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Pets Large & Small

The ninth cat in the house

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(11/2011) Well, I have number nine. The ninth cat in the house. Okay, in my defense, this poor cat had a head injury and wasn't walking all that well and she was so sad and unprotected outside and … okay, fine, I'm going to be the crazy cat lady from the Simpsons, I'm aware of this. If I'm aware, does that make it at least a little better?

I can tell by your expression the answer is no.

So, anyway, her name's Hetty -- I don't even know where that came from -- and she had one of the oddest looking wounds on her head I've ever seen. It looked almost like someone had taken a flap of skin and glued it between her right ear and eye. The wound actually caused her eye to close unnaturally.

It clearly bugged her a lot because she'd paw at it on a relatively regular basis. It has no hair and looked like a skin graft.

She's had x-rays and tests and everything, but we're still not sure what happened.

The wound has since healed, but she's still rather wobbly when she walks. I'm guessing there's neurological damage in the brain that she may have for the rest of her life. The sick thing -- that I try not to think about too often because it upsets me to no end -- is I'm afraid someone did that to her.

She's a real sweet girl; long-haired tiger with white, pretty green eyes and the kind of personality that means she'd walk up to anyone. The thought that she may have trusted a human to treat her well and give her a pat, only to end up with a head injury from a weapon or something … I just can't think about it.

It makes me want to hug her all day. She unfortunately doesn't like to be picked up (probably still has trust issues, which is totally understandable), so I have to settle for snuggles on her terms. She loves to sit tight up against me and purr while I pet her and I like to oblige.

She has long hair between her little cat toes and when she "makes bread," it makes me happy to think she's comfortable enough to feel that content.

At any rate, she's been with me now for the last couple of months. In the beginning, she was just recuperating from her ordeal and she spent most of her days in the carrier I used to take her to the vet.

She slept a lot -- probably healing from the wound and the trauma.

Now she goes out and about the apartment on occasion, but the carrier is kind of "her place." I think she feels safer there -- confined, so even if she's wobbly, she's got walls to hold her and make her feel protected.

She still doesn’t walk right and if something startles her, man, she'll jump and try to run but usually just ends up falling into a wall or piece of furniture.

She breaks your heart.

Oh, and, she's the only one of the nine who will actually come when I call her. If I want some lovin' (and she's a real lovebug, let me tell you), I'll just call her name a few times and she'll stumble out of the carrier to hang out.

She's also a head-butter. When you're loving up on her, she'll ram her head into whatever body part of yours she can find. I don't know if she can't judge the distance or what, but her head-butts are rough.

It's hard not to feel bad and love this little girl.

Unless, of course, you’re my bengal cat, Dee Dee. I'm telling you, if Dee Dee was a human being, you wouldn't like her one bit. She'd be one of the Mean Girls from that movie a few years ago. You remember? With Lindsay Lohan?

Anyway, Dee Dee hisses and spits and growls at poor Hetty like she's some kind of evil creature that crawled out of the sewer. I try to say, "Dee Dee, be nice; Heddy doesn't feel well," but that really doesn't work.

I mean, what kind of a cat would pick on a poor, defenseless, messed up critter like Hetty?

My girl Dee Dee apparently.

So far, nothing horrible has happened. Dee Dee's just been all bark and no bite, if you'll pardon the canine pun and don't tell Dee Dee I used it to describe her. Mostly, Dee Dee snarls in an unfriendly manner when she comes upon Hetty and quickly finds another part of the apartment in which to repose.

Sigh. That cat. I'm so wrapped around her little paw it's frightening. Oh who am I kidding? I'm wrapped around all nine little paws in my house.

In fact, all of my felines have such different personalities, it's fun to come home to them and see what they managed to get up to in a day. And now with Hetty in the mix, life at my place is guaranteed to never be dull.

Even if nine might be turning me into the crazy cat lady, I know that I can provide for them and love them and keep them from ever getting hurt again -- and that actually makes me feel really good.

I remind them, sometimes on a daily basis, how lucky they all are to be inside and allowed what amounts to free reign in that apartment, and that they never have to worry about being hurt, ever.

Quality of life is really what it's all about.

Even with that Mean Girl, Dee Dee.

Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website

Read other articles by Jennifer Vanderau