All Of My Children Have Paws: Part 1

I’m going to admit something that, for a guy, is tantamount to confessing about wearing lace undies or lipstick on a regular basis.

I like cats.

There! I said it! I’m a cat person. Always have been.  I mean, there was a point when I was a kid that I had a dog.  It was a very short period of a few weeks when I was around seven or eight that my parents took in the beagle that belonged to a family friend who had to get rid of her. The dog’s name was Muffin and I can remember two things about her: she howled a lot and she used to eat Limburger cheese.

After the first weeks of doggie-ownership passed it was determined that Muffin was not a good fit for our home. I’m not sure if it was the howling, the inevitable dog farts that came from a Limburger-heavy diet, or a seven-or-eight-year-old’s lack of enthusiasm for walking the dog every day and cleaning up accidents inside of the house.  But something made my parents decide that it was time to bring Muffin to the home of some friends of the family.  Friends who owned a farm.

I may be cute, but these farts are going to kill you.

Ten years later, when I was a Senior in high school and I tried to adopt a dog for a girl I had a crush on, the SPCA turned me down for adopting a puppy since my family brought a dog to them a decade ago. I said, “No, that’s not true, my parents gave that dog . . .”

And then I had one of those moments like that scene in The Usual Suspects when Chazz Palminteri’s character realized that everything he just heard was a lie and he just let Keyser Soze get away.  I almost slapped myself in the head and said, “But we don’t know anyone who has a farm!”

Caution: This Image is Too Cute for Your Health

So, long story short, my parents were big fat liars.  But that’s beside the point.  The real point of this was to say that a few years after we got rid of Muffin we adopted a tiny black kitten from our neighbor whose cat had a litter.  Living in the city and not knowing much about animals, my parents did what pretty much every other unknowing cat owner did; they let Blackie out of the front door whenever she wanted to run out.  She was never fixed, never declawed and, sadly enough, one day she never came home.

I was sad, but I don’t remember aching over the loss of Blackie. But I do remember feeling a loss to the kinship I had with Blackie.  So, when the same neighbor’s cat had yet another litter of kittens a year after we lost Blackie, we took in yet another black kitten.  His name was Lucky.

Lucky was a great cat, but he was given the same freedoms as Blackie. Freedoms that, during that same Senior year of high school, had me find Lucky limping up the front steps to the porch one day as I was leaving for school.  I thought that he had been in a fight with another cat, and let him in the front door. I was concerned, so when I got to school I called home and my mother broke the news to me that it seemed that Lucky was hit by a car and managed to make it home before passing away.

I was devastated. The rest of the school day was a blur and I’m not ashamed to admit that at seventeen years of age I still cried at the loss of a pet.  In school, no less.

It was quite a while after that until I was ready to have a pet again. Part of me realized that having a cat in the city meant never letting it out of the house, and my parents could not be trusted to prevent that from happening.  And there was one other hurdle.

I am terribly allergic to cats.

Not all of them, mind you.  But certain ones will still send me into sneezing fits and leave me with a face so swollen that it looks like I have been stung by a hive full of bees.  I’ve taken every allergy pill imaginable, both prescription and over-the-counter. I’ve gone through years of allergy shots. And I’ve done it because a part of me always wanted to have a cat in my home.

Our first "child"

I’m very thankful to have met a woman who feels the same exact way.

When Nicole and I rented our apartment, we took Nicole’s parents’ cat with us.  It turned out that Cleopatra (yet another black cat) was having a difficult time realizing that peeing on a carpet is a bad thing.  So we took this six-year-old cat from one end of Montgomery County to the other and introduced her to an apartment filled with hardwood flooring and void of the temptations of shag carpet.  She adjusted quite well and, most importantly, seemed to be one of those few cats that didn’t set off my allergies.

In the summer of 2006, Nicole and I came across another cat that needed a home: a year and a half old Exotic Shorthair named Sakura, who looks like a cross between Wilfred Brimley and a bunny rabbit.  Our cozy little apartment was now a home to a married couple and our two four-legged children. I became a Cat Dad for the first time and it felt great.

Quaker Oats! Diabeetus!

Sure, there were some growing pains involved.  Cleo hated Saku in the beginning.  He was still a kitten in a sense and wanted a playmate.  She was an adult cat and just wanted to sit in the window and chirp at birds.

And neither one of them were ready for what we had in store a few months later when we bought our home.

(where we meet a new dog, thirteen kittens and the world of being a foster parents…)

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2 thoughts on “All Of My Children Have Paws: Part 1

  1. I saw that you mentioned that the cats your parents had were never declawed. I hope that you don’t think that to love your cat you have her/him declawed. Declawing is a very painful procedure. It would be like taking the tip of your finger off. It is the amputating not just the claw but the entire last bone including the ligament, tendon, nerve and joint capsule. And that is done 10 times. That kind of pain (I won’t get into how it works) but you cannot suppress no matter what kind of medication you use. It’s called wind up. There are many different methods you can try before declawing if your cat is marking is territory using her/his claws such as a scratching post that won’t tip over, trimming your cats nails, or using Soft Paws. A lot of cats seem to do fine after the declaw procedure. However, other cats develop various changes in their demeanor and personalities. Some of the changes seen include withdrawal and isolation, increased nervousness and aggression and some resort to using their teeth in situations where they need to defend themselves. Some cats will develop urinary problems due to pain associated with using their litter box. The incidence of these issues increases greatly if pain management before, during and after surgery is not a priority. I don’t mean to come at you like this, but some people feel that declawing is just part of having a cat. And it’s not. It is a very serious and painful surgery. And on a side note is is great that you a guy and can say that you are a cat person. I am a veterinary technician and I can say you don’t see that often. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing at all.

    • Heather: I completely appreciate what you’re saying and in fact couldn’t agree with you more. I’m thinking you somehow misinterpreted something I said, beause I too am opposed to declawing cats. Cleopatra came to us declawed. Any other cat that has come into our lives either as a foster or our own has not (and will not) be declawed. My wife and I clip our cats claws each month to make sure that we don’t have to worry about any issues that come up when their claws go unmaintained. When we adopt out a cat that we’ve fostered we also explain pretty much exactly what you did about declawing. But I will say this: if there are situations where a shelter has only two options of adopting a cat to a home of someone who fully intends to declaw it or euthanise the cat, I would certainly accept someone’s decision to declaw. I would just hope that they fully understand the options you mentioned before making that final decision to declaw. Thanks very much for the comment.

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