TALES OF THE MOGGY HORDE

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6 JAN. 98:
Got home late last night after being gone for two weeks. I figured Owl and Artemis would have forgotten who I was and I counted on a certain amount of Cat Revenge.

Most of the cats came out in force to greet me. To my surprise, Owl was quite affectionate. He ran off the first time I approached him, but he usually runs off when he's on the stairs. But in the dining room, he came right over for lots of scritches, rubbed up against me, and purred up a storm.

Then I went to pet Tigerlily. I received three rapid-fire WHACKS on the hand for my trouble. Miss Lily Dominatrix was mightily peeved and was not about to let me pet her until I had been properly punished. I left her alone and she finally condescended to let me pet her later on, but still with a hint of Peevedness in her attitude.

Unicom couldn't wait to get outside, so out he went and out he stayed even though it was a cold night. He's a tough guy. Theseus was covered with long, thin dark somethings. He hadn't been outside, so they couldn't be grass or twigs. It took me a few minutes to figure out what they were -- the remains of peacock feathers. Sure enough, my thick glass vase filled with a peacock's entire batch of tail feathers had been knocked off the brick ledge (part of the fire wall for the woodburning stove). Bits of peacock feathers were (and still are) strewn about the floor in profusion.

Miraculously, the vase didn't break. This became even more remarkable when my sitter informed me that this was the third time the brats have knocked the vase and feathers down...each time landing on the brick platform below. I've put them back up, though the feathers are a lot worse for wear.

Kate and Knobby didn't come out of hiding; I had to go looking for them. Sassy was the last hold-out. She was berserk with excitement and shot off like a rocket any time I tried to get near. I only managed to pet her much later after she'd finally calmed down.

Alas, the Cat Revenge was taken to the extreme. The bedroom absolutely REEKED, but I was too exhausted to deal with it last night. I spent this morning cleaning up and it was a major job. I seemed as though every inch of the kitchen counter had been sprayed, resprayed and pissed on. Plus tonight, I caught Sly spraying one of the cabinets, thus confirming his evil habit has returned (this was the problem his previous owner had with him). Papers left on the counter had been pissed on. The scratching boxes will have to be thrown out for the same reason.

In the bedroom, they'd sprayed the front of my dresser, but it took me longer to find the true source of the reek. One of the little mongrels had urinated all over the top of the dresser which is totally covered with jewelry and other Stuff. Fortunately, because of the cats, I keep my jewelry in plastic boxes, but I also had embroidered pieces of fabric which were drenched, along with a beaded coin purse and a cardboard box. It was a disgusting mess that took a long time to clean. The combination of cat urine and spray cleaner has proven to be an effective paint remover. At least it's an old dresser with many coats of paint. The undercoat seems to be more resistant to cat byproducts.

I'm sure there's more I haven't found yet. I'm ready to throttle half of the little monsters. I'm giving serious thought to finding new homes for a few of them. Sly may have to become an outdoor cat again. Ah, well, being me I'll probably just whine and bitch and do nothing about it. They heaped all over me when I got into bed, so they definitely missed me. Tonight, Achilles, Kate and Zorro have been competing for possession of my lap. Even Diva came and had her turn, and she's not a lap cat. Time to go downstairs and appease the Dominatrix with some cat treats.

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10 JAN. 98:
Many of the cats have been especially clingy since I got back. Last night, I had Achilles, Zorro and Kate trying to occupy my lap at the same time. Hubble keeps giving me headbutts. Try writing someone a check with a cat butting his head into your arm.

I opened the cat door to let the mogs outside, but thanks to the rain, they were quick to come back in. I saw Owl head for the cat door and decided to watch what he did. He went up to the cat door and I'm betting he would have used it, but when he realized I was there, he dashed past me in a panic. The Phantom Sprayer outwitted the towels protecting part of my kitchen counter by taking higher aim and spraying the cabinets above the towels. And when I got home tonight, the Phantom Pisser had left a large puddle on my range. I sure would like to know who's doing it. It's not only disgusting, it plays havoc with the metal stovetop and is ruining the finish.

