A … her name was Alice — June 10, 2020

A … her name was Alice

93004098_227775398576073_309184473616875520_nAlice, the youngest member of my cat army, died two weeks ago.

She was a kitten when she showed up on my front porch in spring 2010. She was black and white in color, long-haired, and beautiful. She wore a flea collar, so I kept her in my garage while I looked for her humans. I asked around, ran an ad in the paper, and rolled my eyes when friends and family predicted that I’d keep her.

Truth be told, though, I was relieved when nobody claimed her.

She moved into the main house and I named her Alice Aurora in honor of Alice Horton, the “Days of Our Lives” matriarch who had recently died on screen, and Aurora Greenway, the strong-willed character from “Terms of Endearment.”

Alice settled into the household, but she never bonded with her feline siblings. Although I encouraged her to form an alliance with her canine sister, the lovely and talented, Mia Frances, that relationship never came to fruition, either.

Instead, Alice kept to herself. Like most cats, she slept approximately 23 and a half hours a day. She was as soft as a pillow, stood low to the ground and didn’t have much of a vertical leap. When she was younger, I started noticing that my bedroom light was on every evening when I arrived home. I couldn’t figure out why that was happening until I saw her jumping on the bed and swatting the ceiling fan cords. She had madder hops than I had thought.

She also enjoyed chewing strings. She chewed the strings on the shorts I’m currently wearing and once chewed through a bra strap. As recently as last month, I had to shoo her away from my pile of workout clothes. I think she was also drawn to the smell of sweat.

Unlike the rest of the cat army, Alice also enjoyed human food and would climb into the trash can and scavenge for scraps. I eventually tired of keeping the can behind closed doors and replaced it with a taller, lidded trash can. On the day of its arrival, she scurried to where the trash can sat, only to find the fancy new version. She turned and gave me a look that was tinged with sadness and disappointment.

Alice began her mornings by meowing until I emerged from the bedroom. After I’d break my fast with some hearty oatmeal, I’d put the bowl in the floor and she’d clean it for me. The last video I made of her showed her licking mashed potatoes from my dinner plate. (If you think this is gross, then perhaps you should BYOB – bring your own bowl – if you come for a meal.)

She also enjoyed cuddling with me before bedtime – and sometimes during the day — and lounging under the Christmas tree. Indeed, it seemed like I no more draped the skirt around the tree before she had settled underneath it.

Alice was afraid of thunder storms, but not of heavy winds, and acted shy around most humans. On occasion, her eyes made her look evil, but she was the sanest member of my cat army and rarely caused me concern. Well, there was the day she sneaked out of the door to the garage and then through the open garage door. That was during Memorial Day weekend 2016. She died during Memorial Day weekend 2020. I’m so grateful a neighbor helped me find her four years ago – she was hiding under a house – and that I was able to enjoy hundreds more breakfasts and thousands more cuddles with her.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Common ground — June 3, 2020

Common ground

As I finished a recent work day, I noticed that something in the back yard had captured the attention of Cady, the leader of my cat army. With wide eyes, she paced at the French door, moving her head to follow the action. From the way she was acting, I knew that whatever had captured her attention had to be more exciting than a bird or a bug.

So, I joined her at the door, hoping I wouldn’t spy a snake.

I didn’t.

96772544_188395462296916_5362753069807304704_nBut I did find a small critter sitting on the back step like it had a clear deed for the property. I grabbed my phone and took photos and shot videos of the critter, which was nibbling on the remnants of a raspberry. (Don’t ask.) I then shared the evidence with others and asked them to identify the critter’s species.

My sisters and niece agreed that the critter was a ground squirrel, which made sense to me because whilst I recorded it enjoying its supper, I had said to myself, “Self, it looks like a miniature red-ish squirrel.”

Besides, I also recalled hearing my dad refer to scurrying critters as ground squirrels. Of course, I had never been up close and personal with those critters.

