Finding a cat has changed a bit in recent years. I have been catless at home for about a year; my two litter brothers Toby and Tyler had somewhat suicidal tendencies that contributed to their passing. Between the two of them, they had seven (yes, seven) surgeries to remove GI foreign bodies...always the same thing. I had a lovely training room for the dogs in my basement, set up with EVA foam "jigsaw" style matting for good footing for the dogs. For some reason, the cats found this absolutely irresistible and over the years managed to eat the edges off of 1600 ft2 of matting. Keeping them upstairs wasn't an option, as no matter how carefully I cat-proofed they usually took about 20 seconds to find the hairband or month old bag of hot dog buns way on the back of the top of the fridge and get into trouble; at least when they were downstairs I knew exactly what they'd eaten and usually knew pretty early when there was a problem. I could have made them outdoor cats, but they probably would have been coyote food pretty quickly; and they were not great candidates for clinic cats (plus we sure didn't need any more cats at the clinic anyway). Many types of enrichment activities failed to distract them, many things designed to make the mats unattractive had no impact. I even briefly considered removing some of their teeth...Tyler succumbed after his third surgery at 9 years old; Toby survived four, though after the last one he spent a week in the hospital with a drain in his abdomen, trying to eat myself and my staff the entire time, and I told him I was pretty much done. He eventually developed probable cancer in his abdomen, I was not about to do another surgery to find it and he was not a great candidate for aggressive treatment because he was such a terrible and aggressive patient (though a sweetheart at home) and so we called it quits when I no longer could keep him comfortable at age 10. So I was not in a big hurry to run out and get more cats, plus I had the three clinic kitties to keep me happy. I kind of figured one eventually would show up when the time was right.
Fast forward to this week. I had lost Cory, my older sheltie in April at the age of 14 1/2, not unexpected as he had had some issues for several months, but still a tough pill to swallow. It is never easy to lose a pet, but especially a competition dog who is also your teammate and is such a special, intense relationship. I grieved for him terribly, but knew he had had a good life and had some peace. Last weekend however, we diagnosed his son Robbie with a mass in his heart and despite starting chemo and doing all we could I lost him very suddenly on Friday. Robbie was really at 9 years old in the prime of his performance career and I still thought of him as my "puppy"; he had finished his obedience and tracking goals but we were having a wonderful time doing nosework, working on a rally championship, and getting back to his first love the agility ring. He had had exactly one sick day in his entire life up until now, so losing him was a terrible shock And not only did I lose him, but also lost my whole coping mechanism which was always to spend time with my animals, as well as pretty much clearing my whole social calender which revolved around classes, training, and showing on the weekends. For the first time in 30 years I had no animals in the house. This morning was pretty rough. I just could not stay in the house anymore alone. Finding a puppy for competition is not an overnight proposition; it will take a while and then it'll be at least a couple of years before we are ready to show in much of anything. So the time seemed right to bring home a cat again; and I really NEED a cat ASAP for my emotional support. Cats are everywhere, shouldn't be too hard, right? HAH!
So, back in the 80s and 90s, getting a cat went something like this. (Don't judge me, I'm still more comfortable with my clothes from that era too). Open door. Cat is outside on porch. "Honey, do you know whose cat this is?". Cat refuses to go away. Eventually over next few days give in, feed cat, let it in. Voila, you are a cat owner. Alternative route: Every. Single. Walmart. Or Kmart. Or Kroger. Take your pick. On a summer weekend, SOMEONE would be in the parking lot with a box of kittens begging passersby to take one. Or somebody at work found a cat that had kittens and bullied you into taking one.
And actually Toby and Tyler were the first time in years I had actually gone looking for a cat. (and don't let anyone tell you two cats are as easy as one, see above for my tale of woe. NO MORE LITTERMATES for me. Multiple cats, probably eventually. But would you want your brother for a roommate for the rest of your life? I rest my case). They both came from one of our local county shelters who knew a sucker when they saw one and fed me the two kitten line; plus who could leave one behind when there Stevie only two? SUCKER!