I gave the moggies some stalks of catnip. I had little wars as stoned cats tried to hog the stalks.

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11 JAN. 98:
Theseus has only been able to go outside for two days and I already found a big, brown deer tick on his back. Doused that sucker with rubbing alcohol and got rid of it. Theseus was extremely well-behaved about it. He turned into a giant fluffball for winter, a big plush toy.

I'm pleased to note that Sassy seems glad to have me back. She's gradually gentled down and become more affectionate since I've had her. She was terribly snotty when she lived at the clinic. Having one person who is strictly her person seems to be working out well.

I've left a large cardboard box downstairs for the entertainment of the moggies. I heard lots of scratching going on inside the box and decided to see who was having fun in there. I went downstairs, knelt in front of it and Owl EXPLODED out! He startled me so badly, I must've jumped a foot. Owl's come a long way. It keeps getting easier to come up to him and pet, he talks to me a little bit, and he continues to be more at ease in the house. I'm betting he'll eventually learn to play with one of the other cats. He took a playful (though very careful) swipe at Artemis as she strolled by right after the box incident. She ignored him.

Miss Lily has completely forgiven me for being gone. She's back to full purrs and lap-sitting as before.

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23 JAN. 98:
Alas, there hasn't been much to report because I've been gone most of the time. The moggies have been relatively good of late, except for Blue taking dumps under the bed. Putting boxes under the bed to eliminate the open space seems to have worked. I've also moved the cat box out of the dining room without the Phantom Pisser striking in that area afterwards. And I've found a way to discourge the PP from using my stove countertop by placing a long, heavy, cast-iron meat griller over it. It's solid, but has ridges to hold the meat, which makes it very uncomfortable on cat feet. It's worked so far.

I have a large box full of ghost droppings (Carl Barks' wonderfully funny phrase for styrofoam packing "peanuts") and Zorro LOVES diving into it. Having to clean up a zillion pieces of ghost droppings is less fun, however. At least Owl doesn't eat them. Speaking of Owl, tonight he actually came over to me of his own accord while I was sitting in the dining room. He strolled to and fro around my chair to let me pet him. Until now, I've always had to seek him out to give him scritchies. He gives me an occasional almost inaudible meow to let me know he enjoys the attention. I've never seen such a silent Siamese.

Diva carries on in good voice, though, though Tosca has given up being vocal. Tosca is a pudgy little ball now, nothing like the skinny cat I brought home. Hubble has gotten more insistent with his head butts, and doesn't care what else I may be trying to do at the time-- like prepare food or write something down. Tigerlily is doing great. No new lumps on her chest as best I can tell. She's in excellent shape and looks very healthy, but she remains as irascible as ever toward the other cats. Her passion for cat treats is insatiable.

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25 JAN. 98:
I was on the phone last night when I kept hearing a series of beeps. It wasn't the phone battery going bad. It wasn't anything else I could figure out. It might have been the smoke detector, except I'd just replaced the battery in that. I wandered around the house until I finally realized it was coming from the loft. It was Unicom having a bath on top of the fax machine. Each time he shifts, he set off half a dozen buttons. Blue is on his way to be exiled from the house. He insists on doing his business in the bedroom instead of the cat box. I wish I could lock him in the back hallway with the cat boxes, but that would lock the rest of the cats out of the hallway. Finding him a new home may be the only solution.

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27 JAN. 98:
Once again, I was woken by the redolent smell of cat sh*t in the bedroom. I still haven't been able to catch the Phantom Sh*tter in the act, but I strongly suspect Blue, or possibly Artemis. I had to give up on sleep to clean it up. I've put newspaper down on that spot. It will not only be easier to clean up that way, I may be able to hear the paper crackling in time to catch the villain in the act.

