Sunday, June 27, 2010

I Blame the heat!

No posts for a week! Sorry about that, but I blame the heat! With both of us working full time and the outdoor temps well over 100F, your energy just seems to get zapped away and blogger's block comes on strong. The temperature peaked at 109F midweek then "cooled" to 103 yesterday. Admittedly, it is that time of year - the normal highs are in fact, over 100F, and dew points are still below freezing (it's still amazing to me that your iced drinks don't "sweat"), so it is a "dry" heat, but still, 109! All of us are looking to the southeastern horizon where in the next week or 10 days our "monsoon" rains will come bringing lower temperatures, and the bulk of our annual rainfall. It can't come too soon for a lot of us!

We did have some fun this weekend, though. Melinda got to attend her first astronomy convention as the Astronomical League brought their annual convention to Tucson (who came up with that idea - Tucson in June!). In addition, a local manufacturer of solar viewing devices, Lunt Solar Systems, held a solar observer's meeting, and the International Dark-Sky Association (another local organization) joined for their annual meeting as well. So there was no lack of things astronomical to do over the 3 day weekend. There were some great talks, quite a large vendor display, as well as solar telescopes and some spectacular photos on display (and for sale!). Our friend Marilyn, was down from Prescott where she owns a bookstore, to sell used astronomy and science titles. We had just seen her a few weeks ago at the Canyon, but it was still great spending time and meals with her. At left, our new TAAA president and conference organizer Keith Schlottman introduces a speaker. We attended nearly all the AL talks Friday and Saturday, but today Melinda begged off the light pollution conference, and I only attended the morning session. I won a guide telescope door prize, and I bought two spectacular photos of the Milky Way from national parks from Wally Pacholka, who has an incredible body of work.

We followed up the meeting with a viewing of Toy Story 3 (in 3-D) at lunchtime, then rushed off to get Melinda a nap before she starts work tonight. And I'll likely have a long week at work starting tomorrow, so we're getting back to reality!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Another McNaught Trip up Mt Lemmon

Last night (a Saturday), with a bright quarter moon setting about 1am and Melinda at work, I decided to head north of Tucson again to try imaging Comet McNaught (2009R1) again. I got it acceptably well last weekend, but the comet is supposed to be brightening as it approaches the sun, and it might look a little different... Unfortunately, as it approaches the sun, it continues to dive towards the horizon, so will be lower and not available as long as last weekend.

Like last trip, I left home about midnight for the 1 hour drive to San Pedro Vista, 17 miles up the hill and just over 7,000 feet elevation. This trip I used the 14" Celestron with the Hyperstar optics, so it was equivalent to a 700mm lens working at F/1.9. Even working in the dark, it was straightforward to set up, and I was ready to shoot by 2am.

With time to spare, and the Milky Way blazing overhead, I needed some alternate targets. I started out shooting one of my favorite objects to show at dark-sky star parties, Barnard 86, a dark nebula in Sagittarius. While a dark cloud of dust and gas may not sound very spectacular, just being able to spot it against the glowing star clouds of the Milky Way is indeed very neat. B86 is easily spotted just above the spout of the teapot asterism, located between a small star cluster (NGC 6520) and a bright star. It shows up well on images too, though is smaller than imagined after spotting it visually so many times. This image is from 10 stacked 45 second exposures, so about 7 minutes total exposure with the Canon XSi.

I also shot some more frames of the Iris Nebula, but the focus was a little off, so won't embarrass myself here!

Finally, right at 3am the comet was spotted just above Capella (Alpha Auriga) on the northeastern horizon. The sky was a little murkier than last weekend, and the comet, if anything, was less impressive than last week - perhaps because of it's lower altitude. In any case, I shot a few frames of it. Generally, it looked very similar to last weekend, a long blue ion tail and a short stubby dust tail. The comet is almost north of the sun, so generally the ion tail is swinging around slowly to the north. Compare this picture to the post last weekend(link above) - both have north up and west to the right... This image is from a series of 45 second exposures that were then stacked using the comet head as reference, so that the stars appear as trailed. After a dozen frames, morning twilight started, and I began to take down the scope. For dessert, the sky presented me with a glimpse of the Pleiades rising in the brightening eastern sky.

