How I Became the Crazy Cat Lady On the Corner

I have 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 my cats.   I do realize that cat owners are on the lower end of  the “cool” animal owner heirarchy; 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.

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 Papillions.   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.

PRADA

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 ferocious fur.   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 over and sucking up to the purse, I named the big, black cat Prada.  I bought the purse at a suspiciously discounted price out of the basement of someone with a very thick accent, 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!  What’s cuter than a kitten??!   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 hangin' out of his mouth

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.  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 … a day.

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 last Christmas flipping through the Dogs Annual magazine once again when I noticed that cat out on my front porch. It’s a cat that had been appearing every once in a while on my porch for the past few days.  I had first noticed it back in the fall, but had forgotten about it.   It was what my mother would call motheaten.   In fact it’s what my mother did call motheaten.  (she’s not one of those moms that thinks everything I do, have or say is terrific)

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, 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 1 million 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.

Ernie post surgery

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, we named our feral cat Ernie.

By the middle of June I was able to get the cat into a picnic basket to bring it up to the vet for a once over.  Ernie (who we then found out was a girl) got her shots and was given a surprisingly clean bill of health for such a scraggy looking cat. Think of her as the cat version of  Courtney Love.  After one more week of living outside (so we could be sure her vaccinations were working  and she couldn’t infect Cleo) we brought Ernie inside to live with us.

Cleo & Ernie

Ernie has absolutely no desire to go outside ever again and spends most of her days spread eagle on the floor just looking happy.  So … I’m back to having 2 non-dogs.  They both seem in pretty good health so I’ve put the dog magazines away again.  I don’t think I even want a dog anymore anyway.  At least when the cats poop I know where they’ve done it and have never once stepped in it while mowing the lawn.   On the other hand, I am currently trying to train both my cats to lay down and roll over.


33 Comments

  1. Izzy says:

    Karen!
    Love the crazy cat lady story! I’m sorry about Prada, what a beautiful non-dog he was 🙂

    A few years ago I had to give my Minnie away to my mom cause I’m never home with my job… my mom also has a cat and they just can’t warm up to each other.

    Do you find that your cats act a lot like you? Like mine is a super cold independent bitch!
    But when she wants something, nothing can get in her way! LOL

    Love the website! Now can you tell me how to get a super hot guy who doesn’t mind a super cold independent bitch?

    Izzy xo

  2. Monica says:

    I’m not sure how I landed on your blog but I did and I love this story. I grew up with dogs but 7 years ago two kittens entered my life. I tried to work a dog into the scenario but it was a disaster. Just three months ago I got my own little Ernie. A black teenage cat who showed up at my back door begging for food. It took us a month to get her inside and she, too, is incredibly content. We now have three cats and are often mortified but they are the best.

  3. Karen says:

    Monica – Congratulations on your own little Ernie! It’s strangely fulfilling to save a cat, isn’t it? I hope you don’t live on a corner, ’cause it sounds like you’re closer to being the crazy cat lady than I am!

    Don’t tell anyone … but I’ve spotted what looks like Ernie’s even rattier looking brother around the neighbourhood all winter. My fella’s trying to get me to lure him in. And I might. God help me. 🙂 Enjoy the blog, glad you found it!

  4. Katie says:

    Your cats are so cute! So sorry about Prada 🙁 We have 3 cats and if I had human children I’m pretty sure I would love the cats more :S We have two Siamese cats and just a regular mixed cat. I love the picture of Prada with a little bit of cleo hanging out of his mouth! It makes me giggle!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Katie – thanks for the comment. Do your Siamese play fetch? Mine does. It’s very bizarre. She’ll chase a pipe cleaner and bring it back to us all night long!

      • Maven Koesler says:

        My sister’s Siamese, Pye, would chase and retrieve balled up socks as long as you would throw them for her. She lived to the age of 20. I miss that cat.

  5. They are all adorable! My cat Scrappy used to have 6 toes on each paw, catch rabbits in his teeth and look both ways before crossing the street. He looked like a miniature lynx basically.

