Friday, May 14, 2010

The Year of the Cat

I've been living alone for the better part of 40 years; never married and never living with anyone for longer than the duration of a vacation.

Recently friends and colleagues suggested that I think about getting a pet—some suggested a dog while those that knew me best thought that a cat, with its more quiet nature and independence, would suit my lifestyle much better.

To say that I was resistant and scared is an understatement. While I love animals, and am particularly fond of dogs, the idea of having a living creature, unpredictable in temperament and needing my attention, always around and especially waking me up in the morning was inconceivable.

Close friends tried to convince me that until I experienced the payoff I wouldn't know what I was missing, and that I wouldn't feel the love until I took the plunge.

I was also told that the right animal would choose me and be obvious, and I doubted all of it, but knowing that I needed to expand in some areas, I started looking.

I checked ads on Craigs List and visited adoption events, getting more and more information. A good friend suggested that the Maine Coon breed of cat would be the best choice for its warmth and affection.

I went to pet stores with adoption events which depressed me; the pets were in cages and the shelves were stocked in ways that made it seem like the animals were an industry.

One morning I went the West L.A. Animal Shelter for the first time and hour the loud barking dogs and visited a few cats in an environment that made me feel awful and want to adopt them all.

I emailed about several animals an never heard back, some events which were scheduled never happened and a lot of flakiness made me wonder whether I was barking up the wrong tree.

I almost fostered a dog that I took for a walk but backed out at the last moment when it turned out it needed medication that had not been mentioned and that was a bit more than I wanted to take on.

Then I met a woman from an rescue organization that seemed very nice and she knew of a Maine Coon that she thought would be perfect for me. I visited the cat, liked it, but when a home visit was to come off the next day there was controversy between the rescue and the foster home, and it became a lot of drama that made me again wonder whether I was doing the right thing.

A close friends with two lovely cats told me I wasn't doing anything wrong but that I was still on the fence; when she knew she wanted a cat she just went to the pound and got one.

So the next afternoon I returned to the West L.A. shelter looking for a particular dog, and decided it wasn't right, and visited the cat room on the way out.

A wonderful volunteer told me of "the sweetest cat" and took her out of her cage; I noted that she had never been a stray and had come from a home. The cat pawed at me right away and nuzzled my chest; later I was able to hold her in my lap and she licked my hand.

I knew that it was time to take the fateful plunge – if I ever really wanted to grow and receive love in this way I needed to commit, so I went to the desk to do the paperwork.

Again a tech informed me that there was an infection on her wound from being neutered, and I would have to take her to a vet for antibiotics.

My stomach churned – part of me wanted to back out again, and just go home and keep things comfortable and the way they were – far from perfect but manageable.

But another voice said, "not this time – time to choose change and take a risk—you may suffer but it's the only chance to also feel the love you're looking for."

The volunteer came out with some toys for me to take home and promised to answer any email questions I might have.

I took Eva (named after my mom) over to a vet and fortunately they looked at her right away and I bought the medication and took her home. She also had to wear a cone to keep from licking the wound.

When we got home I figured she had enough to deal with and took off the cone. I got her set up with a litter box and some water and went out to get some food for her and for me.

When I got back and fed her, it was time for my nap. I opened the door to the bedroom not expecting much, since she was still kind of shell shocked from the trip.

Twenty minutes later she was lying blissfully in my arms, her nose in my armpit, purring and licking my hand, as I called my friend with the two cats to tell her what was going on.

Putting in the medication was a huge challenge. Eva did not want to sit still or open her mouth and kicked and fidgeted and I spilled a bit of the medication on my bedspread.

Later we watched the NBA playoffs together, and before bed I put the cone back on her head which kept my up as it banged around the bedroom throughout the night.

As someone who has had complete control over my environment for as long as I can remember, this was a bit of a challenge. As dawn approached I wondered if I had made a huge mistake.

But suddenly a wet nose was next to my cheek and two little paws were burrowing into my arm, and a warm furry snuggly body was pressed against my side. As I slept fitfully through the remaining hours until I got up, I realized that I was in a Brave New World—I don't know what the future will bring but it will represent a sharp departure from the status quo in which I had been mired.

After breakfast I went back to the pet store for a scratch pad; when I got home Eva was stretched out on her little pillow bed, her face pressed up to the window, soaking up the sunlight.





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