December 22, 2009

Click! - Or, "how a black female cat entered my life".

Back to the shelter.

More than 30 amazingly beautiful adult cats looking at me. Some with hope, some with disdain, some just wanting to get out of their cages and chill for a while.

And I was looking for a less-adoptable pet. To be honest, I had my list of less-adoptables narrowed down to... 12. I went online and browsed through profiles and promised myself I would keep myself to the list. The problem was:  with many of them, I didn't click. Not like I did with Alfie. And Alfie - oh, ADORABLE Alfie - had been adopted. (I knew it: I knew that in the span of a week he would be gone because he was so captivating...)

And so I kept looking. Taking pets out of their cages, playing with them, petting them, brushing them. I spent a couple of hours at the shelter. And still... No click. I began to feel disappointed and thought that maybe it just would not happen that day. Which was sad, because I wanted a cat, and I wanted one as soon as possible.

So, about half an hour before I have to leave, I see this little black cat in the back of a cage. She - yes, it was a she - was tiny and had beautiful, big, yellow-and-green eyes. The description in her cage door said that she was affectionate, playful, around 1.5 years old, and that her owners had given her up 6 months before because they were moving. Her name was Meeko.

To tell the truth, Meeko was not on my list. She was younger than what I was looking for, and she was a SHE - let me remind you of the bias I had against female cats based on my roommate's senior cat who hate me.Still, I had not chosen a cat yet and maybe Meeko deserved a chance.

She struck me right away. She didn't appreciate being carried but as soon as we got to the play room she opened up. She played, she weaved around my legs. She let me pet het. Meeko had a bright, very soft medium coat, the kind of coat it feels good to touch. About 3 minutes after we were there, she jumps on my lap, puts her paws in my shoulders, and bumps her head slightly in my forehead.

Click. This was it. Again.

It took me less than 15 minutes to fall in love with her - and less than one minute to fill her adoption form. The Humane Society receptionist told me it should take one or two days until they approved us. I went home excited as I hadn't been in a while and already craving to bring Meeko home.

December 14, 2009

Less-adoptable pets (?)

So, back home and still in love with Alfie, I spent hours and hours on the web researching everything related to cats: how to care  for them, feed them, play with them, live with them, bring them home, understand them, educate them. I wrote down all the things I would need to buy, suggestions on what were the best brands and what to look for, how to get the house ready for the cat, how to be prepared.

- Nena. 
[That is how Julio calls me whenever I am too careful and too over-zealous over stuff. It is some sort of Bolivian-Spanish word for coward.]

And that is how I came across something I have never thought of before: the less-adoptable cats.

I didn't want to think of cats as being less-adoptable. Still, there is some clear evidenced that senior cats, cats with disabilities, FIV or FELV positive cats, and black cats have a harder time finding home.

It made me think of Alfie and how incredibly adoptable he was. He was a young, playful purr-machine with a gorgeous orange coat and green eyes, and he was perfectly healthy. I could bet Alfie would be out of there in no time, while other cats may have to be in the shelter for anything between 6 months and one year - or more.

So, I decided to give a chance to a less-adoptable pet, hoping to find that they had as much love to give out as very-adoptable pets.

Still, I want to make sure that I could provide for them properly. Going down the list:
1) Senior cats - I am not sure I am ready to deal with the possible death of a cat I just adopted. And, being realistic, a senior cat is more likely to pass away than a younger cat...
2) A cat with disabilities - I am a novice cat owner and these cats need special attention and care. I am not sure I should test my abilities on a cat that will require experience.
3) A FIV or FELV positive cat - again, even though these diseases are not bad when properly cared for, I don't even know what the appropriate care is. Besides, as a student, I may end up having to share a house in the near future with other people and their pets...

That left me one remaining category - black cats.
And, to be honest, this is the category of less-adoptable that I think is the least justifiable. For the other three categories, I have my own reasons why I think I should not get one of them. Yes, it takes my comfort into consideration, but it also considers what the cat needs and whether I am the best person to provide it. But a healthy, adult black cat? Why should it be considered less-adoptable?

I can only think of two reasons: superstition or aesthetics. The first one is naive and backwards; the second one is a matter of perception. Going back to my first visits to the shelter, I realized that black cats were obfuscated by the brightness of the other ones - they got lost in the middle of a hurricane of colors and patterns.

With that in mind, I decided to go back to the shelter and look specifically for those that I had missed in the first rounds, determined to help my own little less-adoptable pet.

December 12, 2009

First couple of visits to the local shelter.

After deciding it was time to get a cat and giving some thought to what kind of cat I should get, it was time to visit the shelter. In my case, the Lawrence Humane Society shelter. I signed up for volunteering and figured that it would be a good way of helping the cause while choosing a cat.

The choosing process took a long time. In each of my visits, I was faced with lots of beautiful cats in need of a home, and it seemed impossible to try to decide which one I should get.

