Apr 062012

Tigre (left) and Rusty. (photos by Christy Lorio)

You know those design shows where couples win home makeovers just by submitting a peculiar story? Well, I have a hell of story, and I’ve got the cats to prove it.

Christy Lorio (photo by Leslie Almeida)

One of the things I love most about living in New Orleans is the way that old homes permeate neighborhoods with their aura. Sometimes I make up little stories when I’m biking past a particularly eye catching structure. I’ll construct one-block tales of who lived in it, where they were from, and sometimes I’ll formulate imaginary fodder for horror stories. Then, I turn a corner and do it again.

I’ve always wanted to conduct thorough research on my home. My house has a rich history, one that precedes me living in it. But my own relationship with it certainly adds to the charm. You see, even though I’ve only owned my home for two years, we go way back.

My husband moved down to New Orleans in 2000 and rented this house almost immediately upon arrival. It didn’t have A/C or heat, but he insisted on space heaters and window units. (We have central air and heat now. Thank God.)  Our old landlord, Pat, grew up here and it remained in her family for years. We loved this house as if it were our own. When we lived in Phoenix, I’d fondly reminisce, like I was living in a mansion on St. Charles Avenue. Compared to our white-walled, beige-carpeted rental in a standard apartment complex, it was. Suddenly the burdens that come with inhabiting a century-old house became the things we longed for. Dust from crumbling mortar, a draft through the hardwood floors would have been a welcome breeze in the desert.

But what really made our house special were those damn cats. We started off with a momma cat giving birth to six kittens on the front porch. Somehow we (actually my husband’s roommates at the time) got them fixed one by one. Over the years our little brood dwindled down to two, Runty and Tigre. And since our landlord didn’t allow pets, we were happy to feed the ferals. Then Hurricane Katrina hit, and we had to leave our babies. They wouldn’t evacuate with us, so we reluctantly left them. We came back to the house in November 2005 to retrieve our belongings, relieved to not only see our raised house in tact, but the cats were still lingering here. Sadly, we left them again as we packed up our U-Haul and drove away. And not unlike an ex-boyfriend you never got over, I couldn’t stop thinking about those cats.

In December 2009 we were living in the Garden District, again a not-quite-ideal living situation. We crammed ourselves into a tiny apartment, the first one we found when we moved back and lived in it for a year. On a whim, we decided to go to Freret Market after a lazy Saturday brunch at Coulis. Driving past our old stomping grounds, we longingly peered at our old house as we drove past then screeched to a halt when we saw a “For Sale” sign tacked to the side.  We got out of the car, peeked through the fence boards and what did we see? Those damn cats. A phone call and the biggest purchase we’ve ever made later, and they’re still here with us today.  And they are still as obnoxious and lovable as ever, meowing at the back porch demanding attention, and terrorizing other strays in the neighborhood after 11 years of living here.

Like I said, HGTV, if you want a good story for television, we’re all yours. But be warned, this is Runty and Tigre’s’ house. Everyone else is just living in it.

Christy Lorio, a native New Orleanian, writes on fashion at slowsouthernstyle.com and is also a freelance writer whose work has been featured online and in print magazines both locally and nationally.

  7 Responses to “Christy Lorio: We’re waiting for you, HGTV — me, my husband and the cats who let us live with them”

  1. “Damn Cats???” Those cats waited for you…”twice”.

    I am glad you bought the property and they are with you again. I wish more people had a heart for cats. The feral colonies keep the rat, snake and bug population down.

    • Yup, those cats are extra special to us. At the closing of the house, the sellers told us it took months for the cats to warm up to them. It took about a week with us, so I’m certain they remembered us from the first go round.

  2. Great (true) Story…and well articulated! =)

  3. LOVE! The cats were protecting the house until you got back. Good cats.

  4. Please, never leave them again! Ferals can be caught in a “have a heart” style trap & transferred to kennels. It’s do able. The SPCA can give you the advice you need.

  5. A sweet story. I am now nearly 85, bounce around here in Little Rock and do anything I want to do.Sixty-nine years ago I walked away from Gulf Coast Military Academy, then in Gulfport, took a bus to NOLA, signed up with local 374 of the Musicians Union, and started playing gigs. I then replaced the drummer in an all-girl orchestra (she didn’t want to leave her teaching job). I toured with them for six-months, when they found a girl drummer, then went back and rented your kind of house out on St. Charles. There were no cats, but there was lots of room. Two more years of playing and traveling and I returned to Shreveport to finish high school and Centenary College. Since then, I have traveled the world (after my Army time in the Korean War) but I still look back fondly and think of that great house near Audubon Park.

  6. I remember when you lived there as a rental and I remember when you bought it…one of the greatest “meant to be” stories out there…

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