The Cat Conundrum

One nice day in early spring, our neighbor took her daughter to Arkansas for a three week long visit and never came back.  She had told no one of her plans not even her husband of nine years, the father of their child.

The house next door to ours where the three of them have lived for the past five years seems very empty, almost haunted by their lack of presence.  There are kid toys in the side yard, a child’s lawn chair on the deck.  I have hesitated to write about this because there is no way to get all the details, to get both sides of the story.  I only know that she did not speak ill of her husband and their daughter always seemed very overjoyed to see him when he came home from his job as a mailman.  I don’t believe there was anything sinister going on in the house next door.  Mr. Neighbor Guy seems like a nice normal man.

Mr. Neighbor Guy for the past four months has lived alone in the house next to us.  Husband has talked to him twice since the leaving and the guy seems genuinely devastated.  He still wears his wedding ring.  His daughter’s car seats are still in their cars for he can not bring himself to take them out.  He says that over the past year or two his wife had gotten more devoted to her religion whereas he had not.  His wife’s parents are also strongly religious.  They drove out here in their RV from Arkansas, stayed for a month or so and then one day left with his wife and child on what he thought was a short visit.  Evidentially she knew she was not coming back as she had a mobile home purchased and put together on a lot next to her parents house and that is where her and the daughter are living.

We only found out about this odd situation because of the cats.  As some of you know Delilah, whom I have referred to as the-cat-who-is-not-our-cat, is/was theirs along with a gorgeous white male cat named Bleu.  Both cats used to be strictly indoor cats until Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor had their daughter and moved next door to us.  Mrs. Neighbor Lady was strangely concerned with the thought that cats and their germs could hurt their child so she booted the cats out, giving them a cat door into their garage but no longer entrance to their house.

Last winter Delilah decided to adopt us, pawing at the front door asking to be let in.  We let her in.  Feeling guilty because she was not technically our cat we would put her out at night and we never feed her.  We thought of ourselves as awful people on the cold winter nights we put her out.  We started leaving a heated pad under a towel on a lawn chair next to our front door where she would sleep during the night.  We finally broke down and told Mrs. Neighbor Lady that Delilah was spending a lot of time in our house and asked if she would mind if we let her stay the night and if we could feed her.  She seemed happy about it and even made a strange comment that now makes sense.  She told me she was glad Delilah had someone to take care of her in case they ever had to move away.  I thought, how strange that they would consider moving and not take their cats, but I said nothing, relieved that she let us “have” Delilah.

After the shock wore off from hearing she had taken their daughter and left, my thoughts selfishly turned to Mr. Neighbor Guy’s plans.  What if he moved?  Would he take “our” cat?  We got an email from him a month or so ago.  I sped read it thinking, don’t take Delilah, don’t take Delilah, don’t take Delilah.  He did not want to take Delilah.  In fact he wanted to know if we would adopt both Delilah and Bleu.  He pointed out the apartment he is moving into can accept pets but he did not think it fair to lock the cats up indoors after their years of outdoor freedom.  We are all about taking Delilah but Bleu is a different story.

Bleu is shy and skittish.  He does not visit our yard very often and has never shown an interest in coming in our house.  I don’t think he would enjoy sharing a home with a nervous barky German Shepard and two loud quick moving boys.  We can not force him to live with us and I don’t think he would want us to.

Here are the options Husband and I have come up with.  Let me know if you have any suggestions.

  1. Allow Bleu to be strictly an outdoor cat but make sure he has food and water. – the flaw being we can never leave for a vacation because with raccoons and other various woodland creatures out there, we can’t leave food out for him.
  2. Try to have Bleu live like Delilah; they would both come and go and have food inside.  When we go on a trip we lock the cats in the house. – the flaw is that I don’t think Bleu wants to live with a dog and two crazy boys.
  3. Ask Mr. Neighbor Guy to leave us Delilah but not Bleu.  I don’t know if he would do this as the cats have been together their whole lives.  Seeing how they rarely interact with each other I don’t know how much they will miss one another. – flaw is he may say no and take Delilah.
  4. Cut a hole in our new detached garage and make that a safe place for Bleu to eat and sleep. – flaw is that raccoons and other cats could get in our garage.  Plus there is a feral cat, we named Handsome, who is insanely jealous of Delilah and pines for her when she is in our house.  He has claimed her as his own and has gone so far as to spray our front door, garbage cans, potted plants, etc.  He has gotten into our garage when the doors are open and has sprayed in there too.  It pisses me off (pun intended.)  We are considering live trapping him to see if fixing him will help, assuming he is not fixed already.

I don’t know how we end up in such strange predicaments.  If any of you have any suggestions or additional options for us, I am listening.

