Well, that’s not what Horace Greeley said, but it is the direction he suggested to the young men of his age – head out to the Western US, where opportunities abound. Skipping to the present, fate beckoned earlier this year, and Susan was presented with an opportunity “she could not refuse” – a fascinating challenge which would require her to either embark on a debilitating commute between New Jersey and Chicago or to relocate entirely to the Chicago area. Ultimately, we flew out to Chicago, hooked up with a real estate agent and began to look for a place in the suburbs which would be suitable for our small household and, of course, the 42 TMF cats who would eventually accompany us.
Finding a reliable company to transport all the cats in one vehicle with attendants who would make the trip without an overnight stop was the second obstacle, and it took a lot of zooming around the internet before we found a fine, experienced operator in Texas (with a branch in Wisconsin). They had a number of specially-outfitted vehicles with individual transport containers, water, food, and knew what they were doing. And they had just one with a capacity of 42 containers. It was a 1405 mile trip, which was challenging enough without trouble from Mother Nature, in the form of severe winds and heavy rains.
Susan was there to pack them aboard at 10:00 am, and she planned to take an early afternoon flight back from Newark. Horrible weather caused many flights to cancel, and hers was in fact delayed for six hours or so. Meanwhile, high winds forced the transport vehicle to pull over and wait out the storm on several occasions. In the end, Susan arrived at 1:00 a.m. and the cats rolled in around 2:15 a.m. By the time that they had all been introduced to their new homes, fed, given new cat beds and water, with plenty of kitty-litter, it was 6:00 a.m., and all were exhausted, but safe, fed, and sleeping.
We were fortunate to have found a beautiful 40 acre farm about 50 miles west of Chicago, most of it in alfalfa, with a horse barn/stable and a sizable arena/storage facility, both of which we were able to quickly adapt to perfect housing for the cats, along with the main house, of course. As you’ll recall, we have always had rooms for them in the barn and in several sections of the house in New Jersey, and they have even more space to live and play out here. We plan to post photographs of the buildings, but we assure you that they are thrilled with the new environment and have adapted well. For now, you can see the farm if you travel via Mapquest to the address: 45W300 Middleton Road, Hampshire, Illinois 60140. If you then select “satellite view” and zoom in you’ll see the house on the little hill and two sizable outbuildings.
One building is a stable with living quarters upstairs and an office, and the other is a huge, perhaps 10,000 square foot indoor riding arena, also with an office. Both buildings are heated and have running water. The house has a huge and finished basement and 28 of the cats have the run of the house, while the others live in the two outbuildings, although they visit the house at will.
The feline residents of 45W300 Middleton Road
A funny thing happened when they yawned, looked around and we (and they, of course – they are cats, after all!) decided which part of which of the three facilities they would call home. You can count on the fact that Susan created enough shelf-space, hiding space, closet-space, sofas (with hiding spots underneath), cat beds, games and other diversions to keep all the cats happy when they are indoors, which is all night long, and part of the day.
The truly odd development involved cats apparently changing personalities as they adapted to the new environs! Some formerly shy cats became more outgoing and some powerful/dominant cats became somewhat reclusive…less interested in wandering about and pushing others around. One feral cat started jumping up on the master bed. All-in-all, these changes were very positive. Since we arrived, seven months have passed, and during that time, three older cats passed away and five others found new homes. Very few of them have been ill, and they are enjoying excellent quality of life.
Neide and her son Elbert feed the cats in the morning and afternoon and change the kitty litter as needed. Neide has been doing this for 17 years now and Elbert for perhaps 10 years, and they know the cats very well. They often sit with the cats or lie outdoors on the grass with them and, together, we make sure the cats have plenty of individual love and attention. Of course they are carefully observed for coughing, changes in eating or playing habits or attitudes, and temperatures are taken when something suspicious is going on. Just like a horse trainer knows what’s happening, we understand our cats and their personalities and habits.
That said, perhaps it’s time to give everyone an update on who’s who – a little glimpse of their characters and how they are doing? Maybe not this update, but soon, we shall take a picture of each cat and post a note on each which we can update. The problem, of course, is the well-known difficulty in “herding cats”! It will happen, Un Bel Di, as in the words of Puccini’s librettist, Giuseppe Giacosa.
So here’s the line-up, by location:
In the Main House:
- Angel- a mostly white, long-haired female with touches of black and tan; perhaps 10 years old and diabetic. Angel believes she is the Queen, and she looks the roll. Underneath her regal demeanor, she periodically unleashes frightening. attack sounds and lashes out at those unwilling to stand their ground.
- Bessie- grey and white female, perhaps 12 years old. Totally peaceful and loving.
- Beverly- a large, calico who never bothers anyone.
- Buddy-a striped 4-5 year old, very energetic and can almost speak, when he – quite often- formulates short howl-meows.
- Candy-10-12 year old short-haired and multi-colored, she has severe neurological deficiency from a prior injury and is feral. No one bothers her and she is happy with other cats around, but makes few friends.
- Ebony- black and handsome, perhaps 5 years old, and she keeps to herself.
- Harry Who 2- a happy, 8-10 year old energetic grey.
- Heather- a small, long-haired grey and white who is very pushy and assertive and gets away with it.
