I want help raise awareness about the path one takes to become a Crazy Cat Lady. I think cliches lead people to believe it’s something lonely, old women choose. Sometimes it is, but more often, it’s not.
Well guys, I’m here to take you on that journey; start to finish, so buckle up. We’re going to take a quick run through childhood all the way to present time.
Dad rescued a kitten before I was born. His name was Tigger, and he was my first friend. After a long, happy life, Tigger passed of old age. I was 7, and inconsolable. Dad gave me a photo of Tigger before he turned two, and it has been in my underwear drawer ever since. Through every house, every move, to this day.
What happens next is common for an only child. My parents were desperate to end the crying after the first night of no sleep. I was a loud one, I have no doubt it was akin to torture. Don’t forget, at 7 I was still sleeping between them full time. If you don’t know that ordeal, read ‘It Always Goes Back to the Mothers’ we don’t have time for it here.
Dad kneeled down, grabbed my arms, and asked, “What can I do? What would make it stop?” I’m almost certain he subconsciously shook me, he’s the most gentle man I’ve ever known.
“Huh?” Confusion stopped my tears long enough to be offended. What could he do?! “I want Tigger!” I snapped.
“I’m sorry, but Tigger is gone. Do you want a new pet? If you could have any pet, what would it be?” People! Don’t repeat Dad’s mistake. Never ask a child that question under the pretense “because I’m about to get it for you.”
That was intriguing, “You mean… like a Dalmatian?” 101 Dalmatians was my jam. I believed it would behave as Pongo advertised.
“Oh… you sure?” How he didn’t see it coming, I have no clue. But I was sure.
Dad spent two days searching through yellow pages, newspapers, and making phone calls before he found one. Someone had a 6 month old for sell. Apparently, full-blooded Dalmatians are expensive, but we got him. We also underestimated the size of Dalmatians. At 6 months, he was bigger than me, and played rough. Nothing like the cute pups who love watching tv. We called him Rascal, and Dad was forced to pull him off me when the play grew too rough.
Rascal only lived with us a few weeks. I was lucky when he attacked in earnest, managing to burrito-roll in a thick blanket. It protected me from serious injury until Dad saved me. Most bite marks didn’t break skin. Mom was in the next room, she heard my blood curdling cries, but feared Rascal. She ran outside, (without knowing I was in the blanket) to find Dad instead. My only words to her after were, “when you’re old, I’ll have my revenge.” as Dad cleaned my wounds. Neither replied.
Rascal went to a good home where he promptly broke his new kid’s arm. Don’t blame the dog, blame the first owners. I love dogs, I’ve had many over the years, but cats are more my speed. After losing Rascal, Dad feared a backslide in my grief. This time, instead of asking, he simply brought home a kitten. He was learning, but he still overlooked gender. A neighbor was trying to find homes for a litter, Dad thought it was convenient timing. Unfortunately, he gave no thought to having her spayed.
The following year, we had our own litter of kittens. By time the 6 kittens were old enough to leave the nest, I was too attached. Over the next few years, we had two more litters before my parents began spending the money to get them fixed. We kept every kitten. At one time, we had 15 cats. Living in the country, we let them outside as they pleased, it was cat paradise.
By senior year, we only had 6 cats due to various acts of nature. Thelma adopted a kitten, but was too lazy to provide a litter box. When the kitten pooped on her princess blanket, she locked it in a bathroom. Two days later, the poor kitten still lived in the bathroom. Her mom wanted nothing to do with it, and I couldn’t allow it to live that way. One day, after school, Thelma went to dance practice, and I drove to her house. I explained to Thelma’s mom, “You need to let me take her.”
She was thrilled. She gave me the kitten, food, everything without hesitation. My parents were upset, but what can you do? They only have one animal shelter in the area, and it’s so terrible, the bathroom would have been a better life. In the end, even Thelma was grateful I took her.
I tell you this so you understand why I already had the reputation as a future Crazy Cat Lady. Jokes were made often in class, I thought it was hilarious back then. It was nothing more than a joke, because they didn’t understand how we had so many cats. It wasn’t like we actively sought out the cats, they were mere unfortunate circumstances. Obviously, now that our cats couldn’t reproduce, there would be no additions. Right? Wrong again people. It never ends. Keep in mind the cat count at my parents was 7 when I moved out.
