Robbie knows what he wants, so he comes and gets me when he wants it

I’ve written about Robbie before, I think, the cat who was probably dumped out in the country by the asshole who owned him, and ultimately found us softhearted enough to feed him once we learned nobody in the neighborhood had lost a cat. He was healthy, but ultimately we took him to the vet to make sure, and now we have an indoor/outdoor cat.

Robbie has figured out how to run across my desk without hitting the keyboard or the wine or coffee that’s providing fuel for my work.

When he wants to go back outside, he runs across the desk and stands by the front door.

He leads me to the food bowl in the kitchen when it’s empty or to the water bowls when they’re empty.

Robbie expects us to watch TV at night, so if things get late, he’ll come and get me and head for the living room

Since our cats are allowed in the bedroom overnight where they sleep, but not any other time, both Robbie and Katy get antsy when the TV has been off for a while around midnight and the bedroom door is still closed. Katy sits by the closed door in a sulk. Robbie finds me and leads me to the closed door to let me see for myself that it’s not open.

Maybe he watched all the old Lassie shows on TV at his last house and got the idea that pets are supposed to go get people when somebody calls in a well or the food bowl is empty.

Oh, well whenever he sees me outside, he follows me around to see what I’m doing. I’m not sure that’s a good sign. I keep wondering where this behavior is going to lead.


Earphones Winner from Audio File magazine.

Take Bob, Spare Fido

When wives talk to wives and husbands talk to husbands, shocking things are often said about spouses, how bad they snore, eat with their hands, skip their daily showers, and line up their underwear in neat rows in the dresser drawers. When all this gets a bit much, it turns out–if you’re a fly on the wall listening–that if the angel of death gave a married man or woman a choice, they’d rather see their spouse taken away to the world to come rather than their precious cat or hunting dog.

“After all, Mabel won’t hunt, won’t swim out into the swamp and retrieve the ducks after they’re blasted out of the sky.”


“Bob is never as considerate as Fido because Fido never leaves the toilet seat up or tracks mud in the front door.”

Seriously, though, people who don’t own gets don’t understand that a pet’s death is truly a death in the family. When pets are part of a household for years, they’re still part of the household after they cross the so-called rainbow bridge. So those of us who mourn the passing of pets have lots of empty spaces in our lives where the pets used to be–physically and in our hearts as well.

Sure, we can make nasty jokes about our spouses’ habits, but speaking ill of a pet–except in good fun–is a felony. Sure, the cat tore up the best chair in the livingroom and the dog tore up our favorite pair of boots, but when they leave us, we forgive them everything and remember them fondly.

For spouses, on the othe hand, it’s sometimes good riddance. Or so people say after a few drinks.

I speak from experience when I say that when a pet dies, it takes a while to come to terms with that just as surely as it does when one loses a spouse or brother or sister. The pain is less, but not insignificant.

I’m still trying to get used to he fact that our cat Marlo is gone. I expect to see her everywhere she used to be. It appears that our two other cats feel the same way. None of us are back to normal yet, so give us a little time to grieve even though we’re still stuck with Bob or Mabel.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of multiple novels and short stories, including “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”

I’m gone for a couple of days, and this blog is a mess. . .

Spam has piled up on the front porch, the gas tank is empty, and somebody drank all the wine.

We have no idea why Marlo often fell asleep in a pile of shoes

When our almost 20-year-old cat died, of old age, my wife an I felt like hiding from the world. That meant extra sleep, too much TV, and finding something to read. None of that really works because Marlo had more than her share of personality, stubborness, and all the other qualities that makes cats so catlike.

So, when all that disappears, things feel empty because they are empty. When you have cats, and we’ve had quite a few, you know you’ll lose all of them sooner or later

I can escape missing Marlo for short periods of time with an old book. This one by Ruta Sepetys, Out of the Easy, is pretty good even though it’s not in the same league as Salt to the Sea. You can tell by the title and the cover art that this one’s set in New Orleans where a teenager is earning college money (or, perhaps, her “escape money” by working as a parttime maid at a whore house mainly because her mother works there as one of the girls.

I actually like New Orleans quite a lot. A family vacation there when I was in high school got me hooked. One can become fat just making the rounds of the famous restaurants–which we did. Fortunately, I’m a fan of Cajun food and find that Popeye’s restaurants don’t quite give me an Antoine’s or Galatoire’s kind of experience.

And then there’s the catastropic Ukraine mess which me must more or less watch helplessly since Putin has threatened nuclear war if we intervene. He’s finding conquering Ukraine more difficult than he expected. Naturally, all the nearby countries are wondering if they’re going to be next. I think the world is rather caught in the headlights to have a Hitler-like madman show up right after two bad years of pandemic the aftermath of which continues to wreck our economy while (apparently) contributing to more unrest on city streets.

So, this post is rather a downer, but–for the most part–writers are human, too, and have the same kinds of reactions to bad news and sad times as everyone else.


