Back when our daughters were in middle school, they were required to do community service hours. Both girls really loved animals, especially cats, so naturally we went to the local cat rescue center, The Cat Cottage. This was a privately run organization that rescued homeless cats and helped them find their ‘fur-ever’ families. The girls had to participate in a rigorous training program which taught them about cat care and cat behavior and upon completion they received a certificate, cat ear lapel pins, a cat lover mug and the title of “Cat Socializer.” A Cat Socializer is someone who volunteers their time by petting and playing with each cat. The goal was for the cats to experience frequent interaction with humans and thus becoming more readily adoptable. Of course, My friend and I had to complete the training with the girls because they were under the age of 18 and could not volunteer without a parent.
So for the next year and a half, we took the girls every week to volunteer and play with the cats. This place was unbelievable, you can just imagine how much we saw in that time, and how much material for blogging we have. We have to begin with a description of the facility. It was divided up into different rooms which had certain types of cats housed within. The rooms were divided as such: The newborn/kitten room (up to 10 months), the toddler room (ages 10 -18 months), the teenage room (ages 18 months- 2 years), The middle aged room ( 2-6 years), The senior room ( 6 -10 years), The elder room (10 and up), the infirmary for sick cats of any age and last but not least, the quarantine room for cats with cat related communicable diseases. Each room was decorated in a strict color coordinated scheme. The rooms were filled with beds, litter boxes, toys, cat condos, blankets and chairs for humans to sit on all in the same color! Also in each room was a very large hi definition flat screened television that played videos of fish, squirrels, mice and birds on a continuous loop throughout the entire day. Some of the rooms had a screened patio for the cats to sun themselves! We always said that adopting a cat from the cat cottage would actually be a punishment for the cats, talk about a downgrade!
On top of all that pampering, they had weekly activities, events and contests that would take place, comparable to what you might find in a retirement community, or better yet, a college dormitory. One contest in particular that we found “interesting” was ‘Honorable Mentions’ similar to what you would find in a high school yearbook. The categories were as follows:
- Brightest eyes
- Bushiest tail
- Most likely to succeed
- Most popular
- Least likely to cough up hairballs
- Best at catching toy mice
- Best at bird watching
- Sharpest claws
- Most charismatic
An example of one of the weekly events was they would have members of a local Senior Center come visit and play with the cats and read books to them. Each book was about cats in general, no other subject.
Let’s delve deeper into where those books came from, shall we?
The Cat Cottage had a small library in which Cat Socializers and volunteers were encouraged to check books out and read them to the cats. Examples of some of the books were: Cat in the Hat, Puss in Boots, Little White The Feral Cat Who Found a Home, Black Cats Tell All, Chicken Soup for the Soul;My Very Good, Very Bad Cat,Pete The Cat, A Series and Felix the Cat.
Each “cat” was allowed one book per day to borrow. The book had to be returned by the end of the day. Being that cats have no thumbs, my friend and I surmised that this was really the human beings’ responsibility to check out and return the books. Everything in that facility was geared towards the cats being the dominant species, the humans were just their servants. (not much different than being a cat owner). If books were not returned by closing time, this was noted on each cat’s identification card that was placed on the bulletin board of their room.
One time when we were volunteering, the full time staff and volunteers were dressed in costumes similar to the ones worn in Cats the Musical. Upon inquiring as to why they were dressed in costume, the Volunteer Coordinator explained to us that they put on monthly shows and skits for the residents (in case you were confused, she was referring to the cats!). She went on to say that the cats absolutely loved it and looked forward to it every month. She also told us they keep the music lower so as not to frighten the cats. She swore that their favorite numbers from this play was “Mr. Mistoffelees.” My friend and I could not keep a straight face. As they rehearsed in the hallways outside of the cats’ rooms, We would like to describe some of reactions of the “audience members/residents.” In the blue room, one resident was sleeping and another was cleaning his behind. In the red room, there was a calico named Vanilla Sundae who had her backed turned to the performers the entire time. In the Green Room, someone was growling at them and another was sleeping inside the litter box. In the Leopard Print Room (which was also the senior room) none of the residents even seemed to acknowledge that anything was out of the ordinary! If this wasn’t enough, playbills were printed so the cats could follow along.
As time went on, we began to realize that the people working at the Cat Cottage were a bit “off.” I know that at that time we were two “up and coming” middle aged Jewish women and we really did not know from this insanity, but even we recognized this was very strange. Something “fishy” was going on, there was more to this story that meets the “cats” eye.
To be continued…..