Pepper at Home

Pepper even helped write this column.

This week Casa Grande’s St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School held a blessing of the animals to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

We will have pictures and a cute story by Melissa St. Aude Saturday.

I was thinking of taking my cat to the Mass, but not for a blessing.

For an exorcism.

It’s not that Pepper is evil. I just think he is possessed. That’s the only explanation I have for his behavior.

He routinely hides in the hall closest and pounces on my leg, wrapping it in a wrestling hold that would make Andre the Giant proud while biting my ankle.

He loves to hide among the pillows in our bed like a barracuda in an undersea cave, waiting for me to lie down so he can spring out at my arm like it was a passing sunfish and then quickly retreat to his hiding place.

He even head-butts the bathroom door open when I’m in there doing my business, jumps in the bathtub and attacks the shower curtain at my side.

OK, he is a playful cat. The problem is he is also a big cat, weighing more than 25 pounds. If he wasn’t a long-haired black and white calico, I’m sure the neighbors would have reported a mountain lion sighting to Arizona Game and Fish by now.

But he is not much of a roamer and stays close to home. Mostly, because he is unable to scale the wall in our backyard.

He is also a coward and not much of a hunter. I’m sure other cats make fun of him.

He couldn’t catch a three-legged lizard in a mud puddle. The only game he brings back to the door stoop are lizard tails, which lizards regularly jettison when threatened. Once he took off after a family of quail meandering through his backyard domain. But when the papa quail turned around and did a faux charge against Pepper, he turned tail and ran to hide behind my legs.

Yes, he needs me to protect him from the mean quail.

He is only brave when it comes to attacking me. But at his size, I sometimes feel like an NFL quarterback playing behind the Arizona Cardinals’ porous offensive line.

The hits are starting to wear me down.

So we put Pepper on a diet.

When it comes to pet food, though, less is more. The veterinarian prescribed some low-calorie cat food that cost more than caviar.

So to control the dispersion of our new-found investment, my wife purchased an automatic cat feeder. It’s one of those devices you program to dispense a certain amount of food at certain times during the day. It even records your voice. My wife recorded “Dinner time Pepper,” which echoes about the house at his midnight feeding.

The device also seems to work as well as the soda machines we had back in my high school at the turn of the century. These were the machines where you put in your money, then it would drop a plastic cup, fill it with ice, then a stream of syrup and carbonated water.

It was supposed to occur in that order. But half the time the sequence would get messed up. Sometimes the cup would drop and turn upside down, then dump the ice, syrup and carbonated water on top. Other times, you would get the ice first, then the syrup and carbonated water and then the cup would drop.

It was an adventure to try to purchase a soda. But there was a good result. It cut down on the amount of soda intake for teens. There was no obesity problem at my high school.

As for the pet feeding machine, it too has been a technological mishap in programming. I was in the kitchen one time when the device went off.

“Dinner time Pepper,” my wife’s recorded voice came on. Then plop came a cup of food. Then it did it again. And again. And again.

Pretty soon there was pricey cat food spilling all over the floor. I had to pull the plug on it to get it to stop before we went bankrupt.

It took awhile to get the programing right, but my wife succeeded.

And it has worked with Pepper’s diet.

The cat is scared to death of it and won’t go near it. I think he has lost a pound since we got the contraption.

Another victory for technology.


You can reach Andy Howell at


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