byproducts include trihalomethanes (THMs) which increase cancer occurrences and are linked to kidney problems and haloacetic acids (HAAs), another cancer-causing chemical that causes skin irritation as well. Low levels of chlorine in your drinking water will increase the risk of exposure to giardia, a parasite that causes nausea, cramps, and diarrhea.

Musty smelling water may contain organic matter. Gas and oily smelling water might be contaminated with gasoline or other semivolatile compounds. A rotten egg smell often indicates hydrogen sulfide. When hydrogen sulfide comes into contact with certain bacteria, it becomes sulfate which causes diarrhea and dehydration.

Fishy smelling water might indicate an excess of barium or cadmium. Barium in large doses can increase blood pressure, provoke muscle weakness and cause kidney, liver or heart damage. Cadmium also is harmful and may cause bone, liver or kidney damage.

You may be able to taste some pollutants. If the water leaves grit in your mouth, sediment might be the cause. A metallic taste could mean iron, copper, lead, manganese, sodium chloride or sulfates. If the water is contaminated with pesticides or other semivolatile compounds, it might have a sharp chemical taste.

Some chemicals can not be seen, smelled or tasted in your water, but still cause illness or death. If you have a rash of sudden deaths among different animal species in your area, water contamination might be the cause.

A water filtration system can eliminate many volatile organic chemicals, some pesticides, hydrogen sulfide, radon gas, and mercury.  Water distillation can remove some pesticides, heavy metals, radium, nitrate, fluoride and salt. Reverse osmosis will remove radium calcium, sulfate, magnesium, nitrate, potassium, fluoride, phosphorous and boron. It also helps to filter out detergents, some pesticides, and chemicals.

Anion or cation exchange, also known as water softening, removes radium, barium and some chemicals. It can eliminate dissolved manganese and iron in low concentrations. Anion exchange units will rid the water of fluoride and nitrate as well but cation won’t. Mechanical filtration can filter our insoluble iron and manganese, dirt and sediment.

Chlorination eliminates bacteria, hydrogen sulfide, dissolved iron, and manganese when used in conjunction with an activated carbon filter. Ultraviolet radiation can handle bacteria and other microbiological contaminants. Ozonation removes some pesticides, bacteria, hydrogen sulfide, dissolved iron, and taste, odor or color-producing chemicals. An oxidizing filter such as a greensand or zeolite filter can rid the water from iron, manganese, hydrogen sulfide and some chemicals.

If you are concerned about your water, you can test it yourself using an at-home kit or send it to a lab for analysis.  Merieux Nutrisciences Mexico and SGS Mexico are two companies that provide water testing services. You may also want to check with your local CONAGUA or El Sistema Municipal de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado offices for a list of other testing agencies.

It also bears mentioning that most Mexicans drink bottled water rather than tap water. Santorini/Epura owned by Pepsi, Bonafont owned by Danone, and Ciel owned by Coca-Cola are the most popular bottled water brands, although there are other water purification companies throughout Mexico. Despite claims to pure water, studies have shown a disagreeable amount of contaminants in bottled water samples. Then there’s the possibility that the garrafón just might allow BPAs to leech into the water. Bisphenol A has been linked to prostate and breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and cognitive problems. 

More recently, small garrafón (water cooler jug) refill centers have sprung up. Using these setups, you could refill your own glass garrafón and eliminate the worry over leeched chemicals. However, I have yet to ascertain where the water that is being sold comes from. It does cost half the price of a garrafón of water from one of those big-name companies, but I just can’t be sure that it’s filtered at all.

Some rural communities have their own manantial (underground spring) which supplies water for the area. The increase in pesticide use among farmers over recent years has polluted even many of these sites. 

With water purity so uncertain, it would be in your best interest to have your drinking water tested regularly

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The Great Food Heist

George on the left and Fred on the right.

The other day, it was raining, which is no surprise because we are in the rainy season after all. My son dashed out to feed the horses and left the back door open a crack. He was gone maybe five minutes and came back to find the door wide open and muddy paw prints all over the place. 

He hollered for the dogs. Fred came dashing out from the garage so fast he slid on the tile like a cartoon. George came tumbling down the stairs with the cat’s food dish in his mouth. The fact that it was George who went upstairs puzzled us because Fred is the sniffer. He’s able to smell food like nobody’s business. George, as the head dog, then appropriates Fred’s find. But in this case, it was George who immediately headed upstairs. 

After the dogs were outside and Fuzz’s food dish reclaimed, we followed the tracks to try and figure out the series of events that led to the Great Heist. It seemed Fred was sent as a lookout to the front door, while George went upstairs and found Fuzz stretched out on the bed. He must have taken a sniff or two of this recumbent feline, who paid him no mind. The muddy paw print on the blanket was left in evidence. 

Then George grabbed the food dish and hurried back downstairs when my son called. So how did George know there was food upstairs? Was it a crime of opportunity, or had deliberate planning gone into it? 

We’ve come to believe that George has been plotting this escapade for a few weeks now. You see, when Fuzz, his royal highness, isn’t happy with his food selection for the day, I drop the leftovers from the back porch to the dogs. I’ve seen George puzzling out how I come to be up on the porch and how to get there himself. With the opened door, George seized the opportunity and took it upon himself to get today’s leftovers (although Fuzz hadn’t properly finished with them yet). 

We’ll have to be more cognizant of open doors now. Once a successful heist has occurred, from now until infinity, the two scoundrels will be casing the joint, looking to take another run at it. Meanwhile, Fuzz will lay there and observe it all.

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