At any rate, it was a final straw, on top of having everything from the kitchen counter to my CD player sprayed, large chunks of the house clawed and so forth. I've made a major decision about how many cats I'm willing to have in the house. Though I've been putting it off for years, the time has come to clean out the studio and turn it into my office and let most of the cats live there. It's a huge space, so they'll have plenty of places to romp and roam. Since I spend a lot of time at my computer, they'll still be able to have my company. And they can spray and mess down there instead of in the living space. I'll still keep a couple of my old and favored cats in the house, of course. It'll take a staggering amount of work to accomplish this, given the vast stacks of excess junk in the studio, and certain bits of carpentry that need to be done. And I need to be able to have a water line extended, so there'd be running water, at least.

I took Blue to my vet's clinic this morning and he spent the day on display in their waiting room, looking for a new home. They've had a lot of success placing cats this way. No one took him today, so I brought him home for the night, but he goes back every day until I find him a new home.

Meanwhile, I'm in deep, deep trouble. I left the cat door open when I left this morning. It helps cut down on the moggy mischief if they can go outside. I didn't worry about Owl because he's been really good about staying inside. Not today. Today he went out...and stayed out. It's almost 10 pm, Owl is still outside and he won't come in. He won't answer me or come anywhere close to me. I can't get him inside. AAAAAGGGGHHHH!

Last time I went out to call him, I could see him way under the back deck. It's totally impossible to catch him under there. I can't stay up all night waiting for him to change his mind and come inside. He may have to spend the night out there while I probably end up worrying too much to sleep anyway. The little monsters are out to get me.

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28 JAN. 98:
Last thing I did before going to bed was attempt to lure Owl out with treats. He wasn't having any. I couldn't stay up all night with a recalcitrant mog. I had to give up and go to bed. As soon as I woke up this morning, I went to look for him. He was sitting on the patio, next to the steps to the back deck. But as soon as I slid open the glass doors and called him, he ran under the deck. I tried to lure him out with treats again, but he remained as stubbornly out of reach as ever. He didn't even consider moving toward me. I knew I'd be at work until probably 7 pm or so, so I considered what to do. Though it meant slight hardship for the rest of the Horde, I knew my best bet was to get Owl good and hungry. I emptied all the food bowls, then left the cat door open.

I took Blue with me again to put on display at the vet's. There was a screw-up and they had another cat already in the lobby. I wasn't about to drive him all the way home again, so the clinic kindly put Blue up for the day in a nice, big cage. Not that he particularly appreciated it. I'll have to wait until the other cat finds a home before I can bring Blue back for another try.

Around 6, I picked Blue up. He had to spend some more time in his carrier while I finished up some more work and had dinner. I got home around 9.

It worked!!! Owl was inside, lounging around, totally relaxed, as though he'd never left. Mind you, the rest of the Horde fell upon me and were ready to rip the flesh from my bones if I didn't feed them RIGHT NOW!!! I filled those bowls as fast as I could move. They had also expressed their disgust with the lack of food by spraying the kitchen counter.

I let Blue go outside for a while, to make up for being shut in a cage all day.

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THE REST OF THE YEAR
Don't ask me what happened to the rest of 1998. Between a major life change and a number of computer crashes, the best thing I can do is summarize.

The major life change was falling in love with Randy Littlejohn and deciding we wanted to live together. There was one significant problem with this - Randy is highly allergic to cats.

This would seem like a disaster to a woman with (at the time) 18 cats. But we have actually made this work and this is how we did it.

We spent months cleaning out the garage/studio. It's a huge room, over twice the size of a normal two-car garage. Randy and I had to haul out dozens and dozens of boxes, kill vast numbers of scorpions and huge black widows, then give the place a thorough cleaning. I installed a cat door in the office door. We finished off insulating the walls and ceiling, which was half-done. Half the space has carpeting, half is cement floor. The cement half contains shelves storing files, artwork and tons of boxes of stuff, plus cat boxes, cat sofa, food and water bowls. The old sofa was so drenched in Essence of Cat, there was no point leaving it in the house, since Randy could never come near it. Hence it's now down here, just for the cats.

