Saturday, January 22, 2011

Possum Update, and Cat Homily

A million thanks, Teri, aek, and Penny, for your kind words and advice about Possum. He seems better, although he's not running around as much as usual. But he's asking for food and eating, and he enjoys sitting on the sofa and swatting at his feather toy on a string whenever it's conveniently within reach. No more sneezing, and the litter box looks as usual, according to my husband, who handles that duty.

Possy is allowing me to give him his gel capsules of metronidazole, which I carefully dust off now — thank you, Teri. He's a sweetheart and doesn't try to snap at me, he just can't help it sometimes. So we work together and all is well if I'm quick and my aim is good. I have a pill-shooter, but I think he'd dislike that more than my fingers. He enjoys his Greenies treats afterward.

Possum takes it easy.

But I'm still worrying, of course. I'm also wondering if his illness is my doing. I visited a cat shelter not far from here on Monday night for the first time. As she let us in, the director told us that they were waiting for ringworm culture results; a couple of the cats had suspicious lesions. This was a first at this shelter, and she seemed to have no idea of the treatment her caregivers were facing; I tried to fill her in as gently as I could. I was able to see but not touch their 30+ cats, of course. But I wonder if I picked up another virus when I was there and brought it home to Possum. I guess I'll never know.

As I took a shower this morning (I do my best thinking then: if I showered about 10 times a day I'd have all of life's mysteries figured out), I realized how thoroughly our two youngsters Wendy and Possum, rescued me, and not the other way around. I didn't know Wendy was feral when I spotted her on's Project Spay listing; I only knew I understood the expression on her face, which told me she had a complicated, intelligent, and probably sweet nature, and that she seemed unusually terrified. And she was all those things; I am a decent judge of cats, including kittens.

Wendy, cowering in fear in her crate at her foster home.

I thought I knew it all when it came to cats, but I learned so much from our two kittens. I learned about my own resilience, too. I was devastated when we lost our amazing Bunnelina, but my instinct was to find a new cat right away, even though I believed I'd never love any cat (or human) as I loved Bunny. Adopting seemed like a crazy, even heartless, idea so soon after her death — friends, family, and even our vet thought so. But my instinct was right; I spared myself months or years of lonely grief. I don't love the new cats the way I loved Bunny, but I love them passionately. We have different relationships, based on their unique personalities. I didn't "replace" Bunny, I just kept on loving.

I believe that we cat (and dog) people have an enormous capacity to love and care for animals. And we feel heartbroken whenever we have to stop doing it. When we lose someone, part of our grief is because we can't give of ourselves to that creature anymore. Taking on a new "project," like our wild little Wendy, gets those juices flowing again. It certainly eased my pain, anyway. And when we decided to get a second feral, Possum, it was frosting on the cake. Two new personalities to learn about, and two new little bodies to nurture and nurse.

Ringworm, calici virus, giardia, roundworms, and more. But sleeping peacefully.

Another thing I realized today: I need to stop feeling guilty about adopting kittens. Many of the best, most dedicated cat people, or "cat cognoscenti," will only adopt adult cats, senior cats, all-black cats, or special-needs cats because they're the least-wanted in any shelter. Kittens are in great demand by everyone except the cognoscenti. Therefore, kittens tend to be adopted by newbies, people who don't really understand how to care for cats, let alone kittens — who need extra care and understanding. They adopt kittens for the wrong reason — because they are cuter than cats. They always forget that, in a matter of months, kittens grow up to be the big cats they find so uninteresting

As I see it, kittens deserve a break, too. If the cognoscenti won't adopt a kitten, there's a good chance it's going to end up with someone who may not understand or tolerate kitten behavior and will try to punish or "train" it in hopes of making it mature faster. This results in a neurotic kitten they try to "train" or punish further, a horrible cycle of ignorance. When I was an active participant on an online cat health and behavior forum, I tried to enlighten frustrated owners of kittens and clever, feisty cats all the time. People who insist on only adopting kittens tend not to know how to handle their illnesses or how to give them the best care and nutrition. On the forum, I also dealt with people who grew bored with their cats when they were no longer cute babies. That's what many first-time kitten owners are like. They're the reason why so many housecats end up abandoned on the streets.

Kittens are babies and, in my opinion, they deserve experienced, understanding guardians, who are willing to put up with chaos, illness, and interrupted sleep for a year or two. So, from now on, I'm staring down anyone who tells me (in a superior tone) that they only adopt adults. I'm not doing it for the cuteness quotient; I'm doing it to make sure a very helpless little creature grows up into a  happy cat. I honestly prefer cats to kittens — less angst, less trouble! But I feel terrible when I see tiny kittens adopted by families with rambunctious toddlers, kids, and dogs. I also feel bad when I see a kitten going home with a single person who has no other pets and will leave it alone for hours on end. Animals need company, and at least one friend of their own species. I get all that. So from now on, I will adopt anyone I choose, without guilt. And I believe that shelters should only let experienced owners adopt kittens. (Good luck with that, I know!)

Cats need companions.

All our cats' illnesses (especially the ringworm plague)  taught me that I can handle whatever it takes to care for a sick cat. I had a little phobia about touching canned cat food until Bunny got sick and I discovered that she'd eat some if I smeared it on my fingers. No problem, kiddo; I reeked of tuna for weeks. I've just about done it all by now, from nose drops to chemo. My husband is equally committed: I've seen him in action. It's reassuring; you can't tell how people will behave in tough situations until they happen. If I get hit by a bicyclist or something, I've got a guy I can count on.

Even so, we've had our fill of feline health problems for now, and have no need to exercise our nursing skills any further, thank you. I want Possum to get well, and I want our elderly Persians to keep hanging in there, and I want life to settle down and be boring for as long as possible, please.

1 comment:

  1. Amen, sister.

    There are so very many critters who need homes that adoptions of any animal are equally important. Adoption is the furthest downstream action from the problem there is, and we'll never plug all of the leaks in that dike that way. So we do best to match our strengths and resources with the animals who can best benefit from them, damn age, looks, breed, temperament, health and any other qualifier.

    (But srsly - when I did senior/special needs work, I NEVER had a single adoption or even an inquiry for one of those animals. I sure wish I had figured out how to attract at least a few responsible adopters for them. In my old (red)neck of the woods, it was kitten/puppy/small size all the way, with recycling - shelter returns - when the babies became adolescents....)


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