Our Night Visitor

If you read my blog, you will know that the Crankee Yankee and I are owned by five cats. It didn’t happen all at once; they just sort of showed up over the years, and we took them in. Each one had a story, and all sort of saved each other; and us.

We also feed the strays in our area; we have a “feeding station” in the backyard. The Crankee Yankee put it together with wood and plexiglass, and everyone seems to like it.

The top tier offers birdseed and cracked corn plus a bowl of fresh water for the birds and squirrels. The middle tier has one of the *heated pads I bought for our cats, plus a bowl of food. The ground floor features a wooden box fitted with one of the pads and a blanket, plus food and water.

We also put food and water on our front deck, in the garage and under our back porch (all walled in so it is relatively snug). We like knowing that our “guests” (and even the indoor/outdoor cats who actually have owners) have access to these comforts, especially in the cold weather.

One of our “regulars” is a largish gray and black tiger cat we call Stripey. We honestly don’t know if anyone owns him, but he has been a frequent diner all through the fall and winter. Just recently, we noticed one of our cats staring fixedly down on the front porch (it is protected by a roof and plastic sheeting all around so that the Crankee Yankee can go out and work on the siding in fair weather.)

We looked down, and there was Stripey, nestled into one of the short stacks of the insulation (fortunately not the glass type). We figured that he has been sheltering there most nights. So during the daytime I put out his very own bowl of food and water, close to where he sleeps. As we have been having some pretty cold and windy nights, I added a thick fleece blanket on top of the insulation. As of this morning, he is snuggled up in it, so I guess he’s happy about the addition.

Yep—we are a couple of suckers for animals, and don’t they know it. Whenever we find out that one of our “strays” actually belongs to someone, we are glad—and they are still welcome to food and shelter at our place. When spring and summer roll around, we also have our resident skunks who come toddling out at dusk. When our gardens are at their peak, they like to “shop” the garden for the occasional snack. After all, we have plenty of produce.

A note to indoor/outdoor cat owners: please seriously consider getting “break-away” collars for your cats. Make sure that they have a medallion on the collar with their name, your name, address and phone number on it. It is also a good idea to add “shots up to date.” This way, people know that they have had their rabies and other very necessary vaccines.

It is also an excellent idea to have them micro-chipped and registered on HomeAgain. This is a service helps get your pet back home to you safely, should someone find your lost pet. Even if you have indoor only cats, should they get out of the house, you have a far better chance of getting them back.

*These are great; they are made with an interior layer that reflects a cat’s own body heat to keep them warm; no plug required. Plus they are machine washable.

The TV Monitor and Other Unasked For Duties…

Our cat, Bailey (who is #5 in our cat menagerie), was originally my mom’s and dad’s cat. Since their passings, he is now our cat. He has been with us and the other cats for nearly a year, and fits right in with the gang.

That said, he has a habit that none of the others have: he knows exactly where to sit on the TV table to block the signals. He never listens to our “hey—down in front!” pleas, either. For him, it’s the perfect spot to check on everyone, to wash himself, and best of all, to control our entertainment.

We recently found out that Bailey also has another talent: evidently, he can tell time. Now, I don’t mean the kind of time-telling where all the cats decide that it’s meal time. I mean that he walks over us in our bed, takes a long look at the clock, and he knows it’s time for the humans to get a move on.

We have a feeding schedule that works for us all: 9am and 3pm, then 9pm and 3am (luckily, the Crankee Yankee usually handles that last one!). The cats know this, and if we are a few minutes late, they let us know it.

Bailey can emit an ear-splitting howl that wakes up everyone. No one sleeps through it. He also enjoys having what we call a “nightly nutty.” This means that, for no reason we can see, Bailey starts tearing around the house in the evening, and up and down the stairs. Once at the bottom of the stairs where his voice really carries, he will howl his head off so that we ALL can enjoy it…

The other cats are kind of nonplussed about it; they all just look at each other, and shrug in a mutual “meh.”

