No good deed goes unpunished.

My mom used to say this frequently when I was growing up, and I truly believe she’s right. Today’s rant is a case in point.

I have been feeding a whole entourage of stray cats since we moved into our palatial West Philly estate, going on 8 years now. Yes, I am a Crazy Cat Lady. Every neighborhood has one. We come out of our houses each morning bedecked in mis-matched pajamas and scraggly hair, bearing cat food cans and plates, calling “Heeeeerreee, kittttty, kitttty, kitttty.”

When we first moved in, these cats almost immediately began showing up. I often jest that there’s a huge neon light – visible only to animals – above our house blinking *WE FEED.* The equivalent of the depression-era signs hobos used to leave on walls or fences marking the residence of a soft-hearted woman.

7 years ago, we took on three of these strays as full-timers, opening not only our pantry but our home to them as well. We got them neutered, we took on their medical expenses, the whole shabang. We all lived in harmony for a period of time, until these cats began spraying throughout our house and got kicked to the curb. We have – mostly out of stupidity – attempted to take one or more of these cats back into our home over the years. Initially with success, but always, always ending in failure b/c of the spraying. Once a marker. always a marker. So our three cats are all well-fed, but now live outside year-round, lest my husband kill them. There is no scent quite so pungent as cat urine.

Over the years, I’ve taken on stragglers when they show up. A sweet orange-and-white tabby with a pronounced walleye, a polydactyl black & white with a perpetually startled look. These new guys show up irregularly for morning meals, but often feed at the dry food bowl on our porch. All very routine.

The past 2 weeks have brought a new wave of cats to my doorstep. Several of them have homes, as evidenced by their sleek fur and collars, but two of them appear to be true strays. I don’t know where these new guys came from, but they seem to be looking to stay for the long haul. I am never averse to feeding the hungry – people or animals – and so I’ve welcomed these new cats at the trough.

Unfortunately, as luck would have it, these new guys are GUYS. And, as most male strays, they like to mark their turf. And since they have decided our front porch is now THEIRS, they have been spraying with abandon. My younger daughter left her cute Ikea blankey on the porch overnight. Yep, PEE CITY the next day. Bagged & Tossed. Now they have a real thing for our doormat. This morning, I picked up the paper and noticed it was glistening with morning dew. Ah, even in the city, one small taste of country living. Until I discovered it wasn’t morning dew, but _GAG_ CAT SPRAY. UGGGGH. Thankfully it was bagged, so almost none got on the actual newspaper. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my hand. Which, after several vigorous washings, STILL SMELLS.

So w/in the past two weeks our front porch has become the local cat urinal. Several days ago I began feeding the cats in the back yard, where they can do less harm. Today I am removing the cat dishes and placing them back there as well. I have hesitated doing this b/c – in addition to the cats – we also have several large opossums who like nothing better than cat food, and leaving the dishes out back will simply encourage them to dine. But drastic times call for drastic measures.

My husband says we should blast them from the block with the garden hose. My heart says otherwise. What else can we do?? If anyone has any experience with this, I am VERY open to suggestions.

For the Love of Pets.

Here at the palatial West Philly estate, there has been much recent discussion on the subject of PETS. Specifically, whether or not our soon-to-be 8 year old can have a new hamster for her upcoming birthday. As you can see from the photo, her dearly departed Hammie was the cutest cuddliest lil puffball on the face of the planet. HARD TO TOP. But I am game to try. My husband, however, is slightly less inclined. Mostly he doesn’t want to deal with 2 screaming daughters fighting over who gets to hold the new hamster, who gets to play with the new hamster, but never of course the ever-important WHO GETS TO FEED/WATER/AND CLEAN THE CAGE of the new hamster. And yet, he’ll give in. And I’ll clean the cage. Who are we kidding?

As a child I had a LOT of pets, and would regularly take in new ones. Like when my perverted 6th grade teacher had us raise mice, then told us he was going to feed them to his pet snake. The 2 mice I brought home quickly reproduced into 100, and my mommy soon shipped them all off to the Great Pet Store in the Sky (really the pet store down the street, but you know they got fed to the whole department of exotics, so what’s the difference.) BUT I was not thwarted. My parents, the big-hearted mushballs, would inevitably give in to my begging on the condition that I first learn all there was about whatever animal I wanted before bringing it home. I therefore spent many hours glued to HAMSTERS or GERBILS or RABBITS or [insert name]. I must have read every “How To” pet book in our library. I just couldn’t get enough. And Now as a grown-up, I am still the same way. Reading pet books geared towards 9 yr olds and adopting every stray that steps on my path. I’ve even managed to marry a man who works at a vet school, who constantly forwards me emails about Free horses and puppies and MORE. And whether nature or nurture, or more likely both, we have passed this fascination onto our equally animal-obsessed offspring. B/c in this house, we simply live and breathe pets.

