Monday, June 19, 2023

A visit to cat heaven

Kaye Larsen Olloway, founder of Fat Cat Rescue (photo for the Sun-Times by Ashlee Rezin)

     “Do you want to meet my husband?” asks Kaye Larsen Olloway, pausing from portioning out soft cat food on her flower bedecked patio to scoop up an off-white, 17-year-old cat and press him to her cheek. “This is Johnny Ringo. He’s so sweet. He has five other wives. We fight over him.”
     Hard to know where to go with that information. Umm, named for the Beatle?
     “You know why we named him that?” Olloway replies. “When you look at his tail, he has five orange rings on his tail.”
     The naming of cats might have been a difficult matter for poet T.S. Eliot. But it’s just part of the daily routine at Fat Cat Rescue in Wadsworth, where hundreds of feral cats trapped on the street are taken to live in genteel comfort on a seven-acre farm, with a pond, a three story antique barn and various quaint outbuildings decorated with cats in mind.
     Outside, an electrified fence keeps predators away, while inside, many walls have wooden chairs, legs removed, strategically mounted so cats can leap up, get comfortable and observe life from a comfortable distance.
     At 7:30 a.m. on a recent beautiful June morning, Olloway places cardboard troughs of food around the compound, keeping up a steady conversation.
     ”Hi, babies!” Olloway says. “What’s going on here, huh?”
     The felines present themselves for scratches — they seem more interested in love than food — and are introduced: Sammy the Bull, Gracie Mae, who just got over an illness. Baby Blue, who is called, conversationally, Blue-Blue, or just Baby (“a cat must have three different names” Eliot writes).

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  1. I've had a couple of orange kitties with orange rings on heir tails. For some reason, orange tabbies seem to be more affectionate than other cats, and like to nuzzle and nudge you a lot more. It makes me happy beyond words to know that several hundred ferals have found shelter through the Fat Cat kitty lovers, but there are countless other homeless, stray, and feral kitties on our streets and in our neighborhoods.

    My neighbor runs a TNR (trap, neuter, release) outfit called the Cat Guardians (whose name predates the ball club's name change), and they are overwhelmed by requests for help and the need for funds, most of which goes for food. So many kitties to feed, and the resources are being stretched thin and thinner..I see quite a few skinny-looking ferals in my yard these days. Years ago, I never saw any.

    "As time goes on, you get attached to them...especially if the kitties are nice and cuddle up against’s kind of easy to get attached to kitties.” So true. I grew up with dogs, but always wanted a feline. Became a kitty guy abut fifty years ago, and have never stopped. They make a house a home....and they are its soul.

  2. Cats kill something like 3 billion birds a year, more, by far, then windmills. This kind of sanctuary, together with TNR, helps address the problem, along with my annoying rant, KEEP YOUR CATS INSIDE. It keeps them from murdering wildlife, safe from coyotes, cars, and disease, and, especially at Halloween, from sociopaths who like to torture and kill cats.

    1. My street has plenty of fast traffic. The CSX mainline between New York and Chicago is two blocks east of my house. To the southeast is an interstate. If I didn't keep my cats inside, they would become kitty stew.

      Even without all those dangers, I would never let them out. There are coyotes in the nearby park. and two-legged sickos. Not just at Halloween, but all year round .If animals had ethnicities...cats would be the Jews.

  3. This is a great article, and it’s comforting to know that there are people like Ms. Larson who are tending to this need.

    There is definitely an artistic bent to naming cats. When I was growing up we had a calico named Caroline, a silver tabby named Ingrid (after Ingrid Pitt) and a black cat named Spooky. Over the years, I’ve had a cat named Iggy, one called Knick Knack, one named Trelane (after the character in the Star Trek episode “The Squire of Gothos”), and one Francois.

    Cats have the ability to soothe and tranquilize the human mind in ways that no other creature can. William S. Burroughs once said that he would sometimes lay awake in bed, weeping relentlessly at the thought that nuclear annihilation would destroy all the cats.

  4. Joey and Mikey. Gina (short for Orangina). Maggie and Daugherty. Micky, Mazel, and Schmutzik (Schmootz, The Shmoo). Leo and Onyx. Heidi and Gingee. For some strange reason, the older we get, the harder it is to name our kitties. Even with a book that contains about four thousand cat names, it's still not easy.


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