How I Became the Crazy Cat Lady On the Corner

Before I became the crazy chicken lady I was the crazy cat lady on the corner. Frankly now I’m well known enough around the neighbourhood that if I didn’t have any pets I’d just be known as the crazy lady.

Why yes! This is an actual action figure set. You can get the whole set on Amazon.

I’ve always had cats.  Go ahead, scorn me … look down on me … call me the crazy cat lady on the corner.  I don’t care because I love cats.   I do realize that cat owners are on the lower end of  the “cool” animal owner hierarchy; somewhere in between those who own guppies and those who own a marshmallow with a face painted on it.  But it’s not my fault I own cats. I had nothing to do with it.

I grew up with both a cat (Tibby) and a dog (Ellie).  When I first moved out of my parents’ house and into my own house, I wanted a dog.  I perused all the dog magazines, researched text books and weighed the pros and cons of each.

Once in a while I’d even call a breeder to ask a few questions.   I had high hopes for a rescued Greyhound, a Poodle or maybe even a Puli.   I also looked at a couple of Papillons

I’m big on “P” dogs apparently.   Such an exciting time with all the decisions, the choices and the anticipation!  I was on the verge  of picking out my most important friend.  The one I would allow to poop on my lawn.

Then my stupid sister gave me a cat.  A CAT!  These things poop right in front of you in your actual house!  She showed up at the back door one night holding out a huge black, 16 pound ball of the world’s finest allergen – a cat.  

She saw it in the window of an adoption facility and thought she’d pick it up for me.  Kind of like a roast that was on sale.  With legs.

Being almost incapable of making decisions (see first paragraph referring to my inability to even pick a breed of dog), it took me almost 2 months to name the cat.  I kept mistaking my big black PRADA purse for the cat.  Out of the corner of my eye, a big black purse on a chair looked the same as a big black cat on a chair.  So … after 2 months of accidentally cooing at my purse, I named the big, black cat Prada. 

I’ll have you know I bought the PRADA purse out of the basement of a thickly accented woman I’d never met before for a considerable discount so I’m pretty sure it’s real. 

About a year after I got Prada, my other sister called me to say a friend of hers had to get rid of a little Siamese kitten because her husband was allergic to it.  Did I want to go and look at it?  YES I wanted to look at it!  KITTENS!!!!   

Enter … Cleo.   Cute as a button.  I was now the owner of not one, but two non-dogs.  There was Cleo, who would rip the eyes out of a dog and Prada, who would then eat the maimed dog.  Nope.   No dog for me.  Maybe after the cats die.

Prada. And a little bit of Cleo.

Well … in 2008 poor Prada did die.  He got sick and had to be put down within about 5 days.  He was the toughest, most majestic cat you’ve ever seen.  To see him so helpless was awful.  They were among the worst 5 days of my life.  Just dreadful.    The worst part was seeing poor little Cleo wander around the house without her friend afterwards.  Well, friend would actually be a bit of a stretch.  Over their 10 years together they never really warmed up to each other.   In fact they tried to kill each other once every day or so.

So now I was down to one cat and the dream of a dog was a possibility again.  Maybe I could get one.  Certainly not a small dog.  Something that could defend itself against tiny, tiny Cleo.   Like a Russian Wolfhound.  Or an actual wolf.

So there I was in the winter of 2009  flipping through the Dogs Annual magazine once again when I noticed that cat out on my front porch. A cat that had been appearing every few days. I had first noticed it back in the fall, but had forgotten about it.   It looked a little moth eaten as my mother would say.  In fact it’s what my mother did call the cat – moth eaten.  Betty’s not one of those moms that thinks everything I do, have or say is terrific. If she thinks it, she says it.

I kept my eye on that cat and over the next few days I realized it was on my front porch every night from about 9 p.m. to sunrise.  It looked very young.  And very cold.   Curled up in a little ball, outside in the middle of winter.  That little cat had no home.  I put a blanket out on a chair, which it slept on every night.  More than once I looked out and it was asleep, covered in a light layer of snow

Did I mention I tried about 74 million trillion times to approach the cat?  Every time I even opened the door it went tearing off.  I could have cried thinking of that poor, freezing cat out there every night.  It was obviously feral and had no interest in human contact.   A neighbour said they saw it on their frozen pond trying to catch the fish underneath.  I couldn’t take it anymore.

