JustNoMil (Pt. 2)

I hope this final installment of the JustNoMil duology finds you well. The week is flying by, so with your permission I would like to dive right in today. We’re going to start with the first Valentines Crook and I were able to spend together. We were two years into the relationship, but he was on a rig for the first one. The second year, he returned from a two week hitch February 13th. Normally I don’t buy into Valentine’s Day unless it precedes the word ‘massacre,’ but we were excited for this one.

Upon arriving, Crook was unable to keep his special plans secret any longer. The fact he planned anything while at work was impressive. “I was trying to surprise you, but it’s harder keeping the secret now that I’m home. I made reservations at Haunted Hotel.” His voice was filled with pride. Securing a reservation anywhere on Valentines was difficult, but he succeeded with one of the best.

If you read Calling All Ghosts, yes. That’s the place. He knew I’m not big on romance, but wanted to show the effort. Hoping (correctly) a spooky theme would make the holiday more enjoyable, he called in a favor to reserve the best haunt-themed food in town.

As if her spidey-sense detected our happiness, Effie called intent to ruin it. “Hey Sweetie, I just wanted to make sure you got home safe.” Her sobs sounded more genuine than usual. I suppose practice makes perfect.

“Yea, I’m fine. What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Crook shifted into worried son mode seamlessly.

I assumed she was trying to force him to feed her animals, but that was only a secondary reason for calling. “Oh… I’m fine… you don’t want to hear me cry about my pitiful life. I’m just so depressed about Valentines Day. I’d rather kill myself than spend another one alone…”

You could tell she was desperate by how quickly she brought out the big guns. With Crook’s blindness to the manipulation tactics I memorized in a month, Effie successfully invited herself to our dinner in under 5 minutes. Was I so angry I nearly blacked out? Obviously. Did I make a scene? No. I knew he would get defensive if I tried to explain what Effie was doing. Instead, I took deep breaths. Reminding myself, you hate this crap anyway. It’s only for dinner, just a couple hours. The rest of the day is ours. We’re going to watch anime, smoke weed, and eat Chinese takeout because that’s what gives life meaning.

That mantra got me through the night and next morning. At noon, my happy place was burned to the ground when Effie arrived, unannounced. I stared at her through the window, willing her to disappear, but eventually I was forced to open the door. I motioned for her to have a seat, explaining Crook was still catching up on his sleep.

Effie was having none of that. She walked straight down the hallway, into our bedroom, and shrieked “Wake up Sweetie! Mommy is heeeeeeeere!”

I remained on the living room floor, struggling to breath as a panic attack consumed me. I became deaf to all but my own thoughts. She went in our room. There’s someone in our room, what’s wrong with you? Get in there and kill it! She’s going to sit on your bed! Move!

Faintly, distant noises began filtering through the static. I heard sounds that were either dresser drawers or blunt force trauma. Realizing the moans of pain were coming from myself, I assumed it was the former.

Eventually, I see them exit the bedroom, arm-in-arm. Crook disheveled and confused; Effie grinning ear to ear, still talking. “I’m so excited we’re spending the day together. This is the best Valentines ever!”

I physically bit my tongue, terrified to speak. I could already feel the angry tears forming. I knew if I tried to talk, only unintelligible squalls would emerge. The one thing preventing a full meltdown was my invisibility. Effie was only interested in feeding her delusion, and I didn’t fit into her script. I tuned her out, pouring all my focus into tv for the next several hours.

We were 20 minutes away from leaving for dinner when another knock sounded at the door. I opened it to be greeted by a dozen red roses; Crook’s last surprise. Before I could react, Effie pushed past me, squealing like Miss Piggy, and took my flowers.

Smelling the roses, she met my gaze. I’m not sure what emotion she mistook fury for, but I still get angry thinking about how she said “Oh Crook, you shouldn’t have! But it’s not fair to buy me all these beautiful roses!” Looking at me as if I were a homeless person begging for spare change, she gave me the card and one rose. “Here, don’t feel left out.”

(This always bothered me, think about it. Since she handed me the card… she knew, right? Deep down on a subconscious level she can never admit to… she had to know, right? I think she knew.)

I looked to Crook, (still naive enough to think he might correct her) but he stared at his feet, tail tucked between his legs. I threw the card (open for all to read) on the table next to Effie, and finished preparing for dinner.

Seated at the only 3-top in the restaurant, Effie ordered for all of us. When I told the waiter to change my order, she glared at me as if slapped. I held my tongue as she requested a vase for her roses, but I finally understood why she insisted on bringing them. It wasn’t enough to claim them, she needed other people to see; they made it feel real. When I didn’t react to her prompts clearly fishing for a compliment, she became sullen.

