It must be the menu we posted, I thought. How else explains the feeding frenzy beneath our kitchen window? A sign "Feline Café: Open Late," with a printed menu attached, was posted by a friend in our carport about three years ago. But then my wife, Lynn, reminded me that the sign, and the idea of the café, began with Andy.

Andy was a thin stray tabby who, until his death earlier this year, graced our driveway with his playful antics. He was also an insistent customer and eager eater of whatever dry cat food we provided, along with water, in metal  bowls.

The loss of Andy was painful, but soon our next door neighbor's cat, Blackie, as rotund and fluffy as Andy was skinny and lithe, began to show up and, in a demanding voice, order breakfast.  Then, before noon, he was ready for another helping, then another in the afternoon and into the evening.

"It must be the menu," I said to Lynn, referring to the café sign. "It's so inviting."  The menu reads: "Breakfast served all day.  Lunch buffet: all you can eat.  Dinner: Lizzie's Daily Specials. Sides: lizards, bugs, worms, other assorted treats." Lizzie is our indoor cat, oblivious to the outdoor riff-raff. She dines in solitary splendor from crystal bowls, as befits a senior citizen of 17.

I had always fantasized about opening a restaurant but decided it would be a lot of work. Of course, I assumed that the customers would be people. But, being retired, I am satisfied to have our three regular customers and to see that business is brisk.

"Seating" in the café can be problematic, but the customers tend to sort out the order in which they eat in their own unique way. Blackie, meowing loudly, is always first.  He seems quite pleased that Andy is no longer around, and he tolerates the presence of the others, who take their turns, quietly, politely.

The other two are also black cats, shy and thin, who make their late morning appearance each day after they have made sure Blackie is out of sight.  We call one Jenny, the other Edward.

The names come from that delightful book by Esther Averill, Jenny and the Cat Club, which Lynn discovered a few years ago, out of print. Now, thanks to New York Review Books, it has been re-issued, along with other books in the series of   adventures of felines in New York's Greenwich Village, complete with Averill's illustrations of Jenny Linsky and her adventures.

Not only are our most recent café customers indebted to Ms. Averill for their names, but Lynn was inspired by the Jenny Linsky stories to write her own "Tails of Manhattan," concerning feline detectives who operate out of Rockefeller Center. Several of these have appeared on the Daily Mews website.  Lynn now plans to follow up her first Kindle book -- a collection of quiet rhymes for quiet times -- with more e-books about her feline detectives through Amazon.

We are glad to report that our feline café, although an unexpected hit in our neighborhood, does not take significant time away from our daily writing, which involves cats whenever possible.


Gerald and Lynn Schiffhorst live in Winter Park, Florida. He is the author of Writing with Cats. Lynn is the author of The Green Road to the Stars, which includes two poems about cats.




Dogs Come when Called

"Dogs come when called. Cats take a message and get back to you."

"Of course, every cat is really the most beautiful woman in the room."

Edward Verrall Luca (essayist)

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