The Cross House
In 1975, when I was eighteen and living in my first apartment, a cat snuck in. And decided to stay.
I soon learned why.
She was pregnant and gave birth to two kittens shortly thereafter in my closet.
My new brood:
- Little Girl
- Little Boy
Mama was a fabulous cat, and so were her babies. My little family accompanied me as my young life lurched from situation to situation, from apartment to apartment, and from Florida to New York City and to Rhode Island.
Little Boy lived the longest, departing in 1991.
CAT COUNT: 3
In 1996, I moved to Kansas after my life totally collapsed. I found a dirt-cheap house and moved in. Soon after, I was given two kittens.
CAT COUNT 2
I knew female cats could get pregnant at six-months-old. I did not know this was possible at five-months-old, as Kait soon proved.
CAT COUNT: 6
In 1999, a tiny kitten walked up to me in my driveway, screaming.
I picked the pitiful thing up, having no idea that I had just been introduced to what would prove my favorite-ever cat.
CAT COUNT: 7
And this is how things stood on my fiftieth birthday in 2007. Which means that for my first three decades of adulthood I did not qualify as a Crazy Cat Person. I mean, while having seven cats may have been a bit much it wasn’t, you know, crazy.
But three years later the Gods conspired to make me crazy and, in 2010, during a six-month period, I became an Official Crazy Cat person when three sets of kittens invaded my life in quick succession.
One morning I stepped into my garage…and stopped in my tracks.
Five very small kittens were staring up at me.
I tip-toed back out, worried that I would scare the mother off, wherever she might be.
During the day I kept peeking into the garage. Still five kittens. But no mamma. The next morning? Still five kittens. And still no mamma.
In a flash I knew that mama was never coming back. I quietly stepped into the garage. All five kittens came towards me. One by one I picked each one up. With all five very tiny furry creatures snuggled against my chest, I said: “Welcome to Ross Land.”
The new kitties:
CAT COUNT: 12
A few months later my friend Cristina was over, and we were watching a movie. It was just before sunset and a terrible rainstorm was outside. I was amazed the power had not gone out yet.
Suddenly, Christina bolted up from the sofa. “Turn the movie off. NOW!”
Shocked by this outburst, I nonetheless did as commanded.
Christina closed her eyes. “Do you hear that?”
I heard nothing but the storm.
Then, to my astonishment, Christina bolted outside into the lashing rain. She had no raincoat on or shoes. I thought: She’s lost her mind.
I stood. Was she coming back? What was going on?
A moment later Christina raced into the living room, soaking wet, and said with wild eyes: “Here.”
And she handed me…something. “”Take it!”
My hands extended as commanded, and Christina dropped a soggy, crying, tiny ball of fur into them. She then bolted back outside. A crack of thunder shook the living room.
I looked down. A sodden kitten, scary tiny, was in my hands. Oh. Oh! OH! I brought the poor creature up to my neck and snuggled my chin against the little thing.
The door burst open and Christina rushed towards me, her eyes wild. “Here!” And she hand me another soaking wet tiny ball of fur before bolting into the rain again.
I now had two soaked and crying kittens in my hands.
Standing for another few moments, my brain tried to process what was happening. WHERE had these kittens come from? WHY were they soaked? WHERE was their mommy? HOW did Christina know?
Then a belated thought jumped into consciousness: GO HELP, idiot!
Oh! I gently placed the wet kitties on the sofa and then I, too, raced out into the rain.
For weeks, there had been so much rain that the ground was no longer absorbing any more water. So, also in bare feet and with no coat, I stepped into several inches of water on the ground. Where was Christina? I scanned through the downpour. I called out. Finally: “Over here!” My head jerked to the left, and I could see Christina as a dark shadow at the edge of my property. I ran over.
She screamed: “Kittens! The kittens are drowning! We have to save them! FIND THE REST!”
What was she talking about? But in a quick rush I took in the scene:
I was standing in a flash flood, with about 6-inches of water racing over my bare feet. Next to me, was a fence, a metal grid fence. I watched as Christina, now on all four of her limbs, was crawling along the fence line looking for…kittens. Then I watched, horrified, as she struggled with a clump of leaves and broken branches before extracting, to my horror, a crying kitten. OMG. OMG. And I understood. This flash flood had swept the kittens from wherever they had been, and dashed them against my fence, where they were struggling to keep their tiny heads above the swiftly rising water. OMG.
“Here! Take this one!”
I grabbed kitten #3, raced into the house, placed it next to its crying siblings, and raced back outside. Christina was still crawling slowly along the fence line; I moved about ten feet in front of her and dropped to my hands, not noticing the pain to my hands and knees.
Then I, too, heard a faint cry. It seemed a few feet in front of me. It was a pitiful sound.
Pushing rain from my eyes, I squinted. Where was the sound coming from? I saw a clump of debris tangled in the fence and quickly crawled toward it. I leaned down. A small meow came from the clump. My heart jumped out of my chest.
My fingers started frantically pulling at twigs and leaves, and then, a little dark spot of fur emerged. I gently, ever so gently, extricated the wailing creature. “I found another one!” Then I raced back inside.
Returning to Christina, I saw that she was busy pulling something out from a debris clump. The water had risen by at least an inch in the past few minutes. “Here! Take it!”
I ran over, grabbed the miserable, terrified kitten, and ran back to the house.
Returning, Christina was standing. When I started to speak she snapped: “Quiet! Quiet:” We both stood for a long time. All I could hear was the rain, the rushing water, and intermittent thunder.
We stood. And stood, silent.
“I think that’s it” she said.