From that point forward, she complained about the food and service nonstop. The only complaint I had toward dinner was Effie’s company, but I digress. It was the longest dinner of my life, and we still weren’t free of her. Having refused to drive herself “to a date” we were stuck with her until she sobered enough to drive herself home. After the first pot of coffee, I thought she was faking. It wasn’t the first time she tried to spend the night, but it was thankfully the last.

Thus ended the worst Valentines of my life. For the next and last story regarding Effie, I will discuss her arm/shoulder surgery. Do you know what’s worse than a paranoid, codependent hypochondriac? A hypochondriac who actually has something wrong. I don’t have kids, I’ve never cared for one under 7 in my life, but I would take on five toddlers before going near Effie again.

At this stage, we were years into our relationship, and I was savvy to all Effie’s tricks. When we learned she was genuinely in need, I had no problem visiting her in the hospital or caring for her animals. When she was able to finish recovery at home, I was a fantastic sport. I even walked her to the bathroom a few times (it’s not like I had to go in with her).

What I did have issues with, was how she treated us while we were helping. Each day we did our usual chores, and before leaving we asked, “Is there anything else you need? You’re sure? Because we’re about to go home.”

Every single day she said, “No, I’m fine thanks.” Without fail, 10 minutes after being home, she called Crook, begging him to return.

If I had to guess, I think she preferred him to visit without me (I sure did) knowing he would be easier to manipulate. Let me be clear, after the first week, she was fully functional for everything except lifting or certain movements with her arm. We knew she would use us as long as possible, but even if she didn’t have a walker, there was absolutely no reason she could not walk unattended.

With that understood, here’s what happened three weeks into her recovery. As with every other day, we performed our morning chores, asked if she needed anything else, and went home. We only had time to sit down with a fresh bowl before the phone rang.

“Can’t we just ignore her this once? Just until we finish smoking?” I begged.

“I’m sorry, I just need to make sure she hasn’t hurt herself. I’m not going back today, I’m sick of it too.” Crook answered the phone. It was one thing to lie to me, I could understand that, but it was infuriating when he lied to himself. Let me break their conversation down the easy way as we near our conclusion.

Effie: Hey Baby, can you bring Mama something to eat? I finally have an appetite and I’m craving my favorite pizza place.

Crook: But… they’re right across the street. The doctor said you should be trying to get out now. It might be good for you to go.

Effie: I don’t care what that quack said! He can’t feel my pain! I’ll never make it!

Crook: Okay, fine. If you aren’t ready to drive, just have it delivered.

Effie: Ugh, I can’t get out of my chair to make it to the door! Why are you arguing with me? I’m starving!

Crook: Fine! When did they say it would be ready?

Effie: I haven’t ordered it. Tell them to make sure all these very picky details are correct or you’ll send it back. I absolutely can’t eat it if it’s not right.

Crook: I’ll never get all that straight. Could you at least call the order in? Then I’ll just pick it up and bring it to you.

Effie: No, they don’t like me, they always do it wrong on purpose. See if they’ll get it right for you.

Crook: Fine, I’ll be there soon to get the money, then I’ll go grab your food.

Effie: You can’t even buy your mother one meal while I’m starving to death?!

Crook: Yea, sorry.

People, my blood boiled. I could almost see the bubbles under my skin as the heat simmered throughout my body. I stared at Crook in disbelief, speechless, wondering if his balls would ever drop.

When Crook delivered her food, it was indeed wrong. He insisted she asked for olives, Effie insists she said no olives. I don’t know who was correct, I didn’t hear it firsthand, but I have two equally plausible theories.

  1. Crook subconsciously got it wrong on purpose, sick of Effie’s shit.
  2. Effie didn’t have anything else to complain about, and olives were the first thing she thought to use.

As an adult possibly speaking to impressionable teens, I won’t say what I would have done to the food, but if you’re familiar with the movie Waiting, you have a pretty good idea. The important thing is, these stories are home where they belong. There’s still the matter of my notebooks, but as far as online publications go, I think these were the only ones. Now I can spend the week fully submerged in all the glorious horror of Halloween. I think I’ll go listen to some CreepyPastas while I decide what to write next. Maybe I should start taking requests.

Oh yea, can’t forget the sign-off. You all be safe out there. Sometimes, they really are out to get you.

Here is Hannibal pretending to be a flower. For cat tax.

Please, Join my Cult

While yes, I did begin writing a Halloween special, I need to take a small detour. As YouTube carried us through our morning news, it played an older Jimmy Kimmel with a televangelist clip. As I reflect on the scene, I find myself questioning reality. Seriously, I need you to get on my level for a second. Step into my shoes, let me guide you through this properly.

You’re coming out of a deep sleep, but you aren’t ready to look at the clock, fearing what you’ll see. Your back hurts, you’ve been pinned in place by three cats all night. You have to pee, but doing so would disturb Hubby and you’ve both slept terribly this week. Finally, back screaming, you slowly unfold your legs, delicately rolling to the nightstand. As cats leap from bed, you freeze, hoping the Hubby Huff doesn’t come. When your heart resumes beating, you finally see it’s 4:38AM.

