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  • Cat Challenged

    January 29, 2011

    Many many moons ago, when our first set of next door neighbors lived next door (we are now on neighbors #3 which may or may not have something to do with us) they asked me if I would feed their cats while they were in Hawaii.

    I said yes because it’s not in my nature to turn down a request for help.  And I thought they meant “feed” the cats.  How hard can it be to walk next door and pour some food in a bowl?  But since I had not owned a cat since I was three, I didn’t understand the full implications — feed the cat is code for change the litter box.

    So a day before they were to leave for Hawaii, they called me over for my cat-feeding training.  When she took me to the guest bath off the kitchen, I started to get the idea that maybe this could involve something more than pouring food into a bowl.

    “This!” she said waving her hand Vanna-style towards a plastic washtub on the floor, “This is the litter box!” Then she proceeded to instruct me in the fine art of poop scooping.

    Although this was not what I thought I had signed up for, I couldn’t exactly back out. I had been duped like a trusting two-year-old.

    So about a day after they left, I went over to “feed” the cats.  They (the cats) ran out to greet me.  They were happy to see me and mewed and purred and affectionately rubbed up against me and serpentined between my legs as I tried to walk.  The litter box was not too terribly atrocious in my estimation, so I held my nose and scooped poo, poured some food in their bowl, patted them on their little kitty heads and went on my merry way.  This wasn’t going to be so bad, and bonus – I’ll get a star in my crown.

    About a day after that I went back for my second visit.  This time the cats did not come out to greet me but rather cowered in dark corners and hissed at me as I walked past.  I went to the guest bath for the scooping portion of the visit and good glory, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  They had dumped over the litter box, shredded the rug and shower curtain, pee’d all over everything and had apparently made a clumsy attempt at using the toilet paper.  These were some mad cats.  Vindictive too.  Some words immediately sprung to mind, all of them four-letter.  So much for that star in my crown.

    I cleaned it up as best I could and took the shower curtain and rug home to wash.  Here’s a tip. If a cat pee’s on something?  Throw it away.  Three washings later and the rug and curtain still smelled like the garbage dump from hell.

    For the remainder of my active duty, I ran in and scooped and fed as fast as I could and then ran out before they shredded me.  I was afraid. Very afraid.  They were plotting against me, I could feel it in my bones.

    That was about 10 years ago, and memories fade, so when my friend Jennifer asked me to feed her cat while her family went skiing over Christmas, I of course said yes. How hard can it be to feed a cat?

    When she called me over to give me feeding instructions and walked me to the laundry room, I had a flashback.

    “This!” she said waving her hand Vanna-style, “This is the litter box!”  This was no ordinary litter box. This was the Rolls Royce of litter boxes.  It cleaned itself automatically and had moving parts and sensors.  It was nicer than my car.  And it was idiot proof, or at least it was until I came along.  She said I shouldn’t need to do anything because the box does it all automatically, but if does need to be changed, do this and this and this and put in a tray and then do this.  And at that point, I sort of blanked out in the same way I do when someone starts talking about percentages and fractions and information that I don’t think I need.

    So about a day later I went over to feed the cat.  The cat ran out to greet me, mewed, purred and walked between my legs.

    On the second visit, the cat hid in a corner and hissed at me as I walked past.  And the Rolls Royce litter box seemed to be on the blink.  So I scooped and said four-letter words in my head and got out of there as fast as I could.

    On the third visit, I noticed that when I went in that the door from the house to the garage was open.  No worries, I figured that it popped open when I opened the garage door as sometimes happens at our house.

    So I go in and call for the cat, scoop and feed. The cat makes no appearance, but I figure she hates my guts and can’t stand the sight of me. And Jennifer said that she sometimes hides, so I left it at that and went home.

    About two hours later, this horrifying thought occurs to me:  What if the door to the garage popped open when I left on the second visit and the cat was not hiding in the house but was in the garage when I arrived?  Since I left the garage door OPEN when I was calling/feeding/scooping, perhaps the cat availed herself of the opportunity to escape the hell that is having me feed her and scoop her poop.

