Friday, November 10, 2006

How To Feel Like an Asshole

Walk into your local Humane Society, spend an hour petting and playing with and even snuggling kittycats, and then walk back out without one, even though there were over 20 of 'em there and they were all, to a cat, adorable. I can't overemphasize it: This place HAD NO BAD CATS. They were all sweet and purry and playful and gorgeous.

But none of them were for me.

You know what a place like that does to me? It makes me feel horrid for having preferences. But I do have preferences and considering I still have, you know, a whole 'nother cat at home here, I kind of HAVE to have preferences. Like, no females. Sally hates other female cats. Boys she likes, even loves--she and Cocoa were best friends forever and, yes, she's been very mopey since he's been gone--but girls, forget it.

So of course the two young kittens at the shelter were girls. Very, very sweet girls, too--a little medium-haired orange tabby and a feisty all-black tailless one. I considered going home with the black one. She had a great personality. But she also had a very diva-like personality and this would not have gone over well with Sally.

And then I felt like a jerk for wanting a kitten--not a one-year-old, not a two-year-old, but a kitten kitten--but you know something? I have never purchased an animal. My mother bought me a kitten years ago, when I was about 11, and an ex-boyfriend once bought me a kitten from a pet store (I don't think there even are pet stores anymore but if there are? NEVER DO THIS, because holy shit, was that cat neurotic, because you know the pet stores buy them from kitten mills and fill them full of drugs and whatnot).

But me-myself, I have never bought a cat. Nor have I ever adopted one from a shelter. I haven't had to, because the cats have always had a knack for finding me before I can even think about looking for them.

For example, my brother brought home Sally and her brother (he owns her brother, who is also orange-and-white and very, very cute) after a guy at his job brought them in saying he'd found them abandoned by the side of a highway (that is so Texan, by the way). And Cocoa I had from his very birth because I took in a pregnant stray I found hiding behind a dumpster. I intended to give away all the kittens, but he was born with a massive abdominal wall hernia and I didn't think I'd have any luck palming a kitten with surgical needs off on anybody and, well, he was adorable. The mother wouldn't stop attacking another cat I had, though, so she went first to my brother and then to another family.

And I must have half a dozen other stories like that, or more if you count the kittens I made my boyfriend adopt back when he had his own place (they were FELV-positive and are now sadly both deceased), so, yeah: Me getting the kitten hookup has never been a problem.

So the thing is, I think I've been damned good to stray cats over the years, which means I also think that, by gum, if I want to be all fucking particular for once, instead of just taking whichever kitty mews its way into my heart first, then, well, I've earned the right to do that. I have done my time in the trenches with stray cats. So if I walk into the shelter and there are no red tabby male kittens and I really, really, really have my heart set on a red tabby male kitten, and you know, the adoption fee is ninety-five fucking dollars, then--

--then, I still feel like an asshole for rejecting all those other cats. Oh, hell.

Maybe I'll get lucky and one will just show up on my doorstep. It wouldn't be the first time.

15 comments:

gennimcmahon said...

I went to the shelter eleven years ago seeking a dog that had decided to run away. I wound up taking home a little black puppy, with no tail, because when I held her she told me her name. Yes, she did. I did not make it up, she told me, and if the damn puppy tells you her name, you are pretty well going to have to pony up the $95 and take her home. Her name, as told to me, is Melba Toast. Now she's old, fat, tail-less, massive underbite, scary cataract, lethal gas and a giant fatty tumor in her gut. Melba Toast is dry, but crunchy. It's just her way.

ilyka said...

if the damn puppy tells you her name, you are pretty well going to have to pony up the $95 and take her home

Yes, see, that is EXACTLY it. I would even have broken my "no females" rule if that had happened. But you know, the cat might live 15-18 years, so it has to be the right one and I have to know it's the right one. It has to tell me its name.

Now she's old, fat, tail-less, massive underbite, scary cataract, lethal gas and a giant fatty tumor in her gut.

Aw, Melba Toast! Poor baby.

wolfa said...

I feel just as stupid and terrible and guilty. How dare I prefer long-haired cats to such an extent that I will not adopt a short-haired one (right now, I won't adopt any, but in general)? They're all in need.

But you know what? In two weeks, those cats will be adopted, and there will be another pile of sweet adorable wonderful cats, all of them in need. If you want to feel good about yourself, find out if there's an ill but not contagious kitten -- it's hard to get people to adopt kittens with cataracts, or missing a leg, etc, but they're otherwise of normal cat life. And if there aren't any (the likeliest scenario)? You're getting a cat a badly-needed home, you'll neuter it, and both you and the cat will be happier if it's the right pairing.

ilyka said...

