More Cat Chat

I just returned from another trip to Pennsylvania. This time, since I did not stay in my cousin’s house, as it is now empty (of inanimate objects and CATS!)  Instead, I stayed with some friends of hers, Cathy and Jim. Cathy and Jim have been wonderful in supporting me through this grief and administrative process. I call them my “guardian angels on the ground,” because they have done so much that can only be done actually on site. I can never thank them enough. Having to make a second trip in less than two months, on top of the expenses associated with the cremation and funeral, was more of a financial stretch than was completely comfortable for me. It was a relief not to have to pay for a hotel. Besides, they were great, comforting company.

They also have cats. I went from living in a house with three cats to living in a house with five cats. It was much easier in my new friends’ house than in my cousin’s house, despite the increase in feline population. For one thing, there was more space so the cat per square foot ratio was probably lower. Besides, one of the cats lived solely in the garage. Also, my friends’ house was considerably better maintained to ensure a more equitable balance between human and cat comfort. My cousin’s house was all about the cats. Still, my new found cat allergy raised its furry little head. My sinuses were raging at me and are still not too happy. Despite my level of physical discomfort, I do have to say I enjoyed these cats. I still don’t want a cat, but I better understand the appeal.

The cats are called Abigail Cynthia Louise (Cathy takes naming her cats very seriously), Harmony Grace, Jackson Bean, Jerry, and Joey. They each have their own personality .I did not get to know Joey too well, as he is the one that lives in the garage. I only saw him once during my stay, although I was aware of his presence every time I stepped out into the garage to go to the refrigerator. I will let you guess which of my senses revealed his existence to me. I’ll just say he is a litter box free spirit.

I saw Jerry frequently. It would have been hard not to see him, as he takes up a fair amount of real estate wherever he is. He is solidly built, plus covered in long hair which increases his bulk. I have never seen a completely black cat as fluffy as Jerry. Cathy and Jim call him Jer-Bear, which is fitting. I am sure there are black bear cubs not quite as large as he is. Jerry is a hand-me-down cat from Cathy and Jim’s daughter. I cannot say a word. I did the same thing to my parents. I kept a cat named Macavity for over a year in my first apartment. The problem was that the apartment complex did not permit pets. When I got  busted, Macavity went to live with my parents and their two basset hounds in a 27-foot travel trailer. Macavity was not best pleased. In fact, he pretty much lived on my mother’s bed. The basset hounds were either too short or too stupid to get to him there, Maybe both. So I get how Cathy and Jim became Jerry’s foster parents, despite already being beset with many cats of their own. Jerry is a catish cat. He tolerated me and would even deign to allow me to pet him, but he wasn’t making any overtures on his own.

I only saw Abigail Cynthia Louise once or twice. She lives in Cathy and Jim’s bedroom, as she is not really able to fend for herself or hold her own with the other cats.  Poor Abby is a geriatric cat, which kind of makes her my soul mate in an uncomfortable sort of way. She is visibly more worn and ricketier than the other cats. The vet says that Abby suffers from feline senility. She has an active internal world, to which she reacts randomly, frequently, and loudly. There is very little that is as unsettling as Abby’s strange, pitiful yowling when she cries out in reaction to something we cannot see or hear. It is kind of heartbreaking. I guess it can also be sleep depriving. I did not hear her at night, but Cathy says she will often begin to cry for no apparent reason in the wee hours. It is a sound that cannot be ignored; it demands response. It can also be disturbing when it happens during the day. Jim works from home. He works from the bedroom. His coworkers know Abby’s voice. It is a good thing Abby has people who love her and take care of her so well. I hope, in my uncomfortable soul mate sort of way, that I have someone who takes such good care of me when I reach Abby’s stage of life.

Harmony Grace and I got along just fine, since I am over the age of reason. Apparently, Harmony is not a fan of children and gets a kick out of terrorizing Cathy and Jim’s grandkids. This is clearly a problem, since there are a number of young grandchildren frequenting the home. “Harmony Grace” is a bit of a misnomer in that sense. Her relationship with children is neither harmonious nor graceful. She is a sweet-looking, petite, perfectly formed,  beautiful cat. Looks, as well as names, can be deceiving. However, as I said, since I am well past the childhood phase, Harmony Grace was fine with me. She was sociable and curious enough to investigate me when I arrived. Later, while she did not rush to my side, she was more than happy to permit me to sit beside her and pet her when I plopped myself onto her sofa to watch television.

