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Cat-ladyitis comes on little fog feet - Diane Wagner

I caught myself before I could say it at a party this weekend, but there's no denying that the words have been hovering on my lips.

Four cats are not too many.

Intellectually, I know that is just plain wrong. Besides, my sisters n never shy about sharing their opinions n specifically told me that possession of three or more felines means a woman is, at least, a budding Cat Lady.

In my defense, all I can say is that it was an accident.

About two years ago, circumstances forced me to give up the two cats I have had for at least a decade. A year later, I found room for cats again and adopted two new ones. A few months ago, the person who took my older cats was transferred and had to give them up.

It wasn't quite that cut and dried but, there it is. I now have four cats.

I haven't given up on finding another home for the new ones. Even now I will interrupt perfect strangers with an offer if I hear the c-a-t word in a passing conversation. But a lot of planets have to be aligned before a person with extra cats runs into a person looking for cats, and I've essentially accepted my fate.

Tumble and Rafiki, both about 6 years old, have warily integrated themselves into the household ruled by Redd, my 12-year-old male. Tasha, his sister, basically spends her days looking down on them all in disdain from the top shelf of the cat perch.

The old cats aren't allowed in the back bedroom and the new cats are barred from the kitchen, so the two "families" each have their safe retreats. But they tend to congregate in the living room, where I still occasionally find big tufts of hair when I come home from work.

I've put away the squirt bottle I kept by my side during the early days, though. And I don't even bother to yell "knock it off" when I hear hissing and spitting in another room anymore. I figure that, if they can't act civilized, it's no skin off my nose.

The system seems to be working, primarily because cats aren't stupid. None of them like the idea of skin off THEIR noses, either.

Rafiki is used to being bossed by Tumble, so she cheerfully moves to another spot whenever any of the other cats look at her cross-eyed.

Tumble doesn't like kow-towing to Redd, and she outweighs the old man, so there is more tension there. But he has claws and testosterone that she is lacking, which makes it a fairly even fight. And, since cats aren't stupid, neither is too eager to start an even fight.

Tasha is the wild card. She grew up as Redd's handmaiden and often charms the human men who visit by acting like a sweet and timid kitty in need of protection. But everyone who knows her n and by now that means Tumble and Rafiki n knows that if she has to get up ? you're going to be sorry.

So, there we sit: Tasha on the perch, Redd on the stack of floor-cushions, Tumble on the arm of the couch and Rafiki wherever someone isn't.

And, after I get home from work, clean the litter boxes, fill four food bowls, check for hairballs and pick up the tufts, I start thinking that maybe four cats aren't too many.

Someone help me.

Diane Wagner covers county government for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or dwagner@henryherald.com.