Monday, July 18, 2005


Those of you who have been following this blog know that I'm an animal nut. Hubby thinks we live in a zoo. To most people, we do. That's okay. It's the way we like it!

Over the years we've had many critters. At the moment we're down to four inside cats, two inside shih-tzus, one outside beagle and O.C..

A few weeks ago I noticed what I thought to be kitten outside on the back porch. It was black and white and I was sure I'd seen it go through the yard in the winter - just passing through- and I was pretty sure this was the cat the crazy lady across the road had called about several weeks ago (before her psychotic episode). She'd left a message on the machine saying it was by her door and wouldn't let her in the house and was it my cat? She'd also called Hubby, and I'm pretty sure she must have called everyone else in the neighborhood.

At any rate, it was so thin you could see it's spine, and it was eating birdseed and suet. You heard me right. I'm not dumb. I knew if I fed it, it would be back. I called Hubby to see what his sage advice might be. I figured if I fed it and he wasn't happy about it, then I'd hear about it forever. He agreed that it must really be starving to resort to eating birdseed and suet. I mean, cats are carnivores.

He agreed to let me feed it, but impressed upon me that this was not our cat. This would never be our cat. This cat would always be a stray. I was more concerned that it was going to starve to death before it got off the porch.

I put some dry cat food out on the porch. The cat took off like a shot the minute it saw me, and I didn't know if it would ever come back. A couple of days later I saw it again skulking around the yard. I thought it had come up to eat, as the bowl was a bit emptier - but I had to take it into the house at night so the racoons wouldn't get into it. Every time I saw it on the deck or in the yard it would go hide in the woods.

About 10 o'clock one night Hubby flipped on the porch light and made a comment about the cat being out there. I went to the sliding glass door and looked out. To my amazement, the cat was sitting on the steps facing the door, staring at me, and right beside it on the step was a raccoon! I held my breath. I figured the cat was dead meat. Raccoons are notoriously mean-spirited and we'd heard a couple of them fighting on the deck over birdseed on other nights. I'd even heard stories of raccoons eating cats just because they'd eaten cat food and smelled like it. I watched with bated breath for one of them to twitch and it to be all over but the blood and guts. The raccoon was about 3x the size of the cat!

You could see the raccoon looking at the cat out of the corner of its' eye. The cat was frozen, looking at me. Slowly, ever so slowly, the raccoon began to come further up the stairs and slunk around the corner post to the porch floor, trying to keep its' eye on the cat. As soon as it came up on the deck I slapped my hand against the glass to scare the raccoon away - and they both took off into the darkness. Crisis averted.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. I'm still feeding the cat. The cat is still running everytime it sees me....almost. It's starting to come closer. I can hear it meowing in the tall grass on the edge of the forest when I'm outside. It starts hanging around on the porch when we're inside, looking in the windows. I go outside one day and sit on the glider and a minute later it is laying beside me. I ignore it so as not to scare it, and it begins rolling around on its' back - her back, I can now see clearly. She rubs against me and lets me scratch her and pet her. She seems amazingly clean for having been in the wild. I don't see any ticks or fleas (wanting to be sure before I carried any of that in to my other animals). She didn't hardly have any burrs on her, for being wild.

Now we are best of friends. What to do? I call my vet. I don't know if she's in heat, or has had kittens or is pregnant. I don't have a clue how old she is, she looks so young, and I don't know if she is healthy or diseased. Hubby doesn't want to spend any money on her, as she could be gone tomorrow and we all know it is NOT COMING IN THE HOUSE EVER.

My vet is the coolest lady ever. She has me bring the cat in so she can check it out - for free. I deliver it with the new name "O.C." given to her by Hubby. Yeah, you guessed it "Outside Cat". (Lest I should ever forget). My vet gives her a feline leukemia test, says she's had kittens at one time but they've been weaned, and offers to spay her and give a rabies shot at an incredibly reasonable rate. She's even going to keep her until she can fit her in for the surgery. What a gal! We do this, and a few days afterwards I'm told I can pick her up but she needs to be contained for a week to make sure her incision doesn't get infected. Now what do I do with her? I can't take her inside! I end up putting her in a dog cage in the garage. I put a small dish full of litter in the cage not knowing if she would even have a clue what it was. Luck would have it, she did.

As the day approached to let her out, I didn't think I'd probably ever see her again. Not too many wild creatures appreciate being caged. I figured I'd let her loose and she would shoot out of there and be long-gone. It wasn't to be. She hangs around, sleeping on the porch right next to the back door curled up on a piece of carpet we keep there for a rug. Every morning I put her food dish out and every night I take it in. She talks to you when you go outside and follows you around the yard as you do things like water the flowers. Amazingly enough, when the puppies go outside they try to play with her sometimes and even though she has claws she doesn't use them and the puppies have yet to realize cats can hurt them. (The inside cats are all de-clawed and the pups like to play with them, too, but the cats just jump up out of reach when it gets too wild for them).

Hubby refused to talk about O.C. for the longest time. Refused to even acknowlege she was there, even when she sat right outside the sliding door next to his chair and "talked" to him. He pretended she didn't exist.

Occasionally he would say "Oh, I can see it now... when winter comes you'll want her inside". I'd reply that I was fine with her being outside as long as she had her claws and some shelter - that animals like that adapt and their coats grow thicker and so forth. That if I really thought it was too bad some night I could put her back in her cage in the garage during the cold spell, or whatever. He would just make grumpy noises in the back of this throat and tell me we needed to change the subject.

You've got to understand, my husband really is the most softhearted guy in the world. This is soooo out of character for him, being cold to an animal. He is the one who said early in our relationship, "I will never have a dog in the house". Not only did our shih-tzu live in the house, but we had two german shepherds who ended up living in our very small house. (We didn't have the shepherds at the same time). Then he said, "I will never have a dog on the bed". Ooookay... our shih tzu spent most of her youth on our bed, until she got to old to get up and down by herself. Then I heard, "I will not have a cat in the house". We all know how that came out. I think he's more nuts about these cats than I am! More than once he's said how happy he is that we don't let them out to get hurt or killed.

O.C. has been patiently biding her time.

Youngest daughter has suggested she needs a new name. Something fitting her personality, like 'Cleo - Queen of the Raccoon Hunters'. I think it's going to stick - at least the 'Cleo' part. Hubby came in last night from starting the grill.

Hubby: That sure is a nice cat
Me: Uh-huh
Hubby: Don't you think we've reached our limit in the house?
Me: It's a big house
Hubby: She sure is nice
Hubby: We may have to think about this

Let's just put it this way, I've already decided I'll have to pay the vet her normal fee for all the work she did on Cleo. I hope there aren't any more strays around. I can't afford it. Is nice to see my husbands' true colors coming out, though. I wondered where they'd gone. I'll let you know how it goes...