Saturday, May 31, 2008
Bless the Crazy Cat People
If only homeless folks were treated as well as cats.
Today, I got a pet. His name is Ralph. He's a chatty four year-old Siamese mix. I spend about half the time at my new place alone and thought the company would be nice. The girls have wanted one since Oz died last year, but I wanted to wait 'til they were a bit older. He likes music. He's on my mantel now with his ear about three inches from the Bose coffeecup speaker, listening to Leonard Cohen.
I have a friend who's into the cat rescue scene, so the ordeal of getting him wasn't a huge surprise. It's one of the more harmless varieties of cultish extremism, and I was ready for it.
The first place I went assured me they had plenty of mature, gentle cats to adopt. Then, I arrived with my two five year-olds. Of the dozen or so cats lying about, they said, none were appropriate. "Kids that age will pick them up and carry them around like a rag doll," the woman accused. She said to come back another day and we left disappointed. When I called today to ask if they had any mature cats that would be good with small children, the woman on the other end made a sound that wasn't the least encouraging. "No," she said. "Maybe next week."
I hung up wordlessly and called PAWS. They were much friendlier. Three had come in today who were used to being together, but they were willing to split them. And then there was Ralph, who was sweet and had been there a few months. I said I'd be there within the hour.
After I filled out a form swearing I wouldn't amputate his claws or use him for experiments, I was allowed a visit. Ralph purred as I stroked around his ears. He got excited and gave my palm the tiniest of love bites. My cat at work, also a Siamese mix, does this too, but with more malice. "PULL YOUR HAND AWAY IMMEDIATELY!," the volunteer snapped.
When I said a little love nip didn't bother me she relayed a story about a man who played with his cat too roughly. It bit his girlfriend on the face and then he needed to get rid of it. "That cat has no chance now," she said. "No shelter would take him. I told the guy, 'you created a monster, and now you have to live with him.'"
At this point in my life, I mostly know when a poker face is in my best interest, even if I don't always do it. Mine was on.
I said I was in a bit of a hurry to get my kids from daycare and wanted to pop over to CVS for litter and cat food before I put him in the carrier. The volunteer looked at me with extreme alarm. "It's very, very important to only feed a cat quality food," she patiently explained. I reiterated how I'd had cats for roughly the last twenty-five years and usually fed them Iams.
"I won't buy Iams," she said, "because of their policies on animal testing. It's OK cat food, I suppose, but the company is immoral. I can't support them."
She suggested I go to a place a few blocks away that sold food they might approve of. Once the adoption went through, I'd get some coupons. She suggested I spend another hour or so getting to know the cat, do the paperwork, think about whether I really wanted him, and if I did, I could come back another day when I had more time, get the approved food with their coupons at the very special cat food store, and then, suitably prepared, I could come get Ralph.
I stared at her, struggling to parse the string of words I'd just heard. "Are you saying I can't take this cat home with me now?"
"Oh. No," she said. "That was just a suggestion."
"OK then, I'm ready."
I sat at a table as she went online to activate the animal's micro-chip while another volunteer explained why letting him outside was a virtual death sentence. They told me I shouldn't allow pregnant women to clean the litter box and gave me a certificate for a vets visit good for nine days, which they strongly suggested I use.
Here's a healthy four-year-old cat who's been chipped and has all his shots. I should take him to the vet ... why?
But that's not what I said. I was all concern and sympathetic murmers. I wrote a check for ninety bucks and took my borrowed cat bag in to Ralph's room. Never, in my entire life, has a cat gone so willingly into a carrier.
Maybe I'm projecting, but Ralph seemed pretty keen to get the hell out of there.
I was only ten minutes late to the daycare pick-up. Twins A&B were beside themselves with glee. I dropped eighty dollars at Petco on the way home. It was Ralph's first day and I was already into him for a hundred seventy bucks. I bought the Iams.
I broke two rules in the handout they gave me by allowing the girls to see him and get excited and then leaving him in the car while I got his stuff. I clearly cannot be trusted.
My plans to introduce him to one room first went sideways when Ralph immediately insisted on the full run of the house. I did my best to restrain the girls from hunting him down. He's made himself at home and had steak for dinner. He has a loud purr that goes off the second he is touched.
Ralph's going to be just fine.