We’re going to FF to my living in the dangerous duplex, the first place I fled at 18. I worked at the restaurant, and Feeny was also a Cat Lady. Many strays accumulated near us due to Feeny feeding them seafood regularly. A post office sat across the street, and we watched an old lady abandon two 6-8 month old kittens. Feeny and I tried to help them. The black and white (Gambit) had a bobtail he seemed to be born with, and the tabby (Gordy) ran under our building.
Gambit came to me the moment he saw me, but wouldn’t let anyone else touch him. It’s the only time I’ve seen anything like it. Feeny said, “Oh, could you please adopt him? It’s so special when that happens, you two are meant to be.”
“Of course I’m taking him! How could I not?” I replied in wonder, holding Gambit for the first time. He seemed so content to stay in my arms, I couldn’t put him down.
Feeny was grateful, she gave me the day off with pay to get Gambit settled. Crook and I bought the necessary cat items and became an instant family. The day I returned to work, I noticed Gordy sitting in the window. “Hey, isn’t that the cat that got left here with Gambit?” I pointed, asking Feeny.
“I think it is! Why don’t you get a piece of fish and see if you can feed him.” Feeny suggested.
Didn’t have to tell me twice, I was in the kitchen before she finished her sentence. Gordy didn’t attempt to run, in fact, he climbed onto my shoulder like a parrot. “Holy crap! Do you see this?” I knocked on the window to get Feeny’s attention.
She and a few waiters came out to look. Gordy walked shoulder to shoulder, head bumping me with each pass. He allowed others to pet him, but if they tried to pick him up he latched into me. “I’m almost 60 years old, and I have never seen anything like this. I wonder if he smells his brother on you, that has to be it. This is just the damndest thing. Oh I wish you could take him too.” She looked at me expectantly. Knowing good and well I was already debating that very thing.
I was lucky Crook was an animal person. He came to see Gordy, and received the same affection. Again, Feeny sent me home with a new cat. As soon as Gordy was in the door, he and Gambit shared a heart warming reunion. When we bought our house, we had more space for them, but had to bring a third with us.
The neighbor on the other side of our duplex adopted a gray kitten, but was abusive. When I saw the bastard throw her into a wall for accidentally scratching when she jumped in his lap, I told him, “Hell no, she’s my cat now!” and brought Maka with us. He didn’t argue.
I felt I had no choice, I knew we would move into the bigger home, and in a world where I grew up with 15, having three cats didn’t feel like a big deal. Crook also grew up in a home with 6 cats and 5 dogs, it was normal to us. Even after we rescued two abused dogs the following year, we still did well with five pets. It didn’t become overwhelming until Crook and I separated. It was a dark time, he was keeping the house, but I took the animals. I was being forced to move back in with my parents, and they were not pleased at the prospect of 5 animals tagging along. Please understand, Crook was in the midst of a heavy drug addiction. I could not leave my babies there. I knew he would never harm them on purpose, but if he disappeared for 2-3 days at a time, what would happen to them?
I had to pull a Spoiled Brat, “Fine if they aren’t welcome, I’m not either. I’ll figure out somewhere else to go.” there was no choice.
“That’s ridiculous, where would you go with 5 animals? You need to leave them with Crook. Do you understand we have 7 already?” He tried to be reasonable, he really did, but I was 100% out of my mind in a mixture of rage and depression. Plus I had no choice.
“I don’t have anywhere else to go, but we physically fit in my car, so I’ll start there and figure it out as I go.” I wasn’t bluffing, and he knew it.
After a long sigh, Dad agreed, “Just get them over here and we can figure something out.” Had I not been forced to flip my emotion switch off, I would have felt terrible about the defeat in his voice.
As anyone with multiple pets knows, the transition did not go well. My cats hid under a bed for several days. My parents’ cats had never seen dogs, but Dad built a fence behind the garage and added a doggie door. The dogs had very nice beds, a heater for winter, and were allowed to play freely during the day. When they adjusted to their new home, it became unnecessary to close the fence. The cats were much happier with a life in the country, once they adjusted, they never wanted to leave.
