It's 6 a.m. and they are lined up in a row with faces directed at the lady in charge of their breakfast. It's not oatmeal or bacon and eggs for the three cats, but canned food thoughtfully selected from the supply in the pantry that has a higher value than my canned fruits and vegetables in the cellar.
I panic if there aren't at least two dozen cans of cat food on hand, and I am happier if there are twice that many. The cat-food shelves hold a smorgasbord of varieties because each cat has favorites and because I am intrigued by names. I also stock up on the rare occasion favorites are on sale.
Examples of names that pique my interest are real tuna and whole shrimp, real salmon and crab meat, and sliced lamb and rice. A salmon-shrimp combination is labeled gourmet. Choices reflect human dietary trends. Today Geranium is having yellow fin tuna Florentine, and Sullivan will chow down on white meat chicken with white egg souffle with garden greens. Hemingway will eat whatever I open, probably chicken hearts and liver.
If someone would have told me 10 years ago that I would have three cats in my golden years I would have said they were far off base. One cat is plenty, but as other animal lovers know, more pets just happens. They multiply when hearts are kind. Maybe our houses are marked. When friends tell me they refuse to feed a cat that has been hanging around their house, such lack of compassion in a person, who otherwise has seemed normal, is upsetting.
I truly believe that Sullivan, Geranium, and Hemingway are all very loving. They lick my hand when they are petted and compete to sit on my lap because they appreciate being rescued. They are strays that arrived about five years apart. Sullivan is the eldest and the other two know he gets what he wants though he is getting feeble and is nearly blind. For years a high jumper, now he cries to be lifted to the window ledge where he spends hours napping.
Hemingway has been here about a year and still escapes to the basement when anyone comes to the house. He is probably such a big eater because he had to forage for food in the woods before I convinced him last November to come into a warm house. He weighs18 pounds, has six toes, and such long gray and white fur I have to have him groomed, which is more expensive than my haircut. Geranium is the people cat that will jump on anyone's lap and usually is lying by my feet when I am sitting down. She continues to suffer with an inoperable tumor in her inner ear that Dr. Nancy checks every three months. I paint these portraits to explain to petless people that each animal has an individual personality.
Whether for grooming or veterinarian bills or food, people who have pets should make allowances to take care of them. Pets are as much a responsibility as they are a joy. Hopefully people who are tempted to take in a stray as we near winter or to buy a cute kitten or puppy as a Christmas gift will realize there's more to it than picking out an adorable name and buying a designer collar.
Should I call the doctor for an appointment for my physical or Dr. Nancy for a checkup on the four animals? That has been a consideration. The fourth pet is of course Digby, my beloved dog that tolerates the cats and moves over to let Hemingway nap with him. Some where in his wild days Hemingway must have had a dog pal because he surely is crazy about Digby.
I shudder at the number of cats and dogs that are in shelters waiting to be adopted and applaud Bob Barker daily when he closes TV's Price is Right by reminding Americans to have their animals neutered or spayed. If I ever attend the show I will wear a shirt designed with the photos of the three cats and Digby with an imprint, "FYI, Bob, we're neutered."