Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Sorry I haven't blogged today! We were gone this afternoon and evening because we went to look at a cat.

I had really hoped, from her online pictures and description, that she would be the right cat for our family--calm, small for an adult female, sociable. Alas, the "sociable" part of the description turned out to be a bit of an exaggeration. In a word, she wasn't. She could become mildly interested by a dangling key--or ignore it completely and go back to grooming or eating or less polite activities, depending on her needs.

As the companion cat for a busy office worker living in an apartment who just wanted someone to be there when he or she returned home at night, and maybe sit on the couch while he or she watched movies or played video games, this cat might have been perfect. As a cat for a family of girls just dying to lavish affection and attention on a pet, though...nope.

There was an adorable eight week old kitten who played with us for a good bit of time and was quite charming. But he's a male tabby, will probably get quite large, and to be honest the only male cats I've known (owned by relatives or friends) get decidedly less charming when they've passed a certain age (yes, even the neutered ones). And I'm still not sure we're ready to take on the responsibility of such a young kitten when the only one of us who has ever had a cat before is Thad.

Though the girls were a little disappointed, I reminded them that we didn't go to the shelter planning to bring home a kitten, and that even if the older cat had been more interesting we probably wouldn't have taken her on the spot. Adding a pet to your family is a big responsibility, I said, and you can't make such decisions on an impulse or without careful consideration. We saw quite a few pets being dropped off at the shelter while we were there--not runaways or strays, but pets people just couldn't take care of anymore. It's not fair to an animal for a family to rush to take it home and then wake up to the reality that the pet wasn't the right one after all.

We talked about all of this together--we went for dinner in a little Italian place that is a family favorite, though we haven't been there for months--and I was pretty sure we were doing the right thing. Except between them Thad and the girls managed to name the kitten. Which is not a good thing to do when you're trying to be dispassionate and logical about the sweetest little ball of fur you've ever held against your shoulder.

So now I'm torn: do we go back for the kitten, or keep looking for a more mature cat that will suit our family? I'm not worried about the kitten--kittens are always adopted easily, and that little charmer will not have to stay in the shelter very long. I'm more worried about what happened to my determination to be rational and logical about this process. If all those careful thoughts and plans can be swept aside by a pair of bright eyes and a charming little face, then all I can say is I'm going to be in serious trouble someday if the girls get married and give me grandchildren.

UPDATE: One serious question I had for those of you who own cats is: how risky would it be to adopt a cat, or a kitten, from a shelter that doesn't test for feline leukemia beforehand? There are other agencies around here where a cat is tested ahead of time (part of the adoption fee covers it) so you don't run the risk of bringing home a cat who is already infected (and possibly even already ill). That's the biggest strike against this cute little guy--his mother is there at the shelter, too, but apparently her status isn't known either. If it were you, would you definitely adopt from a place that tests for feline leukemia first?


LarryD said...

Mrs LarryD and I have had two cats since being married. One, a male, we got as a kitten. He was the runt, and he maxed out at 10-11 pounds. He was pretty affectionate all his life - he was even trained to fetch little foam balls! We had him put down in 2001 (bad UTI - which is something to consider re: male cats). We now have a female named Missy - got her as a kitten too. She's 3 years old now - and is affectionate when she wants to be (she gives hugs!). I was told that males tend to be more affectionate than females - I think it has to do with how they're treated and handled as kittens. If they're held, petted, brushed and cuddled a lot (but given their space when they need it), then chances are they will remain affectionate.

And try to get an idea if the kitten's parents were outdoor types - that trait does get passed on - Missy attempts to escape every day, and we're pretty sure she's from a rural litter. We have to lock the screen patio sliding doors because she knows how to push them open. Get this - we have a harness for her and take her out in the yard. We don't let her go out unaccompanied because of frequent hawk sightings, neighbor dogs, and traffic.

The thing about kittens is that when they nap, they'll sleep on a lap real easily.

Oh! And try to get short-haired - the shedding isn't nearly as bad.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

My two favorite childhood cats were both neutered males. They were very affectionate, very playful animals. One was an outdoor stray that my family took in, the other's mother was an outdoor stray that my family took in (she had her kittens on my parents' bed!). The cat I currently own is a female--her mother had kittens in my parents' yard (my parents now own the mother, and my sister owns another one of the kittens).

Cats have such different personalities, it can be hard to predict from a visit or two at a shelter how they will behave once they are a member of a family. My current cat, for instance, does not like new people at all, but she is very affectionate with me. When we first got her as a kitten, she hid from me for the first day or two that she was here. After that, she adjusted very well. My son was a young infant at the time, and the new kitten always curled up on the couch with me when I nursed him; she just snuggled up to me and purred. That little mammal knew just what I was doing.

