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  • Maureen Chambley

About a Cat and an Umbrella

Updated: 4 days ago

When I met Rosie in 1995, my head was still in the clouds as the first pet sitter to be named “Best of Philly.” This is the cat I credit with keeping me humble during those heady days.

White cat with pink nose and a patch of grey fur between pink-tinged grey ears blending to white above  hazel eyes.
Rosie at 15 years. She lived to the ripe old age of 21!

At the meet & greet her owners warned their beloved cat had issues while 3-year-old Rosie crouched under a nearby table hissing disapproval. For months she had been given a vet-prescribed dose of amitriptyline (antidepressant) in the fervent hope the medication would improve her mood and, more importantly, her toileting habits. Too often Rosie would think outside the (litter) box.

Yet in spite of the medication’s dulling effects, Rosie remained cranky and continued to pee wherever it suited her. She was also a difficult patient and the owners wanted to avoid the stress of medical boarding. Plan B was a spritz of water to keep her worst impulses at bay. Thus on a guided tour of the apartment to show the litter box locations (Rosie had two feline housemates), her owners pointed out the spray bottles of water stationed on windowsills and tabletops that were used when Rosie behaved aggressively. Which was often.

My first engagement was three visits over as many days. The cats stayed out of sight on the first visit. During the second visit I cleaned Rosie’s urine from stair carpeting while she hissed at me from the landing. And sometime before the third visit, Rosie hopped onto the kitchen counter and peed in a box of tissues soaking through to the handwritten visit notes I had slipped underneath. Best of Philly? She thought not.


I was Rosie’s pet sitter for the next seventeen years. Her cattitude never softened but soiling outside the box improved greatly after the owners purchased a home with polished hardwood floors, kept bare to limit Rosie’s options. Advancing age kept her off the counters.

Rosie was 15 years old when this photo was taken. Her housemates were aging less well and, in consideration of their aching joints, the owners provided litter boxes and water bowls on all three floors. Rosie exploited these generous options to grumpy advantage by moving to the nearest staircase when I arrived. If she missed her chance on my way up, she’d catch me on the way down. Only the camera could zoom in this close as Rosie warned me off with low belly growls. What to do?

In the early days of our relationship I moved through Rosie’s space with a spray bottle poking out of my pocket, a visual reminder that I was “armed.” As Rosie became more comfortable with my presence, she became more aggressive and that was nerve-wracking. I gave up the spray bottle for a pocket-size travel umbrella that proved effective. Rosie may have resented my visits but she never lost respect for that umbrella: In an instant it could burst open, dark and menacing … holy crap.

So, as rehearsed countless times, I reached for the umbrella triggering a brief display of feline fireworks before Rosie disappeared around a corner. She always had the last mrowww!

To varying degrees all cats are territorial. And lots of cats are shy or fearful of outsiders and choose to hide. But Rosie preferred to sway into every pet sitting visit as bold as brass. RIP, Rosie.

NOTE: A folding umbrella is a safe shield against an aggressive house cat. But not a good choice for fending off overeager dogs or teething puppies. Any negative association formed indoors could be problematic for you and your pooch outdoors.

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