Introduction:  Several weeks ago, I received an email with some suggested additions to one of the articles here at CatStuff. Ulli wrote me briefly about how she had become a cat lover; I found the her 'transformation' very interesting and asked her to share the story here.

The Transformation of a New Home Owner into a Cat Lover

by Ulli Vassilliere

When I first moved here to Maryland from good old Germany in 2005, I didn't know anything about cats. I considered myself a "dog person". Cats smelled funny and their owners just didn't know how to train dogs. And especially did I know nothing about feral cats or a cat overpopulation. Dogs came from breeders and cats came from somebody else's cat that just had a litter like she does twice in a lifetime or so.

I believed all dogs and cats were well fed and taken care of in loving homes. The few poor souls that were being mistreated or whose owner had passed were taken to the Humane Society where they would all find a new loving home very soon.

I had moved from a (very) small apartment in downtown Berlin (no, that is not like living in the heart of picturesque Heidelberg or Rothenburg ob der Tauber, that is more like living downtown Detroit or Baltimore) to a brand new two story single family home plus 1/3 acre yard in downtown Preston, a town with a proud population of 600 in the midst of miles and miles and more miles of farm land.

For the first time in my life I grew my own vegetables and cut my own grass. And of course I planned on getting a puppy or two once I became more "settled". I haven't had any pets of my own for almost 30 years (all my adulthood) and this yard was simply screaming for pets.

The first year in my new home I noticed that a lot of my neighbors must have a lot of outdoor cats. The second winter this Siamese typish cat kept showing up at my back and front door asking for food. And I kept telling her to go home. Better not feed her or I might never get rid of her again!

She stopped showing up so my method obviously worked.

A few months later, in May 2006, she was back. And joining her were four 4-5 week old kittens.

I thought they were just simply adorable and sooo cute playing with my tomatoes and peppers. But I still wouldn't feed "Mom". Sometimes this bigger and more "pumped up" looking cat would join them and I thought "oh, how cute! A cat family!".

I watched them every day for a few weeks and after talking to the neighbors and some research on the internet it (very) slowly dawned on me that these cats might not really have a home.

I had no clue what to do.  I thought they were all very cute but I can't take them in.  I'm not a cat person….I wouldn't know how to handle them.

So I called the Humane Society, we trapped "Mom" and two kittens, the officer assured me they would be brought to a no-kill rescue shelter, and I told her I would bring her the remaining two kittens that didn't go in the traps a few days later…. That was June 13, 2006.

I started feeding the kittens and began thinking of some simple names to give them so I could call them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They had been born in and were still living in a deserted barn next door. It would only take me a few days or maybe a week to tame them and then hand them over to the Humane Society.

I named them Bobby and Suzie…..

Skip to March 6, 2007, 4:19 PM:

Bobby is downstairs in the laundry room sleeping on his favorite chair in front of the window.  

Suzie is fast asleep in the king size bed that she lets me share with her at night.

Suzie will be up soon and walk through the wall-mounted pet door outside in our new cat-safe fenced-in yard to check what the weather is like. Outside on my deck she likes to sun bathe on the roof of their cedar wood insulated duplex cat house with porch I purchased a loooooong time ago to get them out of the barn and closer to the house. They chose the "big house" instead.

Bobby likes to sleep until around 7 pm and then they will get their first dinner, followed by an hour or two of interactive play time. Bobby is very nocturnal and stays outside in the fenced-in yard until after midnight and then again from early morning on. Suzie likes to join me in front of the TV from 10 pm on.

They eat a second dinner late; that is when they eat the most. Breakfast is currently at 7 am.

They are of course meanwhile neutered and spayed and vaccinated. 

I also had Suzie's Dad "Herman" neutered and another tomcat whom I named Joe. Herman still lives in the barn like he has for at least 9 years but he came over for breakfast and dinner often before the fence went up.  Now he is a bit intimated but I believe he will adjust like we all do. The fence was installed 5 weeks ago so it is still brand new for all of us. I know of at least two other homes where Herman gets food on a regular basis so I'm not too worried.
I hope he shows up again soon because he really needs some dental work done.   The few teeth he has left are in pretty bad shape.  He will also need some flea protection soon.  He is, by the way, not so "pumped up" anymore but turned into a slightly chubby pussy cat.

Joe is doing fine the neighbors tell me, I just never get to see him; this was always Herman's territory.

Bobby is by the way obviously the result of an extra-marital affair with a Maine Coon that must have passed through town last spring.

But Suzie is definitely Herman's kid.  Just one look in her face….

Bobby was attacked by two dogs before the fence went up.  He just walked into their pen next door which they didn't appreciate.  These dogs just don't have any understanding of a cat's natural curiosity that results from its superior intelligence!!  The next day I went out and bought two baseball bats and placed them strategically next to the front and back doors.  There are coyotes around here and several free roaming large and small dogs….

Now with spring approaching fast, I am considering some serious cat specific landscape design.

The first project will be a garden swing or something  similar under the big Magnolia tree.

Since the cats can't sit on the front porch anymore (the fence…) they need some alternative to lie down and relax and watch traffic and people go by.

Eventually I'm planning on moving to a new home with less square footage indoors but much more room outdoors.  Several fenced-in acres of delicious tasting  grass and countless well-grown trees would be just right.

We don't need so much space inside the house. Just enough room for our king size bed, a robust scratchable couch, a large cardboard box serving as a coffee table (much safer during our interactive play time hours), a few other different sized boxes with and without holes liberally tossed around the room, a spacious kitchen counter for Bobby to move around freely while helping me prepare food or wash the dishes, and of course a 32" flat screen TV set for Suzie and me.

We don't need fancy curtains either. Some well-known stores carry a good variety of inexpensive blinds which I can replace annually after "fly season".  Suzie's favorite indoor hobby is catching flies behind the blinds that try to get out the window.

I'm also looking for a new job that lets me become a millionaire in no time because I have this strange feeling in some corners of my heart that in a few years from now the three of us will be sharing our lives with many more felines who stopped by one day looking for food and shelter.

And we will need lots and lots of acres then…

Bobby and Suzie and Ulli in Preston, Maryland

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