We have five pets, which is probably more than a sensible person would allow. When TFoMC and I separated, the children and I acquired two cats, Nicky and Puss Puss, now 13 and 10. Nicky is a dignified grey gentleman with a white front, the cat who kept me going as I recovered from a serious post-partum depression. Puss Puss is our wild cat, the one who prefers outdoors over indoors, unless the snow is deeper than her head.
Over the next few years other cats came and went in our lives: Pepper, who was abandoned by the road as a tiny kitten and who met his death in the road, too (the best cat ever); Julie, picked up off the street by our young babysitter, a kitty with obvious breathing problems that made us wonder if she had been choked as a kitten, and who left one day probably to go off and meet her end alone and quietly; Beau, an adorable buff-colored, long-haired adventurer who broke our hearts by going out to hunt one summer night and never reappearing.
And then there’s Baby. She’s 10 years old. We adopted her from the animal shelter in 1998, just after we moved into this house. She was an owner surrender, a petite cat with a winsome expression and double paws. We were wandering around there in our grief over Pepper, not planning to get a cat and certainly not another adult. Pepper was about 10 months old when he ran out the front door and right in front of a car, and we were all shaken up by his loss. Baby looked up at me when I read the name on her card, and I made an impulsive decision and brought her home. We quickly realized that she was a throw-up kitty. Over the years we have tried every remedy imaginable, but the problem seems to be that she eats too fast and vomits. I’ve cleaned vomit off more things in more places than I can count over the years.
Years went by. The two younger children began to ask for a dog. I told them we could consider it when I finished seminary and wasn’t commuting anymore. When Pure Luck came into our lives and rhapsodized about Angel, the Border Collie mix of his childhood, it seemed the time was right. Molly joined our family in April of 2002, just before my graduation. And just about a year later we added Sam. One of the reasons we chose Bernese Mountain Dogs is that they do well with other pets.
Now I won’t kid you. The cats, they do not love the dogs. The dogs would love to know the cats, but the cats want no part of it. Molly thinks they are fascinating and exciting; Sam largely leaves them alone. Nicky avoids the downstairs until about 8 p.m., when he knows the dogs turn into sleeping mounds of fur; then he joins me on the sofa. Puss Puss was never much of a housecat anyway, and she will stand them down, but she certainly doesn’t think of them as friends.
Baby is the one who shows the fewest signs of fear or dislike when interacting with the dogs. But she is the one telling us almost daily how angry she is that dogs live in the house. Ever since Sam came into the family, she has been peeing (and occasionally pooping) in inappropriate locations: the wall-to-wall in #2 Son’s attic bedroom, oriental rugs all over the house, in baskets of dirty laundry, on baskets of clean laundry. When I first caught her doing it shortly after Sam arrived, I took her to the vet, thinking she must be sick. No. The vet said, “She’s pissed off.” Great. As time goes by, it gets more flagrant, and each time something worse happens, we talk about what to do with Baby. For the first year, I said, “I adopted her. She’s my responsibility. I will take care of her.”
(Can you hear the echoes of my insecurity about being adopted myself?)
This morning, she came into our room about 5:30 a.m. and hopped up near my face. She’s allowed on the bed, but I have a reactive airway and especially in a reclining position I don’t breathe well with fur so close to my face. I gently nudged her off my head.
A little later I got up and went to the chair where I had laid out the clothes to put on if I got a call to the hospital last night (it was my turn as on-call chaplain). I put my hand on the pants and realized immediately that she had peed all over my clothes.
This is an unhappy cat. And now I am an unhappy woman.
She just had her physical a week ago and is in good health. We’ve fed her carefully, gotten all her shots, let her sleep wherever she wants and petted her faithfully. But she is unhappy here.
This morning Pure Luck, #2 Son and I discussed taking her back to the shelter. I can’t imagine finding her a home myself. How do you give references to a cat who pees and poops and vomits on everything? At the shelter she would have a chance, at least, at finding another home. Perhaps she could be happy if there were no other pets around.
Please, tell me she could be happy if there were no other pets around.
I can’t imagine being a person who gives away a pet; I’m really feeling badly about this. But my sense of my self is starting to seem less important when weighed against her unhappiness.
We’re two unhappy campers today.