I spent the next 5 months getting the cat used to me.  Yes.  5 months.  There’s that self diagnosed OCD comin’ in handy again!  You know those treats that cats jump through walls for on commercials?  Temptations?  They were very helpful in taming my scraggy, dirt coloured, wild cat.  It was about 5 pounds, had frostbitten ears and waaaayyyyyy too many toes.  6 or 7 on each paw as far as I could tell.  Regular cats have 4.  She had feet that looked like they were constructed by Tim Burton.    

That would make the cat a polydactyl.  Ernest Hemmingway had a multitude of these cats in Key West which he provided for in his will.   So, I named the feral cat Ernie.

By the middle of June I was able to get Ernie into a picnic basket to bring him up to the vet for a once over.  Ernie, who I discovered was actually an Ernestina,  got her shots and was given a surprisingly clean bill of health for such a scraggy looking cat. 

After one more week of living outside (so I could be sure her vaccinations had taken effect) I brought Ernie inside to live with me and Cleo.

In the 10 years I’ve had Ernie she’s had absolutely no desire to go outside ever again and spends most of her days spread eagle on the floor just looking happy.  

So I was back to having 2 “not dogs” for several more years until I had to make the decision to have Cleo put to sleep after I couldn’t do anything more to make her feel better after 3 years of suffering with renal failure.

Also somewhere in there I got a yard full of chickens.

Currently, at this very moment, I have 3 geriatric chickens who would just as soon do a one armed cartwheel as lay an egg.  And a single, solitary cat. Ernie.

All this to say, you’ll never guess what!  I’m thinking of getting a dog.

Now that I’ve said it out loud I fully expect to open my shutters tomorrow morning to a slew of paparazzi incessantly photographing the miraculous appearance of a colony of cats on my porch.

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How I Became the Crazy Cat Lady On the Corner


  1. Anthony Evans says:

    Hi Karen,
    Really love your writing style. Not quite sure how i would describe it…effervescent, energetic? All I know is I’m a fan. I’d stared out as more of a dog person, transitioning into a cat person. It’s not like i dont like dogs… I just love cats, and have taken in many strays over the years. On a few occasions something would happen to a feral momma who’d just had a litter and the kittens were brought in to be bottle fed. (for me personally it’s over at that point… couldn’t imagine parting with them) Even had this old terrycloth bathrobe I’d wear for feeding which they really seemed to like, nuzzling in and “making biscuits” lol…guess I’m a little cat crazy too.

  2. Linda Anthony says:

    I’m definitely an animal lover…. but mostly cats. If you’ve never had a Tuxedo, I would highly recommend! It’s a lot more than the colors…. their personalities are simply amazing! Very different from all the others that have owned me. I Love your writing!

  3. Lori Hope says:

    Your Ernie looks very much like my Gypsy. :)
    Can’t wait to see your new dog!!

  4. Marianne says:

    I have 6 cats (5 black), 2 foster kittens and an 84 lb. black dog. The cats rule for sure. Please adopt. That will be one very lucky dog! Can’t wait to see it!

  5. Cricket, Random Dachshund says:

    Don’t get a dog. Get a Dachshund!

  6. Jane says:

    When hubby & I first got together, I had 2 OES and he had Mikey, a white shorthair with blue eyes from the pound. Mikey ran away that 1st summer and returned in the fall. He ran away again the next summer and never returned, though we spotted and called him a few times. Hubby’s university friends turned up with Robbie, which looked like Mikey but with one blue and one yellow eye. Robbie loved the dogs. When the dogs went, he slept in the dog house for months. We got Clyde, a ginger tabby, to keep Robbie company. When Robbie went, we got Jr., a dark brown tabby. That’s the last one we ever got from the pound. After Clyde went, we eventually ended up with 7 cats at one point, 3 of which just moved in of their own accord. We figure there must be some sign only visible to animals on our property that says we’re suckers for animals. Alas, we lost 5 in 25 months and are now down to the last 2 youngest. Home seems so quiet with only 2.

  7. Cherie says:

    Small dogs do have lots of personality and don’t take up so much space. Don’t get a Sheltie, though, says she who is on Sheltie Number Three and will probably get another after this one goes over the Rainbow Bridge. (sorry, that is hokey, I know, but….) They are barkers, prodigious barkers and far more clever than their university educated owners. Ours have all been loving and adorable, and, well, danged annoying far too often. There are rescue sites for all kinds of breeds. Recently, our dog, SIma’s best friend, a Cairn Terrier aptly named Rascal, was put down. His owner and I are still crying. Dogs and cats do that. When our previous dog, Lana,died my husband and I cried daily for a month then got Sima. The crying stopped but not the heartache. They do that, make your heart ache when they go. I’m not a cat person, definitely NOT; however, I have known and loved many of my friends’ cats. Dog, smallish dog, dog that sleeps on beds and is cuddly. That’s my kind of dog.

