by Maggie Wollman

In the Wollman household in Mt. Airy, the animals run the place, and the cats and mice (as you can see here), get along beautifully. It’s just one big, happy family.

I say our two cats are our children who won’t give us back-talk nor grow up and leave. Leave? Hardly. They are underfoot much of the time and try to be helpful. When I work in the yard, they are observing me as if learning what to do. However, when I run the mower, they scatter, frightened by the noise.

When Milton, my husband, and I watch our weekly Netflix movie, they sit on our laps, though the film seems to put them to sleep.

Now that the weather is turning mild, they enjoy going out for brief periods. Thus, Milton and I play the game: one in, one out. You might think this coming-and-going is annoying, but actually it is good for us. Neither of us is allowed to sit for too long.We are constantly checking the window panels on the side of the front door, where the cats appear when they want to come in.

When we eat in the kitchen, they jump up on the counter next to us and wait for food. They think they’re people and enjoy people food: meat, fish and all types of gravy. Egg salad in mayonnaise is a favorite.

By their walk and sometimes by voice, the cats make their wants known. At 11 p.m. last night while I was reading on the chaise, Fred walked to the top of the stairs. I knew he wanted to go out, probably to use the outdoor facilities. But if I went downstairs with him, I’d have to wait for his return or be disturbed during the night when he appeared at the bedroom window having climbed a tree, leaped onto the roof and walked across the bedroom window. Since Milton is more auditorally challenged than I, the job of opening the screen and window to let him in is mine.

This night I did not feel like going downstairs. Let him walk to the cellar and use the litter box, as a cat is supposed to (according to house rules). Instead he jumped on the chaise and relieved himself on my night shirt. I should have wanted to kill the cat, but I could feel no anger. He had told me of his need, and I ignored him. After I changed my shirt, I went to bed while he was still on the chaise. By getting in before him, I staked out a spot before he did. So there!

Joining our family this spring is a mouse, small enough to sit in the palm of my hand — if I could catch him. Alone at night in the kitchen drinking tea, I have seen him run from the refrigerator towards the food cabinet and cat bowls.

One morning I caught him on the floor in front of a cabinet next to the food dishes where the cats were breakfasting. If I was quick enough, I might have been able to stomp on him, but that’s not me. I see signs of his droppings on the cabinet shelves and in the cellar but haven’t detected any gnawed packages of food.

On the contrary. What he is doing in the corner of the bottom shelf is stashing kernels of dry cat food. One morning when Milton lifted his fresh clothes sitting atop his gym bag, dried cat food fell to the floor. This clever fellow (the mouse, not Milton) was establishing a second stash. As for our cats, they have absorbed the ethic of live-and-let-live, or the mouse has out-foxed them, whichever.

While the birds outside are not our pets, they, like the cats, hang around the house. I have a suet and a seed feeder, which they empty regularly. They, too, have the live-and-let-live ethic. I notice that they shake the seed feeder, causing seeds to fall on the porch for the ground-feeding birds and squirrels. They thank me in their joyous squalls and by sitting in the tree at the curb and pooping on my car parked below. That’s the beauty of Mt. Airy: all creatures living side by side, respectfully.

Maggie Wollman, long-time resident of Mt. Airy, is a member of the Lovett Library Writing Club.