    And that horrifying thought was followed by this even more horrifying thought:  I don’t really know what Jennifer’s cat looks like.  Being able to identify Jennifer’s cat was one of those things that fell into the category of “stuff I don’t really need to know”.

    And then even more horrifying thoughts followed:  How am I going to find a cat that I can’t identify? What if I find a cat slinking around Jennifer’s house and I force it inside and it’s not even her cat?   And then she comes home to a new cat?

    So I go back over to Jennifer’s house to find the cat.  She has most of the doors closed off, so if it is there, it can only be in a few places.  I call and call and call for the cat. I search and search and search every possible place for the cat.  But NO CAT.  So I went home distraught over the fact that my friendship with Jennifer has ended.

    As I sat at my desk, trying to order the horrifying thoughts and figure out how I am going to tell Jennifer that I lost her cat, I get an email from her saying how her girls were crying because they really miss the cat.  I had a problem.  A big problem.  And so I did what I always do when I have a problem, I turn to the ultimate problem solver – AD.

    AD takes command and control of the situation and launches Operation Find The Cat.  He orders Sean and me to go with him back to Jennifer’s house for a search and rescue.  First we do a reconnaissance of the property, even though we have no idea what the cat looks like.  Our plan is to capture all the cats we can find and then we’ll line them all up and figure out which one is most likely to be Jennifer’s cat.  No cats were found on or near the exterior of the property, so we then systematically search the garage and the inside of the house.

    Finally, after 30 minutes of calling and searching, hand-wringing and brow-beating, Sean finds the stupid cat hiding behind the curtains in the guest room.  The cat smirks at me and hisses.  I stick my tongue out at the cat and we leave. I breathe a sigh of relief.  My friendship with Jennifer has been saved.  At least until she reads this.

    So while I am perfectly capable of watching your kid while you are gone, please do not ask me to “feed your cat.”

    30 Comments »

    1. amy johnson says:

      LOVED this!!!!!

      January 29th, 2011 at 6:24 am

    2. Donna W says:

      Thanks for the morning laugh!

      January 29th, 2011 at 6:34 am

    3. Dixie Redmond says:

      So funny!

      Yes, there are so many code ways to ask someone to do something. One of my past experiences is being asked to “make posters” for the church campership program. I said yes, because at the time I liked making posters. What I didn’t know was that “make posters” was code for:

      Be a liason between the summer camp and possible campers by helping them to fill out their campership forms, determining whether there was someone who would like to go to camp but couldn’t afford it, then submitting their name to the church board, collect the money from camper for said camp along with application, and then hold the hand of said camper until they were deposited at said camp.

      * * *
      I guess that soured you on poster-making? A similar thing happened to me when I was asked to “help the kindergarten class decorate gingerbread houses”. That was code for make a gallon of royal icing, construct 15 graham cracker houses, buy all the candy decorations, haul it all up to the school and then spend half a day helping 5-year-olds glue on the candy while ensuring they don’t eat too much of the candy or get any icing on their Christmas party clothes.

      January 29th, 2011 at 6:47 am

    4. Ginger says:

      I love it. I am cat challanged too. As in, I don’t like them. 🙂

      January 29th, 2011 at 9:02 am

    5. Lynn says:

      I was asked to feed the cats this summer. Turned out OK except for the one who got out and was MIA for a few days. I still don’t know how many I was feeding. Most of them went into hiding.

      No stars in my crown, but I did get a hoodie from Cape Cod as a thank you and a casual acquaintance from church is now a good friend.

      January 29th, 2011 at 10:14 am

    6. smartycakes says:

      Hissss-terical Antique Mommy! I couldn’t stop myself.

      * * *
      Puurrrr-fect! I couldn’t stop myself. 🙂

      January 29th, 2011 at 10:25 am

    7. Quirky is a Compliment says:

      Hmmmm. Normally I’m on the other side of this coin- the one with the cats, asking for a favor. Of course, we have 5 cats (one who needs an oral medication twice a day), 5 food bowls and 5 litter boxes, so I’ll admit that it can be a little…extreme for your average cat sitter. That’s why we have professional zoo keepers watch our fur monsters while we’re away. We’ve discovered that if someone spends their day scooping 250 lbs of tiger poop, then 5 little litter boxes is a walk in the park.