- Jelly Bean-one of the newer arrivals, she is an absolutely beautiful two-year-old with tons of energy and a fine, always playful sense of humor. She loves to burrow under sheets, pillows, carpets and plays incessantly with anyone who is game.
- Jessie-an older black and white “tuxedo cat” who is getting nicer as she grows older and no longer seeks to attack all the smaller cats.
- Kate- a loving, happy, energetic striped 5 year old who can open kitchen and bathroom cabinets with her claws, and often just crawls inside to play and hide. Likes sleeping under the covers with Susan.
- Madonna- an older, quiet lady, submissive and gets along with all. Quietly gets whatever she wants.
- Mamma Mia- brown, black and orange and very loving, though she hides most of the day – adorable.
- Mary-a beautiful brown, tan and black 7 year old with pretty white markings, one of the most loyal (like a dog), friendly, cat of the bunch – sleeps on my lap every night.
- Monique- a long-haired black female who stays to herself.
- Peek-a-Boo- an alert, happy, super-playful brown, black and tan girl who gets along with all.
- Platinum- a long-haired grey and brown who is in her own world and goes her own way.
- Pow-Wow- big, good-looking tan 5 year old girl who bossed everyone around back in NJ, but now is quiet and stays downstairs in the huge, finished basement.
- Princess- a loveable, happy, tiger and white cat, perhaps 10 years old.
- Princess Leah- a pretty, skinny grey girl – maybe 4-5 years old, playful and sweet.
- Queenie- a feral cat who came inside years ago with a deranged hunter’s arrow through her neck and never left. She loved and doted over George, licking his head for years after his leg was amputated.
- Rose – formerly shy, with black and white spots, she stands her ground with all the girls and is now in love with Big Gray.
- Sarah- a feral tuxedo cat with ½ a tail – she’s much more outgoing in Illinois and has plenty of friends. Goes where she wants when she wants and even hops up on our bed now.
- Scarf- but for white feet, the twin of Piglet, with just as good an appetite. These little football-sized piglets – Scarf and Piglet – somehow hurl themselves over three feet into the air to mount the kitchen counter, often performing that stunt 2-3 times in a minute – if they are shooed-away so that we can have dinner.
- Smokey B- a gray and white long-hair who prefers her own company.
- Sola Skinny Minny – about one year old and just was flown in to us by some young girls who found her when they were on vacation in Puerto Rico. Though the youngest, she adapted immediately and held her ground pretty well when challenged. Beyond all that now, she plays mostly with the next youngest, Jellybean.
- Sweetie Pie- tiger-striped with white paws, and just as sweet as can be.
- Theresa is a long-haired grey who gets along only with Susan and Neide, and prefers to be on her own.
In the Stable/Barn:
- Linda- an affectionate grey cat who is the leader in the barn, where she plays Queen and sets rules for those who enter.
- Lucy- Linda’s sister, very talkative and could be Linda’s twin.
- Big Gray- a 23+ pound huge grey and white fellow, maybe 10 years old. Given his size, he is never threatened and his. mellow disposition makes him a happy citizen here.
- Scotch-15 pounds and white and black, short-haired and was prone to fighting, back in NJ. Has calmed down out here.
- Teddy-a big (15 pound) gray and white short-haired 8 year old sweetheart, happy as can be.
In the Arena/Warehouse:
- Arthur- peaceful since the trip west, and now quite loving and more relaxed – a sizable black and white cat.
- Panther- a big, black, cat who does not like other cats at all, but loves people – he’s the King of the barn.
It will be a major project to put pictures of all the cats on the web-site, but we’ll try to get that done over the winter.
Local Veterinary Facilities
All the medical histories were delivered by the various East-Coast vets to a wonderful hospital in nearby Aurora, VCA-Aurora, which is part of the large VCA hospital system, and a fine, well-staffed, 24-hour modern animal hospital which is even closer to us now than RBVH was back in NJ – a 35/40 minute ride at worst. And one good thing about this part of Illinois is that there is virtually never any traffic anywhere, unless one is headed in towards Chicago. The medical staff are skilled and we have established a good working relationship with their management team. They are also giving TMF a 15% courtesy discount on a range of items, and every such concession helps.
All the normal activities of the Foundation are being carried on, as usual:
- Our trap/spay/neuter work with the NYRA- Saratoga track and Quaintance House continues and the only real difference is that the cats which are not adoptable (and who come to us in Illinois) have more space to play when they go outside, though fewer trees to climb! The babies are vaccinated at Harlingen Vet (in New Jersey) and we work to get them adopted out with help from the Harlingen staff, as well as help from some of our Trustees. At this moment, in fact, we have five adorable kittens available; and
- We continue to receive calls from people who locate us through the web-site and we’ve saved a number of older cats whose owners could not afford needed care, returning them to their owners once the crisis had passed.
So there we have a wrap-up of when and how we moved the cats to Illinois and what’s happening today. Everything is running smoothly now that we’ve been here for six months, and we anticipate no significant changes for the next few years.
The one-time cost of the transition has most certainly taxed our limited resources. Annual vet bills are on track for a budgeted $31,000, with food budgeted at $37,000 and Medications budgeted at $3,000. The total expense for the year will come in around $84,000. We are deeply appreciative of the support we have received from our loyal donors in the past, and we are hopeful your generosity will not wane, as we need your help now more than ever.