Monday, September 16, 2013

Rescue pets, part 1: Cat

I've been really enjoying the new Tumblr by Anne Wheaton called Rescue Pets are Awesome. (If you keep your eyes peeled you might get to see Cat and Wonderdog one of these days.) It's inspired me to share my pets' adoption stories here. Cat gets to go first, because she's older.

It was the spring of 2006 and with the thaw came mice. As it turns out, this happens every year--the mice migrate or something and they appear for a couple of weeks and then move outside. But this was our first year without a cat in the house, so we were noticing it for the first time. My beloved Henrietta had died rather suddenly of liver cancer a year before, and although we briefly had a foster cat named Gary, the idea of adopting a new cat hadn't even entered my mind.

We tried everything humane that we could find. A live trap that I would set every night and Hopper would check every morning. If there were mice, he'd wake me up and I'd drive them to a nearby park and release them. One day we caught four! But after a while, the mice learned to avoid it, or we had caught all the dumb ones, or all the mice that liked oatmeal mixed with peanut butter.

We tried a sonar emitter, and that did nothing. One night, Hopper saw a mouse standing on the kitchen counter right in front of the device, not bothered at all. We didn't want to use poison because Boo was only three and we were afraid she'd get into it. I won't use kill traps, and those sticky traps give me the heebie-jeebies. We were at our wits' end.

"We should get a python," I said one evening. This has been a long-standing theory of mine. I think all offices should have pythons. They can fit in the walls, people aren't allergic to them, and they're not poisonous. They could humanely keep the rodent population down without using any kind of pollutant.

But Hopper pointed out that his mother is terrified of snakes, and he didn't really want to live with a loose python anyway. I stood in my kitchen and tried to think of another animal that eats mice. I thought and I thought.

When it finally occurred to me that cats make nice pets, I was shocked to realize what my brain had done to protect me from my grief over the loss of Henrietta. She had been my pet from the time I graduated college, and my bond with her was deep. For a long time, she was my immediate family, and getting over her death was hard. But surely it was ridiculous to let my house be infested with mice when the answer to the problem was so obvious.

So I proposed that we get a cat, and began to do my research.

This was a tricky problem, because we had a three year old child and a dog (Darwin) who was afraid of cats. Darwin had come to us from my parents because when they rescued him, they found that their cat wouldn't let him into their house. Hopper and I were planning to get a dog anyway and Henrietta loved dogs so we took Darwin in. But not every cat is as wise in the ways of dogs as Henrietta was. Henrietta had lived in a pet store and learned a great deal about dealing with dogs.

So it was important that I find a good foster rescue that would know their animals well. I found Angels of Animals and had several long e-mail exchanges with their director. She advised me to adopt a kitten, but I had sworn never to do that, so she found an adult cat that I could come visit.

When I got there, the cat in question hid under a cat tree. I sat down on the floor to wait her out, and a black kitten climbed into my lap. This kitten was so happy to see me, and so friendly, I couldn't believe it.

But, true to my word, I made arrangements to foster the older cat to see if she'd fit in at our house.

In the middle of the night, I woke Hopper up.

"I think we should adopt that kitten," I said. He was confused. "She's so friendly, she's just a mush. And that other cat will take a lot of work. I just don't have it in my heart right now. I need a cat that's going to MAKE me love her."

So we went and picked up the black kitten. She had lived in the foster home with a four year old boy, so she was undaunted by Boo. She was terrified of Darwin at first, and he of her. They lived parallel lives for the first few months: Cat on top of the bed, Darwin under it.

Eventually, they made peace with each other and even seemed to enjoy one another's company.

It took me a while to stop resenting Cat for not being Henrietta, but I got over it. Now, she's still a mush, loving human contact above all else, riding on our shoulders, sleeping on our bellies, and even tolerating Boo's magic tricks and costumes and whatever else she dreams up.

Anne Wheaton is right: rescue pets ARE awesome!

No comments:

Post a Comment