Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cathouse Out Back

Over a year ago we inherited some feral cats, who were hanging around our place. My wife, Sally, contacted No More Homeless Pets, who put us onto a plan to trap the cats, and have them neutered by a veterinarian at the low price of $10 each. The catch is that after the neutering we then had some cats we were caretaking; not really as pets, just as guests.

Sally and I built a shelter for the two black feral boys we called Black and Decker. We took two Sterilite storage containers, one smaller than the other, cut a hole in the end of both of them, insulated the spaces between the smaller and larger containers with newspapers and styrofoam, and put a pad inside our little cathouse.

They both used the house, came by our back porch twice a day to be fed, until just before Christmas when the larger of the two cats was killed by a car. I renamed the smaller cat Little Brother, and he was by himself for quite a time.

Since then he's acquired a couple of buddies. One may be his mother, who we saw when he and his brother were kittens, and the other may be a stepbrother we have named Whitepaws. They all show up in the morning and evening for their meals.

Sally and I went under the porch in the backyard on Sunday to clean out the cathouse, and found it to be in really good condition. The outside was dirty from the weather, but the inside was nice and cozy.

Because of the nice weather, Little Brother (the black cat), and Whitepaws (the Siamese cross) have been sleeping on a padded wicker chair on my back porch. I got this picture the other night while they were bumming around, waiting to get fed. Sometimes Sally slips them a treat after dinner. She's pretty softhearted when it comes to animals and grandbabies, spoiling both of them.

You can see if you look closely that both cats have the tips of their right ears cut off. The veterinarian does that so if the cats are ever trapped again and taken to the vet they'll know they've already had the sterilizing procedure. We had Little Brother neutered, but have no idea who trapped Whitepaws and had him fixed.

Despite the fact that these cats are still very skittish and won't come to us, they are very endearing. Whitepaws likes to run around the kitchen if we leave the sliding glass door open while we're fixing his dinner. There may come a time when Whitepaws can be tamed, if only slightly.

My last pet cat died in January, 2000 and it was a heartbreaking thing to watch her die. I said I'd never have another pet. My wife pet sits other people's dogs and cats, and there are things about pet owning I don't miss--like cleaning up a litter box, for instance--but I miss the animals themselves.

A friend told me I'll get "brownie points in heaven" for taking care of these ferals, but that's not my motive. There's just a lot of suffering in the world. Maybe it's my way of alleviating an infinitesimal part of that. Or trying to build up a little good karma.


As a school district employee who visits 29 schools a day, including five high schools, I find stories like the Bailey, Colorado tragedy hitting close to home. I'm sure our administration and school district police department do too.

The fact is you don't know who is walking into a school. They are public places. The doors are open. I have seen parents who are much stranger looking than the guy who held the girls hostage in Bailey. Nowadays people can look as slobby as they want and you don't know if they are parents or some transients walking in off the street. It can be in any part of town, affluent or low income.

I've often wondered what I'd do if I ran into a situation where someone was shooting in a school. I just don't know. I hope it never happens in any of our schools, but we have had lockdowns when suspicious characters are in the buildings, until they can be located and ejected. Our police take away several weapons a day from the kids, but so far they've had no indications of any Columbine-type plots.

On the one hand you have to make schools accessible, but on the other hand you are sometimes letting in people you definitely wouldn't want anywhere near your children. The scary thing is that sometimes those undesirable-looking folks could be the parents of your child's classmate.

Ciao for now, El Postino

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