Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Sad Estate, Indeed

Winchester used to be on top of things.
He stares at me with slitted, watery, red-rimmed eyes. His contempt is so complete I have to wonder if the lyrics to Hoyt Axton’s “The Pusher” are rolling through his mind. That’s silly, of course, he’s too blitzed to think much of anything. That, the fact he’s much too young to be familiar with the song, and that he’s only a cat puts that thought to rest.

But there’s still the guilt.

Winchester was just a recreational catnip user: the occasional catnip toy, maybe some dried catnip in a roll-around ball. The usual stuff anyone can pick up at the local  grocery store pet section. Harmless really, if partaken in moderation. Things changed when we started the grow operation in our herb garden. What were we thinking? Since that single plant took off, Winchester has been turned into a full-blown catniphead.

The root of evil.
Winchester used to keep order in his domain of the back yard. There were no voles, no shrews. Birds were circumspect during their visitations. The other feline riffraff in the neighborhood knew better than to intrude. Not anymore. Voles fatten themselves openly in the vegetable bed. Shrews dance a chorus line can-can style across our thresholds. Little brown birds belch loudly as they empty the feeder with total impunity. All this takes place while Winchester lays on the porch lazily contemplating the tip of his tail, totally absorbed.

Unkempt and uncaring... so sad

As for the feline neighborhood ne’er-do-wells, they come and go as they please, unchallenged. In fact it was their doing that led Winchester away from his life of responsible living. Yes, yes I know pet owners always want to blame others for their own pet failings, but it’s the truth. Winchester didn’t give the catnip a second thought the first few weeks the plant was in the herb bed.

As soon as we planted the catnip, however, foreign visitors started frequenting the herb garden under the cover of night (under such cover as a night in Alaska can provide). They initially went undetected in their thievery. With Winchester off the clock at night, it wasn’t until half of the thriving plant disappeared before we realized there was something nefarious going on. In response, I fashioned a cage from quarter-inch wire mesh and pinned it around the remaining portion of the plant with metal rods. Still, the plant continued to shrink in size.

Looking out the back window one night, I discovered the secret of the shrinkage. A pale yellow cat, the kind that positively exudes evil intent, came slinking in under the fence. Glancing about the yard furtively, the thief made its way to the caged catnip and slipped a paw under the wire cage. He lay low to the ground, tail whipping back and forth, and snagged a stem with his claws, pulling it off the plant and out of the cage. With the purloined stem in his mouth, the cat made good his escape. Immediately upon the yellow cat’s departure, a Siamese cross made his way under the fence. He, too, was cautious in his approach to the caged plant, and applied the same technique to acquire a portion for himself before beating feet for the fence .

It was the entrance of the third thief that gave me a start. This was no newbie to the world of catnip capers. He was a big and bold, black and white fellow who fairly swaggered as he approached the herb garden. It was immediately obvious he was the ringleader of the Kenai Catnip Cartel, and the cartel was muscling into Winchester’s territory.

What to do? Turn Winchester loose on the intruders? Not a good idea. He was clearly out-clawed. Report the felonious felines to the authorities? Maybe not a good idea. What if there’s a kitty version of the DEA, the CEA - Catnip Enforcement Administration?

Wasting away, again, in Catnipville.
Whatever the right answer may have been, we chose the wrong one. We removed the cage from around the plant and introduced Winchester to it. At first he simply rolled on the plant, copping a little contact high. That wasn’t good enough, and after a few days the young tender leaves started to disappear. Winchester spent hours snoozing on the deck after each trip to the plant, unkempt and uncaring. As he slid deeper into his catnip habit he got into the really hard stuff, the old leaves and woody stems.

Finally, there was a catnip intervention of sorts when the entire plant was consumed. We felt relief that maybe, just maybe, Winchester could turn his life around. However, the catnip sent new sprouts out from the remaining stubble. Now, only a hard frost can save Winchester’s world from wrack and ruin.


  1. OMG you are great with the words...and thoughts...and pictures! What a treat, and how come I didn't see you post it on FB that it was ready for our reading? I lOVE it!!

  2. It's so sad to watch such a demise, especially when he had so much going for him. What a waste of life. I hope he gets help.

  3. The wild catnip is the most potent. It's like heroin for cats... We had some growing wild out by our garage and it drove our cats insane!

    Thank you for linking up to the Humor Me Blog Hop!