My first cat of my own Phinneas came to me as a fanbelt kitty through a summer job as I was leaving for vet school (he lived to be 19 and was the world's most easygoing cat). When I bought my practice, I inherited Morris (one of my favorite cats ever) and Miss Kitty; Mo even passed Phinnie and made it to 20. Phinneas was joined at home by Hoppy, another fanbelt kitty tripod and Simba, who was tied to our front door one Saturday morning missing the tip of his tail. (It is a law that if you work in veterinary medicine a certain percentage of your pets must be missing various body parts. The dirty little secret of the profession is that we kidnap these cats, harvest their parts and leave them packed on ice in hotel bathtubs and these are the ones who track us down and blackmail us for alimony for the rest of their days). Grouchie, my favorite all time cat, came to live at the clinic when my tech moved to England. Stevie came to us when a former employee found him by her barn; he was blind, broken jaw dangling, weighed about 3 lbs but of uncertain age (hard to age a cat whose teeth are lying on the floor- was he young and growing or just really THAT emaciated?). But he was orange and purred...and as previously established, I am a sucker. I am NOT an orthopod, but managed to fix the jaw, get him through the fatty liver syndrome from not being able to eat, he recovered his vision which was presumably from head trauma, and somehow never went back to be the barn cat that was supposed to be the agreement....Beetle and Ebony came to us when a good friend became terminally ill. And these are just the ones I kept, I've lost track of the similar cases we've found homes for, though with less and less frequency over the years.
So basically, finding a cat was never really a problem. NOT getting stuck with lots of cats was much more the issue. Fast forward to the new millenium of cat ownership. First, you need a computer. Finding a cat has a lot more in common with E-harmony and online matchmaking than with old style pet sourcing options. Except you're not considered a pedophile if you are interested in the very young. And, I've gotta say, have you LOOKED at some of those cat's photos on petfinder? Let's just say if it WAS E-harmony you'd be thinking serial killer and be worried about waking up dead. I am thinking of offering to go take photos for some of these groups because these poor kitties definitely need some glamour shots.
So yesterday in an attempt NOT to go home to an empty house, I stopped at our local Petsmart and braved the madness and chaos of pet adoption Saturdays to scope out the possibilities. This was, of course, before I realized the necessity of a computer search first. Obviously I was living in the era of singles bars and church singles groups, depending on your leanings. It was pretty close to time for them to wrap up and most of the cats were horrified that I had not properly introduced myself online before just SHOWING UP like a savage.
Tyler and Stevie
But there is no accounting for chemistry. There were several very cute, very generic looking kittens doing very cute, generic kitten things. There was also one very sorry, mangy looking, black cat who claimed to be 8 years old but I'm guessing was 13 if he was a day (doesn't it just figure that cat's are vain and liars just like people), with a giant jutting jaw presumably from a granuloma and cauliflower ears. He reminded me of Jane Goodall's chimpanzee called David Greybeard. But across the room our eyes met...and he had some great lines. He Beetle
really knew how to suck up to a
girl. I left without talking to anyone but kept thinking about that cat all evening. He made me think of the country songs about the girls all getting prettier at closing time and last night I came in at 2 with a 10 but at 10 I woke up with a 2...when you have beer goggles OR tear goggles on, it's amazing what can look good. But, hey, I'm not in the supermodel category myself so no judgement.
Ebony. A very bitter, bitter Ebony.
So this morning I woke up and was having a bit of a rough time. I HAD to get out of the house and I really needed a cat today, if at all possible. I am starting to develop a little more sympathy for people I may have judged in the past for buying pets impulsively. Though I really had been prepared for this for a year, I was just waiting for the right time and now was definitely it. I met my parents for lunch, confessed to my folly, and headed back to Petsmart. The scruffy looking cat was still there, still looking like everything I had never wanted...but there was still just something about him. We talked for a bit, had a little light petting, and I finally took the plunge and approached the rescue folks. But there was one big question...how was he with dogs? Uh oh. He needs to be an only cat, not good with other animals. So our little flirtation ended, as eventually there would definitely be other animals. I just can't commit to monogamy at this time. The kittens were still there and still cute, but apparently it is now a common thing to require you to adopt TWO kittens. So they won't be lonely. (Though I thought the whole point was he was supposed to keep me company so I wouldn't be lonely...). Oh honey. Do I look like I was born yesterday? (apparently not, but we'll get to that later in the story). I've been down that road before and I am not doing a threesome- it's just you and me baby.
So I had figured out last night that I had to check out the websites and I had backup options. I trudged off to yet ANOTHER Petsmart in Newport, but this one only had four or five kittens, and most of them were pending. The rest were female, and I am pretty much a hetero cat owner. I like the boys and my forays into relationships with cats of my own sex have been much less satisfying (sorry Miss Kitty and Ebby).