The alarm will sound at 5:00. You know using the bathroom will wake him. You know you’ll hear the Huff while you pee. Yet you really have to pee. 22 minutes. You try to close your eyes, try to drift off, but your bladder is infuriated. It calls for reinforcements. You feel a hot bubble of sludge slide down your intestines, coming to rest in your bottom. You clinch against the flames, but your asshole is essentially the only barrier between the bed and molten lava. You ever so gently crawl to the toilet. The moment you release your bowls, you see the light of Hubby’s phone, simultaneous with the Huff.

Huff protocol dictates a reset alarm for 5:30. Always erring to the side of caution, you begin your morning. You let the first round of cats out, take Bandit’s (raccoon) food to the edge of the woods because his presence bothers them, feed cats, release second round, grab a water and sit. Sounds of Hubby’s dresser emanate from the bedroom, telling you to prepare the tv. After a short, irrelevant monologue from Seth Meyers, YouTube selects Jimmy Kimmel.

Great choice, he’s second only to John Oliver, but you’re not sure why it felt the need to show one from election time. It’s called Trump Melts Down Over “Stolen” Election, and still worth watching so you don’t complain. Then they showed this guy:


This man stands in front of you, and says “they’re trying to say Joe Biden is president,” and fake laughs horribly. Then he continues, and here’s what really gets you. After a few fake laughs, well past when he should have stopped, he does it again. But this time, he walks around while he laughs. The crowd eats it up! They stand, cheering louder than ever! How does a man like that have a cult? How do people follow and give him money? How are there enough people to support all the ones like him? They have some cush-ass lifestyles! How do they even start? How do you brainwash enough people to confidently stand before the masses to convince them they benefit by giving you money?

As you sit on your cat-hair covered couch, still naked beneath a raggedy bathrobe in desperate need of washing, you realize that disgusting old man has fans. Lots of them. Sure, for every fan there’s 100 enemies wishing him dead. Sure, he spouts nonsensical hate rhetoric for a living. Sure, you’d think he could afford a dentist, but apparently teeth aren’t everything in the cult game. But you know what? He probably never had to choose between food or a rent payment. Never had to live 8 weeks in the country with no water or transportation. (Oh! Note to self, write about that 2 months without indoor plumbing.) Hell, I bet that crazy old fart has more than 2 Twitter followers too!

So, after reading all these well thought out points, do you see how it might be worth imitating his behavior? Damn, me either. I really wanted to, but frankly I’d rather puncture my own ear drums than listen to him speak again. I figure there has to be a middle ground. I’ve decided to start my own cult. I’m not married to the name yet, but I was toying with LGFNW, Losers, Geeks, Freaks, Nerds, and Weirdos, all welcome and equal. Violence and bullying strictly prohibited.

I may not have much to offer, but I can make you a few promises that clearly put me ahead of the packs.

  • I will never lie to you
  • I will never hold you hostage
  • I will never forbid you from contact with family
  • I will never enforce Droit du seigneur (right of first night, fancy word for rape)
  • I will never drug you (against your will)
  • Most importantly, I will always support your right to believe whatever the hell you want.

There’s something deeply wrong in a world where my cult fails while those others flourish. Anyway, thank you for your indulgence in this matter. If you would like to join LGFNW, there are no fees or deadlines. Currently all positions are open. No background or credit checks necessary. We have no swag, or any material possessions whatsoever, but we do have, ladies and gentlemen, is a lot of gusto.

Admittedly the logo needs work.

Becoming Crazy Cat Lady

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.

People always see the end result, but no one ever takes time to understand the journey.

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.

I guess the heart is an archaic form of photoshop, but who could resist this ball of floof? Look at those eyes, he fell asleep sitting up. Precious!

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.

See, look at this snuggle muffin! How do you not let him in?

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.

You can’t say no to that face, you can’t.

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.

If you see her silent meow, she owns you. Just don’t feed her after midnight.

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.

This was the first picture taken, please excuse the mess. She was roughy 8 months. I thought younger until we realized she was pregnant.

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.

See how irresistible he is? For formal occasions, he’s Romulus Tomulous Stargazer, because he is a gentleman.

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.

I wanted one that demonstrates how much she grew to love inside, and that’s Percy, all growed up now.

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.

Guys! Do you see this belly? He always lays this way, and he has such an expressive face!

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.

I think this speaks to how well Lex transitioned to house cat.

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.

She warmed up fast. We called her Temporary, to help stay unattached. Now we call her Tempy.

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.

This guy is a survivor, he deserves happiness.

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.

This is the only example of his claw caps, but I couldn’t resist his pitiful vet face.

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.