The feline leukemia test is a tough one. We didn't test my cat before taking her in. If you're talking about the kitten, I probably wouldn't sweat it unless the mom or other kittens seem sickly. I did choose to vaccinate my cat for f.l. even though she's an indoor cat because a cat I had as a child got feline leukemia despite never going outside (we think he must have encountered an infected stray through a basement screen).

Good luck with your choice!

--Elizabeth B.

Amy said...

I know a male cat who's very sociable.

The thing I like about a kitten is that older cats have experiences, good or bad, that form their attitudes and personalities. A kitten (or a puppy) might have a chance to adapt to YOUR family and YOUR lifestyle.

I don't know about leukemia. My one and only cat was adopted and lived with us for 9 years or so until we put her to sleep in 2007. She was 18.

Tracie said...

From my experience (personal and friends) the best socialized cats are those which are brought into a household as kittens and kept strictly as indoor pets.

Our last two cats, which we recently had put to sleep because they had gotten so old, were both neutered males. They were wonderful. I still can see the way they would perk up around the time my husband was due home, and as his truck pulled up they'd pace the front of the door meowing. Even as they aged and became less playful they still wanted to be in the same room as us.

Our first cat, who was an indoor/outdoor cat had feline leukemia. This was in the days before testing was routine. It was horrible, and I would never want to see an animal suffer like that again. I'd personally wouldn't choose to use a shelter that doesn't test for it.

Red Cardigan said...

Thanks for all the advice, everyone!

I'm feeling better about the idea of a male kitten, but reading more about the feline leukemia (and the feline immune virus, too) I think we've decided to wait and adopt from a place that does test.

This shelter doesn't really know much about the cats they take in (whether they've been indoor/outdoor, whether they've lived with other cats, whether they've had health problems before etc.) and the kitten's mother did seem like she might have been a little sickly, though the shelter brushed our questions aside saying she just needed a bath.

So now I'm thinking we're going to look for a kitten at a couple of other places that know much more about the animals' history (mother, in the case of kittens) and have tested for feline leukemia and feline immune virus. It will probably be a few weeks before we get all the pieces put together, but in the meantime we can get things ready.

Again, many thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

Erin, We rescued our now mother cat when she was just a kitten. She was underneath my aunt's house. We have never gone to adopt. All our animals were either given to us or rescued. We wouldn't have it any other way either. We have cried when our two older dogs died. Likewise, they have cried when we have found homes for the kittens we have now. I don't think not knowing if the cat had feline leukemia would stop me. We didn't know how long or if Philomena would live (kitten we rescued).

I would get a kitten for the girls if I were you.
Be forewarned, they can tear up furniture if you decide to have them inside. We have a doggie door (in the garage door) and keep ours in the garage so they do not destroy our furniture and house. They also use a liter box in the garage.

I do see your concern. We have never been wanting for animals it seems. :) Hope it all turns out the best for your family.

entropy said...

Wow, lots of good advice.

Just thought I'd throw in that the best cats (friendly, sociable)we've ever had have been neutered males. "Jonesy" would let my 2 year old daughter pick him up and essentially sling him over her shoulder. He was the. best. ever.

We have a spayed female now that is moody and doesn't give any warning before scratching!

Rory said...

Erin, whatever you do, don't get a cat! I could write down a hundred reasons why you shouldn't, but it would probably just be a waste of time for both of us, since you would read them with a closed mind and I would write them tainted with my opinion of hatred toward the species.

Instead, just consider these two facts: Several people in this family have pretty bad cat allergies. In fact, when I had dinner with Rend's parents in San Diego, my allergies got so bad that after being inside for about 15 mins, I had to go outside and spend the rest of the evening outside. Even then, I was not better until the next morning after two showers and lots of allergy meds. Also, cat hair gets on everything, everywhere. Even a short haired dog leaves noticeable dander around the house, just imagine what a cat will leave!

I will list some of the positives of getting a dog, though.

Dogs are much friendlier than cats, it will bond with you and your family much better than any cat would.

Fewer allergies. Dog hair is shorter and easier to deal with.

A dog will not try to kill you if you give it a bath.

And, a dog will not plot to murder you in the middle of the night. (okay, maybe that's getting a little too carried away)

So, please consider these thoughts from your naive little brother. And remember: A dog is a family pet, a cat is a lonely old lady pet. ;)

Red Cardigan said...

Hi, Rory! When are you going to start blogging? :)

Sadly, I'm much, much, much more allergic to dogs. It's not that the girls wouldn't enjoy a dog as much as a cat (heck, they'd like both, and probably a horse as well), but I can't be around the few dogs owned by family members (or the ones some friends own) without getting all raspy and red-eyed.