I moved my entire office to this space. Desks, computer and equipment, filing cabinets. Most walls are covered with bookshelves full of reference books, but I left the tops of the bookshelves as clear as possible to provide a sort of "runway" element around the room. This works great. The cats love it. They can rocket around on top of those, then bounce across the filing cabinets and onto and across various boxes. They have big picture windows for days when they have to or want to stay inside.

The final big move took place around April when I called the cats to follow me and got them inside the office. It took a couple of weeks for them to adjust. Naturally, they would come back up to the house wanting to get in. Achilles will still do this. But they've settled in perfectly and know this is officially "home".

The house was then given a professional cleaning job to eliminate as much of the cat allergens as possible (a nearly impossible job). The carpets were specially cleaned, walls wiped down and so on. We installed special HEPA air filters. I bought a special HEPA-filter vacuum cleaner. Finally, Randy was able to move in. Things have been wonderful ever since.

There are two exceptions to the Great Moggy Relocation Scheme.

One is Nefreet. My little psycho-kitty doesn't get along with any other cats and they don't get along with her. Randy and I agreed to try letting only Nefreet live in the house. Her life was hell previously, as she was always fighting, running, hiding and living in misery. I kept telling her, "Hold on, it's about to get a thousand percent better."

Did it ever. She has the whole house to herself. She can finally relax and live something close to a normal life (except when she goes outside and the fights begin all over again). The only area that remains off-limits is the bedroom. Randy needs to have some area as allergy-free as we can manage.

Exception #2 is Unicom, my big old orange tabby. He's mostly an outdoor cat. He got too agitated being inside the office and was better off being outside most of the time. The house has a nice back hallway area (where the washer and dryer and pantry shelves are) accessible by cat door. He has his own food, water, and nifty places to sleep. The back hall and the great outdoors are HIS territory, though he grudgingly shares the outside with the rest of the Horde.

I found an anti-allergen liquid made by Nature's Miracle. Nefreet and Unicom get a rub-down once a week with this and it makes a huge difference. It's probably the one reason Randy can live with Nefreet in the house...and all over him. She adores him now. So does Unicom.

So does Diva. She talks up a storm whenever she encounters him. Even the elusive slinky-boy, Owl, will let Randy pet him now. The thing is, Randy loves cats. It's just the coolest thing in the world for him to be able to be close and have a relationship with at least a couple of my cats. It's a first in his life.

The general routine is to come down to the office, tend to the cats that need pills, and let the Horde outside to romp during daylight hours. Starting mid- afternoon, I get them inside and lock up the cat door. If I wait until dusk, some of the cats are having too much fun and won't come in. They're in for the rest of the night. I tend to spend hours working on my computer, which allows for plenty of lap time to the cats that want it.

We let Nefreet in and out during the day, but she's in at night. Unicom is the only one I trust to let him come and go at all hours. The coyotes, bobcats and other predators around here would wreak havoc on the horde if I didn't keep them in at night.

I must admit, I have truly come to appreciate living in a house with only one cat without the kind of mess the horde was making. Without all the hair, piles of cat vomit, spraying and other disgustingness that abounded.

But my office...let's just say it's a good thing it's designed to be a practical space instead of a really nice one. Instead of regular cat boxes, I bought four giant utility tubs - those big black plastic kind used to mix cement for small jobs. They make absolutely terrific cat boxes for large numbers of cats. The cement floor and durable carpeting can take the other damage.

I work hard to keep the desk area clean. I have a plastic box that goes over my keyboard any time I step away from it, even for a minute. I've installed screens over all the air ducts of my computer and every other piece of equipment has a plastic cover. The filing cabinets and lower part of the bookshelves are protected by large sheets of cardboard, which the cats love to spray.

All in all, it's been an ideal solution. Happy people; happy cats.