We both walked along the fence line over and over, stopping every minute to listen. “I really thinks that’s it. I don’t hear any more, and I don’t sense any more.”
“Are you sure?” as my terror-stricken face scanned the fence line.
She closed her eyes. Then: “Yes. We have them all.”
We walked back inside. We were as wet as if we had just been swimming. It was only later that we discovered the cuts to our knees, legs, and hands.
We both looked to my semi-wet sofa. Five tiny, tiny bundles of fur were huddled together. Shivering.
I sighed. Then looked at Christina, Then back to the kittens. “Welcome to Ross Land.”
The new kitties:
CAT COUNT: 17
A few months later, a stray cat I called Lucy got into my fenced cat yard.
And promptly had four kittens:
- Miss Asia
CAT COUNT: 22
I now had 22 cats. All of a sudden. Thus, absolute confirmation: I was a Crazy Cat Person.
And I didn’t mind. I delighted in having so many kittens! Kittens, kittens everywhere!
At night, Christina would come over for a movie (she lived across the street) and I would close the door between the living room and the rest of the house, open a window facing the cat yard, and call: “Kitties!”
In a mad, fabulous rush, a torrent of kitties would leap up to the window sill and dash into the living room. They would play and climb and race but soon settle down to watch the movie with Christina and myself.
My inner child thrilled at all this.
Eight years have now passed. Some other cats not mentioned came into my life. Then departed. The older cats departed, too, including my adored Gilda.
The three sets? The original 15 is now down to 9.
All the while I was dealing with my cats, I was dealing with stray cats in the neighborhood. This all began innocently enough.
When I moved into my house in 1996, Mabel lived across the street, an elderly window. At exactly noon every day she would come out to the side porch, slowly bend down, and place a bowl of food out for a large black/white cat. Mabel would then step back, and the cat would cautiously come onto the porch and nibble the food. Mabel would bend down (this took some time), and she would stroke the cat several times.
I often watched this ritual through my front window. It always made me smile.
One day though, at noon, I saw the cat but no Mabel. I continued coming back and checking. Still no Mabel. I grew alarmed, and made some calls. Oh, Mabel had been moved to a care facility. I returned to the window and watched the cat, patiently waiting for its daily lunch. It was now 1:15.
I walked across the street with a bowl of food. The cat scurried away. I place the food in the same location as Mabel always did, then returned to my house. On my porch, I looked to Mabel’s house. The cat was eating.
My heart jumped with joy.
Within a week, I had retrained the cat to come to my porch at noon. And soon, I, too, would be bending down and stroking it as it ate.
A few days later I bumped into a woman who had been a caregiver for Mabel, and asked for an update. Mable was in very poor health. I then gave her an update on the stray cat, and asked that she let Mabel know. A few days later I heard my name being called when I was leaving the post office. I turned, and the caregiver came walking quickly to me.
“Oh! I’m so glad I caught you! I told Mabel that you were feeding the cat every day at noon. She cried and cried! She was sooooooo relieved! So, thank you! Thank you!”
Mabel died a few days later.
This simple act (feeding an abandoned stray cat) proved to have unintended consequences.
Soon, another stray appeared from nowhere expecting food at noon. Then another. Time passed and several more were on my front porch waiting for their food. Then more.
Many of these strays had babies, and there was a sudden rush of kittens. Then more kittens. Then…about half of the kittens and adults vanished overnight.
And this cycle repeated itself for many years.
Christina and I then began a program. I said: “If you can trap the females, I will pay to have them fixed.” Over a two-year period all the females were neutered and there has not been a kitten born for many years. Today, about eight stray cats feed twice a day on my front porch. And every year, like me, they all grow a bit older.
A year ago I found a stray hiding under the front porch, a tiny gray kitten. She was terrified of all the other cats, and clearly not well, so I took her in. Where had she come from?
Only Gray and New Kitty are allowed in the house. Well, Fine and Spot, too, when they want. Gray though spends the day in the fenced yard. New Kitty seems to prefer the house but will go outside for a while each day.
In 2014, I purchased the Cross House in Emporia. The house was not livable and in addition to my restoration plans I also had to figure out how to accommodate all the kitties when I eventually moved in. The yard around the house was small, and next to a highway. Obviously, a highly secure cat fence would be required. And a winter cat house.
In 2017, I received permission from the city for an eight-foot-high fence, two-feet higher then normally allowed. This was vital because cats can jump to six-feet but not eight-feet.
Also in 2017, I was able to afford getting some of the fence posts installed. This was scary $$$$ because the posts needed to be special ordered, out of 6×6 stock (4×4 is the norm), and had to be dug deeply into the ground to compensate for the height.
Recently, I did a post about the issues keeping me from moving into the house, and the only remaining significant issue is the lack of a cat fence, which will cost $6,000 to $8,000. As all my available funds are earmarked to complete the restoration of the south facade in 2018, the cat fence is just something I can’t afford. So, while I had thought I could move in at the end of this year, at long last, now I have no idea of when that will happen.
After doing the post, I was delightfully surprised when Mary and Dan donated to the “fence fund” via the Go Fund Me link I have (just above the comments). I had opened the Go Fund Me account two years previous. Several other readers asked for an address to send check to. Golly! I replied:
Fence the Cats!
Strong City, KS 66869
I feel funny seeking help but my friend Patricia scolded me. “My God, just think how many cats you’ve given refuge to! And the cost! How much have you spent over DECADES in terms of food and shelter and vet visits and spaying and neutering? So, if people would like to help you, let them, damn it!”
And this made me laugh. And so, here I am, with my hat, nervously, in hand.