CAT ADOPTION SHOULDN’T BE THIS HARD
AMBER LOVE 19-MAR-2016 As I wrote before, this year’s cat adoption process has been unbelievably difficult compared to what it was like when I adopted Caico ten years ago from the SPCA. I’ve filled out countless applications, giving each place all my personal information and contact information for friends who agreed to be my references. Some of these places even want to do home visits. Others won’t do simple phone calls to verify that you have a veterinarian and required printed out forms with signatures which they then lost. It’s been a terrible experience trying to add a new cat to my life this year.
I thought I made the right decision when this bizarre, messy looking stray caught my eye. She had only been in the rescue group’s possession for 24 hours. She was homeless, shy, petite with giant hair, dirty, and smelled. Against my mother’s wishes, that was the cat I chose from FURR in Easton, PA at PetSmart. The women running FURR were incredible, especially Shelly and Joann. They were honest and said they knew nothing about this little girl cat. She had met the bare minimum of vet care (some shots and got spayed) by the person who turned her in to FURR. Other than that, she seemed to be in need of a lot more vet care which my mother (whose intuition is supernatural) could tell without even petting her.
We took her home and I tried to introduce this furry bundle into my life. She had a couple days of such high spastic energy that I immediately emailed Joann at FURR and said it was a big mistake. Since they only take care of adoptions on Saturdays, I had no problem waiting until the following Saturday to return her if it’s what I really wanted. Joann urged me to keep trying to make it work though. We duct taped cardboard around my entire bed and around my bathtub because they were chosen hiding places. She managed to still get through that. She wormed her way between the mattress and the wall one time in order to burrow her way under the bed. Another night, she ripped the cardboard right off the tub and stayed back there. I removed the blockade around the tub and figured, what the hell, if she wants to be there to feel safe, fine. Mind you, I had already made up a comfortable box with a bed and cleared out a bathroom cabinet where I caught her a few times, but for some reason she only liked the cabinet when there was so much stuff in it she couldn’t properly lie down. By this point, my long list of names that I was trying out was cast aside and I started calling her Feral Fawcett (or “Farrah Pawcett”).
Eventually, we decided to capture her every day which required using a broom to skooch her from behind the tub and then put her in the baby buggy which is screened all around. She loves this buggy! With her in there, I could pet her, brush her, spoil her with tuna. She began to get used to seeing the buggy as a good home. I stopped feeding her in there in order to make her get out and walk across the room to her dishes. Well, that was three weeks in to make that progress. But, all the while, I’d try to get her used to being picked up and held and she wouldn’t allow it. She once let me hold her for 10 minutes and I think she wasn’t feeling well that day because it was the first day (probably from all the chaos and trauma) that she did nothing but sleep. After that though, holding was off limits. She even climbed out of the buggy once and onto my bed but then jumped back into the buggy to sleep.
We even introduced Feral Fawcett to Oliver and it wasn’t a disaster. He kept his distance. She seemed to really be interested in him. She went up to his face to smell him and he backed away. He’s twice her size and probably a year older. They never fought. He was the only thing that could get her out of hiding sans-broom. But they weren’t buddies. She would come out and go in the buggy.
Her breathing hadn’t improved over these weeks. She sounds like an asthmatic person and she snores as loud as my father. Her eyes are always runny and she sneezes. I don’t know if it’s a case of bad allergies from this house (very likely because all us and even Caico has suffered) or something else. She has some kind of mass on her lower lip which I hoped was swelling that would go down, but it’s still there; of course it could be nothing but fat tissue, but I don’t know. Whenever she gets scared which is often, she ends up breathing like me when I’m having a panic attack or someone with asthma. She loves watching tv from the buggy though – Parks & Rec seems to be her favorite. However, two humans talking in the room at a normal level would scare her into a panic. She could handle my voice alone talking to her softly, but not if I was having a conversation with another person.
I began to realize Feral Fawcett was too much like me instead of being what I needed for an emotional support companion. She was small, sickly, smelled funny, always sneezing and wheezing, snored, has this unruly giant hair that wouldn’t stay nice no matter how much I brushed her, she wanted to stay cooped up, and she wanted only a close friend or two. It had been a painful three weeks deciding whether to keep her or return her to FURR and hope they would find an ideal home for her.
Since my family didn’t seem to support my choice in her, I knew I needed to listen to other people. When I’m stressed, making choices can lead me to making unbelievably bad decisions. I understand my stress better than ever by this point of 35+ years of remembering when the suffering began. And despite crying every single time I think about it, I’ve decided to return Farrah to FURR.
I went back to FURR two weeks after I brought her home to look at other cats and told them I would keep this one unless another really seemed like a “true love” fit. The problem is none of them gave me that feeling. I kept Farrah longer and made sure she was spoiled until another Saturday came up where I could try to return her again. This morning was another Saturday where I agreed to finally bring her back. When I picked her up from the buggy this morning to put her in the carrier, she shredded my face and neck which left me crying and bleeding for several minutes.
Meanwhile, I was still going through the Siamese rescue process which has been ridiculous and exhausting so I think I’m ditching them formally by the end of today. My friend from Wild Pig Comics send me links to cats she saw that were described as lap cats and loving; she was tempted to get one of them herself. They were at a PetSmart in Bridgewater, NJ but were the responsibility of a municipal pound, the Franklin Township Animal Shelter.