It’s amazing how cats’ facial expressions can let you know exactly how they feel. All cats seem to do this; they know which expressions will “work” their humans. If we are on the couch, enjoying a cup of frozen yoghurt in the evening, Bailey will park his butt as close to us as possible. Then he does his patented “oh, look at the cute kitty!” look: he looks at the cup and tilts his head over to one side appealingly. It’s mighty hard to resist, and no one knows this better than Bailey.

Well, what can you do? There is an old saying, which we know from our own cat family is absolutely true: “Cats were once revered in Egypt as gods. Cats have never forgotten this.”

And, yes—we completely understand that we are the slaves, not the masters. We’re all used to it….


The Morning Sludge

If you read my posts on a regular basis, you’ll know that the Crankee Yankee and I have five cats. Oh, it didn’t happen all at once, but still; we have five cats. They are pretty smart, too. They can’t read nor can they tell time, but they definitely know when it’s time to be fed.

We have a schedule for feeding, and they have learned it well. In the 24 hours of each day, they have four feeding times: 9-ish in the morning, 3-ish in the afternoon, and repeat for night-time. The 9’s are kibble inly, and the 3’s are  special wet food that helps their digestion (meaning less vomiting, and less clean-up of such).

It’s almost like having quintuplets in the house; after a while, you just wake up at 3am, stagger to the kitchen and start opening cans. Although I am grateful to the heart that it is usually the Crankee Yankee who gets up to feed everyone at that time, there is this:

After opening the cans, distributing the food, the empties are put in the sink with hot water to loosen up the food bits in them. By the time the sun is up, there is a goodly amount of “cat food sludge” in the bottom of the little mesh doohicky in the sink. This is where the *Alponium odor happens. And it STINKS.

Granted, when the Crankee Yankee feeds them, I don’t have to get up. The cats are  happy, and often some of them clean out their bowls, which the Crankee Yankee kindly puts in the sink to soak. So when I get up, that’s what greets me; the smell of Alponium in the morning….pre-coffee, yet!

Ah well, it could be worse. We could be living with a pack of huge great Danes or a pot-bellied pig wearing diapers. Plus, there is the “cute factor” that all the cats share; they are at their most adorable when it’s time to eat. I think it’s the same sort of genetic thing that babies and toddlers have; the innate ability to drive you nuts and then melt your heart.

And then there you are, in the grip of a massive wave of cuteness. I’d say more, but it’s time to clean up the Alponium sludge…

*Alponium is the distinct aroma that goes up your nose when you open a can of cat or dog food. It isn’t on the periodic table either, and I can’t remember who said it first. But you’ll know it when you smell it…

Indoor/Outdoor Cats Need to Come in at Night

The Crankee Yankee and I have sheltered and fed cats for years now. We’re often bothered by the fact that some people who have indoor/outdoor cats don’t seem to worry or care about them. In fact, that’s how we got Pepper (sadly missed) years ago; he was someone’s cat and they never checked on him, or even looked for him.

He came running to the Crankee Yankee; with sores on his ears and neck where he’d been in a fight, scruffy dirty fur, and later on after we adopted him, we found that he had a serious heart condition. Long story short, we got him to our vet and got him healthy again. We had nine and a half good months with him until his heart failed.

Years later the Crankee Yankee happened to run into Pepper’s owners and told them about him. They didn’t seem to be bothered at all about him; they just said, ‘oh, we wondered what had happened to him.’