I was running out of options and starting to get a little panicky. I am not exactly at my most sane and emotionally stable right now. So I got on the expressway (which is a true test of commitment in a relationship, to get on the highway in Cincinnati in August means you have to have a cooler full of provisions, an extra gas can, and a week off of work). And I drove to freaking MASON which for those of you keeping score is a good 45 minute drive if there's no traffic. In Mason I went to Petco, where there actually were some really beautiful kittens, definitely the supermodels of the current inventory. They were all pretty zonked from a weekend of voguing for the prospective owners and so personality was a bit hard to evaluate...but once again, they wanted them adopted in pairs. No adult kitties there. I did talk to their folks, but no one was authorized to make any exceptions and it was clearly going to be a fairly long and drawn out process to obtain one if it could indeed be done. Did I mention that I really NEED. A. CAT. NOW. I'm starting to feel like Jon Cusack in The Sure Thing and I may actually be willing to drive to California if necessary...
I have one last option and just about an hour to make it happen. Did you know that there are actually cat cafes? I am clearly in the wrong business because this is an absolutely brilliant business plan. I headed off to the Kitty Brew, which took a bit of GPS wizardry to find in the basement on the backside of an otherwise respectable looking strip mall. Kitty Brew is kind of the Bunny Ranch of the cat world, though I'm assured it's completely legal. First you go into the coffee shop, where you buy a pricey beverage called something cutesy and cat related and then you pay. Ten dollars. To pet cats. Which, for most of my life, including every damn work day, all day, six days a week, 52 weeks a year, I can do for free, or actually GET PAID FOR MYSELF. But you know what? They must put roofies or something in the beverages because I actually paid the man (a young, hip, Starbucks-y looking barrista who enthusiastically told me they had several different discounts including a senior discount and then only charged me $8.50, so apparently I do NOT look like I was born yesterday. But still. 8.50 to pet cats.). Then you have to go outside and go in ANOTHER door with your magic password and you get to meet the kitties, see who you like the looks of, and then sit and make small talk with to see if you're into the same sort of things. However you might want to interpret that. They don't actually line them up like at the Bunny Ranch, but I think that's mostly because they're, well, cats, and that would be WAY too complicated. The place was furnished with chairs and tables in tasteful little conversation groups and lots and lots of cat trees. And lots and lots of cats. Big cats, little cats, solid colored cats, multicolored cats, young cats, old cats, cats missing body parts. One cat was apparently the receptionist because she immediately jumped up on the counter to greet me and directed me into the middle of the room. On my first step, I looked down and a small orange kitten chased a ball across my foot. You may have noticed in looking at the pictures in this post that I have a certain type I am attracted to.
So, to make a longer story not too much longer when an orange kitty lets me pick it up and purrs when I rub its ears and sucks up to me a little bit I pretty much am a goner. So I found myself filling out an adoption application that was roughly the same length as my vet school application and gave the same tiny boxes to put way too much information. They want to know about ALL my animals I've had (didn't they talk to the barrista who could tell them that given my advanced years that was likely to be a lot?). Ok, so I might just hit the highlights. And what happened to all of them? Well, they died. Most of them pretty well into old age, several of them after a valiant fight with multiple surgeries or chemo. But are they just going to think I got tired of them, took them in the back yard and offed them and went and got a new one (clearly, given the difficulty of this whole process that seems a less than reasonable plan to me, but who knows what they will think?). Nowhere did they ask about what I had bought primarily for my animals (a house, a car, a new clinic), what percentage of the house was allocated to their needs (a whole floor, as well as a substantial amount of my own living space and more than half of my bed) or let me show the three giant baskets of toys, plus the "spare"bags in the spare room. Are they going to blackball me because I've owned male dogs who were not neutered (show dog, who never had an unplanned breeding, had thousands of dollars worth of genetic testing, and produced exactly three offspring who were pretty darn good performance dogs in their own rights with plenty of letters after their names). It would not be an unusual event. Though I must point out, even HUMAN adoptions don't require you to take a vow of celibacy until the world's overpopulation and unwanted child problem is resolved.
So the jury is still out, I came home with the hope of a kitten but still an empty house. Borrowed my parents' dog for the rest of the evening while they were out which makes it a little better, and will hope to hear good news and be a new cat owner again soon. Who knew it could be so difficult?
And I bet you would never guess reading this that my heart is still in a million tiny pieces all over the floor. But at least it was $10 (or $8.50) well spent watching and petting cats and making me feel better for a little while. Stay tuned for the outcome of the great kitten search.
PS- as an addendum there is an outdoor cat who lives at Kitty Brew named Will Feral. BEST CAT NAME EVER.