Saturday, June 18, 2022

The Summer of the Cat by Jenn McKinlay

The Dude Abides

Happy Caturday! I have no idea how I ended up here. None. I'm not even a cat person. Yes, I have three but they were an accident! 

You see, I grew up in a house of birders so cats were no bueno. Until I went to college and my roommate, Evan, came home with a tiny orange tabby named Chubby, I'd never even been close to a cat. Well, Evan took off to Martha's Vineyard to be a waiter and Chubby somehow became mine. The beginning of a pattern, I fear.

Shortly after Chubs passed, the Humane Society announced there were too many cats and they were going to start mass euthanizing. We did our part and adopted two black cats, Patsy and Loretta. They are now seventeen and a half. One is blind and one is terminally cranky, so we know their time is winding down. We still have King George, who we found abandoned a few years ago, and he'll be five soon. Frankly, a one cat house seemed dandy to me.

Then this happened...


A
t three weeks old, El Duderino just wandered up to me on our patio. I thought he was another abandoned little man, but no. He came with a squad, because of course, he did.


Mama and I set up a routine where I became the bringer of food twice a day for her and the wee ones. My neighbors pitched in but Mama decided our side yard under a big old yellow bell tree was her happy place, and there they stayed. When they were eight weeks old, she started to wean them and we knew decisions had to be made. 

The Dude, having the sense of a chicken nugget, kept following me home, wandering out into the open grass where he'd lie down belly up. Can you say hawk bait? The Hub, Hooligans, and I decided we needed to bring The Dude in to save his dopey self. But what would happen to the others? Life on the street was harsh as evidenced by their Mama, a feral gal, who is barely an adult herself.

And so, we managed to catch the remaining three. I started feeding them in a cat carrier and one day when they all piled in, I just shut the door. I looked at Mama Cat, we call her Stella, and told her she'd been a great mom but now she was free. She met my gaze and very slowly closed her eyes. I think she was giving me her blessing. I watched her closely and she never cried or searched for the babies, and she still comes around morning and evening for food. I'm hoping to get her neutered after her children are adopted, although The Dude may have to stay, dang it. 




I was feeling like a bit of a mark, I mean, does every animal in the wild have my name and address? Is there some symbol on the road in front of my house? We just rescued a dog in January, so now we have two dogs, seven cats (four are temporary), and two fish who won't die. To say I was feeling overwhelmed would be a monumental understatement, then I saw a video of a man who stumbled upon a kitten that turned into thirteen kittens, so it's fine. Four are fine. Everything is fine. 😂😂😂

How about you, Reds and Readers? I know Hank has a duck situation - LOL - but who else is the critter magnet in their neighborhood? 



 

65 comments:

  1. Aaawww . . . the kitties [and Hank's ducks] are absolutely adorable. Over the years, we’ve had our share of dogs and cats, especially when the children were growing up, but now it’s just the deer who seem to think they belong here, eating their way through the flower garden . . . .

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    1. I thought the pets would diminish with the children, too. Yeah, not so much!

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  2. Every animal knows that Mom and I are pushovers. They just do. Tubby the cat adopted us when she decided she greatly preferred us to the neighbors she previously owned. She crossed the Rainbow Bridge 2 weeks ago. Every other cat we've ever had has been a rescue/stray. For now we will play with neighbor dog Mela and watch the fox kits that have been frolicking in the yard.

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    1. That sounds adorable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen fox kits in real life.

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  3. Awwww, JENN, planned or not, you're the kitty mama!
    No pets here (allergies), but my edible balcony garden is a magnet for multiple squirrels. My main black nemesis SATAN, his buddy Gray and a few others come visiting several times a week.

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    1. Squirrel!!! My brother was always trying to figure out how to manage his bird feeders from the squirrels. An endeavor every summer!

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  4. I have a friend in a little village in Galicia who ended adopting every feral cat who showed up on her patio. At one point she had 17, and named every single one. Also (good for her) she started taking them in one by one or two by two to the vet and having them neutered. She's down to eleven at last count, as one by one they are crossing that rainbow bridge.

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    1. 17??? I need to go lie down.

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  5. You definitely have a big heart, Jenn! We adopted four-year-old Martin two months ago from our nephew, and I think we're sticking with just one for now.

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    1. What happened to your other kitty?

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    2. We had to give Ganesh back. I couldn't live with being bitten on the wrist without provocation.

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    3. Some cats can be bitey. George used to do that but I managed to redirect him with a laser pen but it was some work!

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  6. I’m a cat person. Your pictures are so cute!