Getting adopted by a cat

Six or eight months ago, possibly more, some sh_thead dumped a heathy male cat off near our house. He was in such good physical shape, we thought he must be a lost pet. We asked neighbors on and off facebook if they knew of the black and white shorthair cat that was missing. None did. The weather was cold then, so we set him up with upside down box with a door in it, filled it with old towels, wrapped plastic around it to keep the wind out, and placed a microwavable heating sack in their every night to keep him warm. We gave him plenty of food and water.

Waiting to go outside.

We finally took him to the vet and heard that his age was 3-8, got him a rabies shot, and a feline leukemia test because we had known for sometime he would end up in the house and we didn’t need that disease transmitted to either of our two 18-year-old cats. The test cam back negative. Okay, so now he’s an indoor-outdoor cat, in at night and out during the day. His name is Robbie and he’s slowly starting to recognize it.

Here’s what we’ve learned so far:

  1. He brings fleas inside which the other cats get but that don’t seem to stay on him. We’re buying more FrontLine flea protection than usual.
  2. Robbie has to be fed first because he’s large enough to shove our other cats away from their bowls if Katy or Marlo get their food a nanosecond before he does. Marlo, our lightest weight cat stands up to Robbie when there’s food involved.
  3. Robbie has been a house cat. He knows the sound of a poptop cat food can being opened, knows where the litter box is and what it’s for, and knows that towels on the bed or the sofa are places designed for cats to sleep.
  4. Like the other two cats, he comes in the bedroom at night but knows he’s not supposed to stand on top of us while we’re asleep.
  5. Like the other two cats, he tends to fall asleep when Lesa and I are in the livingroom watching TV. He (usually) doesn’t try to get the food off our plates when we’re sitting at TV trays.
  6. If he ever sees a room he’s never been in, he wants to go in there.
  7. It’s been amusing watching a new-to-the-household cat adapting to our routines as well as the mood and habits of Katy and Marlo. Lesa and I have been together since 1980. We’ve always had one or more cats. Even so, every day brings something new. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s, well, not so good. But we soldier on with our scratches and claw marks with critters underfoot and on the furniture.


When people ask how I get my cat details right in the folk magic series beginning with Conjure Woman’s Cat. I say “forty years of experience.”

Our sick cat: she got better

A while ago, I wrote a post about the day every pet owner dreads, the day your pet leaves you. I was thinking of our 18-year-old female cat, Marlo, who has had inoperable cancer for quite a while. Nothing we can go about it. Then suddenly, she got worse. No apparent pain, just a near total collapse. I’ll spare you the graphic details.

She became thin as a ghost. Could hardly walk. Slept a lot. We had meds to ease pain, but she didn’t have any. So the meds relaxed her, something she needed when she got hyper

We weren’t ready for her to go. One is never ready. When her condition got out of hand, we talked about putting her down, something we’re generally opposed to doing, yet decided perhaps we’d take her to the vet the following day. But then we didn’t.

And she got better. Started eating again. Drinking more water. Walking without staggering. Eyes bright and focused. We were stunned. Once false move, and we’d jinx it, we thought. And yet, for reasons we may never know, she’s moving well (and fast, too), dozing in one lap or another while we’re watching TV, and hanging out at her familiar places throughout the house.

She’s really hungry. I’m not surprised. She needs to put on weight.

So, what happened?

I don’t have a clue. A random prayer, perhaps. Or maybe she just changed her mind, figuring she had a lot of mischief left to cause. Yes, that’s probably what happened.


If you have pets, you know this day will come

There is no way to prepare for “this day,” the day that arrives after weeks of declining health, when other than love there”s nothing you can do except keep your pet comforable until the end.

Marlo liked sleeping in a pile of shoes.

We’ve been down this road before with four earlier cats, Needles, BK, OK, and Duncan. Now Marlo is ill and fading fast. Along with Katy and Duncan, she came into our lives (was adopted from a vet) in 2002. She’s had incurable cancer for the last six months or so and goes hour to hour now on what can be described, I guess, as home hospice care.

We still call Marlo and Katy “the kitties.” They know us well, which means they know what they can get away with and that we still care for them when they get away with it. This is the third house they’ve lived in with us. They know where all the hidey holes are–and so do we. They hate moving and then dislike getting uused to new places. But then within weeks, it’s as though they’ve always lived wherever we’re living at the moment.

I always dread the sadness and helplessness of “this day.” I know I will never be the same again. And yet, it’s worth all the companionship and love that precedes it. The kitties seem more accepting of it than we are. Right now, Marlo is asleep behind the wastebacket here in my office. We have water here for her and she drinks a lot of it. She hasn’t eaten for a few days: not interested in that.

We will miss her.


As a cat person, I’ve had plenty of help writing the series of novels that began with “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”

Something’s trying to get in the house

Before going to bed, my wife and I watch old noir films from Turner Classic Movies hosted by Eddie Muller who brings us the scariest, nastiest movies from the genre. Last night we were watching a movie about a woman who sees a murder but can’t get the cops to believe her.

