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Tread Carefully, O Muse, or at least wear shoes…

14 Jul

So last week I talked about the joys of mowing my lawn.  This week I want to talk about maintaining my lawn.

These are not the same thing.

You know what’s stressful? Trying to keep your kids from drawing on every single flat surface they can find once they’ve gotten their little hands on a crayon.

A crayon, to a toddler, is an invitation to leave their mark on the world. And by mark, I mean marks. And when I say marks, I am not conveying clearly enough the extreme plural nature of the marks. These kids draw on walls, floors, drawers, doors, windows, screens, television sets, chairs, shoes, other crayons, and occasionally, themselves.

And this is an extremely small subset of the things they will draw on with those god-forsaken crayons.

(It’s a well-known fact: every time a child is handed a crayon, a demon gets his horns.)

What does this have to do with maintaining my lawn? I’ll get there.

I own dogs. This means that they leave lots of little presents for me on the lawn in the backyard. But that’s okay. Because I knew what I was getting into when I decided I wanted to own dogs. So while I don’t exactly enjoy cleaning up these little pee-mail attachments, it comes with the territory.

My front lawn is a different story. Maintaining my front lawn is extremely stressful. Almost as stressful as dealing with my kids and their crayons.

Why is maintaining my front lawn extremely stressful? Let me tell you.

Maintaining my front lawn is extremely stressful because I live in a Third World neighborhood.

What do I mean by that? Let me tell you.

My neighborhood is overrun by cats.

I’m not talking about the fluffy Persian cats that turn their nose up at the wrong brand of cat food, or that sashay back and forth across their house’s front window, showing off their ‘Best In Show’ ribbon.

I’m talking about feral cats.  And when I say cats, I am not conveying clearly enough the extreme plural nature of the cats.

This confederation of feral cats is thriving because I have a well-intentioned neighbor who insists on feeding them. He loves these cats. LOVES them. He leaves out several bowls of food for them each day, and he leaves the door open to one of his cars, so they have someplace dry to stay during the rainy season.

Aw, how touching.

Despite this affection, he avoids all other aspects of pet ownership, such as tags and collars, regularly scheduled veterinary visits, and, more importantly, being responsible enough to neuter said feral cats. And as the old saying goes, “An unneutered feral cat community that lives together loves forever, eventually producing enough offspring to overrun an entire neighborhood.”

Why, you ask, do I care? Let me tell you while I sit here, serenaded by the yowls of a couple of feral cats rutting just on the other side of my fence, driving my dogs into an apoplectic barking frenzy that I am convinced is going to end in an aneurysm, either for one of the dogs, or for me.

You know the one thing the cats won’t do in the area where they are fed? If you said, “Go to the bathroom,” then ding ding ding! you win a prize.  Instead, they go somewhere else to do that particular business. Which is where my front lawn comes in.

(If you’re one of those lawyer types and you’re going to start shouting about getting your prize, just send me your address. As soon as I get it, I’ll go out to my front lawn and scoop up your reward.)

I’ve tried everything to keep them off my lawn. I have a spotlight on a motion sensor. I’ve left out mothballs. I’ve sprinkled the essence of jalapeno pepper around my lawn. I scattered granules of a particularly nasty smelling repellent on my lawn (made with, among other things, spoiled egg and dried blood). I’ve even tried watering my lawn every single night so that it’s soaking wet.

(I have even thought [SHUDDER] of leaving food out for them so they’ll do their business elsewhere.  But that’s just forcing the problem onto someone else.)

The cats don’t care what I do to discourage them. They love my lawn. It is the best kitty litter box they have ever encountered. They tell other cats passing through the neighborhood, “Hey dude, if you ever need to take a dump, have we got the perfect lawn for you!”

It’s driving me crazy.

Oh, I’ve thought of more extreme measures. I looked into traps so I could take them to the local shelter and have them fixed (and let me be clear – by fixed I mean neutered, NOT euthanized). Traps cost $65. And one of my neighbors, who’s already tried this approach, reports that the local shelter simply brought the cat back unaltered.

I’ve also thought about slingshots, pellet guns, even a .22 rifle (they’re not that loud). The old SNL yard-a-pult skit has also come to mind. But as a pet owner and all around decent human being, I could never harm another animal. Even if I have just stepped, barefoot, in that animal’s still warm and most-recent-in-a-long-string-of fecal deposits on my lawn.

However, I think I’ve finally come upon a humane solution. It involves my children and crayons.

The only problem is crayons don’t work very well on cat fur.

Does anyone have any advice on how to minimize the level of injury sustained while shaving a cat?

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