In keeping with my adoption plan (adult, male, personable cat), I devised a strategy:
- Avoid the kitten room (kittens are too charming and it is hard to resist them).
- Looking for adult cats that seem to want to go out(lots of the wanted).
- Spend some one-on-one time with the outgoing cats. (I took some and played with them in the play room, petted them, groomed them).

Slowly, I got my preferences narrowed down and one cat in special caught my heart: Alfie.

Alfie was an adorable 3 year old orange cat who was a real purring machine. While other cats sometimes scratched when they were held out of their cages, Alfie didn't. He purred constantly, bumped his head into my head, played with every toy I presented him with. This was IT. 

Still, it was a Friday and I thought I should rest on my decision for another night. Once you adopt a cat, you should keep in mind that this is a non-revocable decision. I am not taking this cat out of a shelter just to return it a couple months later.

With that in mind, I went home.

December 11, 2009

Narrowing the options down.

Yesterday I dreamed of cats. Other than demonstrating how obsessed I can get when I put something in my head, the dream was very representative of how hard it is to decide which cat you want to get.

In the dream, there were something like 30 cats in some sort of pyramidal structure in the middle of my house.  They were all neatly seated in shelves, looking at me, and they would not move unless I told them to - even though they were clearly hungry and in need for some care. There were cats of all kinds: big, small, long-haired, short-haired, silky, shaggy, white, black, brown, mixed, patterned, tigers, calicos, tortoiseshells, old, young... A multitude of cats.

If I had to choose ONE of those cats, I have absolutely no idea which it would be.

So, I decided to do my homework before I got face-to-face with the thirty kittys desperate for a home in the nearest shelter. If I can somehow figure what I want in a cat, and what kind of cat can give me that, then at least I will go for the shelter knowing what I am looking for and hopefully will find it more easily.

I am grad student and my roommate has a full-time job 30 miles away from here. This means that the cat will probably be alone for 4, 6, 8, maybe even 10 hours in a day. I should probably cut kittens out of the list of options simply because I have lived with puppies and babies at a house before and I am sure kittens will be just as much work and require just as much attention.

I know that my cat will be spayed or neutered, which means that probably its sex won't make a huge difference. There is, however, the idea that males are more needy and females more independent. I also have a bias against females because of my ex-roommate's female cat, Socks, which was a senior when she moved in with us and definitely did not appreciate my company. So, male it will be - unless a female cat can prove both the evidence and my bias wrong.

We live in a small apartment and I think I may be slightly allergic to cat hair - well, nothing too bad really, I just seem to sneeze a little more than normally when near cats, spring flowers, and dust. But, just in case, maybe we should stick with short-haired cats for now. It doesn't hurt to improve my odds and make life easier for the three of us who will be living together.

I want a cat who likes to be petted but can handle being alone, and I really wish that it would appreciate some play every once in a while. The combination of facts rules out not only kittens, but also senior cats. Again, it is the dog experience that brings the insight: senior dogs like to rest and sleep and more often than not ignore toys and play time. Therefore, we will go for a young adult - or at least younger than 8.

Okay: sounds like a reasonable list. We are looking for a short-haired adult cat, most likely a male, that seems to like people.

[Maybe now it is time to finally face the shelter.]

December 10, 2009

When the moment was right: deciding to get a cat.

So, it happened.

Not completely out of the blue, to be honest. Since I left home sweet home in Brazil to attend college in Lawrence, KS, I always thought of getting myself a pet. For one thing, I have always wanted one, since I was a little kid. That was one of the reasons that brought Belle into my family. It is a shame I was 11 by then and managed somehow to make the gray mini-poodle scared of me for life by playing hunter and trapping her under clothes' baskets.

Hm, ok, maybe my past a pet owner doesn't necessary qualifies me as one now, but 11 years have passed since then and I like to think of myself as a grown-up now.
[close parenthesis]

At any rate, I couldn't - and shouldn't - have a pet for a couple of years. First, because college housing wouldn't let me. Then, because student-hourly budget wouldn't let me - not to speak of the lack of time of an undergrad life in which time was consumed by 16 credit hours, 20 hours of work, a very intense social life, and summers and winters spent back home.

So, then, what changed?
Well, many things.
- Social life has worn out - not entirely, but a lot since freshman year.
- Grad school pays better - or at least, better than student-hourly...
- I finally have an apartment to call my own. Or so I like to think. And they allow pets (which was one of the reasons I settled with them to begin with).
- My roommate likes the idea and I know I can trust him to hold on for me on the occasional trip back home. Plus trips back home got shorter and more infrequent as I grew roots here..

And especially:
- I realized how much I really want a cat, how much I am eager to take care of it and spend time with it.

I am not saying I am ready - I am probably not. But I am eager to learn and unwilling to give up. And that, my friends, is ultimately what qualifies me for it.

[Let the search begin...]