During the screaming part of the movie, my wife says, something is fiddling with the front door. We put the movie on pause and looked outside, and there’s nothing there.

“Probably the wind or one of the killers who escaped from the slammer earlier tonight,” I say.

“Right,” she says, and we go back to the movie. Then the tapping starts up again. She glances down the hall and sees a kitty head peering in the windows in the top half of the front door.  He must be hanging on by his claws.

We go to the porch again and see that it’s the black and white kitty that’s adopted us and he is very aggrieved that his food bowl is empty.

Frankly, we think tapping on our door whenever he’s hungry is an example of a cat getting too pushy. But, we feed him anyway. Otherwise, we won’t be able to hear the movie. We know giving in to his demands will serve as a reward, so he’ll probably do it again on our next dark and stormy night.

If you have cats, you know what I’m talking about.


Dumping cats out in the country

If you live in the country, you know there’s a low-life kind of person who decides s/he is tired of her pet and figures the best thing to do is drive out in the country and throw it out the window.  We hope that the healthy black and white house cat that showed up on our front porch wandered away from his house and that the owner is looking for him.

In spite of the myth that everyone in the country is hoping for a young barn cat,  those who throw cats out the window know the odds are the cat isn’t going to live. Many get run over. Others are attacked by dogs, coyotes, and hawks. Or go hungry because they grew up in a warm house and are used to Purina Cat Chow and 9Lives rather than hunting for field mice.

If we were “cat people” in between cats, we’d let this one in the house because it’s too darned cold out there for an indoor cat. But, we have too elderly female cats and don’t think introducing a young male cat into the household is safe; plus, it might have fleas, and one of our cats is allergic to flea medications. So we took a large carton and made a door in the end of it and filled it with towels. The cat seems to like it. We’ve also been putting out food.

Since my wife grew up on this property and has people on her Facebook profile who’ve been around here forever, she posted a picture of the cat, saying she figured it was lost or needed a new home. So far, no response. She’ll do that again after the holidays. We hope an owner shows up and tells us they’ve been looking for the cat for weeks but never thought it would wander this far from the house.

That’s what we want. We’re keeping our fingers crossed (figuratively speaking). It’s healthy, clean, and appears to have been well cared for. If it were my cat, I’d be driving 24/7 until I found it.


Since all four novels in my Florida Folk Magic Series feature a cat, it’s easy to tell that I’m a cat person.

Mixed scents in the kitchen–and cat gravity

When I woke up this morning, the house smelled like the apple pie Lesa baked last night.

A little later, after I added the aroma of Jimmy Dean sausage biscuits, Lesa began making herself a small frying pan of scrambled eggs while I was peeling carrots and potatoes for a slow cooker pot roast so that it will be ready at 5 p.m. Meanwhile, the house was darker than usual due to the monsoon outside.

Whenever we watch a House Hunters show on HGTV, people are always looking for kitchens large enough for the couple to both be preparing food at the same time. We seldom do that. But we were this morning–with an odd combination of foods.

Now, at 2:30 p.m., the entire house smells like pot roast or, if I open the front door, of rain.  This is the kind of day when, other than the cooking, it’s nice to be inside with nothing specific to do. I realized that I’ve been on the edge of burnout, so other than checking e-mail and Ffacebook, I’ve been propped up in my easy chair reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night. Now there’s a grim book, but easier to read than Victor Hugo.

Both Lesa and I see this as a high, cat-gravity kind of day, the kind of day when ramped up gravity brought into a household by a cat makes it hard for humans to stay awake and accomplish anything.

If you have multiple cats in your house, you’ve probably noticed that if any of them are in your lap, you don’t feel like leaving the chair; or that if they’re asleep, you’re likely to fall asleep before the end of your favorite TV show; or that when gravity is light, you feel like you’ve had too much coffee or forgot to take your Xanax.

The multiple aromas of food in the house interact with cat gravity to reduce a human’s ability to give a rat’s ass about anything, including loose rats in the house. I suppose dogs have gravity, too, but it seems to be less heavy. That might be a myth, but today, I don’t care because I’m weighed down by the sheer gravity of the things surrounding me.


Cats enjoying a pile of shoes

There must be hundreds of Facebook graphics showing cats enjoying empty boxes. Our cats certainly do. In fact, if we put anything on the floor from a towel to a receipt from the pharmacy, they’ll lie on top of it.

We’ve been in this house for a little over four years. Since my office is the first room inside the front door, I tend to take off my shoes and leave them next to my desk. They’re probably four or five pairs of shoes, including flip-flops and slippers, there most of the time.

Several months ago our calico cat, Katy, inadvertently lay down in a gap between some of the pairs. When our grey and white cat, Marlo, noticed that, she started hanging out amongst the shoes. Now, Marlo is there almost 24/7 and Katy is there at least half the time.

We’ve had these cats for quite a while and by now we should be used to their habits. But this is a new one. While they move the shoes around to make room for themselves and use the softer ones as pillows, they don’t tear them up or carry them around.

Living with cats is always an adventure.