Prior to moving to Austin, Rich and I didn’t live together. We had houses that were about four miles apart – a quick bike ride in the warm weather. In this manner, we were able to retain our autonomy and individuality.
 
Rich’s house was simply furnished with comfortable sofas and chairs with pictures of his family on the walls. In the backyard was a large vegetable garden. Extensive brickwork and pathways outlined the neatly trimmed grass surrounding the house.
 
My two-story off-white house with bright Wedgwood blue trim, in contrast, was wall-to-wall decorative furniture, antiques and knick-knacks. I had over 100 paintings, needlepoint pictures and photographs on the walls. My yard was a wonderland of plants and trees including a pond, fruit trees (plum, pear, aronia, cherry), herb garden, irises, hardy fuchsias, roses, bulbs (lilies, daffodils, hyacinth), and a huge eucalyptus tree that shaded my bedroom window.
 
When we got married and started to live together in Austin, we not only had to combine households, but adopt each other’s pets. That meant two ringneck parakeets, four cockatiels and five cats. The latter, Rich wasn’t particularly thrilled about having in the house so to keep the peace, we built Annie House, an outdoor heated and air conditioned house where the cats could comfortably stay.
 
Note: Rich has since become a cat fanatic and most of the cats are now in the house!
 
Annie House − named after my sassy long-haired Calico Ariel Anne − is in the middle of a fenced area, which previously was a dog run. The house is 8 feet long, 6 feet wide and tall enough for me to stand up. It was modeled after a Victorian child’s playhouse, except it has features you’d find in a real house.
 
The floor is 18 inches off the ground and covered in linoleum. The walls have beige paneling and there are two small, curtained windows. The ceiling not only has ceiling panels, but insulation. Of course, the roof has real shingles and there are two electrical outlets for a night light, heater and air conditioner.
 
Inside are large shelves with human-sized pillows for the cats to lie on. The blue pillowcases with chubby yellow bumblebees on them match the curtains. Also inside is a small cart with containers of cat food and water. There’s also a small kitty litter box. The cats can go in-and-out of the house through a small flap in a pint-sized door. A larger door on one end of the house allows humans to walk inside.
 
To keep out unwanted critters, like raccoons, we curved and attached long lengths of PVC piping to the fence. We then stretched deer netting over the pipes so the entire area is enclosed under a row of graceful, white pipes.
 
In January, Rich and I replaced the deer netting since it was looking ratty. We used a different type of netting and didn’t bother to cover the very tops of the PVC pipes. Within a short time, Jujube − Rich’s manly Tabby − figured out how to climb on top of Annie House, jump onto and walk down the netting and escape out of the "citty compound."
 
Several times, Rich added more netting, but each time, Jujube figured out how to escape. Disgusted, Rich decided to lock Jujube and Pu’Yi (my perfectly behaved, male silver-point Siamese) in Annie House by securing the flap in the door.
 
On Saturday morning, when Rich went to let the "boys" out, he noticed that the flap was goopy. He opened up the "human" door and was appalled by what he saw. Curled up on one of the pillows was a young raccoon. The rest of the house was in shambles — looking much like the aftermath of a tornado. The ceiling panels and insulation had been pulled down. The inside flap had been ripped off the small door. Pillows were on the ground. Kitty litter was scattered everywhere.
 
Happily, both Jujube and Pu’Yi were okay. They must have spent the entire evening hissing at the raccoon as it tore apart their house.
 
We regularly have raccoons visit Annie House. They go inside through the door flap, eat the cat food then leave a trail of muddy footprints. They even come in the house when the cats are inside because I’ve put the cats in the house at night and found footprints the next morning. However, this is the first time that one has been locked inside!
 
In the future, Rich promises to be more vigilant in looking inside the cat house for intruders before locking up the cats.
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