It's close to midnight when the distant rumble of heavy equipment pulls me from a deep sleep. The throaty growl of the bulldozer comes closer, nudging me closer to the surface of wakefulness.

Did I fall asleep in a construction site? A fine-toothed pitchfork scratches its tines on my arm as the dozer clanks closer. Suddenly, it develops engine trouble. It sputters, snorts and sneezes.

Sneezes?

Groggy, I reach out to steady myself and feel soft, silky fur. The roar of the bulldozer settles into a loud ... purr.

Sidney, our sweet-tempered, longhaired black-and-white cat, jolted awake by his sneeze, kneads my arm, his claws extended just enough to make sure I know he's there as he sinks back into slumber.

Smiling, I too drift back into the arms of Morpheus, only to be tapped awake four hours and 50 minutes later, exactly 10 minutes before my alarm is set to ring.

Pearl, Sidney's sister, sits on the bedside table, her head cocked to one side and her eyes wide with innocence as she daintily reaches out to tap my face.

In the hallway, Albert, Sidney and Pearl's 25-pound tabby brother, chirps and bangs on the door. Clawedia, ancient, howls for her breakfast in the bathroom, her lifelong chosen home. Dove, a beautiful silver tabby and the top cat in the feline social hierarchy, is fast asleep in the early-morning darkness, curled in the wing chair in the hall.

I shuffle to the bathroom, where Clawedia asks to to be picked up and cuddled. We snuggle, then I give her her morning pill before giving her her warmed breakfast and fresh water.

Downstairs, Dylan is a sleep-sodden comma of gray on a dining room chair, comatose until my footsteps on the stairs remind him that he is starving despite the full bowl of $50-a-bag prescription kibble sitting nearby.

Dylan calmly accepts the antihistamine pill he takes morning and night, and devours his breakfast.

These are our Fabulous Fur Folk, our sometimes demanding, often peculiar, mostly affectionate-bordering-on-codependant crew of aging cats. All are rescues; all are spayed or neutered and cherished.

Sidney, Pearl and Albert are three of a litter of seven, born in Pottsville and rescued by a friend when they were two weeks old and motherless. With the help of my then-small grandson, Sebastian, I bottle-fed them every two hours around the clock. They grew to be fine cats, and we found good "fur-ever" homes for four of them.

Clawedia came to us by way of a then-teenaged boy who had raised her from a newborn after her mother was killed. He did an excellent job, but had to give her up when she was about six months old. Upon coming into the house, Clawedia immediately claimed the bathroom as her own. No other cats are permitted in under the threat of hissing, spitting and ugly words.

Her litter-box, toys, soft, warm bed and food, water and snack dishes are arranged exactly how she likes them. Hyperthyroid and her sight diminished by cataracts, her world is small, safe and familiar.

Dylan was found behind a building along Interchange Road in 1998. A sweet cat, his talents lie in areas other than intelligence, and his world revolves around food.

Dove, a smart, vocal boy who holds "conversations" with us, was abandoned on an East Penn Township farm as a kitten. The owner of the farm persuaded me to give him a home, and I'm so glad I agreed.

Each night, the Fur Folk clamor for their bedtime snack, which ranges from a bite of canned food to sautéed tilapia, depending on how tired their other human servant is after a day of work.

Despite the work, time, expense and their sometimes exasperating behavior, we're in it for the long haul. As it should be.

The adoption of a pet is a promise to be kept, regardless of life's changes or lack of sleep.