Anyway, I posted the video to Facebook, where it proved to be one of my most popular posts of all time. However, several of the dozens of commenters called the cute little critter a chipmunk.

Huh. A quick search indicated that those little critters I had spied scurrying over lawns my entire life had not, in fact, been ground squirrels. That means that, unbeknownst to me, I had been in the presence of chipmunks for my aforementioned entire life.

Even as a wee lass, I was never a big fan of cartoons, but I made exceptions for certain shows including “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” So, I should be forgiven if the cartoon skewed my idea of what real-life chipmunks look like. For the record, I did not think chipmunks wore glasses, walked upright, and/or sang. Well, at least not all of them. But I did figure they were larger in size and had chubbier cheeks that the critter I spied on the on my step.

Regardless, after I studied various photos of chipmunks and ground squirrels, I came to the realization that I’ve probably never seen a ground squirrel scurrying across the lawn or anywhere for that matter.

I have, however, repeatedly seen my resident chipmunk, which continues to demand Cady’s attention. She frequently sprints from window to door to monitor its activities. Of course, I’m not sure if she spied it this morning as it relaxed in the shade like it had a clear deed for the property.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

That smell — April 1, 2020

That smell

A couple weeks ago, I walked into the kitchen and found Cady, the general of my cat army, staring at the stove as if she expected it to move. I’ve spent enough years with the cat army to realize this behavior typically means a vermin intruder has penetrated the perimeter, so I checked the previous points of entry. I didn’t see any evidence of vermin, though. What’s more, the rags I had stuffed inside holes remained there and my makeshift spackling jobs had held. Nonetheless, I moved the food from the pantry and to the oven, the refrigerator and the microwave.

We went on with our lives and, a few evenings later, I heard a scratching noise underneath the bathtub. The next evening, the cat army and I gathered around the wall between the bathroom and hallway and listened to what sounded like a rhinoceros crawling up the wall. A few nights later, I heard a ruckus that sounded like a crash of rhinos galloping throughout the house.

I didn’t want to interfere, so I returned to slumber. The next morning, I didn’t see evidence of foul play, so I assumed the cats had spent the night engaged in paw-to-paw combat with one another.

That brings us to last weekend. Whilst cleaning, I moved a box so that I could sweep. That’s when I spotted vermin droppings. They were few in number and concentrated in a small area near a corner.

I was perplexed.

I asked myself, “Self, why did the vermin only poo here? And how did it get in?” I returned to previous points of entry, but once again found nothing. But this time I also checked the cabinet above the stove, where I found a few droppings. That made sense because the cabinet was in the general location of the smell…

Oh, wait, I had forgotten to mention the smell that had been offending my nostrils for three or four days. I assumed it was coming from a rhino that had somehow lost its life in the wall behind the stove.

As I had no plans to tear down the wall, I also assumed I would have to live with the smell, which at times took my breath away. And not in a good way. Regardless, I went on with my life, cleaning the cabinet above the stove and stuffing old rags and spackle into holes.

After I cleaned my mess, I attempted to return the stove to his usual locale, but I quickly stopped, backed away from the stove and gasped. The smell overwhelmed me. Apparently, the offensive odor was coming from inside the stove. Specifically, from the top right corner of the back of the stove.

Whatever had died in there wasn’t going to get itself out, so I borrowed a tool from my neighbor and removed the stove’s back panel. When I saw a dead mouse staring at me, I backed away from the stove and gasped.

For moral support, I called to Cady, who quickly joined me in the kitchen. But she gave me a look that suggested she felt the cat army had done their job and now it was my turn.

So, I used napkins and a tool to dislodge the mouse. That’s when I noticed the trail of dried blood. I’ve watched dern-near every episode of “CSI,” so I reconstructed the scene. Apparently, the cat army had corned the mouse, which accounted for the droppings, and then chased it to its death, perhaps even fatally wounding it, on the night of the ruckus.