On a Tuesday, I left Farrah in the buggy in my bedroom where she was peacefully sleeping and I drove out to Franklin and found their dog pound style shelter wedged between the library and police department. I filled out a single piece of paper (not a contract rivaling one with the Devil) and a woman named Katie showed me into one of their kennel rooms. She said they had so many more cats available that they were kept in other rooms and rotated up to this front room. Each cat reached an arm out of their cage like prisoners. They were all crying and rubbing against the bars. It was so sad. All of them wanted to come out.
I asked about the two that my friend told me about. One of them, I was told wouldn’t be the right fit. The other, Misty, I was allowed to hold as long as she was cradled in her little bed cushion. Then I spent time getting to know a giant Maine Coon named Peter (who I hope my friend Valerie will adopt soon). It was hard putting him back in his cage. He was a magnificently beautiful creature and the size of a baby bear with bright green eyes. I had never seen a cat like him in person before. I talked to Katie more and she said Peter wasn’t a “pick up and cuddle” kind of guy. I could barely lift him anyway and if I had chosen him, he’d be more like a dog and not carried around.
Finally, Katie showed me this little guy, a skinny black cat she picked up and flopped in her arms like a baby. She said he loved to be held and get physical attention. I took him in my arms and held him quite a long time while saying, “I wanted a girl. I really wanted another girl.” He has a teething fixation though and kept play biting all my fingers without hurting me. Then he licked my face.
Katie said it seemed like a good fit and she told me to go home and think about it. Two days later, while still trying to acclimate Farrah to life with humans, I asked my parents to go with me back to Franklin to meet all the cats and see what they thought (again because of my poor decision making skills at this time). I honestly believed my father would choose Peter, but he didn’t. In fact, he was seconds away from bringing home yet another ginger like Ollie. I tried holding Misty without her bed cushion and she didn’t like it which was a shame because a fat, lazy, middle aged cat was basically what I wanted. She wasn’t warming up to me at all even just trying to pet her inside the cage. Peter was still there and as awesome as ever, but it was a different employee that day and she kind of made it sound like Peter would be all wrong for me.
We eventually got back to the little black cat and took him out. My mother thought he was amazing and when kissed my face again, she said he had to be the one, as painful and sad as it would be to return Farrah to PA. Although, much to my parents’ credit, they said they believed I could handle both of them since in years past I had three of my own in my condo and my old house when I was a responsible independent adult. Wanting only one specifically in my care is because, when I had only Caico, I realized how it is monumentally easier feeding and cleaning up after a single cat.
I’ve been posting to Facebook less often and when I do, it’s usually status: crying. Friday, March 18, I counted nine episodes of breaking down into tears – all were moments of thinking about giving up Farrah Pawcett. This day I did, I basically cried nonstop from 5AM to 12:30 and little bit afterwards while talking about it. For some reason, I feel like I need permission from friends and strangers to make this difficult decision. I don’t know why. When one of my best friends adopted a cat who wasn’t a good match for her and had all kinds of expensive health problems, I was a voice of reason and told her many times that returning the cat was the best thing for both of them; the cat would get the right human able to take care of a special needs cat and she would get a low maintenance cat who could get along with all the other pets in her house. It’s my turn going through this and people have been mostly supportive, yet I still feel sick and awful and like a really bad person.
The Franklin shelter was quite efficient. The only problem I had was that when they called my vet, who I’d been bringing cats to since the day their practice opened, said they hadn’t seen me since 2006; but Caico was just there in January with her kidney failure. We gave them my mother’s name since she’s Oliver’s owner and the vet confirmed that for the shelter. It was weird. The people at the vet usually know who I am the second I give my name, but I did notice most of the staff is different. Still, the records should show I was just there.
Another unexpected and delightful thing was that the local Girl Scouts give the Franklin shelter huge first aid kits. With each adoption, new pet parents are sent home with a giant case of bandages, gloves, peroxide, Benadryl, Vaseline and more. It’s a kit that would impress Adrian Monk.
I hoped maybe I could keep Farrah with this new little guy, but he’s a batshit crazy toddler and she’s terrified of anything that moves except for Ollie’s sloth like and cautious approaches. I put Farrah in the bathroom where she spends most of her time anyway and let new guy run around the bedroom. Eventually, he calmed down.
I don’t think he ever saw TV before. His first show was 30 Rock which fascinated him. Then we had a Psych marathon (one of my stress relievers) and that’s when Gus was added to my baby name list. Everyone in my family loves Psych and most of my best friends too. On my list were great magickal names like Lucian (hot werewolf from Underworld), Khonsu (a Sumerian or Babylonian god), Pluto (not only a Psych reference but also god of the underworld), Nabu (god of scribes/writing), Mandrake; and names like Nigel (dark-haired one) and a couple detectives: Hardison (from Leverage) and Jack (Taylor). After consulting everyone else, the votes were in and Gus was the one, but I couldn’t leave it at that. Guster Nabu it is. After he gets out of his unruly toddler stage then I can figure out if he’s a Professor, Doctor, or Detective as a formal title. As my friend Lisa says, all cats deserve titles. Since I couldn’t think of good pun name, he’ll eventually get a title added.
For now, I haven’t slept in days and returning Farrah to FURR crippled my ability to function (I used up all my spoons as they say). So I’m going to get into pajamas at 4:30 and get into bed.