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.