    I can relate to your crazy cat lady story. I recently become a proud member of the club myself with three cats who weave around my feet and try to kill me daily.

  6. Leah says:

    I see your polydactyl and raise you a fat cat. A really fat cat. And a part cat/part chainsaw cat. I adore my kitties, all five, and occasionally update a blog with their cuteness. I have to update it some more, but their adorable mugs are seen at [lifeofacat dot wordpress dot com]. Feel free to stop by… they like the attention. {And if I were a better housekeeper, I would post more pictures.}

  7. smidgen says:

    Love fat cats Leah! Mine’s 22 pounds and SUPER fluffy to boot. His nicknames include (but are not limited to) “Sir Fluffs A Lot” “Fluff Fluff” “Flufficus” and “Fluff Of Nine Tails” … His name is Anubis. I’ve also got a Cairo and a Mavis kickin’ around. Can we tell kitty stories all day … cuz that would make me happy. Kinda like this makes me happy in all kind of ways …
    http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/4TTDNE/www.boingboing.net/2010/08/25/adorable-kitten-fail.html

  8. Kim says:

    Karen, do you have any litter-box tips to share?? I adore my babies, but the litter-box is my undoing. I hate it. I have one long-haired black kitty like your Prada who is very picky about stepping on litter, so I have to keep it pushed to the side, otherwise I find ‘gifts’ on the floor. Drives me nuts!!!

    • danielle says:

      Theres other stuff you can get other then the normal litter when I bring my cat to the vet they use this litter that look like rabbit food pellets I’m not sure what its called they have clay litter you can use shredded newspaper. I’ve seen quiet a few dif litters. Mine never had problems with they’re litter I’ve never had one accident except once but he just got fixed and was pretty out of it stumbling to the litter box didn’t make it. I only have two male and female both fixed obviously and they love they’re litter boxes always keep them clean some cats wont use a dirty litter box I don’t know why a owner wouldn’t clean it everyday anyway but some dont…I actually have a dog too and have the worst time with him. .every chance he gets he will urinate and poop where ever he wants and it smells horrible..no matter what I do or try he ruins the carpets rugs towels whatever on the floor so we have to get him another home cause its horrible so that’s my problem but my kittys are just complete opposite.

  9. Ter says:

    A great story! Thanks for sharing it.

  10. Leslie Zuroski says:

    I don’t like cats either … I ADORE them! What a great story and so nice that they like each other too.

  11. CHris says:

    Great story. I have ten cats, not by intent or desire for so many, but by circumstance. My 40 years with cats tells me that Ernie (Ernestine?) wasn’t really a born-feral cat, but rather, either a runaway or had been abandoned. Almost without exception, if a kitten grows up (6 months old) with no human contact, it will never be able to adjust to trusting a human. I had one years ago that had been abandoned. Once I let it in, it never left indoors again. I have one that I trapped and brought indoors at close to 6 months of age. She only lets me pet her when she isn’t looking a me. Looking at a human up close triggers her instincts to keep a safe distance.

  12. Auntiepatch says:

    I lost my old timers at 18, 22, & 24. I now have a new pack of 4. Einstein (fluffy ruff) is 13, Jezebel (hates women) is 10, and the twins Crash & Grayson just turned 1. Oh, the stories I could tell!

  13. Jan Isherwood says:

    What a very well written, inspiring cat tale! I am inspired to rescue even more cats, tho’ I have to caution, if she truly wants to join the ranks of Crazy Cat Lady, she’s reall got to increAse the numbers of cats, if she s looking to be feared and loathed! Increase the digits ( Hey! Isn’t that a good name for a polydactyl?!) atleast by 10! That is, if you really want people to take you serial!!! That in itself, will open new avenues you never knew existed, for people to really hate you! Just for showing up!!!! Then other doors will open which will provide for endless fodder for future posts! Your two cats are really beautiful and they reflect for the whole world to see- just how much they are loved! This is a real credit to you, but can you imagine that feeling of pride you will have welling up inside your heart if you multiply that by 10?? At that point , you will have joined the raNks of those who have truly earned the title of Crazy Cat Ladyf