There was some talk of the comet being visible in the northwest after sunset, but I don't believe it will be worth writing home about - small and very low in the sky. So this is likely my last attempt to chase it down...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Campin' at the Canyon

There are several options for accommodations at the Grand Canyon. We choose to tent camp each year while others in the group have campers or stay in the Rim lodges. The Canyon is a GREAT place to camp, and the camaraderie that is felt at the campsites is the palpable heart beat of the Canyon! While I wouldn't say that we are novice campers (we've both spent our share of time in tents, growing up and as adults); we aren't the type to set up a camp kitchen, or cook our food on site. That's why they have all of those lovely cafeterias and restaurants there, right? That makes the annual GCSP camping trip just about perfect! We did encounter some gear problems this year, however. We knew our air mattress had a 'slow leak'...that quickly turned into a 'fast leak', leaving us sleeping on a deflated air mattress every night. Our other "hey whoops!" was that with the record heat our tent poles started breaking! The first to go was the 'closet' pole - not a big deal at all. The next was one of the main support poles...and then the other main support pole. Our dome tent quickly became a sagging tepee! While Dean was 'okay' with not worrying about it, I was more insistent that "we have to fix it". After an attempt with duct tape and splints, Dean and one of the other friends (also a Dean) figured out how to correctly fix the problem. By our last night we had a dome tent again, though it is now 1" shorter than it started. "Bravo!!!" for these guys that think things through and get the job done! Even for those who know nothing about pitching a tent, there are rentals at the General Store (formerly known as Babbitt's at Market Plaza) for all of the equipment that you could want or need to make your cozy home 'neath the pines. Each year we, the volunteer astronomer's, are given several campsites - reserved for those who are staying the full week. Since we have not been able to stay the entire week the past two years, we have made reservations for our campsite - months in advance (the campground fills up quickly!). Mather Campground is 'the main' campground on the South Rim, and is comprised of several "Loops". Our group is, typically, in the first Loop - Aspen. I felt like we had won the lottery when we were able to score a site in Aspen Loop this year! Each site can hold up to three tents and two vehicles, and is spacious enough to allow everyone their own 'comfort zone'. There are two bathrooms in the loop - each with a "Men's" and "Women's" (several stalls each) and an outside sink for washing dishes,etc. The showers/laundry building are located near the entrance to Mather, with plenty of shower stalls - and laundry facilities for everyone, and was an easy walk from our campsite.

Given that we were at the Grand Canyon, in a wooded area, there are (from time to time) "critters" that made our stay more interesting! The first night, this year, we were serenaded to sleep by Coyotes (and have heard them on previous trips as well). They weren't very near the camp, but their yips and howls reminded us that we weren't at the local Motel 6! Daily we were visited by the Chihuahua Ravens, who love to pilfer from the campsites. Since we didn't have food there (but they did manage to tear open the garbage bag we had hanging from a tree) they didn't hang around our site too much. They have been known to steal candy bars, and turn Styrofoam coolers into 'snow'!

There are, of course, plenty of Squirrels running around - smaller and less wary than you might find else where. These little guys know they're high on the 'cuteness' scale - encouraging visitors to feed them (strictly against NPS rules!). We have been fortunate that we haven't seen any of the local reptiles or arachnids (else our camping days come to an abrupt halt).