  8. Cheverly Long says:

    My beloved doxie-chihuahua mix died a few years ago after 15 years together. My husband has a cat that’s indoor/outdoor and about 4 years old, so I’ve been adamant that after she’s gone, we’re finished with pets. Done. Finito. No mas.

    Enter a stray we found across the street after investigating a noise we thought was a “tree frog” for 32 hours. She was 1 lb and adorable. I said “NOPE NOPE NOPE, call Humane Society to drop her off”. We did, but apparently there’s a thing called “kitten season” which results in them refusing to take felines of any age. They told us to put her back where we found her, feed her and get her fixed when she’s about 2 lbs.

    She is currently at 4.25 lbs and is enjoying daily zoomies and ankle biting as I try to get ready for work. I will now be at least 61 before I’m truly pet free… OR I could air mail her to you? :D

  9. Ann says:

    Enjoyed this story very much!

  10. Paula Clark says:

    We’ve always had a dog or five depending on who we actually claim and the many foster dogs we’ve taken in. Lately we’ve stopped fostering dogs for a spell because we moved and got our hearts broken a few too many times and needed a break. So now we have two dogs and stray cats that came with the house. We have three that visit our feeding station every day. One comes in and out of the house, one hangs around the front porch and the third is feral. We are working on that one. One is spayed for sure and we’ve had no kittens from the others so they are male or spayed too. We’ve found homes for two others. It’s an ongoing problem for our city. Stray cats are everywhere so we will focus on them for a bit. Thank you for taking them into your home. You are good people.

  11. Jeanie Burch says:

    Oh dear – my two cats hate each other too. We’ve had Yumi about 8 years and about 3 years ago we got Buddy. For 3 years Yumi has hated Buddy. It’s great to know they will never warm up to each other.

  12. Marlene Eastman says:

    I get it!!! Hubby says no to cats, he likes his furniture unshredded. I always had both, but when I met the hubs, found out he had Scotties as a kid, which was my baby at the time. So we have had 2 more since. We had to put our little Boo down a couple of years ago and hubs said no more. Then my daughter shows up with a Maltese a … “foo foo dog” (I was never a fan of toy breeds). And we were charmed. Then 2 weeks ago she shows up with a second one, a tiny ball of fluff and we have fallen in love. Never thought I would own a “foo foo”. These guys are half cat, half dog. And just love being with their people. Looking to get our own once the “pandemic price gouging” stops.

  13. Librarian Nancy says:

    I’m a dog person, have worked with golden retriever rescue for over 15 years. Currently I’m fostering and dog-sitting, since I lost my sweet 12 year old golden girl in April (I have GOT to stop adopting dogs who are 10 years old and up, except they need homes, and they look at you with those soulful eyes…). I would love to have a cat, if they only didn’t poop in the house. Karen, whatever you choose to complete your fur family will be perfect, and very lucky.

    • Allison says:

      Old dogs are the best dogs. We adopted an old, ugly, awkward Boston (my husband called him ugly, I thought he was so ugly he was cute) and had about a year and half with him before he passed. We decided we were going to give him a retirement of luxury after he’d lived on the streets his whole life. Mr. Pickles would spin in a circle out of excitement whenever it was his dinnertime. He was a really cool dog.

  14. Barb says:

    This was such a timely piece. We just had to put our wonderful fellow, Dillon, to sleep because of renal failure. It will be the first time in 45 years that we’ve been “cat-less”. All but one were strays that adopted us. We’ve also always had a dog and have usually adopted young ones as we wanted to avoid the puppy stage and there are so many that need good homes.

  15. Jody says:

    Sometimes you just need to scatch that itch. Kinda like your floor decision.

  16. Ann says:

    Cat, kitten, dog, puppy? Get one. You can’t go wrong! Looking forward to learning what you decide…

  17. Debbie says:

    You have to check out the rescue organization, Tiny Kittens in BC. They spay/neuter feral cats and the kittens (and sometimes, if the feral cat wants to) adopt them out. They have several kittens right now that are just adorable and need good homes! They have live streams of their cats and I find watching them to be relaxing and entertaining. Seriously, check them out!