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  7. You guys are the best! The most cats I ever had was 11 and that was my fault for not moving fast enough to get my two adopted cats spayed. I realized when my roommate's one neurotic white cat peed in my bed that they had to go. Now I have an automatic doorstop and his name is John:).

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    1. Everyone needs a John. I could say, “I’m keeping all four.” And Hub would say, “Okay.” We need a doorstop!

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  8. Just dogs here. I do like cats but never have had one as a house pet. It's interesting how kittens wander up and adopt you. Didn't King George do that, too? What I can claim is that every time I visit with someone with a pet, they (the pets) end up in my lap, especially in the winter. Perhaps they mistaken me for a warm couch cushion.

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    1. That’s my mom. Not a cat person and yet they’re always in her lap.

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  9. George cannot be five already! What??? You are officially a pushover, Jenn. Aw.

    Our house is the official critter magnet of all time. Steve's dad had a column in the Cincinnati Enquirer for 50 years, every Sunday talking about the natural history of the area (beginning in 1937). The phone would ring at all hours with someone asking about an "abandoned" baby or nest they found (usually not abandoned, but once babies are taken away, the mother moves on). Many times these were brought to the studio, which is where we now live. Over the years we raised hundreds of baby critters, along with clutches of quail, turkey, duck, and I can't remember kinds of birds, and hosted a charming Barred Owl named Henry for awhile.

    They had two pre-war animal cages out back that had come from a wealthy individual who'd kept some exotic species. When I met Steve one cage held a pair of mated grey foxes, Tom & Jenny, who provided a litter every spring. The other cage had a rotating cast of characters over the years: skunks, coyote, red fox, raccoons, a mink, you name it. In addition, there were grey squirrels and flying squirrels that lived out on the screened porch.

    The big joke is that I married a wildlife photographer, and I was scared of animals. Ha. But I'd never really been around any before.

    We have over four acres here, and more than half of it is woods. Every day we see something: a billion songbirds, owls, vultures and hawks, deer, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, possums, and the odd coyote. Yesterday I was working in the garden and from the other side of the yard Steve said, "Did you see the fox?" I missed a red fox who sprinted past--in broad daylight--midway between us. It has a litter, but I've yet to see them, or the four baby skunks that were living under our neighbor's shed.

    It's like Wild America around here. Who needs a cat?

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    1. That sounds amazing!!! And very much like my childhood. I grew up on a suburban farm - horse, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs, fish and then the rescues! My dad was a decoy woodcarver and scoutmaster so we were the house that rehabbed a sparrow hawk, bittern, various songbirds, swans, you name it. I had no idea other people didn’t grow up with this sort of chaos until I started sleep overs and there were no critters - weird! LOL!

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    2. How wonderful, Jenn! My kids would agree completely. What? Everybody doesn't have pet foxes?

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  10. I seem to be the magnet for critters that need to stay outside - mice, snakes, and squirrels - I guess because I have an older home. Short of trying to shoo them out I have to use have a heart traps and sticky traps because I’m not living with rodents and snakes!

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    1. “I will not tolerate infestation!” — Jerry Stiller on Seinfeld. LOL. I hear you. I found a rat in our laundry room, looked at my three lazy cats and said, “You have one job.” They pretended not to hear me.

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  11. We're a dog magnet. Last month, a white fluffball who lived nearby slipped out and sat on our front steps waiting for us to walk our standard poodles. Her owner wasn't home, so we left a message, leashed her up, and walked her with the others.

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  12. They are so cute... I love the videos! Bless you for your tender heart.

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    1. It feels like a bit of a curse, tbh, but I like your take on it. ❤️

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  13. Jenn, the more I think about your stories and your kitties, it's life imitating art! In Wait for It, in your Bluff Point romances, even in The Good Ones, you have people bonding over little critters that show up and worm there ways into hearts. You've written this;>)

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    1. " THEIR ways" gee! Can't blame that one on autocorrect. Wow.

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    2. Are you suggesting that Jenn manifests the things she writes about? Draws them from fiction into the real world? Writing is a form of magic, after all.

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    3. Yes, Gigi, exactly. It's a good thing that doesn't happen with dragons! LOL

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    4. My next series will feature billionaire lottery winners!!!! Wait, that means I’d have to buy a ticket. Okay, I’ll just write about big bags of money falling from the sky for everyone! It’ll destroy the entire monetary system and no one will be rich or poor anymore…yeah, this I can get behind. Bwa ha ha!

