The Scrub Kitty: Life Lessons from the Alley
The noise was terrible. Male cats screaming, upsetting the dogs, disturbing our sleep. There had been a problem with feral cats and too much kitty ‘bow-chickah-bow-bow’ going on for weeks, and the peace of our normally serene home was being stretched to its limits. It didn’t help that one of our neighbors down the street was known as ‘The Crazy Cat Lady’, and cats seemed to come for miles to eat on her front porch, choosing to then head up the hill to Chez Gainey like it was some sort of red light district.
We tried to chase the cats off when we would see them, letting the dogs herd them back through the fence, but they kept coming back. Don’t get me wrong- I love cats, and we had a very regal tuxedo cat inside at the time. She would have nothing to do with the shady characters outside the safe confines of her cushy home. And I didn’t want these feline miscreants trying to deflower our cat, or to continue marking our screen doors or pushing the boundaries of our sanity with their caterwauling. That was it- time to do battle.
My sweet husband got in his battle fatigues on (aka, old shorts and holy tee shirt), and surveyed the situation. His first line of attack- chicken wire. Yes, I said chicken wire. He decided to encase our fences with chicken wire…and lots of it. Now, my husband is a very intelligent man AND a cat person, but he didn’t realize until the project was done and cats were still leaping over the fences and into our sanctuary that there might be a hole in his plan. The cats just laughed at him- I seriously think they watched him work the whole time, and I could just hear the dialogue, “Hey, get a load of this guy- he thinks he can block us out with THAT crap? Hah.”
In the midst of all the big Tom cats, I began to notice a very petite, young,emaciated-looking gray tabby hanging around, and caught her sleeping in our Doberman’s dog house/cave Dan had built under the deck. I shooed her away several times, but the last time I started to chase her off, she looked so piteously at me. I could just hear her say, “Please. Please give me a break.” I let her be. She looked so tired, so frail.
The next morning was Saturday, the day of Dan’s big gala at the performing arts center that he managed. I started my early morning chores, cleaning the house. When I got to the back room and looked outside, I could see that gray cat in the dog house again…but this time she had company…five kittens. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! I knew Dan was swamped, so I called my friend, Darla. “Darla! You’ve got to come help me- we have kittens!” Now, I don’t know what I expected Darla to do, but she grew up on a farm and knew her way around animals giving birth, so if nothing else, she would be great moral support. The closest I’d ever come to a birthing situation was watching Animal Planet. I was way out of my league.
We went outside and approached the cat and her litter. She just looked at us, looking completely exhausted from her ordeal. There were four solid black and one gray squirming fur balls nestling in to nurse. Wow…I was a grandmother in some sort of weird way…or something. She let us pet her and the kittens, and I put food and water out for her. I didn’t see how she was able to nurse at all, she was so very thin. I called Dan and gave him the news….silence for a moment…and then only, “You’re kidding, right?”
A big storm was coming, and I started to obsess how I could keep the cat and her litter safe, as the dog house was too open to the elements. After trying a lot of things, we decided that we were going to have to put them in my music room and close the door, as our indoor cat hated everyone, including herself at times. I set up the room with blankets, water, food, and a litter box. When I walked in to check on them, I would have five kittens crawling up my legs…it was chaos and in no way a permanent situation. This also upset Rosie, our indoor cat to no end.
We took the tabby and her kittens to the vet, and had the tabby spayed. We kept the kittens until they were weaned, and then found good homes for all five kittens. Whew. One cat left…and I had fallen for her, even named her Kasey at this point. I went up to my incredibly sweet husband, “Honey, can we keep her?” I waited…I knew adding another cat to our family would be a challenge. Dan smiled, “Of course we can, Honey-we already have.”
Kasey has been with us for almost eight years now. After several failed attempts to bring her inside to live, she lives a wonderful life prowling the grounds of Chez Gainey. She has a cushy bed that is protected from the weather, a heating pad when it gets cold, veterinary care, and healthy food and water. She had become buddies with our Doberman, but when we lost him, Kasey figured out how to live peacefully with the storm that is Cooper and Sophie, with only minor disdain.
She is more like a dog than a cat, coming when I whistle for her, and talking voraciously to me when I greet her each morning. She goes with me up to my gym each morning and waits until I’m cooling down (and covered in sweat) before coming to rub all over me, then follows me back to the house. She is a wonderful chill on the deck partner, and has gotten more and more open to being held and loved on over the years. She is our huntress, the jungle queen of Chez Gainey. Our ‘Scrub Kitty’, a gift from the alley.