Thanks, wolfa. The other thing that occurred to me was, hey: Who the fuck do I think I am? I'm not the only one out there looking for cats, so why assume that if I don't take a cat I'm only so-so towards, it'll never find another home? That's . . . uh, that's conceited, is what it is. Because for all I know, 15 minutes after I leave, someone walks in and takes home a cat that I didn't.

I am not every stray cat's personal Jesus. And that is today's affirmation.

it's hard to get people to adopt kittens with cataracts, or missing a leg, etc, but they're otherwise of normal cat life

Oh yeah. Did you see The Editors' new kitten?

http://www.thepoorman.net/2006/10/30/can-there-be-a-decent-kitten/

A cat that cute can have only three paws. It can have only ONE paw. Who CARES. He is still a kitten, and he is to die for.

wolfa said...

Of course, the issue is that cats don't stay kittens, but I prefer them as adults anyhow. (Though it's nice having a kitten. Briefly.)

I thought of the sick cat just because I am fostering a half-blind kitten. That three legged kitten is *adorable*. I love orange cats.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about Cocoa.

If you want to try to pick out a new kitty, I wish you luck. In my experience, they always end up doing the picking, anyway.

Helen said...

I swear, I am not trying to make you feel worse-I SWEAR IT-but I have to disagree with Wolfa-in two weeks, most of the cats at the ASPCA will have been put down. This is how most of the cat stats are (unless NM stats are different, in which case, rock on NM). Cats get the raw deal. Don't be angry, I just had to say.

But you, my dear Ilyka, should not feel responsible for it. One of my cats was rescue, one of them just a kitten born to a farm cat. I love them both madly, and that's the point-you wouldn't choose a boyfriend because he was on his last leg and you wanted to rescue him ("Hey, Man! I pick you! No no, I know you're the next one to go. Don't worry about the leprosy thing, we'll adjust. I have a Mr. Potato Head, we'll steal his parts.") I'm not saying your man isn't wonderful, but in my own personal experience the pets have lasted longer than the man.

Getting picked by the cat that you're supposed to have is a big, massive, fucking deal. Seriously, I truly believe that. Until then, put your fingers in your ears and sing "Lalalalalalala" when you start to feet bad and guilty.

PS-I COVET the name Melba Toast, and wish I'd thought of it. *Kicks self*.

Feministe said...

You can't save 'em all, Ilyka.

And you definitely have to consider how the new cat will fit into the household. That's called responsible pet ownership.

I've adopted three dogs in my lifetime (on my own, that is). One went back within a week because it was apparent that he viewed my cats as prey, and I wasn't going to have them live the rest of their lives on top of the kitchen cabinets. The second lived with me for ten months, during which time she challenged me for dominance every damn day, and eventually tried to tear my face off. After serious remedial training failed, I had her put down (that was not a problem I was going to pass on to anyone else). I took a lot of shit from people for that decision, but I know (and my trainer, a certified behavioralist, backed me up on this one) that it was the right one.

Then I got Junebug. She was kind of an impulse adoption; I saw her photo online and had to have her. Luckily, she gets along great with the cats; her chasing them was out of play and curiosity, not a desire to kill them. She's not so great about visitors, particularly of the overnight variety, but that's what I have the drugs for.

Zuzu

ilyka said...

I took a lot of shit from people for that decision, but I know (and my trainer, a certified behavioralist, backed me up on this one) that it was the right one.

Oh, I'll bet, but I'm sure as hell not gonna jump on you over it. I think anyone who's in the pet owner game long enough eventually has an incident like that, and it's a classic example of how it's easy to judge until you're the one having to do the judging. Or the one getting her face ripped off.

Besides, if it led you to Junebug it's all good. You can tell even just from her photos what a sweetheart she is.

Jodie said...

No, it's very important to choose the right pet.

I used to volunteer at the no kill shelter. Every few weeks I felt compelled to adopt another pitiful dog or cat, until I had five.

Two were ancient when I took them home and have since died. One I managed to find a happy home for. One is the furry child of my heart. But then there's the Evil Dog, whom no one else could ever love, who pees on everything and terrorizes the other dog. I have tried and failed to find another home for him, and can't bear to take him back to the shelter, much less any more draconian measures, so I'll just have to love him, keep him away from the little dog, and replace all my carpet with tile.