Some facts and fiction about indoor/outdoor cats:

  1. Cats are domesticated and do NOT always know how to take care of themselves (ferals are another story; this is about house cats.)
  2. Cats have come to rely on humans for food, care and shelter. Don’t assume that they will automatically “go native;” find their food, find shelter in the cold, etc.
  3. It’s a good idea not to let your indoor/outdoor cats out for the night. They don’t always find shelter and can get sick or hurt. Having a cat door does not always mean that they will come home.
  4. Even in neighborhoods there are hungry predators out there who can and will hurt or kill cats. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for raccoons and other animals to have rabies.
  5. A hungry cat may find and lick up antifreeze on the ground, which is deadly to cats.
  6. Always put a collar with tags on your indoor/outdoor cats. This lets people know that this is not a stray. Also put an ID tag on their collar that shows the cat’s name, your name, address and phone number, and the fact that your cat’s shots are all up to date.
  7. Always get your indoor/outdoor cat microchipped. When a cat is brought to a shelter, the first thing they do is to scan them. Having your cat microchipped means that you can get your cat back.
  8. Spay and neuter your cats. They will never miss having kittens.
  9. If you own pets, it is your responsibility to care for them, feed them, shelter them and keep them safe from harm. They absolutely need their rabies and other shots, and, if they are indoor/outdoor, they will need flea and tick treatments in the warm weather. Unless you are willing to do all this, please do not adopt a pet.

The Crankee Yankee and I are not professionals nor are we veterinarians or even vets’ assistants. The above is what we have learned over time and after many rescues. A pet certainly is not a human child, but it needs love and care and protection.

A pet is a responsibility, not a toy.


A Cat on My Lap


Now that the Crankee Yankee and I are retired, we have cultivated little rituals each day that remind us how nice it is not to rush to a job each day. Before I go to bed, I get the coffee maker set up so that all the Crankee Yankee needs to do the next morning is to press the button. Viola; minutes later, fresh hot coffee.

He is dozing before 8:00pm while I am just hitting my stride. It’s very late when I get to bed, and I make my nightly rounds before heading to bed myself. Later, all doors and windows checked, I settle in with a good book or program.

By then the house is quiet, all the cats have found their spots for the night. Nala, our one female, is usually tucked up on the Crankee Yankee’s pillow, purring into his ear. Pookie is snoozing behind one of the living room drapes, lying over the register, soaking up the heat.

Plumpy, one of our strays we adopted years ago, is stretched out in the rocking chair, snoring gently and whistling through his nose. The other adopted stray, Tinker, a large marmalade tabby, is flat on his back on the sofa purring in his sleep, his front paws twitching now and then as he chases mice in his dreams.

Bailey, who was originally my Mom’s and Dad’s cat, is nestled in my lap, eyelids at half-mast, rumbling quietly. Absently, I stroke his back before turning a page or reaching for my glass of water.

It’s funny about cats; some are cuddlers; some or not. Some prefer to approach you on their own terms, others don’t mind being picked up. Some will only come to you when they feel like it. Unlike dogs, who want to please, they have their own moods and agendas. They will not come when called, they don’t do tricks (unless is pleases them), they don’t obey commands, and they either like you or they don’t. To me, this is all part of their charm.

But as I sit there, cat in my lap, my mind going over the day and enjoying the peace and quiet of the house, I am grateful. This little slice of peace at the end of the day is a gift I treasure. I wonder what I have done in this life so far to merit such peace, happiness, grace and joy.

Some of my best thoughts and occasional prayers are born while I sit comfortably with a cat in my lap.



Should Have Named Him”Houdini”

We have five cats. Not on purpose; it just happened that way. They all came to us for good reasons, and amazingly, they all get along—mostly. Nala, our one female, came from a house with a dog, and she spent most of her days in the cellar to avoid him. When we adopted her, she was the only cat in the house.

Some months later, I read about a local animal shelter who had several “Desperate Housecats” who had been there for over six months and needed homes. I fell in love with an all-black male named Pagan. I adopted him, and as I got to know him, I changed his name to Pookie, which suited him much better.

Then there were the two stray cats we fed for months and then adopted; Plumpy-Nut and Tinker. We still don’t know to this day if anyone ever owned them, but we finally just took them to our vet, and had them neutered and micro-chipped. They both fit in well with Nala and Pookie.

When the time came when Dad could no longer take proper care of his cat, Bailey, we brought him home with our gang. Later on, Dad moved in with us as well, so now we are all one happy family!