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  14. When I lived out in the boonies I apparently had a sign like that at the end of my driveway, too. Over 25 years I managed to attract everything from tiny, newborn kittens to a Great Pyrenees dog, and even a couple of horses. Most of them went on to better homes, or were reclaimed by their original owners, but a few of them stayed. The cats eventually set up their own little feral colony, maintaining a population of about a dozen cats and kittens at any time. Although I looked for nearby TNR groups, that movement hadn't penetrated the wilds of Parker County yet. Any friend who wanted a kitten knew to call me. When I moved into a more urban place, I brought two dogs and four cats with me.

    These days I have flipped that number, with four dogs and two cats--only one of whom is an original Parker County cat. I have discovered that rescue groups are the citified, organized version of taking in whatever strays appear at the door. As before, not all of them stayed, but now friends call me if they want a dog. I realize the whole "take in strays" thing is ultimately unsustainable, but I just can't turn away a lost, hungry critter.

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    1. I understand completely. I am lucky in that I have two neighbors who are complete pushovers as well. Between us, we’re trying to be our own TNR team. Exhausting.

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  15. I've almost always had a dog and we had both when I was growing up. When I moved into a house of my own I adopted a kitten who lived for more than 17 years. As time went on it seemed like I always had 3 cats, even though officially my limit was 2. A few months ago I had to put down one of my cats, so now I'm left with 2 little terrors. I waiting for the other shoe to drop in the form of my granddaughter or someone who finds a kitten that "needs a home and she can't keep him where she lives" and she "knows" that I "need" another. We'll see. But that is exactly how I got one of my guys.

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    1. Judi, I can see you with three - it's a magical number of cats :)

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  16. What a great post, Jenn! On our urban block, with the river across from us, we get our fair share of animal visits -- racoons, deer sometimes, a pair of wood ducks this spring and, of course, cats. Several of us would take turns taking in the latest stray, but we are now firmly a one-cat household. I shoo the strays away. It's someone else's turn.

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    1. I feel you. As soon as this is done, I'm tapping out.

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  17. My neighbor was a dog magnet for a few years--pregnant shi-tzuh, anyone? He kept the beautiful boxer boy, though he managed to find homes for all the others. I've become the cat magnet. A little over a year ago, a sweet little feral female showed up. We provided her with food and water and a warm home through the winter. We were trying to socialize her so we could get her fixed and find her a home. She disappeared for awhile in early spring of last year and then brought 4 kittens to us. The look on her face when I came out into the garage and spotted them--she trusted us and never minded if we played with them, picked them up, took them to the vet, etc. We found a home for one male, had the only female fixed, had mama fixed, and so far have had one of the boys fixed. The kittens are over a year old now and we are still trying to find homs for them. I love them all and would've brought them all inside except we already have 4 cats and a dog in a small house. Meanwhile, a ginger stray (with a collar) comes sneaking in the garage to eat, as does the male who sired the kittens.

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    1. Flora here--not Anon. :-)

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    2. Yes, I have several sneaky strays. One I fear is pregnant. I really will move...I swear!

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  18. LOL - I wish I could post a pix of my guy Fred on his first day in the house - sprawled on his back on the pillows in front of a window. Very stressed. My husband's last name is Striker. I swear the S stands for sucker and every animal in town knows it. Right now we only have three cats - all are 10, they are mama and her two offspring that were dumped in our yard on Thanksgiving week 2012. Yep, some folks wanted their kids to experience the miracle of birth followed by the inevitable miracle of get out of the car. Our other cats? Well, I sought out Pirate at the Humane Society, then Starlight was dumped in my front yard and I spotted her little kitten head sticking up out of the lirope in my planter box. Hutch was dumped with his litter mates in a storm drain just ahead of a hurricane. The public service workers heard mews and called my then vet who rescued all the kits Never found the mother, who may have moved the kittens to the drain for safety. Smokey came with hubs, he'd been abandoned when his owners left Phoenix - the cat, not my husband. Then came Missy, a pregnant stray who was eating our bird seed to keep alive. Then came Elvis, who was abandoned and suffering from a thyroid condition, he found my husband and crawled up his leg as hubs was getting out the car. Then came Fred who was called in as a "vicious cat" when his owner wanted a dog instead. I was president of the local rescue. We kept him at the shelter for a while knowing we couldn't adopt him out with his "vicious" designation (he was a calm sweetie without a mean bone in his body) and finally he came home with me. Then came Zoe who was abandoned at my vet's office and whose papers read "euthanasia tomorrow." So, Jenn, my point is, you are NOT alone! Glad to meet my Arizona counterpart - they will keep coming.

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    1. Oh, I'm so glad you were able to save the one with "vicious" designation. I have come to believe that I prefer critters over humanity.

