The Volunteer Cat

This essay was sent out with my Christmas cards. I meant to post it for you not long after and here it is almost May…


When the kids were little, and they got bossy and demanding, we’d tell them, “Sorry but the servants are off today.” Of course, the DH and I would declare that to each other as well, embellishing whenever possible. “That scullery maid! Last I saw she was on her way to Brighton, she was. I don’t think she’ll be back,” we’d exclaim, in our best Monty Python delivery.

Sad to say, every once in a while the rejoinder was not comically rendered. Instead, it would come out with the full despair of one who has washed a zillion dishes, a billion loads of laundry, and too many floors. “Servants?” we’d say, “You want servants? Well don’t we all.”

One day it got serious. “I am NOT a servant,” was to be heard…loudly, imbued with years of pent up indignation. “Well of course not,” came the immediate reply. “If you were a servant you would be getting paid. What you are is a volunteer.”

We haven’t stopped laughing yet.

“Is there a volunteer?” has quickly become the most frequently asked question around here, and “No, I am not volunteering” the most frequent response.

Which brings us to Dude, the cat in the picture. When we bought our home five years ago, we would sometimes see him lurking in the backyard. Our cat Pooh did not like him there and chased him away while he was still fit enough to do so.

After Pooh passed on, Dude (because that’s what you call someone when you don’t know their name) started lurking again. We didn’t pay him much attention, especially since the DH had vowed we’d never have another cat and we assumed he lived near by. We enjoyed him from afar until one fateful day when the DH fed him… and before we knew it, that cat was volunteering to be our cat.

We believe he was abandoned, although it’s possible he’s severely neglected and likes us better. While he isn’t feral, he is a bit wild and he doesn’t use a cat box. A great hunter, we don’t need to feed him (or at least not so much–he’s put on several pounds).

It’s no surprise that he likes having servants–especially someone to open and close the sliding glass door whenever he wants. Because he doesn’t use a cat box, it’s rather imperative that someone do so, even if it’s 2am, a situation that existed for several months before the servants got so tired they decided they had to do something.

Something turned out to be a sequence of cat doors that led from the kitchen to the garage then out of the house (and back in again), which is handy for when it’s raining or we’re gone. The new doors required a nose-push to get through, and for that, someone had to be trained with kitty treats.

But, like the servant thing (and the volunteer thing), it turns out it wasn’t Dude who got trained. While he quickly learned how to manipulate his new doors, these days his devoted slaves can be seen dispensing treats on demand as well as opening the sliding-glass door even though he has two perfectly good cat doors that only he can fit through.


More Pictures of Dude can be found on Instagram