If we FF 6 months, I’m living with current Hubby in a tiny apartment. Obviously no life for 5 pets, but also, I didn’t want to uproot them again when they were so happy. In the years between that apartment and where we live now, I rescued 3 dogs and a cat, but we were able to find good homes for each. I nearly adjusted to life without pets, hard as it was, due to my parents having panic attacks if an animal was mentioned. If you allow me one more large time jump, we can finally catch up to my present situation.
After moving away from our hometown, we lived in another small apartment for the first years. When we finally found a rent home in the country, we had Cat Lady Debbie for a neighbor. We still keep in touch, she’s a wonderful lady. Debbie also adopts rescues, but has 3 special needs cats living inside. The others, including Hannibal, were forced to live outside.
It didn’t take long to show Hannibal the good life. Debbie was grateful to have one less mouth to feed, so we officially adopted him. He became an inside cat who asked to go outside for the bathroom. He is the only cat in my life who didn’t need a litter box, how awesome is that?!
After living here a few months, we found a kitten at my office. We brought her home, hoping Hannibal would be less lonely after the move. It worked well, Han was obsessed with her. She was over 6 months old, already use to living outside, and didn’t adapt to being trapped inside well at all. Unfortunately, our only neighbor on this entire road can’t drive under 60. I know I told you that story already so we can thankfully shoot past losing her. Needless to say it was a hard time.
Hannibal seemed to miss her as much as we did. The following weeks, on a trip into town, we saw PetSmart hosting one of the animal shelters. They had several cages of kittens under 6 months. We paid $200 for our new baby, he was worth every penny. Unfortunately, we did not foresee Hannibal rejecting a boy, he was super unhappy with us.
In a few weeks Percy was spoiled as Han and still determined to win his affection. Han wouldn’t hurt Per, but he didn’t hesitate to show his displeasure. Hubby and I worked full-time, but it was becoming obvious Han was fine solo, Percy was the lonely one. Kittens aren’t allowed outside; after they’re grown, we take them on supervised walks until confident they show proper fear at the sound of traffic.
After a few more weeks, Hubby returned to PerSmart for something, but found Ari instead. Ari has a magical ‘come hither’ look she does where she meows a high pitch squeak with a nod of her head. It’s irresistible. I received a text from Hubby with her picture. I had to PayPal $50 to the local animal shelter and she was ours.
This is a very important part, it’s where the split happens. It’s where one’s path can suddenly take you so far downhill you’re exhausted at the thought of turning back. We were happy, three was the magic number. The kittens loved each other, and Han was a proud alpha with a crush on Ari. I believe we had almost 4 months before some low-life abandoned Lily in the middle of nowhere.
By time Lily found our house, she was half starved and wearing a dog collar. For over a month, she was so traumatized, she behaved as if all food might be her last meal. I know I’ve expressed a strong distaste for most people in general, but I’m genuinely afraid to express how deep my hatred runs for a person who does this.
Lily clearly needed special care, we tried everything to find her a good home. It quickly became apparent she was our 4th when we realized she was pregnant. Our cats were all fixed before adoption, she definitely came to us that way. We made her the traditional box nest, but she wouldn’t use it. In fact, she didn’t appear to be interested in making a nest at all. Her only interest was eating and sitting in my lap. As her due date approached, I worried she may have difficulties due to her own young age and small size.
At 10pm on a Sunday night, just as our movie was ending, Lily went into labor. On my lap. I was the nest she prepared. Luckily, her box was close by and we safely relocated her before anything… serious… came out. She gave birth to two precious kittens, both appeared healthy and normal. After settling Lily and kittens next to our bed, we tried to get a few hours rest before alarms woke us. Sadly, upon waking, we discovered one of the kittens passed in the night. Romulus, first born, remained a happy, spirited kitten.
We gave him constant attention and now he has, (without contest) become the most spoiled of all. I wouldn’t think it possible, but there’s no other way to describe it; Romtom has terrible only-child syndrome. He sleeps in special beds, has to eat special food, (to be fair, 3 figured out the special food trick) and will not hesitate to hiss and swat at any cat invading in his space.
