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Karin Fuller: Caring in utopia

December 23, 2018

It feels strange to be in my parents’ house without my parents being here too. Over the years, I’ve stayed alone in their home before, mostly to pet-sit when they traveled, but this time feels different. This time it seems wrong. Perhaps in the same way it might feel to be the only person eating pie at a table of dieters.

Wrong because I know that, more than anywhere else in this world, my folks want to be where I am now. But they’re not.

And, like them, more than anywhere else in this world, I want to be in my own home, 10 hours away.

In mid-November, my dad suffered a fall and was hospitalized for a week before being sent off to rehab. This past weekend, he moved from that rehab to another, just down the street from my brother in Ohio. Mom went along. Since they don’t like to leave their house empty, I’ve been hanging out here, enjoying some time with one of my best friends, Diane Tarantini, who traveled from Morgantown to keep me company (and worked her fingers to nubs while here).

It was fun showing off their property. The view is gorgeous, high on a ridge overlooking a bend in the river. Deer seem aware of the many “No Hunting” signs that border this land and graze calmly in their yard, just feet from the door. Wild turkey are so plentiful, Dad will sometimes clap boards together to scare them away, complaining they’re even more messy than geese.

Most plentiful, though, are the cats — their being another reason I’m here. My parents have been caring for a colony of cats for years, and their love for these cats is enormous.

As are most of the cats.

My folks sometimes forget whether they’ve put food out for the cats, so they feed them again. And again. Theirs might be one of the only obese feral cat colonies in existence.

Early on, we would catch and neuter as many of the cats as we could manage, but new cats would appear faster than we could keep pace. Last spring, my daughter Celeste enlisted the help of the Fix ‘Em Clinic, and Rachel Burgess and siblings Nancy and Jim Simmons spent a few days here catching cats and getting them fixed before returning them to my parents’ farm.

Recently, though, tending the cats has become a danger to my parents. Lifting the heavy bags of feed. Trying to distribute food without falling, as the cats weave excitedly around their legs. Add to it that Mom is allergic to cats. Although the cats are outside and she in, it’s caused her to be something of a prisoner in her own home.

And so, while my folks are briefly out of state, I’ve been hustling to find homes for some of the more tame ferals. It’s not been easy to do, especially since I’ve been placing captured kittens for so long my friends have declared themselves to be “all catted up.” Plus, kittens are easy. These are adults.

Two of my fellow Nitro High graduates, Kathy Jordan, who operates A Passion for Purrs in Cross Lanes, and Karen Kail have volunteered to help. If even a few of these chubby cats can find homes, I’ll be relieved. They’re interesting, intelligent, healthy, fixed cats. With thighs that I can relate to.

Some people might not believe ferals can be tamed, but our old cat Sully used to be as wild as they come. Once upon a time, I was having trouble with squirrels in my attic. A friend suggested I catch one of the neighborhood ferals and put it in my attic for a bit, saying the cat scent would prompt the squirrels to flee. It worked like a charm. The squirrels left. The cat stayed.

Taming Sully didn’t happen overnight. It took time and patience — and a great deal of shaved ham — but in the end, we couldn’t have asked for a more affectionate cat.

It seems ironic that our very old Sully died at home in his sleep on Monday while I’m here, at my parents’ house, caring for feral cats.

And ironic, too, that I’m here at this place I’ve always viewed as utopia, wishing I was somewhere else.

Karin Fuller can be reached via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.

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