Tried to call all y'all today--will try again tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Hi Uncle Rory. This is "Kitten," your oldest niece.

I have to say I object to your complaints about cats. I love cats so much I'm not sure that even if I were allergic it would keep me from them. I get what you mean when you say cats have a mean side. My friends have two cats, and the one is as sweet as sugar and the other is moody.

There are ways of giving a cat a bath and some cats even like water! So my overall opinion is that a cat is the right pet for us even without the loyalty of a dog (though I have no doubt that a cat can be loyal, too). :)


John Thayer Jensen said...

Poor Rory! We must be very, very kind. Perhaps the only thing worse than being allergic to cats and having a normal view of God's Favourite Animal would be being allergic and having such a terrible darkened view of Them. Perhaps some dreadful trauma in Rory's youth explains this.

Red, I might possibly agree with Rory's advice but for opposite reasons. If there is any possibility of your going throughout life not surrounded by these little miracles, then you are just possibly (I weep to think it, but it does happen) one of those strange persons I have occasionally met: one who is not a Cat Person.

Do not, however, imagine that a cat will be a playmate for your children. A dog is that - and, sadly, it sounds as though you can't take the dog hair (I do think that cat allergies are commoner than dog, alas). But dogs are friendly, slavish creatures, who love to fawn and generally make mutts of themselves when it comes to humans; cats are free. A cat may deign to allow a human to become its playmate - or plaything; it is not yours.

And indeed any cat rescued from the gutter is as marvellous as any other cat.

Cats - as my wife likes to say - do not have owners; they have staff.

Anonymous said...

The beauty of a cat is that you will probably never have to give it a bath at all. Ever smelled a dog that needs a bath? Ugh!

My cat tries to jump in the bathtub with the kids. Not sure what she'd do if we actually let her, though.

--Elizabeth B.

John Thayer Jensen said...

One thing I should have added about cats is that they are very, very stupid. But the compensation is that they are very, very funny.

Anonymous said...

We give our cat and kittens baths. It is possible albeit hard. You need to do it while they are young so they get used to it.
Now, I will say this. We bought into the leash for the cat and I have to tell you, our cats can not be "walked" in the sense as a dog can be walked. The leash helps contain (if you are taking a trip) but you can forget the cat letting you walk it. Unless ours are just difficult...

John Thayer Jensen said...

I never bathe my cats. I just use a little fine-toothed wire brush I got from the vet. And, no, 'walking' a cat on a lead is both silly and impossible. Cats are free. They'll do their own walking.

Anonymous said...

I'm late to the party here, but I'm such a cat person that I can't resist. I have had cats ever since I was a small child, and can't imagine my home without them.

I second all those who favor starting with a kitten who can adjust to your home and family. In addition, kittens are fun to play with, and even though they scratch while playing, their scratches don't particularly hurt. I know this from experience!

Our cats have generally come in two varieties: stupid and smart. The stupid ones, generally males, have been friendlier. They are more content to be worshipped generally, and appreciate attention more. Here is an example of what I mean: one of our current cats, as a kitten, despite all efforts, regularly jumped onto the table and took naps in the square box we keep napkins in (the napkins were paper, so we would just discard the top one before meals as a matter of course). Slowly, that darn box shrank. First, the cat had to sit up in the box, it having shrunk to the point where a poor cat couldn't even lie down in it comfortably. Then it shrank even more, and the cat's haunches protruded over the sides of the box. What's a poor cat to do? Eventually it wasn't even worth the effort or scoldings to keep jumping up on the table. But it surely was annoying to have that darn box shrink so!

The smart ones, generally female, are slightly less affectionate but more sensitive to moods -- our current smart cat has a tendency to sit on paperwork when she wants attention, but she is also happy to curl up on my chest while I'm at the computer, and keeps me company when I have insomnia.

Have you considered getting two, so that they keep each other company?

A couple of words to the wise: I know the current fashion is to keep cats inside. I consider this balderdash. Yes, you should keep small kittens inside and let young cats out only gradually for short periods of time so that they can become acclimated to the neighborhood. However, if you let them out on a regular basis, you will find that your furniture does not get nearly as scratched up. Also, their litter box will not need changing nearly as often. You do run the risk that you will have a good hunter and will have to clean up feathers and tails on an occasional basis (not a job for the squeamish; and much more popular with my sons than my daughters). We had one cat that had fairly regular run-ins with skunks. Baking soda and water will take care of the odor (or tomato juice, if you prefer). But I think it's worth the risks to let cats roam as God meant for them to do.

They will love your family, require minimal care, and provide endless laughter.

Best of luck!
Scotch Meg