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In our own backyard,,, 'Revenge, thy name is Marmalade'

You've never known true rejection until you've been ignored by a cat. Being long-time cat owners, my husband, Ken, and I know full well what's it's like to come home to a cat whose food bowl is empty, or whose litter pan is full or who has been l...

You've never known true rejection until you've been ignored by a cat.

Being long-time cat owners, my husband, Ken, and I know full well what's it's like to come home to a cat whose food bowl is empty, or whose litter pan is full or who has been left on its own too long.

Unlike the joyful, unabandoned welcome of a dog, the neglected feline(s) make a point of showing up at the front door, only to turn tail on you in a posture of icy disdain and walk away, stiff legged and aloof - and that's just at the end of a working day. Whenever we go on vacation, or even take off for a long weekend, our cats have a way of not only ignoring us upon our return, but of getting even with us.

Many has been the time when we'll breeze in from some extended getaway to find piles of fur the paranoid little Siamese has ripped from her glossy coat, or a beheaded mouse carcass our big, orange Marmalade has deposited in the middle of the welcome mat, or various and sundry hairballs the two of them have managed to regurgitate and leave in selected spots around the house.

When we left for a week in Arizona a couple of weeks ago, we made the usual arrangements with our "cat sitter" to come in every other day and check on the cats, feed them, clean out their litter pan and provide them with a little of the attention and companionship they demand.

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Along with the usual emergency contact numbers, I left our email address, telling her we'd be checking it from time to time while we were away in case any sort of crisis should arise with the cats or the house.

A couple days into our vacation, we stopped at a coffee shop and logged on to check our email. And sure enough, there was a brief message from our cat sitter, saying she'd stopped by the day after our departure.

"Marmalade was in a basket on top of the cupboards and wouldn't come down," she reported, "and though I practically turned the house upside down, Rascal was absolutely no where to be found."

Hastily, I hit "reply" and told her she must have arrived at naptime, suggesting that Marmalade wasn't sick or anything - just evasive. And I told her she might want to check under the upstairs bed up against the heat register and behind the bedspread, a cozy, warm spot where Rascal sometimes hides when she wants to "get away from it all."

Hoping for the best, we turned our sites back on our vacation and I tried not to worry myself for the next couple of days. We checked the email again, but there was no word from the cat sitter.

Our son and his Labrador retriever arrived at our house the day before we got home, helping out by snowblowing our driveway and getting a few groceries in the house in anticipation of our return.

When we got home the next day, boy and dog met us at the door, but no cats. After the usual unpacking and catching up, I asked Jason where the cats were.

"Oh, they're around. I saw them cruise through not long ago," he replied, unconcerned.

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And sure enough, pretty soon Marmalade "presented" himself to be admired, and as soon as I picked him up, he willfully shed giant handfuls of fur all over my black sweater, wriggling to get down again and go his own way.

Rascal, the Siamese, was much more elusive, however. I finally spotted her under the bed in one of the upstairs bedrooms, and she moaned woefully and refused to come out.

I decided the best policy was to ignore her, and I walked over the computer to check our email. Since Rascal is fond of sitting in my lap while I work on the computer, it didn't take long before she crept out and jumped up on the computer desk. As I greeted her at last and ran my hand over length of her silky coat, I gasped. She had apparently managed to wedge herself behind the bookcase in our bedroom where Ken had set up one of those adhesive mousetraps (following the memorable episode where Marmalade released a live mouse on our bed in the middle of the night!), and she'd gotten the thing stuck to one of her rear haunches!

And though I managed to peel it off her fur, it left behind a super-sticky residue the consistency of glue. A quick check on the packaging it came in set our minds to rest after discovering there was absolutely no poison in it.

But the task remained to figure out how we were going to get the sticky stuff out of her fur. The package label suggested cooking oil as an effective antidote, so while I held the unhappy Siamese in my arms, Ken slathered Mazola oil over her hind quarters - and she began to howl in earnest. After a brief toweling off, we released her and she raced around the house like a banshee, leaving a trail of oily footprints down the hallway and across the top of our bedspread.

And so, the next step was to give her a bath to get rid of the cooking oil mess. Suddenly, the peaceful afterglow of a restful vacation had turned to a stressful exhibition of cat versus human....

Long story short, after her fur dried and she'd done considerable self-grooming, Rascal's fur was soon back to it's glossy shine, and we heaved a sigh of relief.

That night, however, as we sat watching hockey on television and Jason did some work on his laptop, Marmalade jumped up in the middle of his keyboard and stood there, planting all four feet firmly on the keys.

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By the time Jason was able to shoo him off, the screensaver had completely disappeared, the type face had somehow enlarged to twice its usual size - and a Spanish language phrase was scrolling across the screen....

Pine Journal Publisher/ reporter Wendy Johnson can be contacted at: wjohnson@pinejournal.com .

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