Beware of Disgruntled Animal Control Specialists
I don’t have a full-time job, hate housework, my kids are grown, and I am waiting on my editor to get me started on the latest draft for my next book, so…whatever. I got antsy. In order to avoid housework indefinitely and give me something to do, I thought I should check and see if I needed more cats.
I went to a Humane Society about twenty minutes north of Baltimore, a beautiful drive through acres and acres of farm country. I trotted up the steep stairs to the entrance, pulled open the door, got smacked in the face by the smell of over-worked animal control specialists and under-cleaned litter boxes – that lovely smell of vaccinated, micro-chipped, neutered, needy strays pleading for a new home. I smiled.
A harried worker looked up from her desk. “Can I help?”
I told her I wanted to look at the cats, preferably under six months. She grunted, stood, and circled a finger in the air.
“Did you know that animals from a shelter inevitably have upper respiratory issues?” She squinted at me. “Do you have animals at home?”
I told her I had two cats, my face furrowing in confusion.
She continued, “Well, just be prepared. Your cats will get it, too.”
I was thinking, who the heck treats a potential pet-adopter like this? I asked her if she’d rather I did NOT adopt a pet, since I had a couple already.
She responded, “Oh, no, no, no…we just have to tell everyone.” She swiped a hank of hair off her face and crossed her beefy arms. She motioned me to follow her. I shrugged, and followed her down a narrow hall to a heavy steel door, which she opened with a jangling set of keys.
Cats, cats and more cats. Cats everywhere. I hugged myself happily – heaven in cages stacked four-deep against each wall. I wished I could take them all. Old cats, young cats; black cats, white cats and everything in between. Mewing and yowling, they squeezed themselves against the front of their cages pacing back and forth, showing off for me. I had to poke a finger in each cage and rub a nose here, a belly there.
The worker watched me, sniffed, and said, “Which one? We have to close in twenty minutes.”
Not one to make up my mind on the spot, I really had just wanted to cat-window-shop. Obviously, this woman was not in the mood to let me do that. I scooted out, disappointed because I had seen a cute, little gray fuzzball with a white nose and white paws and a steady, green gaze. Couldn’t grab-n-go, though, I needed to play with him first, so glancing at the worker, and much to her relief, I said thanks and good-bye.
A week passed. My husband left on business for a few days, and a thought wriggled through my brain: plenty of time to get a new kitten acclimated to the house!
I played tug-of-war with myself for a few hours, then got in the car and pointed it back to the same Humane Society. If the perfect kitten wasn’t there, I just wouldn’t get one.
I was a little edgy about it, because I’d picked up the cutest kitten a few months ago that had turned out to be the kitten from hell. A feral male, I wasn’t prepared and had little knowledge of what to expect. All I knew was that he was CUTE and TINY and that’s all that mattered.
Wrong. Aggressive, fearful, unable to consistently use the litter box, the cute little thing mangled my other two cats and I had to take him back. So much for cute.
Still. Kitty fever is a persistent disease. Resolute, pink carrier in the backseat, I found myself driving north again.
This time, I was prepared, chin lifted, ready to fend off unwanted upper respiratory warnings and exasperated shelter workers, but to my delight, a friendly, fun woman welcomed me like I was visiting royalty. I relaxed. She handed me off to a knowledgeable animal control specialist who let me play with as many kittens as I wanted – for as long as I wanted. The gray male I’d seen on the previous visit was gone, but there were several others I liked.
After a half hour, I’d narrowed it down to two females. One – a five-month old, gorgeous black tuxedo with wild, green eyes, two – a four-month old scruffy, gray tabby with a cute face, white paws, chest and tummy.
Ten analytical minutes later, I left, my pink, softside, carrier bearing the scruffy one.
Just had a feeling about her.
Still, I wondered if I’d made the right decision. The other female had been gorgeous. I stared at my new kitty, and named her Hazel.
After two days, Hazel came to me when called, cuddled in my lap like she’d known me all her life, stood up to my other two cats like a pro. No accidents – she was a fastidious kitty litter box enthusiast, thank God. Not a peep out of her all night when I shut her in the bathroom to sleep so my other cats could warm up to her gradually.
It is now Day Five, and you’d swear she was part of the family. When my husband returned, she nestled in his huge hands immediately, which made him smile. I went looking for her this morning, and there she was, a tight bundle curled up in my husband’s lap. I laughed.
Moral of the story: Pretty ain’t always the best choice.
Side note: So far, no upper respiratory issues. Take that, weird and intrusive shelter worker.