The most sought after critters, however, were the large four-legged variety: Mule Deer, Big Horn Sheep, and Elk. We have seen Big Horn Sheep on other visits, but not this trip. There were several years when we did see some deer, but nary an Elk was to be found. This year was different! When we pulled into the registration office at Mather Campground we were greeted by a few Elk, taking an afternoon snack from the nearby Oak trees. It was great to see them so near! Driving to our campsite we spotted two more, feet away from our friend's (Joe) campsite! Over the next couple of days we saw several grazing, laying in the cool shade under the pines, and eating from the upper reaches of the Canyon Oak. On Monday morning, our anniversary, we were visited! Dean left the tent before I did, and I heard our friend/camping buddy (Donna) whisper, "Dean! Dean! Elk!!!" He poked his head back in the tent and said, "You should get out here!" Sure enough, two very large beasts - one with a 13 point rack, and one smaller were out enjoying our area! While they seemed to be undaunted by the growing group of people with cameras, they didn't linger too long...all the while munching their breakfast. Needless to say, we took a ton of pictures of them - some of which I'm including here. We wouldn't want to disappoint these beautiful creatures by not taking their pictures! After the Elk had moved on I noticed a few Mule Deer, hanging around behind our campsite. Interestingly, at one point in history the Elk were nearly, completely, gone from the Grand Canyon. Big Game hunters (yes, including Teddy Roosevelt) had hunted them to extinction. It has been through re-population and relocation that this majestic symbol of the American West has returned. Our hunter friend, Kirk, told Dean that the largest of the two Elk at our camp ground would have been considered a "trophy Elk". We choose for our "trophies" to be great pictures, instead!

From my first visit to the Grand Canyon (in 2006), I have been in love with the place. In it's true grandeur there is a quiet, a peacefulness, and a calm that you can't find in anything man made. I particularly like this quote (etched onto a panel in the Yavapai Observation Station) from Theodore Roosevelt. I think it says it all.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Oh My God! It looks fake!!!

Dean has posted, a bit, about the 2010 Grand Canyon Star Party (last week); but there is one aspect that I really wanted to tell about. We had great skies the nights we were there, and we (all of us together) felt that we wanted to show the public the "best of the best" when it came to the incredibly dark skies we had at our disposal. In previous years, Saturn has made an appearance - but was low enough to not be able to show for the entire night. This year was different. Saturn was easy to find before total darkness, and stayed up well into the evening - for every one's viewing pleasure! This picture was taken (not by us), but by a gentleman in Palermo, Italy on 06/06/2010 - Carmelo Zannelli, through a 14" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope (same as ours), and just a few hours before we were able (in Arizona) to show the same view. Due to the calm weather the first two nights of the star party, we were able to show this view at 300+x power. Truly spectacular! In fact, the view we had through our telescope was cleaner, sharper, and included anywhere from 2-4 moons!

Of course, the best part of showing Saturn is what keeps us returning to the star party each year - and embodies the spirit of public outreach. Every person (non-astronomer, and astronomers as well) reacted in their own, unique way to seeing this beautiful planet! Small children, teenagers, young adults, middle-agers, and older adults all had reactions, some that will be remembered forever. Here is a sampling of what we heard when our viewers took that first furtive look: "Oh my God!!!", "That's totally crazy!" (the new 'awesome', we have realized), "Oh my Gosh! Honey you have to see this!", "Wow! It looks fake!!!", "It looks like a play Saturn!" (a 'play Saturn'? really?), "Is that moon Enceladus or Mimas?" (from a 5 year old girl!) "Oh my God...I think I'm going to cry!" (and she did!), "I can see the rings!" (yes, and the moons, too!), and the best were two men (who seemed to be a couple) - in their biker leathers....the first man approaching the scope patted his chest, with tears in his eyes, and said, "I've waited 53 years to see Saturn...this is so emotional for me!!!" Even folks who had seen Saturn in some of the other telescopes exclaimed and asked to "look at it again". I have to admit, I still have that reaction even though it's been over 5 years since Dean showed me Saturn, for the first time, on our first date! While many of the other telescopes moved on to other objects as the night became darker, and the Milky Way was bright enough to provide more than enough light for us to see without flashlights, we moved back to Saturn before the evening was finished. Each night, I was glad that we did. The, now 'seasoned', observers would stop by - one more time - for a last glimpse, perhaps ever, of the planet that everyone loves to see. One lady remarked to me that she was glad to get to see Saturn, as they had been seeing all sorts of star clusters, nebulae, double stars, and other interesting things - but it was nice to see something bright, sharp, and recognizable before they called it a night. Every person looking through our telescope was polite, and very appreciative of what we were doing out there. This is the spirit of the star party, this is what will keep us going back and setting up the telescope year after year.