    • Rebecca says:

      I loooooove Tiny Kittens. Baby Salty is so cute, and I’m a big fan of Sahara’s five, but Nevada and her brothers have stolen my heart.

      • Debbie says:

        Rebecca! I know! First started watching regularly when Stella was having her C-section. Then I just fell in love with Sahara. Now I am a huge fan of the “gamblers.” They have just stolen my heart. They are beautiful and will be even more so when their fur calms down from all the meds/ring worm treatments. Love how Vegas is singing. He is developing a greatest hits album. He is practicing songs from Cats! What a great organization.

        • Rebecca says:

          I’ve been watching for three years (maybe longer). I was watching the stream of April the giraffe, who was about to have a baby. She kept us waiting, for days, and some people in chat mentioned Tiny Kittens. I thought, you know, giraffes are cool, but I really love cats, and I’ve been watching ever since. My first experience was with mama Corsica and her five kittens, but I really fell in love with the Fire Ferals (cats rescued from two colonies when fires were raging in Northern British Columbia), especially the Three Musketeers, Birch, Pele, and Elliott. They’re still my favorites ever, along with Mason, Stanley, and the Auracuda. I can’t have pets where I live, so watching Tiny Kittens (and the Critter Room with Foster Dad John) is an excellent way to enjoy cats. And I especially love that it’s a rescue for feral cats. 💜

  18. CJ says:

    I’ve had cats and dogs, and I’ve never “gotten” a one. Every one of them was/is a story, but every one of them simply showed up one day and moved into my heart to stay. Currently we have one dog. She’s a Carolina dog – the only Native American breed – and was feral before I got her in 2013. Carolinas are very different as they’re used to being on their own. I often tell people she’s a cat dressed in a dog suit. Maybe that means I have a cat and a dog. Just all rolled into one.

  19. Grammy says:

    Dogs rule. My boy Frank is a pain in the ass, but he still rules. In all my years I’ve had a zillion dogs and one cat. The cat ran away from her home (next door) when the guy remarried and the new wife came with two cats. Lulu didn’t ask to live here, she just sneaked in one day and went to sleep on our bed. I said I don’t really care for cats, but she’s very old, so I guess we can let her stay here and be comfortable until, you know, she goes to cat heaven. Ten years later she got very sick and I cried for days when we had to put her down. Now we have Frank and life is normal again. But I “get it” about cats. It’s sort of like the difference between raising sons and daughters — each has their own charm and challenges.

  20. JODEE M WALTERS says:

    Please please please rescue a dog!!!!

  21. Tatsiana says:

    Fantastic read, as always!

  22. Linda says:

    Thank you for having the heart to rescue a helpless animal instead of buying from a breeder.

  23. Elaine says:

    Being a cat lover forever, thank you for the lovely cat story! What a lucky cat to choose you as its owner!

  24. Gayle m says:

    Your story IS my story. Only after 4 months, our feral visitor showed uo limping…we scooped her up and off to the vet. Well, she was a he, and after xrays, pain shot, meds, and all the regular check up needs of a new cat–plus a complimentary nail clipping–we had $268 invested in him. No way was i going to chance whether or not he would show up every 12 hours for his antibiotic! Lol. The rescues are sooo grateful, aren’t they?

  25. Sandy says:

    May I suggest a Pomapoo? Being a mix of a Pomeranian and a Miniature Poodle, it would satisfy your penchant for P-dogs. Plus, if they’re all like mine, they’re super soft, loving and snuggly — the best you could ever hope for in a cat but better ’cause, you know, it’s a dog. ;)

  26. suzanne says:

    That was a beautiful read. Thank you! I hope a poor lucky cat or dog winds up on your porch.

  27. Deirdre Fowler says:

    Well we are having a litter of beautiful Chessie puppies on September 8th. Because I am the crazy dog lady (with one cat, cause every house should have at least one cat).

  28. Joanne Lewis says:

    I come from a long line of cat people – four sisters that couldn’t resist. Two of them are currently catless and I know they miss them, a lot. I currently have two cats as well as guppies (and some other fish and frogs) and a dog! We didn’t pick out this dog – it was a rescue situation from my son! That was eight years ago and we’ve offered him back but I think we’re stuck with him. After every pet departs I do say “no more!” but here were are, pretty much committed for the next 15 years or so. I’m going to read your article about trimming their nails… I’ve never become very good even after many many years. thanks for sharing your dilemma… you can always foster a dog.

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