The Cat Room: How to Create a Sanctuary for Your Cats that Won’t Break the Bank

Guest Post By Maggie Greene, a former Frankfort, KY resident and self-proclaimed "crazy cat lady."
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The Cat Room: Part 1

If you're friends with Barbara, you've probably seen my recent "life event" on Facebook – I indeed finished The Cat Room over the weekend. After making a bet with myself, and anyone with doubts, the project took ONLY two weekends to execute!

Cyrus resting in the fabric box.The forcing function was a new addition, a Cymric (longhaired Manx) called Cyrus, pictured at right lounging in a fabric box. If I might digress . . .

His full name is William Raymond Cyrus, a city-slicked symbol of my southern roots. We DO NOT call him Billy Ray. My longtime boyfriend and partner, however, calls him "Pocket."

The context: we recently moved my old couch into The Cat Room and draped an oversized slipcover over it. It bags just so at each end that a tubular pocket forms around a kitten-sized area of the hardwood floor beneath. It’s his favorite hiding spot.

We'll talk about hiding spots a little later . . .

The Story

After a few weeks of scanning through pet profiles online, I took a chance on Craigslist – if only to satisfy my appetite for awkward Internet finds.

In some cities, you'll recall, the platform explicitly forbids live animal transactions, so I didn't expect much.

Who would post a pet for sale on Craigslist, anyway?

I filtered my search results to posts with images only, a few posts down was the headline: "Smokey the Manx," and a picture of a blue-grey longhaired kitten with green eyes.

He looked familiar.

When I clicked on the ad, there were four more photos. One of the kitten asleep on a pile of what appeared to be dogs.

Then an action shot of him batting a Bic lighter around on stained carpet.

In another, there is a McDonald's cup tipped over on the floor beside him.

The post was written from his point of view.

Its owner, "Mommy," as she was referenced in the post, was broke.

Her roommates were leaving. She had to move and wasn't sure where she'd go. She had a child and other pets. Through the owner, Smokey claimed he was not affectionate. He got on well with other cats, and dogs. He was vocal, but only at night, which seemed to bother other members of the household. And, lastly, because of his breed, Mommy figured he was worth about $100.

Long story short, she took $50 in cash and liked it. I didn't give her any choice. He wasn't neutered or vaccinated, and – let's face it – she probably desperately wanted the money.

I'd stopped at Fred Meyer on the way to get him and bought a faux mink throw blanket off the clearance rack so he would have something of his own for the transition. She brought him outside and it was clear he couldn't wait to get out of her arms. "He doesn't like being held," she said, and stuffed him in the carrier with the blanket.

For the 30-minute ride home, he was silent. Not a single peep out of him.

Once he was settled, had had a few minutes to explore, and sniffed out the litter box, he sauntered over and curled right up in my lap. I huddled over him and cried like a baby, tears dripping onto his fur.

It was that moment when the realization hit: he looks like Bruce.

The Back Story

Norman's late adopted brother, a Norwegian Forest cat I named Bruce, died in 2012.

A few days after I'd dropped him off in Lexington with Dr. Liz Ubhelor for a necropsy (per Barb’s recommendation), the doctor emailed . . .

"He was living on borrowed time." Those were the doctor’s words.

He had a congenital heart condition – a chronically enlarged ventricle that fated him to a short life, which was both news to me and too little too late.

In my grief, I decided to give him a chance to impact other people's lives. In this case, veterinary medicine students. Perhaps they could learn something about him, I thought.

Maybe they would find an explanation.

At the time, the only after-care option I could afford was cremation.

They wrapped the ashes in a thick plastic sleeve, folded and stapled with a pink index card on the front that read simply, "Greene," with the date on it and some number that meant nothing to me.

Norman on the couch.Bruce and Norman grew up together – I'd adopted Bruce my freshman year at Berea College, and Norman the year before graduation, in 2007. He'll be 10 this coming May and, apart from a short foster experience, Norman, pictured at left, has been alone since we lost Bruce.

In May of last year, soon after turning 30, I closed on my first house. Countless apartments and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, I took a chance, and now we have a forever home.

This past fall, though, a strange ache crept in.

Norman became withdrawn and began gaining weight from inactivity. He was depressed. Lonely. He needed a friend.

Fast-forward to January 2017 . . .

Just shy of two weeks into Cyrus’s integration into the Greene house, Norman has a companion again. They are happy, healthy, and altogether inseparable.

Want to learn how to create your own cat sanctuary? Look for Part 2 of this guest post Wednesday, February 15.

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