Now, just like that, we have five cats. We are going to take a small detour here to learn about the office cats. Wild strays lived all over the highway near my office. There were mobile home parks, factories, and gas stations spread for miles with open fields between. It wasn’t a crowded city type area. When we noticed cats were getting stuck in the dumpster, we started leaving food by the office. My manager was pleased, we had a heavy rat problem. After the cats learned they could get food, two moved in full-time. After the first week, we never saw a mouse again. The cats were older, they never learned to trust us, but new litters of kittens appeared no matter how many we captured.
Over the course of five years and two managers, we learned to tame them as they grew. People were more willing to adopt a friendly kitten, but we still had far more kittens than homes. So many had sad endings, you won’t be surprised to hear our number 6, Tsu, came from the office. After a particularly bad hurricane, Hubby drove to check on the office cats. Most were waiting for fresh food when he arrived, dry and happy, but not Tsu. She was the runt of her litter, always needing special protection. If she would have been born before we had Ari, we would have adopted her immediately.
Hubby found Tsu at the back of the flooded lot, soaked through and shivering. When she saw Hubby, she mewed for help. He drove as close as possible, and for the first time, she allowed him to pick her up. He got her in the truck and dried her with a hand towel without a struggle. She definitely hadn’t anticipated the truck ride, but adapted to inside life very well. She enjoys playing outside, but she prefers to eat and sleep in comfort. One weird quirk, she loves water now. She plays in the toilet, and if you let the bath fill paw deep she’s like a duck. Especially if you drop in a bouncy ball.
Not far behind was number 7, Ace (as in Portgas D.) is Tsu’s brother. They were very close, we felt terrible for separating them. It bothered us deeply, but we couldn’t have 7 cats, we just couldn’t. Until another alpha male moved in and began hurting Ace. He came to breakfast with fresh wounds and it broke our hearts. We failed to catch the alpha, and couldn’t continue watching. It was only a matter of time before something serious happened. We made a vet appointment, had his little cherries chopped, and brought him to his sister.
It was over 6 months before we got our 8th. A third member of Tsu’s litter, Sif, had three kittens of her own. She trusted us enough to keep the kittens near the office. As they grew, we tried to hold them often for the day they could leave their mother. Two already had homes with a coworker if we could tame them. Getting the two to my coworker actually became a huge deal, and will one day be it’s own thing. For now just accept he got two of the three. We have other things to focus on today.
I know some people say cats can leave their mother at 8 weeks, and in the sense they will physically survive, that is technically sort of correct. But I have always been more comfortable with 12 weeks, 10 pending development and circumstances. We were in the habit of making special trips to feed the cats on weekends. One Saturday, when the kittens were 8 weeks, Sif was fine at dinner. Sunday evening, she was lethargic and refusing to eat. Knowing a cat with no appetite is dangerous, we resolved to take her to a vet first thing in the morning. Money be damned, but believe me, we didn’t have it. If I could do it over, I would obviously call for an emergency visit. We arrived the next morning at 6:30, hoping to meet the vet when they opened at 7, but we never saw Sif again.
The three kittens remained where they knew food would come. The two kittens taken by my co-worker adapted well, but the third, our Lex, didn’t. We tried to find a home, but without success. He became increasingly co-dependent, becoming vocally upset if he was placed back outside. When he too became lethargic, we stopped delaying the inevitable. Lex saw a vet immediately, received a Canadian medicine to save his life, (thank you so much Canada) had his little cherries chopped, and came home. Do not waste time if your cat won’t eat. If their fever spikes, they can go into organ failure. Do not hesitate to call a vet people.
Having 8 cats is hard. You need multiple litter boxes that must be cleaned every day. That’s why, 2 months later, when number 9 came along, we got really mad. We honestly don’t know if she was lost or abandoned. I woke one December morning to a chilly 34 degrees. Opening the door to release the beasts for another day, I saw a tiny kitten, filthy, smelling of gasoline. Maybe she crawled into an engine, maybe not. Either way she was here and no one claimed a lost kitten. Obviously, she couldn’t survive a harsh cold, I had to bring her in. And, what monster brings a frozen kitten into a house full of food, but doesn’t feed it? Not this monster.