      January 29th, 2011 at 11:04 am

    8. Kay says:

      I have a friend with THREE cats. So when I ask her to come over and “feed the cat”, she knows exactly what I’m talking about. Because she also knows it means a nice yummy gift card to Chick-fil-a as payment for whatever trauma she might have to endure while “feeding” my cat. And being the smart women she is, she sends her husband and daughter come over to do the dirty work. And later, she enjoys a nice lunch! 🙂

      January 29th, 2011 at 11:24 am

    9. Jenna says:

      I am anti-cat (and allergic) … and was also hoodwinked into cat-feeding by my sweet neighbors! In my findings, dealing with the “wet” cat food is almost as traumatic as cleaning the litter box. And that’s saying something!

      January 29th, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    10. Antique Mommy says:

      I like cats, they just don’t seem to like me. One time, back in the ’80s, I accepted a cat-sitting assignment from a good friend. My dad was in town so we drove over to house and when we walked in, we thought maybe we should call the police because the place look like it had been vandalized. Lamps were knocked over, all the toilet paper was unrolled strew about, cushions were turned over. Apparently they were not happy cats.

      January 29th, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    11. marathonmom says:

      Hilarious!

      Yes, cat pee should be on the government list of biohazards.

      January 29th, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    12. k&c's mom says:

      OK: We have friends who had a custom tunnel for cats built into their custom home. The cat was supposed to walk to the laundry room, through the tunnel, and into the garage to use the litter box. HA HA HA. I am still slightly hysterical at the thought of all the places that cat could “go” that did not include the litter box in the garage. I’m sure and his cat friends have long laughs over the litter box tunnel.

      January 29th, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    13. Su says:

      I agree… kids are easier than cats. 😉

      January 29th, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    14. lorna says:

      As A CAT PERSON I really have to reply, I LOVE cats and they love me. You have all been so kind to help our little furry friends, they are so traumatised by being left alone, with out company and no sounds for days just imagaine what it must be like for the family to go off and leave you and you dont know when/if they will return. A bit like Home Alone, Yes they get up to mischief but they are bored. So a big star to you all for helping to comfort them and keep them safe.

      January 29th, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    15. Skip says:

      Dogs are easier.

      Recently caught dog-sitting duty for our neighbors while they spent 10 days in Hawaii. Four times each day starting at 5:30 am I went next door to let him out. Changed water daily, because he won’t drink day-old water. Last trip was at 9:30 pm.

      Tough part is they left for warm Hawaii the day before the recent week-long cold snap. I had to put on lined gloves and a parka my Dad used to herd cattle in Kansas’ winters. (Still smells like cows.) Upon their return I told them they had to go forward on Sunday and ask for prayers of forgiveness for abandoning us to such frigid weather. They didn’t show any remorse.

      Most interesting part: for the next few days after they returned, I had the uncomfortable feeling that I had forgotten to let the dog out. Talk about conditioning!

      When you interview prospective new neighbors, consider only those with dogs. Better yet, make your neighborhood ananimal-free zone. No dogs = less global warming. Politically correct and a great guilt trip.

      January 30th, 2011 at 5:53 am

    16. france59 says:

      I had a new boss at my old job ask me if I would “feed his cat” when he took trips back to his old home to visit with the family that hadn’t yet moved here. I said, “sure”. No problem…sucking up to the new boss and all. It meant daily trips to his temporary living quarters and I didn’t mind. He did give me a nice gift certificate to a fav restaurant. And then he laid me off. Not from feeding the cat (although it was that, too), but from my job. No good deed goes unpunished.

      January 30th, 2011 at 11:02 am

    17. Iota says:

      This made me laugh. But then I’m not a cat person.

      January 30th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    18. Tater Mama says:

      By nature, I’m not a cat person. Once when I was young, some neighbors asked us to cat-sit, which involved keeping the cat at our house while they were away. Well. The cat went into heat about a day after its owners escaped town. Dixie was one popular cat that week, and we were treated to many many serenades from about 20 male cats. It was awful. Ever since then I’ve been a dog person. I find they’re so much more considerate than cats.