Yes, I could see the appeal of all these cats. However, it was Jackson Bean who won the feline space in my heart. Jack was a dogish kind of cat. He immediately fell in love with me with the devotion of a Labrador retriever. He ran to the front door to greet me whenever I arrived at the house. He faithfully followed me around from room to room.  He sidled up to me any time I was in the house, aggressively butting his head under my hand to insist that I pet him. He jumped onto a dining chair next to me each morning to watch companionably while I ate breakfast. He enjoyed lying beside me on the couch while I stroked him. The last night I was there, I sat on the sofa rubbing his neck and shoulders. After leaning into the massage for a while, he twisted his body over and inched his way closer to me, exposing his underside. I have never met a cat who enjoyed a belly rub, so I did not take his maneuver as an invitation. However, Jackson then butted my hand with his head and pushed my fingers towards his chest with a soft furry paw. I began rubbing him around the neck and chest area. The animal went into a pleasure coma. He went completely limp except for his two front legs, which were jutting off the edge of the sofa. As he continued to enjoy the experience, those two legs tightened until they were so rigid, they did not even look like they were part of the same cat body. He curled his paws into a hook-like shape. Those two appendages looked like furry crochet needles. I went to bed thinking that Jackson was a very weird, but very satisfying feline. The experience even made me wonder if I should try for a second career as a lion tamer.

I really do not know why I just wrote 1300 words about cats.  Maybe I am becoming a cat lady. Or… in the midst of all the chaos, conflict, and grief that accompanied my two trips to Pennsylvania, maybe it just feels safer to talk about cats than anything else.

So, what do you think? Am I becoming a cat lady? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at


Terri/Dorry 😊

Jack looking up at me adoringly
Jack watching me eat breakfast

Cat-astrophe Averted!

I mentioned that I recently had to take an unplanned, emergency trip to Pennsylvania. I am getting ready to return to the Keystone State in a few days. I did not speak to the reason for these trips. In April, I planned a trip to visit my cousin Ann in Pennsylvania this month. Unfortunately, I received a call at the end of May that Ann experienced several critical medical events, so I booked a flight and headed north. She passed away on June 1. I spent ten days in Pennsylvania saying good-bye, collaborating with medical staff and her local friends to enable her to pass peacefully into God’s kingdom, planning for her cremation and funeral, and starting the process of managing her home and finances. I am the executrix of the will.

Ann was a very special cousin to me. I was born when she was eight or nine years old, and we lived in the same small town until I was five. I was Ann’s live baby doll throughout my toddler years. Even when my family moved across the country, we stayed closely connected to Ann and her family. Her mother was my mother’s only sibling. There were visits back and forth and regular, consistent communication. Even as adults, Ann and I were tied together in a special way. We were very different, and we were both keenly aware of those differences, but we respected and admired a lot about each other. The bottom line is that we understood and empathized with each other, even if we did not always agree with each other’s choices. Also, she was my last connection to my mother’s family.

Although we were close and did communicate, I had not seen Ann in six years or so. Her health made it difficult for her to travel. I planned the trip to Pennsylvania because I felt it had been way too long since we had seen each other. Her health and emotional state were rocky. She was declining significantly. She said something when I called to suggest I visit which probably echoed a sad, lonely thought swimming around in my mind that I didn’t want to catch. She said that it would be very nice to see me because she would really like to see at least one of her cousins before she died. Her parents and her brother were dead. My parents and brother have passed. I know she has cousins on her father’s side, but I don’t know them, and I don’t know what relationships she had with them. In short, except for friends and me, I think she was pretty much alone.

