I went out to the cats' huts Monday afternoon to replace the straw from last fall. I was afraid it would be moldy/bug-infested/smelly, etc. I was also worried about mites, as a fox had been seen climbing out of the little igloo and looked like he had a problem with loss of fur aka possibly mange? Now, I am the first to admit that I know little about wildlife. And I'm sure most of the information passed down is far from correct. But I've read and heard that many foxes have mange and I really really really don't want scabies. (Not sure if I need direct physical contact, though, or if it's possible to transfer the mites through non-bodies, so that's where my "research" has come up short...)
I headed out wearing a hospital gown, gloves, and sunglasses for eye protection. I first tackled the small igloo. Scooped out all the straw and piled it between the houses for added insulation. The very bottom was a little damp, but overall, it still seemed quite dry and odor free. Which is good to know, considering all the rain and snow we've had/been having.
The large igloo was a bit more difficult in cleaning out. I didn't want to disturb the tarp over top (and the straw between the tarp and igloos) but wanted to clean it out as well as possible. In retrospect, I realize I should have gone back for the rake. Or shovel. Either would have been much more helpful than the long stick I used to pull the straw towards me.
I must have looked a sight with my odd garb and using a stick as a shovel. All five of the cats just sat there and watched as I destroyed their nests. I wish I had brought my camera, because they seemed to be watching me as if I was some crazy entertaining show. But goodness was that straw DUSTY!!! And I definitely forgot how much straw I put in there. But I was so afraid of them freezing to death (actually, I would have preferred if they could have had a little fireplace built into the igloos, haha) that I just piled that straw as high as I could.
Straw is great, because each cat can make their own little molded nest. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the large igloo's straw smelled fresh, no dampness, no mold either.
Bugs, however, I am not sure. Some bugs are a bit small for me to detect, not that I really want to be out there inspecting the straw for fleas and mites.
Each of the houses seems to have good and bad qualities, so I can't really say which may be the best. I know that the super expensive insulated house SEEMS to be used the least, but that's really only going on the lack of footprints and "nests" in the house's straw. I've seen the two igloos used the most (cats frequently going in and out), probably because their type allows a better use of nesting and snuggling. Both of the wooden houses are built so that you can't really pile the straw in there.
I am pleased to know that the straw does a good job of keeping the cats warm, but also that the houses are not allowing too much moisture in.
After spending about 45 minutes in a swampy, wooded area, however, I am full of bug bites. So far *what I've read* has me feeling pretty certain I did not pick up some mites, but if my bites intensify, I'll have to have it checked out. The bugs love to chomp down on me anyway, so I'm sure they were simply delighted to feast on someone with significantly less fur than a cat. But I think I'd have to have direct contact with an animal that has mange? So I remain hopeful. = )