      January 30th, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    19. Laura Jinkins says:

      I think you all will enjoy this YouTube video short of “Simon’s Cat”! I immediately thought of it when reading all the great comments:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1qHVVbYG8Y

      * * *
      Oh that was funny!

      January 30th, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    20. Maria says:

      I like cats but I admit, “feeding” other people’s is not my favorite thing. I know it’s too late now, but washing cat pee-d things with a whole lot of vinegar sometimes helps. Sometimes, nothing helps.

      January 31st, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    21. tom says:

      Reading this makes me think there may be a niche market for a portable pet suspended animation system. Just think: pop them in at the start of vacation, thaw them out just before neighbor arrives home, everyone’s happy. I’m not much of a cat sitter either.

      January 31st, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    22. Jackie says:

      WOW! They didn’t ask you to do anything but FEED the cat they didn’t even say water the poor thing. Not to mention an entire list of things to do. I would also think they would want you to meet the silly cat before they take off incase the cat doesn’t care for you and hisses and attacks! I feel sorry for you not them.

      So I am betting you say no to feeding animals at this point right?

      January 31st, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    23. deb says:

      Such a hilarious tail! (Couldn’t stop myself either…)

      January 31st, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    24. Theresa says:

      I’m allergic to cats, so I have an automatic out when asked to cat-sit. However, I love dogs (except for Daniel’s dog, Coco, who is the biggest lame-brain I’ve ever met!) so I do get to help pups out frequently.

      January 31st, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    25. Minnesotamom says:

      Haha! Our neighbors used to feed our cat when we were gone (when I was growing up). Our cat was known for being surly and not liking much of anyone, but I think he was so bored and love-starved while we were gone that they became his favorite people. 🙂

      Thankfully, I am now allergic, so we have the perfect excuse never to own a cat.

      February 1st, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    26. Evil Gym Mom says:

      You have got to be kidding! I wouldn’t ask my best friend, nevermind my neighbor, to “feed the cat” if it involved changing litter boxes. Hmph – get thee to a cattery, I say.

      Guess that makes me the neighbor you hate cos my cats (5) use your freshly dug garden for their litter box…

      February 1st, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    27. Brigitte says:

      Really, they should only ask other cat-people, who know what they’re in for! Now I feel lucky the neighbor cats have never gone psycho on me . . . as opposed to the OTHER neighbor’s dog, who growled threateningly at me the whole time, chewed all the wood trim off the bottoms of the walls, and threatened to run away forever every time I let it out for its “constitutional.”

      February 3rd, 2011 at 5:17 am

    28. Brigitte says:

      Awwww, you closed the TV comments, just when I was gonna pour out my “I am a TV slut” confession! ;-D

      February 3rd, 2011 at 5:22 am

    29. merinz says:

      My theory is that if they are rich enough to go on an extended holiday, then they can pay the extra and take the cat to a cattery for professionals to look after it.

      However, my neighbour does feed my cat occasionally but here the climate is mild and the cat can be locked outside and the neighbour does only have to put out some food!

      February 3rd, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    30. Sally says:

      When I was a teenager, I used to take care of my neighbor’s cats whenever they went on vacation. They had two cats, one who was friendly and one that always avoided me. These neighbors had just gotten a new bedspread and wanted the cats to stay off of it while they were away, so their bedroom door was closed and I was instructed to leave it that way. For the first three days, I did not see the aloof cat whenever I went over to feed the cats, but I thought nothing of that, because it was rare that I ever saw her. Besides, both of the bowls of food were always empty when I came back the next day, so I figured she had come out to eat her food after I left. Finally on the fourth day, I heard this pitiful meowing and I tracked down where it was coming from…..the master bedroom…..I opened the bedroom door and the “missing” cat came running out. The new bedspread that the neighbors had wanted to protect from the cats was covered in cat waste, as they had accidentally closed one of their cats IN the bedroom, instead of out!! You can imagine the smell….this poor cat was starving after four days of no food. Apparently the other cat had been eating all the food while she was locked in the bedroom!! My Mom tried to help me wash all the bedding but we couldn’t get the smell out.

      February 4th, 2011 at 10:10 am

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