Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Cat Room

I checked out the pet boarding place our vet's office recommended. It was on a quiet street in Chelsea where almost everything else was closed this afternoon. It was on street level, but not a storefront--the two young women in the front office had to buzz me in through two sets of steel doors, and then regarded me with apprehension until I identified myself.

The place primarily caters to dogs, with daily walking and exercise. In order to get to the Cat Room in the basement, the staffer took me past two long rows of pens of dogs who must have thought I was their owner coming to take them home, because they began to bark hysterically and charge the doors when they saw me. Remember the scene in "The Silence of the Lambs," where Jody Foster's walking past these cells of criminally insane guys yelling at her and trying to get at her?

The Cat Room had a good soundproof door and a radio going, as well as a couple of room fans. It smelled mildly like cats, the way the dog rooms smelled like dogs, but not obnoxiously so. The boxes looked clean, as did the floors. The staffer told me they vacuumed frequently.

An elderly Siamese and a couple of young tabbies came over to head-butt my ankles, squawking insistently.

"We open the cages for a couple of hours every day. They don't have to go out and walk around, but they can." There were a couple of double-sized cages for cats from the same household to be boarded together. Some of the cats indeed chose to stay in their cages, but they still called out to me. People who've never owned a cat think cats are aloof. They may not be as desperate to be part of a pack as their canine counterparts, but believe me, they get needy when their owners aren't around.

"Do you have visiting hours?"

"We don't for the dogs, because when they see their owners they think they're going home." But Jim and I could come by between noon and three every day to hang out with Chico and Ashley. Yes, I thought, and the rest of the lonely cats whose bad mommies deserted them the way I'm deserting my cats.

But this is actually the lesser of two evils, since there's really no place to keep them safe while the workmen demolish several yards of lead paint-laden plaster. It's not like I can take them to a movie. Besides, the boarding place is asking for so many health certificates that it's unlikely that the other cats will so much as sneeze into my cats' faces.

And my cats may be a couple of pampered brats who live on gourmet cat food now, but they started their lives as two of fifty in the home of a cat hoarder who neglected them. Vaccinations and other vet care were barely known. And when the old lady died and they were sent to various rescues, they shared a foster home with up to twenty cats from all over the city. So they may get a little freaked, but other felines are not unknown to them.

Perhaps they'll network.

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