Prodigal Cat Comes Home

Actually, the headline on this post is a bit misleading. It should probably read “Bringing Home Traitor Cat.”

We have to go get Snowball from the neighbors to bring her home. And when we do, George keeps a close eye on her. George wants to play, but Snowball just growls and hisses at him.

That’s because Snowball the cat didn’t come home of her own accord, and she isn’t “wasteful” as is the definition of “prodigal.” Rather, she is a bit of a “Benedict Arnold” cat. She has willfully abandoned the comforts of our home and taken up residence as an outdoor cat living under the neighbor’s deck.

We periodically stop on the county road at the neighbor’s driveway and beckon the usual “Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty!” And almost without fail, Snowball comes walking and meowing towards us. With continued enthusiastic calling we can get her to come to us, and we get her into the vehicle to bring her home.

We did this a few days ago. Once we got her home, she filled her belly with cat food and fresh water and took a long nap on the chair in the living room. Then in the middle of the night she woke my husband with her vocal pleas to be let outside, and she promptly returned to the neighbor’s place.

Snowball was a stray kitten at our county fair shortly after we moved to the country six years ago. After letting Horse Lover drag her around the fairgrounds for the better part of a day with the cat not fleeing, I decided to bring the cat home. And I didn’t even treat her like your average country cat; I let her live in the house complete with cat food, water dish and litter box!

She still snubbed us – although not right away. At first when we let Snowball outside, she would always return later that same day or the next day for sure. But then the dynamics changed around here. Within the first year of Snowball’s life we also added a Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy to our family. The next year we added a second Corgi puppy. And the year after that we added a baby girl to our life … Busy Toddler … that’s about the time she started extending her outings to weeks, then months, then to only returning when we go get her and bring her home. It got worse when we brought home our second cat, Ginger, shortly thereafter to be renamed George. So I suppose her betrayal shouldn’t entirely be a shock to us.

The truly ironic thing is that the neighbors don’t really want her around, but we can’t get her to stay home! We try not to take her shunning personally, but the fact that she continues to leave sure makes going to get her less of a priority for us.

Unfortunately, Handsome Hubby is getting tired of being woken in the night by a howling cat. He’s also tired of her shedding all over our furniture as she naps, and of her jumping on our countertops searching to satisfy her sweet tooth. She is the first and only cat I’ve known who will eat the sugar off of a powdered donut and leave the rest in tact!

Anyway, Handsome Hubby would really rather we just left Snowball alone at her residence of choice – the neighbor’s place. And we might just have to do that since bringing her home obviously isn’t making much of a difference to her anyway.

On a side note, if I had I been blogging back when we first got Snowball, I probably would have called my middle daughter “Cat Girl” or something similar as she was as crazy about cats at the time as she is about horses now. After attending her first circus, Horse Lover announced that she wanted to be a cat trainer when she grew up, and then decided she wanted to be a cat wizard. That decision hung around for quite some time. She doesn’t appreciate being reminded of that whimsical time of her life, but we sure enjoy remembering her sweet innocence!

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HOR$E$ Are Expensive to Keep & Show

Horse Lover shows Sadie on halter in an English class. We also borrowed her attire.

Horse Lover competes on Sadie in a Western riding class. We borrowed saddles for the show.

I made arrangements in June to board our experienced, 19-year-old show horse, Sadie, at a barn where Horse Lover could also take riding lessons. After just four or five weeks of lessons, Sadie was tuned up, and Horse Lover had made significant gains in her horsemanship skills.

I’ve written before about Horse Lover’s lack of opportunity to ride. So this effort was generous on my part, and it meant the world to my daughter.

Horse Lover wanted to leave Sadie at the barn to take lessons much longer, but unfortunately we just couldn’t work that extra expense into our regular family budget.

You see, one thing has become painfully obvious to me as I’ve tried to make Horse Lover’s dream of becoming a seasoned horsewoman a reality – horses are extremely expensive to keep, and are even more expensive to show.

A friend of ours once had a bumper sticker on her SUV that read simply, “HOR$E$.” I now have a complete and total appreciation for the profound and true statement that one-word bumper sticker made.

All winter Horse Lover begged us to take riding lessons. She wanted nothing more than to ride her horse. But with frigid temperatures outside and things like school occupying the bulk of her time inside, we just couldn’t make it happen. There was also the challenge that we still didn’t have a horse trailer to transport the animal, and riding lessons were expensive enough without also having to pay to board the horse.

But somehow as the weather warmed and school let out for summer, we managed to make lessons work for our pre-teen daughter, and she was in heaven. I took her to the barn a few times each week and waited and waited and waited while she learned to brush, halter, bridle, saddle, ride and put away the horse.

As a result of this time (and money) spent, Horse Lover and Sadie earned several blue ribbons at our 4-H county horse show at the end of June, and she is now ready and eager for more riding experiences. So instead of satisfying one of her desires, we simply wetted her appetite, it seems.

While she is no longer incessantly begging us for riding lessons, she is begging us for LOTS of other things including a new western saddle, an English saddle, a horse trailer, an outdoor riding arena, a barn and even a new horse. She’s worried Sadie might be a little too old and too arthritic to lope or gallop.

Just last week we found a used western saddle in good condition in Horse Lover’s size, and we paid $600 for it. She had outgrown the youth saddle she was using and so the need for a saddle was imminent if she was going to continue riding the horse. The other items she wants aren’t needed as urgently, at least not according to Handsome Hubby or myself, and that’s good. Because every one of them would cost considerably more than $600.

As a parent of three, I’m used to buying my kids one thing and then having to buy more to go with it. Think Nintendo DS, iPod or even small toys like the Littlest Pet Shops. Each item requires additional game cartridges, headphones and cases or houses and additional animals.

I did a quick count just the other day and Horse Lover has more than 25 cases for Nintendo DS games on her bookshelf. So including the game system, we’ve probably spent almost $1,000 on this system over the past several years. That’s crazy, but it wouldn’t even come close to how much we’ve spent on this horse obsession in just the last few months!

Besides the big-ticket items I’ve already mentioned, we regularly buy feed and fly spray for the horses. We also pay the farrier to trim hooves and the vet for vaccinations.

We have free access to a pen and pasture in which to board the horses right by our house, and we get ample hay from Handsome Hubby’s father and brother on the ranch. I couldn’t imagine having to pay for these items, as well. I can honestly say that if we did, we wouldn’t have horses.

But since we do have the set up and we already have the horses, I’m sure we’ll continue to invest in Horse Lover’s obsession as much as we can. I hope she can be happy with what we are able to do and doesn’t always just want for more.