Living with five cats is at once fun and unpredictable. We recently found out that Tinker has some serious skills. The other day was a hot one for this time of year; it was about 85 degrees. Most of the cats were lounging on the back porch, Tinker included.

I happened to look out of the kitchen door, and to my horror, the screen door on the porch was open! Bear in mind that all five cats are indoor only. So hollering to the Crankee Yankee that he forgot to close the damned door, I went flying out to round up the cats.

Bailey and Nala came running in; they really aren’t too keen on the great outdoors anyway. The other two cats, Plumpy and Pookie, were already in the house. That left Tinker, who has never forgotten the joys of being outside.

As we went looking for him, the Crankee Yankee swore that he did not leave the door open. We found Tinker strolling in the back yard as if he owned the place. We got him inside and the Crankee Yankee said, “y’know, I really think that Tinker knows how to open that door.”

I rolled my eyes at him and said that was nuts; how could he? But we have noticed that Tinker always likes to scratch on the wooden frame of the porch door; in fact, right beside the latch.

And you know what? I think he figured out how to open the door. He is tall enough to reach the latch, and all he would have to do is to push it in, and the door would open. So now if any of the cats are on the back porch, we lock that door. (So far he hasn’t figured that out—yet.)

So we now call him Tinker Houdini, the feline escape artist. Good grief—what next?

Just Ask a Cat

If while  enduring a snowstorm you should wonder where it’s at

Just stop wondering and simply ask your cat.

Pick him up and hear him purr,

He has no worries, fears, troubles—just fur.

He’ll blink at you through sleepy eyes

As if to say, ‘oh, c’mon—just lighten up, you guys!

You humans get upset at the drop of a hat,

You ought to just be mellow and happy; like a cat.

Life may be short or long

So don’t waste time worrying if you may be doing it wrong—

Chances are, you’re doing your best,

So move on, have a nap, keep your cards close to your vest.

Life’s easy if you take a lesson from we cats

Because we know what is what and where it’s at.

Pilling a Cat

Anyone who has had to wrestle a pill down a resistant cat’s gullet knows what an ordeal it can be. You can sneak it into tuna fish, peanut butter, regular butter, deviled ham; whatever. They will eat every scrap and leave a bare naked pill behind.

Same with crushing it up and putting in chopped chicken, ice cream, etc. They will take a lick, and nine times out of ten will fix you with a filthy look, turn tail and stalk away, tail up straight in the air as if to say, “you’re not fooling me one bit and I hate you.”

So what’s a cat parent to do? I’ll tell you what; you get sneaky. You have to treat this as a war room sneak attack on one of God’s wiliest creatures, a house cat. You may have to resort to plain old cat wrestling, too.

Our boy, Pookie, had a kidney infection the other day and when we took him to the vet, we came home with a few cans of special food, a bottle of tiny pills and a tincture to give him twice a day. All well and good, but even sick this cat is a fighter.

At the vet, Pookie had already had the tincture and one pill, so all he needed was the second pill. Of course, he had already prepared himself for this and had dug himself deep into my closet, right behind the shoe rack. As I only have one good knee right now, I had to go into ballet-mode; one leg out straight and the other bent so that I was balanced on one foot.

I reached in and hauled him out and up on the bed, praying that I wouldn’t lose my balance and lose my grip on him. I fished the pill out of my pocket, and with one hand pried his jaws open and poked the pill as far in as I could. Of course, this also meant clamping his mouth shut so that he had to swallow it.

Once that was done and he had shot under the bed, I put a spoonful of his “special” food in his bowl and pushed it in after him. Of course, this food is strong-smelling, which meant that the other four all came tearing into the bedroom to get some.

It took some doing, but we managed to herd them all out and push the sliding door closed. The four of them looked at me as if Christmas had been canceled. Well, you know, you try to explain the whole thing to them and they are not having it at all. They are used to everyone getting the same thing at the same time, and Heaven help you if you deviate from that formula.