When you take an animal into your home, it typically isn’t too long before they make themselves an inextricable part of the family. Even if they are snarly and/or slovenly, as in the case of our former 3rd hand macaw. Somehow these captivating creatures work their way into your heart and they become a part of you. I know there are people out there who hate animals, those sick bastards, but being on the opposite end of extremes, I just cannot imagine my life without them. I spend the bulk of each day with a crazy ass bird perched on my shoulder, I cannot get her off. And yet, I adore her. We talk, and smooch, and preen each other like a couple of loons. We live with a dog so large people refer to him as livestock, and yet I refer to him as my 3rd child. YES, having such close physical presence of shedding, squawking, smelly animals DOES WEAR THIN AT TIMES, but more often than not it simply soothes my soul. A steady loving constant in an otherwise chaotic world.

And just because a pet dies, doesn’t mean they leave you. Not really. My husband plans on taxidermy-ing our dog when he passes. But I don’t really mean THAT, more like As any close friend, the times you’ve shared remain in your heart. If you ever need reminding of this, read Dog Heaven. AND for Heaven’s sake, bring tissues.

This is my old cat Sammy. YES he does looked thrilled, doesn’t he? What a patient soul. He lived to the ripe old age of 18, and up until the end people never could believe just how ancient he was. He was just SO PERKY. Sammy had been a stray with the unfortunate luck of being hit by a car and brought to a local vet for mending. His car accident had left his one lip hanging perpetually open, displaying a whole lotta gum and an enormous protruding fang. People always found his appearance comical at first, but his winning personality won him a legion of adoring fans. One of the funniest stories about Sammy revolves around his relationship with my other cat at the time, Nectar. Although Sammy was a neutered male and Nectar a spayed female, Sammy was always trying unsuccessfully to GET IT ON. YES I told you he was one perky cat. As you can imagine, Nectar was NOT APPRECIATIVE of these untoward advances. They were pals, sure, but enough was enough. Soon I was calling the vet to see what I could do about the weird little situation, growing uglier by the day. Before bringing Sammy in, he advised me to check and make sure Sammy was indeed neutered. This would be accomplished by AND I QUOTE: “Squeezing them.” Yep. I am no fading violet, but the idea of having to give my cat’s empty nutsack a tweeking really didn’t appeal to me. at all.

But ask any pet owner and you will hear a million such bizarro stories, all done strictly for the love of a pet. People do not treat other human beings this good. And it’s a sin. But it’s the truth. Like the recent weeks I spent syringe-feeding our rabbit Prudence. Or the THOUSANDS we spent saving our dog last New Years after we discovered he’d swallowed a golf ball. Which of course we proudly display since it’s worth far more than most of what we own.

My husband and I were talking yesterday – and for the life of me I cannot remember exactly how we got onto this topic – but we started talking about what we would do if we were starving. He said that I would do whatever it took to eat, which I believe to be true to a certain extent. But I told him that in no uncertain terms would I ever kill and eat our dog. Now I know this whole thing must sound odd, in oh so many ways, but it just brings home my point. If I were literally dying from lack of food, there are things I just could not bring myself to do. I could not cannibalize my own family – including my pets. Though I did not give birth to them, I’ve raised them very much like my own children. In the case of our dog, from age 7 weeks to now 7 years. When we he was a tiny puppy, we lived in a 2nd floor apartment. Our older daughter was then only a year old, and while housebreaking I used to have to carry both of them upstairs/downstairs simultaneously, one in each arm. It was truly a PAIN IN THE ASS, but I did it. Why? B/c of love, pure and simple.

when to say enough’s enough.

I often joke that there’s an invisible sign in front of my house blinking “we feed” because even the neighborhood opossums and raccoons visit regularly. And people tease us about how many pets we have – a practical zoo as far as some are concerned – but even we have our limit. I mean, C’MON.


And then this from today’s Inquirer. I started cracking up when I read the line: “Neighbors, possibly from the other hoarding homes, came to yell at the PSPCA agents yesterday.” Damn, if I had a house like that next to me I’d be cheering when they came. Those poor animals. Can you imagine the SMELL???