Another Comet McNaught!

It was just a month ago that I posted about Comet McNaught - C/2009 K5 McNaught to be precise. Well, after a long day of work on Saturday, I relaxed at home in the evening and was tempted enough by some of the photos I'd seen to track down the new and improved Comet McNaught, this one designated 2009 R1. Realize Rob McNaught is working on a comet survey for NASA, and since he represents one of the few surveys in the southern hemisphere, he discovers a lot of comets, 9 of them in 2009!

This Comet McNaught (2009 R1) is making a very nice appearance as most comets go. It is currently barely naked eye, but only from a very dark sky. It was also closest to the earth this last weekend, but still 105 million miles from Earth, so it is small. But it does sport a nice skinny tie of an blue ion tail as it moves swiftly across the morning sky, a few degrees a day.

So after staying up for Saturday Night Live, I packed and headed up Mount Lemmon for my pre-sunrise encounter. I got up to San Pedro Vista, above 7,000 feet elevation, and was greeted by the brilliant Summer Milky Way high overhead, with the glow of Tucson reduced to a southern glow. My quarry was going to be rising in the NE just an hour or so before morning twilight started at 3:30. After setting up the equipment, a G-11 mounting with both my 80mm Meade F/6 APO and a 200mm Canon lens, I had time to shoot a few frames of the Iris Nebula in Cepheus (NGC 7023) before the comet got high enough to see.

I finally spotted it in binoculars - a little aqua fuzzy spot with the barest hint of a tail. But when the cameras were unleashed, a quite nice comet was revealed with the long blue ion tail sweeping out of the frame past open star cluster NGC 1245. I followed it for about a half hour before the sky started brightening right as predicted. When the rush to take images was finally over and I looked at them in detail, the comet was moving so swiftly it is difficult to stack the images properly, so I'm showing 2 images - a single 2.5 minute frame with the 80mm, and a stack of 7 frames with the 200mm, but stacked to follow the comet as it moved, so the stars make a dashed line. This image is stretched (perhaps too much) to show the extent of the ion tail (mostly CO+ and OH+ pushed back from the nucleus by the solar wind). There is shorter dust tail visible too off to the right, where the heavier dust particles and molecules are less affected by solar wind, but left behind by the comets motion.

The comet will continue to get brighter, but also nearer the sun, and may be visible for a short time in the early evening after sunset before moving into the southern sky. If you are not an amateur astronomer, you might want to skip this one, but if you enjoy tracking down these denizens, it might reward you well!

Update: I decided to add a wide-field image of the comet as it rose above my horizon Sunday morning. This exposure was taken with a 20mm lens at F/2.8 for only 45 seconds with the Canon 20Da. Click on the picture to load a larger image with labels for the comet, constellations and bright sky objects.

One more thing - this comet has a hyperbolic orbit. What does that mean? Well, with an eccentricity of 1.0004, it means this comet is coming through our solar system for the first time. It is NOT in orbit around the sun, it's velocity is too high, so after missing our star, it continues on, never to return!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Two Years, 400th Post!

For those of you keeping track, we started this blog 2 years ago right after our marriage, and it so happens that this is our 400th post! We've had a lot more fun than I thought possible and unbelievable support in maintaining this blog, and hope to continue as long as what we do is interesting to others. When we get too boring, someone please let us know!