There is a lot more I could say about Ann, the family history, our relationship, her end-of-life journey, the challenges I faced in Pennsylvania, and any number of lessons I learned because of this experience. I am not going to say much, though. First, it feels wrong to tell Ann’s story because she was very private and internal. Nobody, including me, truly knows that story. Mostly, though, I do not feel rooted and stable enough in my feelings to share them. Also, I do not think my writing skills are adequate to explain the complicated nature of the situation, personalities, and challenges tied up in this ordinary disaster. Honestly, I am not sure William Shakespeare’s writing skills would be adequate to explain this set of circumstances.

There is one aspect of this experience that I do feel comfortable sharing. The cat-astrophe.

Ann was a super independent person, even when her health declined to the point that she needed help to manage her activities of daily living. As I mentioned, she was rather alone in the world. In some ways, she preferred being alone in the world. She lived on her own. She made her own choices. She kept her internal world private.

On the other hand, she was not quite alone. At various points in the past seven years, she adopted three cats. Although I am relatively certain the cats are not on the deed to the house, they did own the house. It was a lot of cat for a one thousand square foot house. There was no room, piece of furniture, or surface that Ann had not adapted to accommodate the cats’ every whim. They were her heart.

The cats’ names are Ginger, Princess, and Velcro… because, well, they are. Ginger is the color of gingerbread made with light molasses. Princess is one and behaves like one. Velcro never lets you get further away than she can touch with one soft, furry outstretched paw when you are in the house. They are good kitties… sweet and affectionate. Unfortunately, the world has a surplus of good, sweet, affectionate kitties. Finding new homes for these lonely, traumatized cats was never an easy task.

I am more of a dog person than a cat person, but I have nothing against cats. In fact, I like them. However, I had no interest in transporting three cats from Pennsylvania to Florida. Also, I never suspected I was allergic to cats, but, after living with three of them for ten days, it was clear that my respiratory system does not take kindly to felines. Besides, I am sure Max would have apoplexy if I had come home with cats. He worries about a dog scratching up the television set. I dismiss this concern, but I have to say I would bet money that the television would not last a single day with three cats climbing all over the place.

Still, these are sweet cats. My gut collapsed at the idea of taking them to a shelter. As Ann’s cousin, I could not imagine a scenario in which I did not provide a good home for “the girls.” Several of Ann’s friends, all of whom had multiple animals of their own, were searching for new homes. More than once, we thought the cats were settled, only to be disappointed. Finally, a friend of Ann’s found a home for Ginger. We tried to entice her new Dad to take at least one more, but he stayed firm. That left Princess and Velcro cowering in the corners of the ever-emptying house. Eventually, all that was left in the house was the cats, two cat towers twice my size, a couple of cat beds, and the table and chairs that constituted the “cat buffet” where Princess and Velcro noshed all day. More than a month after Ann died, one of Ann’s friends who has been my “on the ground guardian angel” and I decided that it was time to make a decision. We had both been looking into cat rescue organizations and the friend found one that would take the two remaining cats. It was a solution that was leaving both of us in tears, but I also knew something had to give. The cats were becoming increasingly stressed as their home dismantled before their eyes. I was becoming increasingly stressed because I had no idea what to do or when to do it, since the house needs to be sold. My guardian angel was ready to bring the cats to the rescue on 7/3.

The night before, said guardian angel got a call. She needed to be at Ann’s house in ten minutes because the friend who had been feeding the cats had found someone who wanted to meet them with the intent of adopting them. Guardian angel gave her wings a shake and VAROOMED over to meet the potential new cat parents. The couple spent about an hour with the kitties and the guardian angel, and everyone was happy for the cats to go to a new, loving home. They all agreed that the couple would go home and arrange the house to accommodate their new furbabies and would come back the next afternoon to get the girls.

I heard about this the next day. I was excited, but not too excited. I had heard the “we have a home for the cats” story before and did not want my hopes dashed once more. Blessedly, however, the couple came for the cats, the cat trees, and all the cat-related accoutrements as scheduled. Princess and Velcro are now living happily in a home as part of a herd of cats. Not my idea of a good time, but apparently it is theirs. And my idea of a good time ABSOLUTELY includes the happiness of all three cats.

God is good. The cat-astrophe was averted!

Do you have pets? What are your biggest concerns about them? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a purr-fect day!

Terri/Dorry 😊