Chris' Old House—Pussy Galore


When we first moved here, the rats would wave hello as we drove down the alley. My neighbor was battling the rats living under his back porch. When we tried to catch the squirrel that was eating my house, instead we caught— yeah, you guessed it.

Now we don't have rats. Now we have cats. Not a bad trade-off, all the neighbors agree. And sometimes on summer nights, we sit around outside and watch the cat soap opera unfolding. I'm a cheap date. Need to save money to buy cat food.

It started out with an injured cat who we found in the yard one night when returning from dinner with friends. This cat was damaged. Had something really bad going on with her leg. All 4 of us agreed she was going to die soon. So we called animal control to come take her away. But they took so long to show up that she was gone by the time we went looking for her again. And then a couple days later we noticed something was in the garage. And then we noticed it was her. She was hiding under my old, dead VW. So we talked it over and, having no real objection to her hanging out in the garage, didn't block the hole she was using to get in. And we decided to feed her a little and put water out for her. And eventually we got her a litter box. But she stayed as far away from us as possible. And she stayed alive. But she moved out after I donated the car to the Kidney Foundation. She had recuperated, and we see her around from time to time. That was we-don't-have-a-cat #1.

The following spring, we were coming back from dinner with the same couple, and there was another cat in the yard (I am now scared to go out to dinner with these friends). And we had all had a couple of cocktails and lots of excellent food at a place with very nice neon, and our guard was down. The handyman gave this cat some of his leftover beef medallions. The next day we had recovered our senses. And the cat was still out there, looking skinny and lonely and like he had chosen us as his next project. So we tried to ignore him but didn't do very well. I think the handyman fed him again with some leftovers from the first cat we didn't have. And then I think I did something similarly soft-hearted. And then it got very cold, and we worried about him and let him into the enclosed back porch. And then we were doomed. Eventually we said, OK, we will feed this guy, but if we're supporting him he has to be neutered. So we got that done, and then of course we had to bring him into a sheltered area to recuperate. And so that's his crash pad now. He lives outside some of the time and on the porch some of the time. He lets us pass through to clean his box and refill his food bowl. Sometimes I like to think I still don't have any cats, except that I do. I like him. We've taught each other all the important words in our respective languages. So we chat. He's a blabbermouth.

And then one day we noticed kittens hiding among the border plants. And we noticed their mom, who is definitely feral. We'd see them around now and then, but we didn't get involved with them.

Then in mid-summer this very slight, sickly looking tuxedo cat started showing up. She was very interested in me. But when the handyman showed up she would hide. At close quarters she was wary of me, too. She was very skittish, made little gasping noises instead of meows and had an injured eye and a bad case of the sniffles. I gave her a little food now and then, but she was still acting fearful. One day I tried touching her, and she was freaky at first. But when I persisted and nothing bad happened, she started body-slamming me, clearly starved for affection. She showed all the signs of being a former housecat who's been on the streets alone for several months. The funny thing was that she was still scared of the handyman—until he talked in a falsetto voice. Then she started looking for affection from him, too. Based on this and other things we've observed, we suspect that she suffered some abuse by a man prior to losing her home.

Then I started wondering how sick she was. Having become attached to the orangey cat, I didn't want a sick one around who might pass on something fatal to him. I started out by trying to find a shelter that would take her, but that was a dead end. So we decided to take on the responsibility of getting her tested and finding her a permanent home. We thought she was so cute that we'd have no problem finding a home for her once we'd nursed her back to health. So we trapped her and visited the vet, where we learned she'd already lost some teeth and had just about every common, nonfatal cat problem. She is FIV and FeLV negative. And the eye problem is an old wound, possibly complicated by cat herpes, which is a common disease among cats who live outside. So we had to give her a variety of meds for a few weeks. And we started looking for someone to adopt her. The photo at right was shot before she went to the doctor. It's a Polaroid, so it hides her problems.

After our adoption blitz started, lots of people were sympathetic, but the only ones who said they'd definitely take her lived several states away. Our closest local candidate had a change of heart related partially to worry over the cat's eye problem. But at the same time as we were trying to convince other people about how wonderful she was, we were having some more health issues with her—digestive problems that you don't want to hear about. So I was having mixed feelings about trying to give her away. It seemed she was going to be a special-needs kitty, and I was scared that someone would take her for a while and then dump her when they found out about all her peculiarities. And people kept asking why we couldn't keep her. Very good question, I thought.

So the bottom line is that she's still with us, and I don't think I'd give her away even if the opportunity arose now. She still can't meow very loudly. She mostly squeaks. I kid you not, sometimes she sounds just like a squeak toy. This is good, though, bcse her being quiet makes her easier to live with. She still head-butts me to show how much she likes me. I swear one of these days she's going to end up stuck in my right nostril. But she's gaining weight and growing beautiful medium-long fur, and most important, she's mellowing out and feeling less scared.

Oh yeah, those feral kittens I mentioned briefly. Well, uh, let's just say we're total suckers. But we are drawing the line at these two. They had to make the same bargain as all the other kitties: I give you food, you get fixed. The day we took them in for ball-whacking, their father showed up just outside our back door—a huge tabby tomcat who we figured was totally feral, too. Well, apparently not. The handyman told me that the tom had meowed at him and accepted a head scritching. Later I tried it, and he happily let's me pet him. Another former housecat, I suppose. Frankly, I think he was trying to sign up for the fix-n-feed program.

Above are the feral kittens after being neutered and monitored overnight. And here's one leaving the rabbit cage while our orange friend watches. Trapping that cat in a rabbit cage was some experience. We used a humane trap on the other one.


At left is one of the feral kittens planting himself in a pot of wisteria that my mom gave me.

At right is what you get when you cross a black feral mom with a common-tabby stray dad.














At right, Fluffy Fangboner (one of his many names) inspecting the feral cat house that the handyman built according to plans from Alley Cat Allies.

Below, Mr. X (another of his names) checks out the seaworthiness of the cat house.


















She has no ovaries, but she does have her own couch!

I just learned about Norwegian Forest Cats aka Skogkatts, and I think that's what the tuxedo kitty is!

You can't tell in the photo (above right).

Rock on, viking kittens!

Now with more fur! December 2002








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