  14. Metalhaid says:

    Still taking posts? 😉 Here’s a quick tail of how I wound up with 5 cats in a rural area. They’re all indoor/outdoor and happy as cats can be. Ozzy the Siamese (blue eyes & all!) is 13; got him as a kitten from a friend who later told me, “We kept the wrong cat!” Baby, a gray tabby, was our girl’s 11th B-day prezzie, adopted from a friend (the daughter’s now 18 & firmly denies ever wanting a cat – she is NO FAN.) Ozzy went missing for a month (think he was abducted by neighbors, cos he is so beautiful) so I got another cat – Buddy the Cat Ambassador, who is now 16 lbs, solid black except for a few white hairs on his chest, and doesn’t know a stranger. 3 days after Buddy moved in – Ozzy came home. >_< Then my son & his wife brought up their beautiful Russian blue, Tulu (short for Catulu, inspired by C'Thulu, lord of R'yalyeh-well, it's an HP Lovecraft story, and yeah, well-deserved.) "Hey mom, I can't have my cat in the base housing, can Tulu stay here for a couple of weeks?" That was 5 years ago. And lastly, Itty-Bitty showed up in the bushes outside. She was 4 weeks old, filthy, covered in fleas, and so small she fit in my hand. But she knew exactly what to do when we put her next to the food bowl. She's a brown tabby. No polydactyl cats, but plenty of attitude here!

    • Karen says:

      Nope. Not too late to comment. Never too late. You have some good cat names! I *love* the name Itty-Bitty, it’s hilarious! Good job. 🙂 ~ karen!

  15. Susan R. says:

    Crazy cat lady club member; California division; Troop “this has gone wayyyy too far”; president emeritus.

    Ex and I negotiated a painful division of the furries. Annie, Neko, Gandy and Yeppie came with me. Sarah and Sammy stayed with him.

    At first anniversary in my new house, I got the inspired idea to save one more little life. (Big house, giddy with new-found independence, generous helping of temporary insanity.) I went to the shelter. Me:”I’ll take the oldest, ugliest cat you have.” Them: (clearly seeing the word “sucker” on my forehead) “Well, we have two beautiful stray Siamese cats who were found wandering the streets together. They are completely bonded and we’re so worried that we won’t be able to place the together.”
    Fast forward 20 minutes. Si and Am are buckled into boxes in the back seat. I’m driving home cursing and swearing I will never drink again. “Well, at least I don’t have to keep the stupid “Lady and the Tramp” names!” So, welcome Sybase and Amy.

    Fast forward six months. Stray cat has three kittens on my deck and brings along a scruffy old tom cat for company. (Not Dad. Go figure.) Welcome Elsa, Big Guy, Jake, Jerry, and Janie.

    Currently seeking psychiatric help and an intervention.

  16. Benita says:

    To be honest, we don’t find the cats…I believe the cats find us!

  17. Patti says:

    Got to add my two cents to the crazy cat lady tales. I have three hair balls. First is Bob, a nine year old geezer that acts like a kitten. Then here is Alec, a “foster” that I believe will be mine forever. His claim to fame is he’s huge, all white except for one black spot circling his butt that looks like poop at first glance and he is gay. That’s right, gay, he loves any male suitor that comes to my home. Very embarassing but a good litmus test for said suitors future with me. Oh yes, then there is Little Bit, some times known as Little Shi … just add a “t” He showed up on my back porch as a tiny kitten whining to come in. Thought he’d run away if I opened the door … nope, just walked right in and made himself at home. But I think he wants me dead. He loves to twist around my feet when I walk … especially when I’m going down stairs. After a fractured wrist and bloody knee, I’ve taken to shuffling when he’s lurking around. But he still throws his body in my path. One day, quite exasperated, while shuffling to the car, Little you-know-what flung himself ON my foot. So I ever so gently lifted him up with my foot and tossed him to the side thinking this would teach him a lesson. But alas … he likes to fly … so now we have new game to go along with the “lets kill momma” game. Now, I do not kick my cat, I merely fling him to the side and he comes back for more. It must be quite the sight watching me and Little Bit shuffling and flying to the car! Ahhhh, life with cats. I also have a tiny rescued Dachshund. She feels its her job to keep the cats in line! Never a dull moment

