There is much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving…good clients, good friends, a lovely award for the work of Derry Township Community Cats, and so much else. And for the creatures – two-legged and four-legged who share the place we call home.  Happy Thanksgiving friends.







Marley and the dogs

Marley, Butterscotch and Paris


Stripe the grouch!



Annie on one of the winter cat beds



Butterscotch who loves the snow!


Minh and sneakers



Lily on radiator






Thomas in window



Me and Butterscotch

Hospitality Lessons from a Feral Diva

Feral cat

Can you tell she’s a diva?

I bet you can tell just by the expression on her face. She had me worried over the weekend. Spayed last Friday, and by Sunday evening she hadn’t eaten or peed. We get feral/community kitties who don’t eat for a bit, but rarely do we have one who hasn’t peed in two days. If she had been a he, there would have been a trip to the emergency vet, but since females rarely get blocked, I watched and waited. I put out a variety of canned foods along with kibble and did what I could to tempt her.  If she didn’t eat and pee by Monday morning, she was going to the vet’s office.

Sunday I force-fed her a couple times with a slurry of turkey baby food and water. She wasn’t happy about being fed that way, but she didn’t try to hurt me either. Sometimes the cats seem to forget they need to eat, and you can get them going again this way. I left her with some canned food Sunday night, and kept my fingers crossed.

Miraculously, by Monday morning she had eaten the canned food and she had very carefully peed in the water bowl. No urine anywhere else, just the water bowl. She just wasn’t willing to soil her area. She’s a diva.

My job, as her hostess, is to make her accommodations as amenable as possible while she’s with me. So what to do for a diva feral female? I found a small food container, not large, but wider than her water bowl by a little, filled it with litter and put it in her trap for her. Happy kitty now. Eating her wet food at night when no one is watching and using her little litter box. Hostess duties completed and kitty’s dignity in tact.


So much of work with homeless animals is about preserving or reestablishing the dignity of the animals we care for. They have such hard lives living in the elements, or in encounters with other animals (note the long scratch on our diva’s face) and with people who wish them harm. For those of us who do rescue, TNR, and other animal welfare projects, our job is hospitality while they are in our care. It is about making them as comfortable as we can and about improving their lives when they move on from whatever care we provide. It is the work of hospitality, whatever that means for an individual animal.

Some animals, like our visiting diva, accept the hospitality with gratitude and make the most of it. Others find even the kindest gesture threatening. We offer it anyway, as gently as possible, and without expectation of gratitude or even acceptance, in hopes that somewhere deep inside, it registers just a little bit as care and kindness. Maybe, just maybe, the next time hospitality is offered it will be just a teensy bit more welcome.

“True hospitality is marked by an open response to the dignity of each and every person. Henri Nouwen has described it as receiving the stranger on his own terms….”
Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography


Crazy Sunday


This cat’s expression says it all. What the hell happened today? Are we having a “scare Debra” day? Did I miss the announcement? Honestly, if I’d known I would just have stayed in bed this morning.

One client with a dog that has a probable urinary tract infection. The poor thing squatted about 15 times in 20 minutes. Walked into another client home early this morning to visit with a group of three cats, and there is blood all over the place. Looks like a health issue for one of the cats, rather than a cat fight.  And I am trying to get one of the feral kitties, who was spayed on Friday, to eat or pee. I’d be happy with either at this point. Luckily she let me force feed her a slurry of turkey baby food and water a bit ago, and I’ll give her some more this evening, so at least she is getting something in her system. But she gets to go to the vet tomorrow am if she hasn’t eaten and peed by then.

If all of this keeps me out of the vet’s offices over the Thanksgiving weekend, then I’m good with it. Holiday weekends are just notorious times for pets to decide to have medical issues, so if we’re doing holiday sick pets early and we can get through Thanksgiving with everyone healthy, I could live with that. But what a crazy day. If this was a test, I hope I passed.

“Is this some sort of test?”
“Everything that doesn’t kill you is.”
“Mind you,” he added, “surviving doesn’t always mean you passed.”
Michelle Sagara West, Cast In Secret


The Blessing of Annie: Patience

A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen


Annie hiding


Patience is not something most people would associate with me. I like things to be done, done right, and done quickly. Off the “to-do” list, and I’m on to the next item. A useful skill in the business world, but not so much when you’re working with raising a feral cat. Little feral Annie doesn’t give a damn that I want her to like me, to climb on my lap and let me pet her. It’s Annie’s way or the highway, from her perspective.  For much of the last year, she has chosen to hide.  The cubby above is one of her favorites. And I have waited, not terribly patiently, hoping that she will climb out of her hiding places and be more Annie in front of the world.

And the other night it happened.


This isn’t a great photo, but it is remarkable. Annie is always in or under something, never on something out in the open, but there she was the other night. On the sofa, no hiding. Amazing.

She has been experimenting lately with coming nearer to me and my husband. She’ll brush the chair I’m siting in. Every evening she comes to eat some kibble from my hand. She spends a lot of time watching me and the distance at which she watches gets closer every week. She even sniffs my hand now when I extend it, rather than running away. She knows I won’t pet her until she invites me, and she hasn’t invited me yet. She does, however, allow a pet or two when we put down her food in the morning. We’ve struck that bargain and she seems okay with it. This evening she was even chasing a catnip pillow around in the living room, entertaining herself out where everyone could watch.

And so we wait patiently for little miss Annie to manifest herself to the world. Little by little, our teacher of patience rewards us by showing more of herself.


Someday, maybe she will even climb in my lap and let me pet her like the other cats. Maybe. I’m waiting, and trying to be patient.