This is my favorite photo of us that I don't think has appeared here - it was taken in the Fall of 2006 when we were recent lovebirds (still are!). It was taken at the Iowa Star Party in Coon Rapids Iowa by our friend Joan Oesper under my direction. The barn we are peering out of was used for the star party talks, but makes a nice rustic background for such a photo.

So yes, this last Monday, while at the Canyon, we celebrated our second anniversary! It was pretty low key, since at the time we were staying in a broken-down dome tent that more resembled a sagging tepee (all our tent poles broke in the center from the excessive heat!), and it had gotten to the point that our air mattress failed to stay inflated for more than a couple hours at a time... However, we did celebrate with a few friends with a 4-star dinner at El Tovar, the 105 year old iconic hotel on the rim of the Grand Canyon. We arrived a little early for our reservation, and while Melinda and Elinor check out Melinda's current favorite curtain material and did some shopping, the rest of us hung out in the rocking chairs of the side porch. The meal and service were really first rate and had a nice variety of seafood, steaks, and a buffalo special!

While others and I rave about the dark skies at the Grand Canyon Star Party, there is evidence of nearby civilization. Even from the rim, the little commercial establishment of Tusayan 7 miles to the south just outside the Park is pretty visible as a glow to the south - no direct lights, though. A little (ok, a lot) more obnoxious, is the light dome of Las Vegas, 170 miles to the west, under the conjunction of Mars and Regulus with Saturn at upper left. Granted, there were a few clouds that likely made the lights look a little brighter than they normally would have been, but considering that 8 or 10 years ago, the light dome was barely visible, there is a huge change! And surprisingly, the relatively small town of St George, Utah is visible on the right side of the photo, a good 110 miles away! Note also that the walls of the Canyon to the left are lit up by the lights of the hotels and other establishments of Grand Canyon Village.

Shooting towards the north, the lights of the North Rim Lodge can be seen on the horizon, and down in the bottom of the Canyon, Phantom Ranch Campground is aglow. Faintly visible to the right is the light dome of Page, Arizona about 75 air miles away - pretty good for a city of 7,000.

But talk about your distant glows, visible to the upper left of the North Rim Lodge is the Double Cluster in Perseus, 7000 light years distant. But we're not finished yet - just to the right of the light dome of Page, right off the horizon is the distant glow of the Andromeda Galaxy, 2.5 million light years away!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

While We Were Away...

We've been out of town, thus the lack of posts the last week. The 20th Grand Canyon Star Party started last Saturday, and continues through the 12th. We attended the first 4 nights and it was quite spectacular. My first wife Vicki and I restarted the event (the first version in the '70s was run by John Dobson) in 1991, and after 18 years of my organization, still runs strong under the leadership of Jim O'Connor. In short, 60 of our astro buddies come set up telescopes for the public, and thousands of them get to see spectacular sights of the universe under some of the darkest skies around. The volunteers are great, the public is great, and the Park Service has been extremely supportive of us for the last 2 decades. I am overjoyed it has taken on a life of it's own and I'll continue to attend and support it as it continues into the future.

Anyway, we'll have a couple posts coming up the next couple days as I get a chance to write accompanying text.

BUT, one thing that happened while we were gone, is that an article about the Mirror Lab that featured yours truly came out in the main Phoenix newspaper, the Arizona Republic. About a month or more now, the senior reporter Anne Ryman contacted me through a UA science reporter about doing a story about me and the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT). After an LA Times article referring to me as the "high priest of glass polishing", I was loathe to get involved again, but Anne and the senior staff at the Mirror Lab were insistent... So anyway, here we go again. Click on this link to go to the paper's site and read the article. There is also a slide show of Mirror Lab photographs here.