  18. Barb:) says:

    I had to add a quick thought to the general discussion regarding the feline habit of attempting to ‘murder’ their humans by tripping them. Because our oldest cat, Ping, had an amazing ability to be underfoot at the worst possible time, my son gave him a very appropriate name. He called him ‘Visa’, because ‘he’s EVERYWHERE you want to be’, (based, of course, on the commercial for the credit card). Ping (alias: Visa) just has a gift of KNOWING where you’re about to place your foot, and BEING there. It’s truly amazing to me that he hasn’t been flattened yet, but he’s managed to live 18 years relatively unscathed.

  19. Barbie says:

    Oh Karen! I have also become a crazy cat lady! shhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone! We adopted a feral cat/kitten last summer….for purely selfish reasons….as our garden was being taken over by voles! Also I just figured kitty came straight from heaven! As she was smack dab in the middle of my garden and that is where she had made her home….my 90 yr old uncle and I made it our project to befriend her and feed her….well….actually we thought it was a “him”…since it was a tabby and someone told us tabbies are almost always male. My uncle could finally pet her by the following March….by April sometime she was getting really fat yet still quite small….I went online to see how to tell what sex a cat is…and guess what? We found out…she is a she! LOL and “she” was very PREGNANT! LOL!!! We are now the proud owners of 4 beautiful kittens…and I have gone from being a snobby “I’m not a cat person” to OMG! “I AM IN LOVE”!! with these four little kittens and their momma! …well….truth be told momma was working on me all winter as she would peer into my kitchen widow every morning and say hello! She would never let me touch her though…only my uncle who fed her….now that I have served as her midwife as she delivered her kittens two weeks ago…we are best buds! I can pick her up and cuddle her ….sometimes…..lol but she has no problem with me picking up her kittens and cuddling them a million times a day….seems to actually like it when I do it! I though you might enjoy that story!

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Good for you. I love dogs too but I’ll tell ya … there’s nothing cuter than a kitten! ~ karen

  20. Jessica A says:

    Just read your current post and saw this post suggested to me at the bottom. Sorry you lost Prada, but so glad he had such a wonderful home! I lost my Misty almost two years ago. A month later we adopted our Cleo, who was a feral rescue that had been brought in a few months prior (on our wedding anniversary) to be fixed and have a mangled leg amputated. By the time she was healed, they realized she was too sweet to just release back on her own and decided to put her up for adoption. She winked at me from her kennel the whole time I filled out the paperwork.. I couldn’t write fast enough. She was the only kitty we looked at, sat in a room with.. even with one back leg, she was able to hop up on the bench with us and huddle between my hubby and I when they came back to check on us. I sent her pic to my dad and told my mom about her. My dad called her a cutie, my mom (like yours) said, “leave it to you to pick a damaged cat.” Pfft, she is perfect in my eyes and a few months later, we adopted her sister, Sassy, from a friend of mine that runs a bunny rescue. A stray momma kitty decided to have a litter in the dog house that she keeps on the porch for strays to stay warm during the winter, and the girl tabby of the litter looked just like my Misty and had the cattitude to match. She posted her pic on Facebook and tagged me.. she stole my heart right then. I prefer cat enthusiast, lol!

  21. Dawn Ward says:

    Cute story but I know this lady and she’s a fat lazy liar. Plus she goes around key West on a three wheel bicycle and picks up any cat she can get her hands on. She has ripped off so many people in key West that it’s a wonder nobody’s killed her yet

  22. Dawn Ward says:

    Oh shoot I’m sorry I thought this was Jan Isherwood of key West…. I’m sorry

  23. Dawn Ward says:

    She commented on this post,actually. She also has a video on YouTube if you search her name or key west cat lady. She is known in key west for hiring people to work on her 3 houses (myself included) and not paying them. Rescuing cats is wonderful but this woman lives in their filth and that truly is crazy

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