One of the best compliments Brian ever gave me was that he knew I was going to be a good mother by the way I took care of the pets.  Now, I don’t know that that’s an accurate assessment for being a good parent, but I can scoop a mean litter box.

I have three cats.  I had four, but Brian “accidentally” left the garage up and the door to the house ajar two years ago and lost Gussy.  (This remains a controversial topic in our house).  We also have a black lab named Sadie.  All are rescues.  While Sadie is “our” dog, Brian is quick to point out that the cats are mine.

Today is litter box day.  I was able to trick my husband into continuing to clean the litter boxes for awhile post-pregnancy.  He eventually caught on and began shirking his litter box duties: ignoring stray poops that had somehow missed the box, waiting until our eyes were watering from the smell of cat urine before he would dive into the closet with the scooper whilst wearing a face mask.  I’m onto his game.

Brian? Is that you?

I finally caved and resumed litter box duty, if only to avoid our home becoming a biohazard for our five-month-old.  So, today, I hauled the litter boxes out back for a thorough hosing and a fresh litter fill for the first time in months. I can already breathe easier.

The cats can’t speak human, but they’ve managed to make a pact to always, always find the most challenging place to clean when they need to barf.  Even though half our house is wood or tile flooring, they feel the urge and, I swear, they run to make sure they heave on the carpet, the bedspread, in Lola’s crib, or on the oriental rug. (The oriental rug is the tricky one, because the yellow/beige flowers match the cat food and sometimes it takes awhile for Brian and I to notice a flower has become three dimensional).

The other day, one of the cats barfed on Brian’s weights.  I told him they were objecting to his litter box neglect.

I have a cleaning service that comes every two weeks.  Doesn’t matter.  My weekends are still full of cleaning. (Let me point out that the cleaning service isn’t a hoity-toity indulgence but is a necessity for my personal sanity.  Otherwise, I think I’d snap and start whacking passersby with a broom while mumbling about my cats.)

I start the weekend with a treasure hunt for the devious pile of cat vomit that has escaped my notice during the week.  You’d be surprised at the things you find hidden in the closet or in the guest room while you’ve been tied up on conference calls or running to meetings – in addition to vomit, I’ve found mangled lizards, battered spiders, and the odd sock that’s been missing for two years.

Willaby is my 17-year-old brown tabby.  Brian’s nickname for her used to be “fatty”, but she’s lost half her body weight in the past two years due to age and health.  Willaby was my first real-living-thing I took care of after moving out on my own.  She is addicted to Cosmic Catnip (the catnip that has a cat with dilated eyes floating over a rainbow on the packaging, I shit you not).  However, instead of the mellow hippie cat, Willaby is an angry high.  She rolls around in the catnip and starts growling and smacking the other cats around when all they want to do is share the doobie…I’ve even seen her pee on her stash to keep them away.

“Hi. My name is Willaby. Get your own.”

Willaby has kidney disease and, potentially, some kind of elusive cancer causing the weight loss.  Willaby does not do well at the vet – and by “does not do well”, I mean the vet’s office has bright orange warning stickers on her file encouraging the use of armpit length gloves and welding visors before approaching her.  Only I can give her medication (trust takes 17 years), and I have to give her an appetite stimulant and a kidney supplement every other day.  She doesn’t like it, but she doesn’t rip my face off, either.  Anyone else that tried that crap would be missing part of their nose.

Harvey is my 13-year-old orange tabby lovebug.  (Brian’s nickname: “Dumb-dumb”.)  Just because Harvey runs into things and has a slight overbite does not make him dumb.  Just because Harvey raises his back and hisses at the vacuum cleaner, getting in a mood all day after it makes an appearance, also does not make him dumb.  He likes curling up in a ball on my right side when I sleep, making contented squeaky snores and purring in my ear.  The baby has really jacked with his routine.  He seems surprised to find his spot taken in the middle of the night (after I’ve fed Lola and have been too lazy to take her back to her crib) and he’s running into things more often.  Harvey is the explosive vomiter of the group – he covers more ground before sun up than most cats do all day.

Harvey went into kidney failure in 2008 when I was working commission-only and was broke – really, really broke.  I put $1600 on my visa trying to figure out what was wrong with him and my husband about had a car accident when I told him.  (Even though I pay my own credit card and it didn’t cost him a dime).  Harvey had to be in the hospital for a week, and I visited him every day after work. Interestingly, I was working for a man named “Harvey” at the time so, when I got on the phone at work to tell family or friends that Harvey had explosive vomited everywhere and had to go to the hospital where they discovered he was in kidney failure, all kinds of entertaining miscommunication ensued…but I digress.

Since February, 2008, Harvey (the cat) has been getting subcutaneous fluid therapy at home.  I pinch his back and insert an 18-gauge needle and hold him while he gets his dosage of electrolyte fluid replacement.  When I’m on the road for work, I hire a vet tech to come in and give him his medication.  He also takes Predisonal every other day for Irritable Bowell Syndrome.  Yes, I said it.  Harvey (the cat) has Irritable Bowell Syndrome.  Don’t laugh.  It’s about as pleasant as it sounds.

Both Harvey and Willaby are on special prescription food.

My third cat, Pip, is my black and white tom that was a feral kitten when I found him and his brother.  (Brian’s nickname: “Crackhead”.)  I had to patiently wait for two months while I fed them out back.  I would inch closer and closer until, finally, they would allow me to pet them.  I then scooped them up and took them to be fixed and vetted.  (A neighbor who also fed them split the cost with me).  I found Pip’s brother a home, but didn’t trust the person who wanted Pip.  Brian accused me of “playing God” when, in fact, he just didn’t want another cat.  Pip has now lived with us for 8 years.

Pip liked Brian at first but, after he was fixed, he got skittish.  Brian’s convinced that he must look like the vet that took Pip’s balls.  Pip is my cat that no visitor ever sees.  The second anyone else is in the house, he runs for cover.   The last time my parents were here, we came home from dinner and were standing in the entryway.  Pip came careening around the corner (he didn’t expect us) and shredded the top of my mom’s foot as he tried to get traction (she was wearing sandals), then dove under our bed and wasn’t seen again for a week.  We doctored Mom’s foot with peroxide.  She lived.

At this point in time, Pip doesn’t have any health issues that I know of.  Other than schizophrenia.

Sadie recently went in for her yearly shots and is significantly overweight.  The vet asked what we’re feeding her – she’s on Science Diet Weight Loss, so the vet figured she might have a thyroid problem and took a blood sample.  Guess what?  She has a thyroid problem!!  (Hell, why not add another animal who requires daily medical treatment to my routine?)  She now takes 3 thyroid pills morning and night, as well as Benadryl due to skin allergies on her belly.  I have to roll the Benadryl in a piece of hot dog.

I could’ve saved some significant dough had I become a vet.

We love our pets.  They are truly a part of our family.  (Okay, the cats are like redheaded stepchildren to Brian, but he doesn’t beat them).  I get a lot of crap for being a “crazy cat lady”, but I’m secure in my crazy cattiness and the animal hospital I run on the side.  (Let me be clear: I DO NOT dress my pets in human clothes.)

I hope to teach Lola to respect the lives of animals and to fight animal cruelty and negligence.  And I hope she’s not allergic to any of our pets… I’ll have to build a separate wing on our house for them. Brian will probably complain about how much that will cost.  But he’d better not leave the garage up and the door to the house ajar to try to avoid it…