Either way, the cat army had done their job. So I showered them with praise and treats, and then we held a private service for the mouse.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Problem (re)solved — January 10, 2019

Problem (re)solved

I don’t make resolutions. Indeed, I view resolutions the same way Master Yoda viewed trying. In other words, I believe there’s no need to resolve to do something. You either do it or you do not.

There are plenty of things, however, that I should either start doing or do better. For example, take dusting. I abhor dusting. People don’t believe me when I tell them that I dust only a few times a year. But it’s true.

It’s also true that I’ll do dern-near anything to avoid dusting. Just today, I cleaned the bathroom – including the toilet – to delay dusting. Then, whilst in the midst of dusting, I so tired of the chore that I decided to clean out my cupboard.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Self, doesn’t her cat army leave the house a tad dusty? How can she live like that?”

You can tell yourself that the answer to the first question is yes. As for the second question, I can get by, more or less, with running a rag over the furniture instead of applying polish.

That’s not so easy to do in the cats’ room, however, because of the kitty litter. Specifically, that is, because of the kitty litter dust that settles on everything in the cats’ room.

Of course, there’s not a lot in that room. After all, they’re cats. They don’t require much furniture. But what is in there usually boasts a layer of white dust so thick that the cats could make snow angels in it.

Now, I guess I could resolve to dust more often. But I’m not in the habit of intentionally lying. And that’s what I would be doing because I know myself well enough to know that dusting more often is not something that awaits me in 2019.

So, does that mean I plan to let the cat army continue residing in a cloudy room?

Nope.

I had the brilliant idea to drape old sheets over the furniture. That’s right. The cats’ room currently looks like they’ve shut it down for the season whilst they’re vacationing at the shore.

Anyway, when an adequate amount of dust settles onto the sheets, I’ll throw them into the washer. Problem solved.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Cuddle up — November 27, 2018

Cuddle up

It seems like every day we’re inundated with anti-feline propaganda. Sometimes this propaganda comes in the form of earth-shattering news alleging that cat poop is dangerous or that cats kill birds. Other times, it’s simply so-called friends and family members alleging that cats aren’t smart and that they can’t be trusted because they’re sneaky.

Lately, it also seems like my social media feed has been filled with folks talking a new kind of expletive about cats. Specifically, they’re alleging cats don’t like to cuddle.

I don’t want to pass judgment, especially on humans and felines I don’t know personally, but there’s no other way to say this. If your cat doesn’t want to cuddle with you, then there’s something wrong with you and/or your cat.

Indeed, I can barely compose this-here post because a snuggle-seeking cat will not leave me alone. At this very moment, she’s buried her head in the crook of my left arm. In case you’re wondering, that makes typing a tad difficult. I shan’t complain, though. After all, she’s so content that you can probably hear her purring.

Besides, I’m lucky that only one cat presently seeks my attention. At any given moment, three cats could be jockeying for position on my person. I’ve learned that I can fool them by hiding my hands. But if they so much as spot me scratching my head, they’ll wrap themselves around my finger.

That’s why I don’t understand humans who complain that their cats won’t cuddle. Sure, I’ll concede that if you try to force a cat to cuddle on human terms, you’ll probably lose a pint of blood and perhaps a couple digits. It’s best to let them make the first move.

Of course, you can take steps to hasten the hugs. For starters, if you lie down, the cats will come scurrying to snuggle beside you. They’ll cuddle so close that you won’t be able to move. In fact, you might lose feeling in every part of your body. Well, every part except for your bladder.

But if you don’t have time for a nap, there’s one simple thing you can do to entice your cat to leap on your lap – pick up something. It doesn’t have to be anything heavy or large. I’ve found that something as small as an emery board or a bottle of nail polish will do the trick. If you’re not into doing your nails, however, focusing your attention on literally anything – a book, a remote control, a phone, a cup, a toothpick, a piece of lint – will instantly make your cat feel like cuddling.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.