My reaction - I like this article a lot better than the LA Times article, but I really dislike being the focus of attention, I guess. It really features me a lot and covers a lot of my background, and kind of skips over the Mirror Lab "team" aspect that I was trying to emphasize, but got left out. Instead of the "high priest" of polishing, I'm now have the "Martha Stewart" fussiness for polishing... Mostly I was sort of glad we were camped out at the Canyon, missing the hubbub of e-mails that sprung up among the University staff and amateur astronomy circles. Knowing the article was appearing Sunday, I did buy a paper at the Canyon, so we got to read it early on. Hopefully my 15 minutes are well behind me now!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lunchtime 3-D Walk

It has been a little hectic at work, but I can usually take a leisurely lunch when the early and late shifts have an overlap and I can get away. It had been almost a month and a half since I'd dropped into the optics shop at the Optical Sciences Center (OSC) and checked on the Discovery Channel Telescope. I had a blog entry shortly after it was declared finished, and they were planning for shipping at that time, but hadn't heard anything since.

So with a little time to myself at lunchtime, I paid a visit and of course, was told "I should have been there yesterday"! The mirror had been suspended in midair as it was installed into the shipping box, so all I saw today was the steel box sections being installed around the primary mirror. But it is always interesting to check out how such a fragile load is shipped. The finished telescope mirror, not yet coated with it's eventual aluminum reflective layer, was instead covered with a blue protective coating that is easily removed once safely delivered. This mirror is quite thin for such a large diameter, so is supported by several large compliant disks on it's rear surface. The yellow shipping box has some huge steel cables that are coiled into springs. The stiffness of the cables translate into spring dampening in all directions if the box base gets a shock. And tracking it all the way is an electronic monitor that runs for several days recording how carefully it was handled on it's trip. There are two of them for redundancy.

The mirror ships next week, the trip to the telescope dome in Happy Jack, Arizona expected to only take 1 day. The box will be uncovered and the mirror carefully inspected the next day to assure no damage took place on the drive. The 3-D stereo pair is viewed by the cross-eyed method - check my first 3-D post for viewing hints.

After leaving OSC, it is only a brief walk across the University of Arizona mall to the Flandrau Science Center, where a couple 3-D targets presented themselves. First up is a sundial installed a few years ago by artist John Carmichael. The shadow of the ball mounted on the brass cable falls on the scale etched into the base plate. The time is read most accurately when the shadow crosses the hour marks, which has the figure-8 analemma that corrects for the "equation of time" which takes into account the elliptical orbit of the earth that make sundials run slightly fast or slow during various times of the year. I just happened by a minute or two past noon. hard to read in the wide shot, but is more evident in the blow up version...

And of course, Flandrau has always displayed a large meteorite near it's entry. This one is a iron meteorite that shows the fluted surface formed by air friction as it entered the earth's atmosphere. Flandrau has recently reopened to the public after a few months of closure. If you are in Tucson, be sure to stop by and support your science center!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Introducing an FIV Cat Into the Herd

It was about time we passed along some experiences we've had with bringing new cats into the household. We are up to 11 cats now in the house and back yard (but not outside our back fence!), and all of them are strays/ferals/rescues. While they all have adapted with a minimum of bloodshed, some new techniques were tried with our last 2 and it has worked out so well we've got to spread the word. A lot of the credit (or blame) goes to our vet, Dr. Kayomee Daroowalla, who got us started using this technique.

The short story is this - just over a year ago we moved in "Scruffy", a feral we'd been feeding in the front of the house. He was a bag of bones when we first saw him, and I literally fed and monitored him for nearly a year to fatten him up - I was afraid the vet would put him down he looked so bad. When he went in for his neutering and health check, the routine feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) blood test came back positive. Thinking that we wouldn't take him into our healthy cat population, where others could be infected by fluid exchange, she suggested introducing him by living in their midst in a dog crate. Over the years, I'd actually had 2 other cats that are FIV positive, so was aware of their health issues and their threat to others, but they can also lead long healthy lives, so not taking Scruffy was ever an option. The crate method was first used with him.