Please make sure any cat you take home is the right one -- unfortunately, there will always be more adoptable animals. You don't get to pick your kids, but by golly, you should absolutely pick your pets so that there's harmony in the home.

Shinobi said...

You should absolutely not feel bad about not walking out of there with just any cat!

When I got my second cat I volunteered as a dog walker at an animal shelter. And where did I get my cat? From a foster lady. And that woman made me feel like a total bitch for adopting her! I found her on petfinder.com and I just couldn't resist. I really think the woman I adopted her from was hoping I wouldn't like her! She kept trying to get me to look at other cats! Grr

But you know how it is, I knew that cat was mine, I read her description on that website and saw her cute face and I knew she'd be the best cat for me.

You're probably already aware, but in case you aren't, you should know you might have trouble finding a kitten kitten at this time of year. Kitten season is usually the spring. But in my experience even cats that are almost a year old are still very adaptable, playful and kitten like.

Good Luck!!

Craig R. said...

(having read ahead I see that the conundrum has been solved with Shane)

There is a pet supply store (that is, food, toys, ect) in Framingman (Mass) called "Pet World," (OK, OK, not very original) that has an aboslutly marvelous collection of kitties for adoption. There is this wonderful enclosed cat run that occupies a huge portion of the store, including the entire window area.

They donate store space to a no-kill shelter, and all their shelter residents, no matter what age, stay until they are adopted. All the older kids have had fixed what wasn't broke (shelter policy) and part of the adoption contract is that you will not declaw the critter, and any kitten that leaves will be neutered.

We go in, visit with the cats, and leave a few dollars in the donations jar (two of our guys in the past had come from there)

belledame222 said...

-cringe- i did get my cat from a pet store. it wasn't intentional. i'd gone in to look for a book or something and there he was. he's only a little crazy. certainly a lot less crazy than the cat ladies i'd been in contact with regarding possibly adopting a rescue cat.

i was a bit erm fragile at the time, and seeing as how i was totally smitten with the little guy, i just...went for it. je ne regrette rien, but i wouldn't go that route again.

belledame222 said...

>From a foster lady. And that woman made me feel like a total bitch for adopting her! >

yes, exactly. that and worse. well. the women at the PetCo (not employed by the store, outside, some arrangement) point blank refused to adopt out a single kitten: it was two or nothing. they were incredibly nasty, too. well, brusque.

another one insisted she'd have to personally come over to my place herself and make sure i had window guards installed.

the best one though was when i went to the house and something like fourteen? fifteen? animals were all tearing around or lying immobile. the cat in question was...i held her; clearly it wasn't going to work. "well, she's not white with blue eyes!" ne of the women said, aggrieved, when she saw my hesitation. yeah; she also clearly wasn't at all interested in me; this was a street cat, tough and jaded. i wanted a cuddler.

i dunno how i refused politely--i was a mess back then--but i did, feeling guilty, albeit at least i knew they wouldn't be putting her down. just guilty for not wanting her, something.

one of the other women came out, said, you know, that cat is nothing special. if you don't want her, you don't want her.

and i thought, yay! finally a sane, reasonable person!

so i sez, something like, do you get cats very often, then? thinking that maybe i'd come back.

goes she, "Not so much anymore. We used to. I don't know what happened. Well, all these Orientals moved in. They eat them, you know."

great k' thanks nodnod byiieeeeeee.

i think it was not long after that that i went into the pet store.

i do think he picked me; i know he named himself a few days later.

and the transaction was blessedly simple.

he came home in a little cardboard carrier about the shape and size of a chinese food takeout box.

and i fell in love, and i'm not sorry.

even when he's gnawing my ankle or knocking all my books over for the zillionth time.

ilyka said...

i held her; clearly it wasn't going to work. "well, she's not white with blue eyes!" ne of the women said, aggrieved, when she saw my hesitation. yeah; she also clearly wasn't at all interested in me; this was a street cat, tough and jaded. i wanted a cuddler.

Oh my gosh. YES. I know that type! And the thing is, for all their self-righteousness, obviously if they had that many cats roaming around who were still near-feral like that, they couldn't have been doing a good job of socializing them.

One of the things that blew me away at the Animal Rescue League was how well-loved all the cats were. And there were easily 60-70 of them there, and only 2 volunteers at the time I visited--but these cats were all cuddlers, snugglers, and flirts. It's the difference between staffing your organization with people who really love animals versus staffing it with people who really love sanctimony and piously hectoring would-be adopters.

It's starting to pass, finally, but for the first couple weeks after we visited I kept saying to the man, "Oh, let's go back and get another one."