Last night I set the alarm for 5 a.m. before turning off the light. Today was my first day taking care of cats at the local animal shelter. There were openings of a volunteer nature for either dog walkers or cat tenders, and after seeing me I was told the dogs would probably more likely be walking me, so cats it was. Fine. I love cats, or at least have great respect for their independent nature and total unwillingness to do anything but what they please twenty-three out of twenty-four hours of the day.
At the shelter I was surprised at the sheer volume of animals in attendance at kitty jail, if you will. Why I was surprised I have no explanation for. If equipped with original parts, with little coaxing it is not an unusual occurrence for cats to go about creating more of their own kind. I know this because I often hear them doing exactly that in the middle of the night when I ‘m trying to sleep. Two things I knew right away, I must not look any of these sweet animals directly in the eyes lest I get caught in their spell, and I would need a clothes pin for my nose. Definitely, I would need a clothes pin for my nose. Whew. One cat litter box is no walk in the park but thirty or forty are an out-and-out assault on the nostrils!
I’ve had so many felines over my lifetime. Many were strays who simply wandered in and lined up unnoticed with the rest of the crowd for a free meal and stayed. Some, like Miss Boo the Queen of Cats, were “rescues” claimed at the S.P.C.A., others I actually purchased, and many wheedled their way in the front door as kittens via my children. Whether they adopt you or you adopt them, they are definitely a commitment, and no matter what the sign reads never, ever, free. How many times while my kids were growing up I heard the words, “Please, Mommy, pleeeease, can we have a kitten! They’re free.” These pleas are soon followed by the sound of wool being pulled over your ears. “Mommmeeeee, I’ll feed her, and clean up after her. I’ll use my allowance to pay her vet bills.” Right. New mothers cover your ears, hum the national anthem, or blare the horn until they stop. None of this is ever going to happen. If these promises last past the first day after they bring the animal home, you have a win. You need to trust me on this. In three weeks without your intervention, the cat will be standing on a mound of soiled litter reaching just short in height of where they planted the first flag on Everest. When the cat is ill, and it will be, you will be the one sitting in a crowded lobby in what is labeled “cat section” waiting for “Whiskers” name to be called. If you are unlucky enough to have medication prescribed for the minimum $100 visit, it will be your fingers bleeding profusely after every dose because Whiskers didn’t sign on for that program and thinks you should take the pills and insert them somewhere and lets you know it. Pit Bulls have less jaw strength BTW, then a stubborn cat when you’re trying to pry its mouth open. I’m just sayin’.
Before Mouse, now in her new home, and Miss Boo currently in residence, their was Maggie Mae. Found on a job site where my husband was working at the time, Maggie traveled to our home via an Igloo cooler. No background information was provided regarding her pedigree or previous life beyond, “here, I found you a cat”. “Um, thank you?” Terrified and 85% feral, Maggie’s first days with us were spent in the back of the spare room closet hovering behind a laundry basket. Food disappeared if placed on the floor of the closet and like a good guest she politely made use of the litter box provided for her.
Each day I would lie on the floor when I came home from work and coax her closer with a morsel of kibble or an irresistible bite of tuna. Not fully convinced she wished to know more about me, each day the gap grew a bit smaller than the one before. After all, I did come with goodies which made me not totally undesirable.
Plans were to take her to our vet to have her checked out. Not knowing what shots she’d had, better to err on the side of caution and begin at the beginning, so to speak. Were I a betting person, I would have placed my dollar on the tile reading “never been fixed”, but it would take a more practiced eye to make that call. An appointment was made for a visit the following week. During that time she slowly emerged. Other than wedging her head in the ceiling at the least noise, she began to take her meals in the kitchen with the rest of the help and a detente was achieved.
My house then, as the one now coincidentally, had the feel of living in a tree house. In the beginning of the house’s history it had been the main dwelling for a local olive farmer and his extended family. The main house was broken into three sections, ours being the largest. Below us was the carriage house, also rented to two brothers in a jazz band, and a newlywed couple occupied what was originally the bunk house across the drive. Out front was a small two room building used in the rancher’s day as a general store. Small kitchen and bathroom added, it became home to a very elderly man who made his own wine and his equally long in the tooth bloodhound, Raz, who had a taste for the stuff and could often be found sleeping it off under the porch. All in all it was a house full of character, filled with characters, I would suppose.
Windows must have been on sale the day they designed the house, because there were plenty of them. Our kitchen, a sunny and welcoming room often used for entertaining was where Maggie made her home. Two huge windows were in one corner and the ledge was her place of choice for an afternoon sun. The day before her vet visit, I came in to find a hole in the window, no cat, and a number of flies circling the kitchen. She’d gone over the fence. For days I searched for her, leaving food outside, only to feed the raccoons and possums, and nothing. Then, after giving up hope of seeing her furry self again, she showed up as quickly as she’d left and brought company for dinner. A huge tabby cat, male naturally, with a very self-satisfied look on his face I must say.
Not long afterward we welcomed five kittens, and immediately afterward had Maggie fixed. Children arrived with their parents around adoption time, leaving with their little bundles after assurances from me that it teaches character and responsibility to have a pet, and I was sure they’d clean up after them and take care of them. I’m sorry, desperate times call for desperate measures.
Soooooooooo, I shall endeavor to avoid eye contact and not find myself writing a blog about a new acquisition. Porsche had her eye on me, a beautiful gray long hair with sweeping eyelashes, but I resisted. So far.
These were the best potatoes ever! Should work for four people but we ate enough for three between the two of us. Yum.
Red Potato and Brussel Sprout Bake
4 red potatoes
1 lb. Brussel sprouts
1 Tbsp. plus 1 Tbsp. butter
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, large chop
1/2 green pepper, sliced 1″ and cut in chunks
5 large mushrooms, sliced 1/2″ thick
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 Tbsp. Montreal Seasoning for Chicken
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Cut red potatoes into quarters and then in half again. Place the potatoes and Brussel sprouts in saucepan and cover with lightly salted water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low bowl and cook for 8-10 mins. or under veggies are fork tender but not fully cooked. Drain. When cool enough, cut Brussel sprouts in half.
Cut each Tbsp. of butter in fourths. Spray bottom of 13 x 9 casserole dish with cooking spray. Distribute butter pieces evenly over bottom of pan. Place all vegetables on top of butter. Sprinkle with Montreal Seasoning for Chicken, pepper and garlic salt. Sprinkle with olive oil. Turn vegetables to coat. You want veggies to be coated but not saturated.
Cook for 35-40 mins. turning regularly to brown. Add salt before serving if desired.