I created social media accounts in desperation to find a good home, but turns out, you need a basic social circle to start in. I don’t have that! Tempy is the most affectionate cat we have. She tries to put her mouth inside our mouths. I’m not telling you she does the gum rub to spread her scent, I know what that is, I’m not a newb. This is her trying hard to shove her nose inside clinched lips. It’s impressively hard to keep her out. She and Lex have a special bond, like Percy and Ari, they met at a good age.
Oh, but speaking of no social circle, if anyone is willing to follow me on Twitter @dubbedemotions I would super appreciate it. I have literally zero followers, it’s like being in high school again. I can’t tell people I know “Hey go follow me. Oh don’t worry about the names or links, it’s totally not a secret blog telling our worst family secrets, kthanksbye.” you know what I mean? Tre awkward.
With 9 cats and increased efforts to decrease the population at the office, only one tame cat remained. Tux enjoyed pets while he ate, but if you move too fast, or act like you want to pick him up, he’s gone. He was never meant to be an indoor cat. He liked to roam, but eventually he came home with an infected tail wound. Knowing what a vet trip would be like for him, we tried to treat it ourselves. After two weeks of no improvement, we learned our second manager was retiring. The replacement had a very strict no cat policy. Tux was barely making it as it was, but then he disappeared again.
We feared the worst as a week passed. On the following Monday, just one week away from the new manager’s starting date, Tux came home. I was able to find a vet appointment for the next day. I know what you’re thinking. We’re idiots for bringing in number 10, right? Well, I don’t blame you. I’m covering the topic as a whole, but I could go on and on about what we went through raising and caring for Tux over the years. He was the last cat remaining of Tsu’s litter. We couldn’t leave him to nature’s fate, he was losing the battle even with our help.
Catching him required our full efforts, it was traumatizing. We both cried and bled, Tux was traumatized in his own right. To get him in the carrier, we had to trick him into the office, herd him to the hallway, and corner him with large blankets. The entire vet process was equally traumatic for all. In the end, after necessary shots, tests, and cherry chopping, he was our most expensive cat. We paid $450 and brought him home. After 2 weeks learning his new home, we let him outside. He never comes in now, but he loves to lounge on the porch with the others. His tail healed nicely, and he doesn’t need to roam, fight, or starve anymore. It was the first time he experienced real trees, and that was a beautiful sight.
You’re probably wondering how many I have by now, but don’t worry, we’re almost done. Next and last, Hermit is 11. I wasn’t sure he was here the first couple days. I thought I caught a glimpse of something running away a few times when walking outside, but I wasn’t sure. Eventually, I caught him sleeping in the cat house. It took 2-3 days to earn his trust, but bastards put plastic caps over his front and back claws. He was defenseless out there. As with Tempy, we couldn’t find a home. Over the weeks we managed to remove the caps, but he still freaks out if you try to examine his paws.
When he came of age, he too visited the vet. He cried the whole way like he thought we were abandoning him, it was heartbreaking. When we picked him up, he didn’t cry once on the ride home. Though, that could also be thanks to the drugs, but you could tell he was happier here afterwards. He became much more social after coming home.
Hermit was only here a few months before a fully grown male appeared. He was clearly someone’s pet, he came to me immediately and ate freely. We called him Sunny and he lived here almost two weeks, but tension was extremely high between Sunny and Tux. This was Tux’s first safe place, we couldn’t have it. After a violent clash resulting in Tux being run off the porch, we had no choice. Hubby bravely took Sunny to the only shelter alone, sparing me the extra pain. We both cried for two weeks, and still can’t think of it without going into a depression, but we couldn’t let our cats suffer due to the appearance of a stray.
The shelter was even worse than imagined. We live in constant fear of the day we open the door to see another; I don’t think we could do it again. The only thing that scares me more is to think about the math. At the rate cats are abandoned here… I’m sorry, if I go far enough to say actual numbers and years, my brain will tell me the answer. Like I said, that math terrifies me, I’m not willing to look closer.
Anyway, next time you see a little old lady who is dirty, maybe a little smelly or confused, and has 20 cats, don’t judge her. You have no idea what it’s like to scoop litter for 10+ cats every day of your life. I assure you, even if you don’t know what, you do something other people judge. Everyone does. I prefer to know what my somethings are thank you very much. Good day.