Saturday, April 4, 2009

How to Choose the Right Pet for YOU

You know, it really doesn't matter what species of pet you are after; you can be a dog or horse or cat or fish or bird person. But you must know that there is a non-negotiable method to choosing your pet: the most important factor in this process is choosing the pet that matches your temperament and emotional makeup. In other words, your issues must match those of your pet companion.

I am a person who has definite issues, some emotional, some health related(I take a lot of pills). So where, you may ask, will I find a pet that HAS issues, and more specifically, issues that would be compatible with mine? Cat Welfare fits the bill.

Just walking into the place tells a story; cats of various shapes, sizes and fur types are everywhere; some are sleeping in cozy beds on the floor, some on top of other felines, some are caged off from the others because they fight, some are in baskets on a wooden "tree" with several levels. I look at them all. My previous cat was not a great"issue match" for me but I loved him, and in the late hours of the night, when he and I were the only ones awake, he would jump into my lap and stretch out contentedly, staying just as long as my leg didn't twitch or I didn't attempt to pet him. So I did look at the black fluffy cats like Alfie and tried to hold each one; then I looked at the short-haired ones, and then the kittens---they were so cute! My son and his wife were with me and they encouraged me to rescue one of the cats that no one else wanted. So I looked some more, and as I was passing by one of the baskets higher up on the "tree" levels, a long front leg stretched out toward me, a paw flexed, daintily beckoning me over. She was a small, medium long-haired cat, with tortoise-shell coloring . I was drawn by that flirtatious move and immediately thought, "If she were a woman, she'd have a name like Daphne." I picked her up and she curled into my arms, and looked up at me with wide yellow eyes, inspecting but also coquettish, with their frame of furry eyelashes---I kid you not! Her fur was pretty scruffy and she had some sore spots on her, and I just knew she was the one for me.

Daphne wasn't in her new home longer than an hour or two when one of her "issues" became an issue. She decided to use the computer room, where I am typing this post, as her bathroom. (I thought they said she was litter trained!!!) So I brought the litter box up from the basement into the kitchen (yuck) so it would be available at all times. Then I spent an hour or so cleaning up and deodorizing the computer room. (This had NEVER happened with Alfie.)

She also seemed to have a separation anxiety issue, and didn't want to stay alone at all; so wherever I was she was also, yes, including bathroom and shower(she still sits on the rim of the tub, and jumps in after I jump out---ok, another issue). And although I spent a lot of time, especially at first, sitting down with her so she could be close to me, she would get on my lap, turning and trying to settle, then was up again, turning the OTHER direction and repeating this several times, keeping her claws anchored in my thighs to keep those turns going. OUCH. So is this anxiety issue surfacing because she's just nervous and will be less squirmy when she settles in? The answer seems to be: no. De-clawing comes to mind...

In a week or so Daphne was litter trained and the box returned to the basement. Then she began to have spasms of coughing. It sounded pretty bad, but when I picked her up, it would go away. I put her down and she coughed again, and snuffled and wheezed as if she were dying. I picked her up; no coughing OR wheezing. Hmmm... Eventually this seemed to go away but the issue of de-clawing still loomed large. I wanted to get that dispatched quickly. I took her to the vet to discuss the surgery---since she was more than a kitten, she would need anesthesia for the removal of her claws. After Daphne's examination, there seemed to be much ado about what could be nothing. She "might" have a heart worm---did I want to pay a thousand or so dollars for tests and x-rays to find out for sure? No, I didn't. Well, it means that she could fall down dead any day for seemingly no reason. OK, will that possibility lessen with tests and x-rays? No? Then let's move on to the de-clawing. I'm also hearing some wheezing which is probably due to something she picked up at Cat Welfare. Let's give her an antibiotic and when her breathing is clear ( I didn't mention the coughing spells), we'll do the de-clawing surgery. To review, the anesthesia could be deadly if she is sick; it could also be deadly if she is NOT sick, because of her presumed, but not confirmed, heart worm. Then again, she could have none of these conditions and still not make it through the anesthesia. OR...ok, I get it; covering all the bases.....leaving no room for lawsuits.

After a 5 day dose of penicillin (did you know pet medicine costs the same as human medicine?) I heard no wheezing or coughing and gave Daphne a clean bill of health. Off we go to the vet again, and all is ready to "do the surgery." I leave her there, expecting to pick her up the next morning. A half hour later, the phone rings and a sad male voice asks,"Is this Daphne's mother?" Well, not really, but I play along. "Yes...? " "I have some bad news." Daphne must be dead. What else could it be? Why didn't I leave well enough alone? Furniture ruined, legs full of scars, what does it matter now? The voice continues, "We had Daphne all prepped for surgery and ready to go under, when I thought I heard some wheezing.... I think it would be best if we send her home with another round of antibiotics to take care of this infection once and for all." Great.

So after two rounds of antibiotics---did I tell you they cost the same as ours?--- I decide to try again. I'd already paid for her surgery and I was ready for a life without claws! The truth was that I wanted DAPHNE to have a life without claws, for my benefit. Anyway, I approached Daphne as she crouched on the top of her (very own) cat "tree" and something in me telegraphed to her what I intended: take her to the vet! Suddenly, out of nowhere, comes the unmistakable sound of wheezing. Give me a break!! She doesn't have any infection, she is doing this on purpose! But what if I take her in and she starts up again in front of the vet? All I'll get is another set of antibiotics and another postponed surgery.

Now, I know what you're thinking: are you sure it isn't YOU that has the issues? Do you REALLY think that this sweet little cat would have the wherewithal to use such a ploy to keep you taking extra special care of her so she would never again have to "visit" the vet? ( See how our issues were matching up?) I was experiencing an empty nest---kids all married, husband busy busy and no cat. Along comes Daphne, who has enough needs and issues to last a lifetime. And SO grateful for my care and extra special attention, that she chirps and leaps up into my lap to turn and settle a hundred times while leaving scratches and scars on my thighs that are a constant reminder of her beloved presence in my life: her very LARGE presence. .

Daphne now has the life of a queen---she gains access to the outside world by racing past me to the door and if I am too slow to get the message, she will race back past me to the back door until and repeat the process if necessary until I leave what I am doing and let her out. Sometimes she helps by showing me how to open it, the same way she opens the kitchen cupboard where her food is kept: she stretches out her front leg, flexes her paw, and uses those extended claws to get under the edge of the cupboard door and flip it open. Voila!

By the way, the vet refunded the amount I prepaid for de-clawing.


  1. Daphne is definitely my favorite cat. I was wondering as I was reading this post if pets become like their owners, owners become like their pets, or owners just pick pets that are like them. Probably the 3rd.

  2. I did laugh, quite heartily, at this post. I didn't know Daphne knew how to open her food cupboard!??!!

  3. Hey Marcia,

    Chuckled all the way through this 'cause it's all too twue! Thanks for not mentioning how Daphne almost always hunches down and cautiously eyes me whenever I approach thinking I am going to do far worse than just ignore her -- which I almost always do. I've actually grown almost fond of some of those quirks - like her rush through the bathroom door (only time she does not hunch down and look up when she catches sight of me) onto the bathtub rim the second I exit the shower to see if she can snag a few last drips.