So with our recent invite for YellowCat to join the family, the procedure was fine tuned. First we caught him and moved him into isolation into an extra bathroom we had. We'd been feeding him for nearly a year, so he was used to us, and we were able to work towards petting him and picking him up, leaving the rear feet in contact with the ground so they don't panic. I suspect he was a bit shocked for me to rush him into the bathroom, but he took it well. We made up a pet carrier in the tub into a little "cave of contentment", covered and lined with towels for privacy and comfort. Here he was made to feel at home and get used to the sights and sounds of the house and other cats. Of course, YellowCat's health was still an unknown, so he was in isolation for the sake of our other cats. We had a vet appointment for his neutering, but an upper respiratory infection got him sent home for another week with antibiotics. He did fine in there - took to the litter box immediately, enjoyed his food and housing, but when we went in to socialize with him, we found he was a biter. He got me once on the knuckles and my swollen hand got my doctor to get me antibiotics too.

Finally neuter day came. I delivered him to the vet in the morning and picked him up late in the day. He was moved back into his bathroom for the surgical recovery. He did very well and seemed his normal self in a day or two.

But then the bad news - the FIV test had come back positive like Scruffy. Our other cats were at risk if a fight broke out - not permitted! So like Scruffy, we borrowed the dog crate from Dr Daroowalla, and moved him from the bathroom to the middle of the living room, but safely behind the bars of the crate while everyone got used to the sights and smells of each other. He had his litterbox, food, a little shelf with a towel as bed, even a little play mouse. He was very comfortable and contented there, never tried to get out when feeding him or cleaning his box. The other cats came by hissing occasionally, but it was interacting, not fighting.

After about 2 weeks of this, we spent about another week with the door to his crate open when the other cats were out of the living room. The doors were closed, his crate opened. I actually had to reach in and pull him out the first time, resulting in another minor bite. He circled the room a couple times over the course of 45 minutes, then walked into his crate and ate some dry food. Door closed behind him. First we did it once a day, then a few times a day. Finally we let him out with a cat in the living room, with us as referee. Hootie regarded him from a distance and mostly ignored him. Finally a couple cats in the room. Marley and Atticus hissed, but our stern vocal discouragement defused any situation.

We are now about 3 weeks after his surgery. We just today started leaving his crate door open whenever we are home. The doors out of the living room are open, our cats come and go. No issues so far. YellowCat has explored our bedroom, but hasn't learned to use the catdoors to the back yard, and really hasn't shown much inclination to leave the living room and his favorite napping sites on the futon or cat scratcher (he loves his catnip!). We still occasionally find him sleeping in his crate with the door open, and he seems perfectly comfortable being locked up there when we leave the house or go to bed for the night. I think allowing him to be comfortable with his own space, yet allowing the other cats to see and get used to him is key. He definitely seems not to be a lapcat, preferring to be by himself, yet he doesn't run from us as we walk up to him, and occasionally follows us around the house.

Oh, and the biting - that last nip I got pulling him out of the crate a week ago was the last one. We pet him a lot and go out of our way to talk to him and scratch him on the head as we pass him and he has lost interest in biting as his trust in us grows. In the next day or two just before their evening feeding, we'll likely let him into the back yard to explore a bit, then coax him back with food. A day or two later we'll show him the cat doors so he can find his own way in and out. Any issues (cat arguments) and we'll slow down the acclimation, but he is doing so well I'm not anticipating any problems.

From my experience with FIV positive cats, they will likely develop health issues. Buster and Scruffy both lost their vision, and Buster died shortly after of unknown causes (while I was in the hospital with a valve replacement). Scruffy always seems to have the sniffles, and we've got antibiotics on hand if he were to suddenly get worse. But he seems happy in his routines, even though blind, and both he and YellowCat certainly have better lives now than they did living on the street. And they joy they give us when they join us on the couch to watch TV makes our efforts worthwhile...

We highly recommend the crate method of introduction - it would seem simple for healthy cats where there are no health issues. Try it and let us know how it works!