By Melanie Peeples

Photos Contributed

Erin “Not A Crazy Cat Lady” Donohoo 

She remembers the day she saw him. An orange, straggly-looking cat picking his way through the wooded, overgrown lot across the street from her in Mayfair. “Uh oh,” she thought. “He doesn’t look so good.” 

He also didn’t look familiar to Erin, which is not to say she knows every cat in her neighborhood, but, you know, she knew she hadn’t seen him before, because she notices cats. (Or, maybe they notice her. Hard to say with cats). At any rate, he looked hungry. And, a hungry cat is not something Erin can abide.  

She called him over and set some cat food in a bowl on her front porch, and he ate and ate and ate. He was so friendly. She thought he must have an owner somewhere. As the hours ticked on and she went inside, she could see that he wasn’t leaving. It was a day with thunderstorms forecast, so she scooped him up before the storms arrived and decided to run him to her vet to see if he had a microchip to identify his owner. 

He did. Erin was right—he wasn’t from around here. In fact, he was from Atlanta. Two and a half hours away by car. But, there was a problem. The voicemail of the phone number attached to his microchip was full. No one could leave the owner a message. The vet’s office said they’d keep trying and look for another way to contact them, so Erin and the cat came back home.  

It’s worth mentioning at this point, Erin had not yet told her husband about the orange kitty. The last time a stray cat wandered into Erin’s yard, they ended up paying for his dental surgery to the tune of $1,000 for a cat that wasn’t even hers.  

But, as one can probably guess, the cat became hers shortly after that. His name is Murray, and he is relegated to the outdoors because Dice—Erin’s black and white kitty—will not tolerate another male cat in the house. So, each night Erin slips Murray into the house in his very own bedroom and shuts the door to keep him safe and placate Dice. 

Her female cat, JaBoo, has no problems with another male in the house, but for those keeping score, that’s two cats in the house and a once-stray named Murray with previously bad teeth who just checks in at night.  

As the orange cat continued lounging on her front porch, Erin considered her choices. “I thought, ‘Oh, no. I can’t take another cat. There’s a limit. I can’t have another cat and have a husband at the same time, and as much as my husband would argue with this, I do love my husband more than I love cats,’” Erin jokes. 

That is not to say that if something were to happen to her husband, Pete, that could change. “He has joked that if he dies, I’m going to fill the house up with 20 cats. I laugh and say, ‘That’s funny he thinks it will stop at 20.’” 

Thankfully, the vet called. They tracked down the owner. In no time, Erin was Facetiming a jubilant Andrea Stroud from Atlanta, so Andrea could see her cat. It turns out his name is Buddy, and he’d been missing for six months.  

They still don’t know how Buddy got to Birmingham, not to mention Homewood. Buddy was an indoor cat who had slipped out unbeknownst to Andrea. Neither Andrea, nor her two kids know anyone who had visited Birmingham in the last six months. The best anyone can guess is that the man with two little girls who had been spotted petting an orange cat at a gas station near Andrea had picked him up and driven to Birmingham.  

Andrea says she had never given up hope that Buddy would be found. She admits she had just recently started putting his toys away, but she held out hope that he was still alive, and that at some point an animal lover would find him and take him to a vet to be scanned.  

When Erin offered to drive Buddy halfway, Andrea was amazed! She could hardly sleep that night. 

East Bound and Down 

The cat transport left at the crack of dawn, to the tune of Jerry Reed’s “East Bound and Down,” from the 1977 movie classic, “Smokey and the Bandit.”  

Buddy, strapped down in the backseat, meowed in his cardboard box like he knew the words to the song. Erin had a long way to go and a short time to get there, barely enough to get to Georgia and back and still get her daughter to dance class (nobody ever said cat-saving was easy). 

As she pulled into the Pilot gas station in Tallahassee, Georgia, Andrea hoped out of her own car and cooed, “Buddy, oh, Buddy! You’re home! You’ve been on a big adventure.” She’s owned Buddy for five years and in that time, he had become a part of her family. Extended family, even. Andrea could not believe her good fortune in finding Erin. 

“She is amazing, and she doesn’t know just how much she has touched me, when she was like, ‘Yeah, I can meet you. Let’s see where we can meet to get your baby back to you.’ People don’t do that,” Andrea says. 

But, Erin does.  

For her part, Erin says she’s no hero. She just drove a cat to Georgia. But, tell that to Andrea, who has a little kitty curled up in her bed again, getting thoroughly spoiled.  

Erin maintains she is not a crazy cat lady, but how would one know? Easy, she says, “A crazy cat lady would have kept the cat.”