* Before I publish this I want to make clear that I am not making light of the sad situation our neighbors find themselves in.  I often find my thoughts drifting to it, wondering, shaking my head.  I am especially sad for the little girl who is the innocent in all of this.  The cat conundrum effects my family and our daily lives, whereas the goings-on of our neighbors effect us in a less immediate way. *

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About shoes

I am a blogger, a former microbiologist, a stay at home mom to a herd of two boys, and a grilled cheese sandwich and beer connoisseur.
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13 Responses to The Cat Conundrum

  1. a sad situation — I would see if you could just keep Delilah and if he refuses, use a rendition of option 4–if I come up with any other solution I will let you know – but these are the things that keep me awake at night too

    • shoes says:

      We have also considered buying a small wooden doghouse and setting it up for Bleu to stay in while he hopefully transitions into moving into our house. I don’t think he is as excited about being an outdoor cat as Delilah is (although she very much loves her indoor cat tower, sleeping spots, food and water dishes, etc.) so maybe he will surprise us and like living indoors with us.

  2. mimijk says:

    I think your heart is as big and wonderful as any heart in the universe! If Delilah and Bleu aren’t very close, I would tell Mr. Neighbor that Delilah is now accustomed to your house, the dog, the boys and that Bleu finds it all less than homey for his more skittish self. It sounds like they really could be separated, in which case, he should take Bleu with him? Sigh..these are such hard decisions…

    • shoes says:

      We have very rarely, if ever sought out a pet but instead let them come to us. They have their own variety of baggage as we humans do but I think that is part of what makes them even more special. Cats, dogs, and even a horse have become part of our family over the years by luck and fate. I think by telling Mr. Neighbor our concerns about Bleu fitting into our home he will understand and hopefully come to an agreement that works for everyone, furry or not.
      Things are shifting in Mr. Neighbor’s world and there are court battles and possible kidnapping charges being spoken of. So awful and so surreal – the boys and I had a nice relationship with Mrs. Neighbor Lady and their daughter, playing with them, going berry picking, inviting them to birthday parties. So sad.

      • mimijk says:

        Your post doesn’t minimize the nightmare that your neighbor must be going through. I can’t imagine expecting your child and spouse to come home only to realize that wasn’t the plan. It must be beyond awful.

  3. Jodi Stone says:

    Crap that is a conundrum.

    I would definitely start putting food and water outside for Bleu and see if that doesn’t make him a little less skittish. It may just be that Bleu was a really nice, friendly cat until Mrs. Next Door decided to throw him outside, and maybe his trust is just broken. Sometimes all they need is a little bit of affection to get them past that hump. Delilah has after-all adjusted to a house with two small boys and a barky GSD.

    If you are dead-set against having another cat I would take my chances and let him know you’re not interested, but maybe you could offer to help try and re-home the cat. Please keep us posted.

    • shoes says:

      Jodi, we have been putting water out for several years now for the cats but the food will attract the forest rats that we see on occasion feasting under our bird feeders. I think you are right that his trust has been broken. Mrs. Neighbor Lady even told me she stopped holding the cats for fear of getting their germs on her child (I find this appalling to say the least and it is part of the reason I love their cats so much because someone has to.) Maybe if we just bring him in our house and set him up in his own room for a while to adjust to the new surroundings he would mellow out. It is a tough situation though and Dexter our dog is not too thrilled about Delilah much less another cat taking over his domain.

      I will keep you posted. Mr. Neighbor Guy was suppose to move at the end of July but there are things brewing with the court system and he has been given full custody of the little girl. Mrs. Neighbor Lady has taken the daughter and disappeared. The in-laws are not talking. The whole thing is very weird and as I said in the post I can never get the whole story so it is hard to form an opinion on it all. The entire thing makes me sad. I am sure Delilah and Bleu are wondering where their people are. It breaks my heart in so many ways.

      • Jodi Stone says:

        It is so sad! It sounds like Mrs Neighbor Lady has had some kind of break down. Post partnum maybe?

        You might be right about Bleu, the best thing might be to (de-flea him first) but keep him in a room where it is safe and let him hear the sounds of the house, so they aren’t that intimidating. You can go in and talk to him and stroke him a little bit to get him used to it.

        They are usually pretty resilient and I know you will do whatever you can. :-) Good luck.

  4. A sad and strange story. Another family torn apart.

    • shoes says:

      That it is. I feel awful for everyone involved – the pets, the child, the adults – no one is happy and I don’t expect there to be much of a happy ending.

  5. Hetterbell says:

    That is very sad. Do you think the cats will miss Mr Neighbour Guy? I hope you manage to come up with something that suits you all.

    • shoes says:

      I think the cats are wondering where all their people have gone and why things are so different. I am glad we can give Delilah a home where she feels safe and loved and I hope Bleu will be able to accept that from us as well.

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