But finally everything settled back to normal (or what acts as normal in our house, anyway). Pookie ate some of the food, and I cleaned the bowl out and brought him his usual; what everyone else was eating.

So far, peace has reigned. But we will undertake this whole song and dance tomorrow. As has been said before, cats were once worshiped as gods in Egypt. They have never  forgotten this.

I know ours never will…..



“Uncomplicated” Cats

Cats by nature are uncomplicated. They come with all the basic features:

  • four legs and a tail (or not)
  • eyes that can see well in the dark
  • ears that turn like radar dishes for sounds that we can’t hear
  • whiskers that define how wide a space a cat can get into
  • all the standard internal gadgets
  • a vast curiosity
  • an affinity for small animals, birds and bugs to chase and catch (and often, eat)
  • a melodious purr, meow, chirp, growl, trill, wheeze, etc.
  • an attuned sense of entitlement

There’s more, of course, but these are the regular bits. Beyond that, cats form loyalties according to their own system of likes/dislikes. They can be couch clawers, toilet paper unravelers, curtain climbers, snack stealers, counter jumpers, bed hogs and comforters.

Cats do not pretend to be anything but themselves; they instinctively know that their worth is immense and that people who have them should feel very fortunate. As has been said before; cats in ancient Egypt were once revered as gods, and they have never forgotten it. Their sense of superiority is locked into their genes; that’s just how they are.

If a cat likes you, consider it a huge compliment. If a cat is cool towards you, it’s hard not to want to charm him/her into liking you. It’s sort of like having royalty shake your hand. One of our four cats was initially quite standoffish with me. If I approached him, he would hiss and sometimes swat at me. Nothing I did seemed to change his mind.

So I finally stop trying to make him like me. We went our own ways; I fed him, kept his water bowl clean, brushed out his long fur when he needed it, and presented various toys to him. Most often he would pretend not to notice me.

One night I woke up hearing a nearby purr. There he was, curled up on the edge of my pillow, snuggled between the Crankee Yankee and me. I patted his head and whispered, ‘well, it’s about time, buddy!’ Since then, we have been pretty happy with each other.

Anyone who has adopted a cat will tell you that cats are basically pretty uncomplicated creatures. They are by turns affectionate, aloof, cranky, feisty, adorable, fussy, unpredictable and infinitely loveable. It isn’t your job to figure them out; it’s your job to serve them. As long as you know these things about cats, and keep them well fed, groomed, comfortable and most of all, safe—life is pretty terrific with them.

I don’t care what anyone says, even the so-called cat experts—cats have their own way of dealing with us. Even the stray cats we always feed have an attitude of entitlement; that is, that is our pleasure and privilege to feed and shelter them. Their stance on the subject is that it is we who should be grateful that they show up at all.

Ah, well, what are we to do? The Crankee Yankee and I realized a long time ago that we are merely the feeders and keepers of feline contentment and entitlement in our home. We adore them, and they love us in their own way.

Seeing things from their viewpoint, cats are indeed pretty uncomplicated. It’s up to us to deal with all that “uncomplicatedness” that cats bring to our lives. It is also up to us to realize that we form our own lives around their lives, not the other way around.

If you have cats, you’d better get used to the idea—quickly.

“I’m a Cat”

I’m a cat, and I want to go out

Go out right now, or I’ll gripe and pout—

Once I’m out, I want to come back in

‘Cause I’m a cat, and you know I’ll always win.

I’ll win you over, because I’m so dang cute

You always forgive me, even when I pooped in your boot.

Because I’m a cat, I want food right now

Not at breakfast or dinner time, but when I meow

Which is pretty often, and I make those big kitty eyes

You know you can’t resist, ’cause I’m a cat, I tell no lies.

I like to lie where you can trip over me,

So you’ll feel bad and go get a treat for me,

It’s all part of a cat’s great plan

‘Cause I run the house, and you know it, Sir or Ma’am!