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  19. Hank Phillippi RyanJune 18, 2022 at 10:19 AM

    Oh, Jenn, I saw that video of the 13 kittens! I could not believe it! And the ones who arrived at your house, I have to say, yes, they know we’re goodness lives, and they will arrive en masse. . They know a good thing when they see it, and maybe you should feel honored and seen. They are pretty adorable, I have to admit, and I know it’s what you called… A situation :-). I totally believe that when cats blink at you they are talking to you. There’s no question about that. Good luck with that furry little band.
    And yes, you are so right, we do have a duck situation. :-) And we embrace it, I have to say. Jonathan keeps wanting to bring one into the house, but there I draw the line.

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    1. Hank, if you only get to draw one line a year, you've chosen the right one!

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    2. Wow, you can really tell I dictated my initial comment. I am going to have to stop doing that. xox

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  20. I'm an adopter of animals and people, so my count includes several dogs and cats and at least three young adults who needed a little extra time in the cat carrier, to make it a metaphor.

    My parents had a situation like yours, Jenn - they discovered a whole litter of kittens beneath a bush in their yard. The mother never showed up, and their quiet neighborhood backed onto a highway, so I suspect she was killed. My folks took them in and partnered with a cat rescue group to hand feed them until they were ready to be adopted. Every one of them went fast because who doesn't love a cute kitten. Except one - their version of your Dude. Skitters became my dad's best bud, and thankfully kept him going after Mom died. It was truly a case of Meant To Be.

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    1. My mom adopted an unwanted little dog named Coco. They are peas in a pod. I honestly think that dog is the only thing that has gotten my mom through so much over the past few years. There is no love like a dog's.

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  21. We have long been animal lovers, suckers, however you want to put it. A stray was pregnant and I started feeding her. We ended up with our Geo and the neighbor took the mom. A friend passed away and nobody would take in his ferret, Nicodeamus. I had always thought they were cute so we took him in. Got him a friend because they like to be in pairs. We have taken in multiple since then, spent more money than I want to add up at the vets office, and currently have 2 cats and 3 ferrets. They all drive my hubby up the wall, but we love them dearly. And I know the next person that calls and says they know a ferret that needs a home, we will take them in as well.

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    1. I dated a guy with a ferret - they are hilarious, mischievous, and adorable.

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  22. When we lived in Manhattan and periodically did laundry in the basement, there be the strays. Always new ones. Adorable kittens. At one point we had four of them in our 2 room apartment. Eloise, Soot, Flotsam, and Jetsam. But I'm allergic and asthmatic and ended up hospitalized and, coinciding with our move to the Boston area, we found new homes for them.

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    1. So many people are allergic to cats. Sadly, no one here is. LOL.

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  23. Sounds like the signs I have posted sending cats to you is working. ;)

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  24. Jenn, there are worse things than being an animal magnet! And nothing is cuter than a litter of kittens. My brother used to say "too bad they grow up to be cats" but we love them grown up, too. Two dogs, three cats here. One dog is a sort-of rescue, and all three of the cats. The first two were found abandoned or injured and turned in to our vet. Our daughter was working there at the time and of course we were suckers! Lucy, cat #3, was a neighborhood cat who decided that she lived HERE, thank you very much. We are crazy about her and wouldn't have it any other way.

    Cat genetics are so interesting. Your little cream-colored fluff ball has got some Siamese or Himalayan in the mix somewhere.

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    1. We discovered today that the cream colored one we call Dani is Danny - the balls dropped :) Now the men want to call him Frank for his blue eyes like Frank Sinatra. The stray who is clearly his father is a beige version of him and we've been calling him Sinatra for months, so Frank it is. :) Not that we're keeping him. We are NOT keeping him!!!

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  25. There was a time, before kids, that we seemed to attract stray dogs, but we were usually able to keep it down to two permanent dogs. When my daughter was four and son was one, we moved into a new house to which a kitten shortly showed up. I was not a cat person (and still am not mainly because I'm allergic, but I like others' cats), so I wasn't sure what I should do. Of course, I fed the kitten and ended up taking it in. I wasn't allergic to the point that I couldn't be anywhere near a cat, but I would eventually start sneezing, so Salty was largely an outdoor cat and TV room cat. Of course, I never left him out when the weather was bad. Salty lived 22 years. We're now to the point of just one rescue dog, although I'm not sure that wouldn't change if a sweet fur baby in need showed up.

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    1. It is best when they find you, i think. NO need to go looking. They'll find you.

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  26. A cat just came into our back yard. I am not kidding. Jenn, did you send it?

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