The Thinker

The lure of the feline

One thing I have noticed: our house stays cleaner now. It is amazing. Whereas I used to spend part of each week wiping cat gorp off the carpet or the floors, or vacuuming the cat dander off the sofa, now we can go for months without needing to vacuum the living room. Of course, it helps if you rarely use your living room. There is no television or computer there to draw people. It is there mostly for show. Consequently, I can still see on the living room carpet the imprints from the wheels of our vacuum cleaner weeks after I vacuumed.

Our kitchen floor also requires half the cleaning it used to. We kept the cat food and water in one corner of the kitchen. Cats may be finicky about what they eat, but they are careless about how they eat it. When we had our cats Squeaky and Sprite, they lived on The Science Diet. I could count on cat food pellets scattered for several feet around their food dish every day. Usually I could not tolerate this disorder for more than a few days before I had to sweep it into the trash. I am a bit anal that way. The absence of cat food in the kitchen may explain why we did not suffer our usual invasion of ants this spring.

As regular readers know, Squeaky and Sprite have gone to meet their makers. Squeaky went first, in 2004, at age 17. Old age only made her louder, more annoying and more crotchety. My beloved cat Sprite passed away in March at age 18 and a half. They are still with us though. Their cremated remains hold a place of honor on our mantelpiece. Had they tried to walk on the mantelpiece when they were alive we would have chased them off. Now they rest there with our blessings. They earned the right to such an elevated place in our house.

We have been dealing with too much death these last few years. Losing cherished family pets is traumatic enough. Losing my mother last year added to our sense of loss. Our family unit is still trying to get its bearings. We are still in the boat together, but the waters have become quite turbulent. We realize life is about change, but it seemed easier to pretend change was not happening to us. As if I needed more evidence, my daughter starts her senior year in high school in about a week. She could potentially be off to college in a year, although I suspect she will opt for community college and commute from home. It still hurts to visit my father and know my Mom is not puttering around the kitchen. It seems very strange that, at nearly 80, he is dating other women. In addition, I turn 50 next February. My wife and I are also eyeing our financial portfolios with retirement no longer an abstract concern.

Our six months without a pet have not been entirely bad. I found other things to do with my time than feed the cats in the morning and take their used litter out with the trash twice a week. With no cat serenading me outside my door, I sleep better. I have rather gotten used to not having a cat on my lap while on the computer. I notice it is a lot easier to type without a furry, purring behemoth stretched across my lap.

Still, I think my family is ready to take on another pet. My wife has been pushing a rabbit as our ideal next family pet. Like a cat, they are certainly soft and cuddly. They can be cute like cats too. Most importantly, she is not allergic to rabbits. So with my encouragement she learned about the House Rabbit Society. They put us in touch with a local woman who keeps rabbits in her house. She had four when we visited her a few weeks back. Her house often acts as a way station for rabbit in transition, since rabbits like other pets are often turned in or abandoned.

One of her rabbits was a Hurricane Katrina survivor. We sat on her floor and let the rabbits scamper around us. This survivor rabbit had recovered nicely. Once deeply antisocial, she was now the most curious rabbit in the house. She repeatedly came around to sniff my foot and rub up against it. They are rabbit loves signs. She would let me pet her a little bit too, although she was skittish. I enjoyed my time with the rabbits, but I was not quite sure we could make it work in our house. There was no place for a rabbit hutch. In addition, it is quite a pain keeping them safe from live electrical cords. Rabbits have teeth that can slice through an electrical cord without any difficulty. I also noticed that while they used litter boxes, it was only to urinate. They were quite content to poop wherever and whenever they needed to. I did not particularly like the idea of having to daily vacuum the rabbit poop off the carpets and floors. Rabbits also require a watchful eye. When they are out of their cages, you needed to know where they are at all times. We agreed that rabbits were probably impractical in our household.

We discussed other pet options. We never owned a dog. A few breeds are hypoallergenic. Nonetheless, there are some significant drawbacks to dogs. First, they require much more attention than cats. None of us is the type who likes to take walks with the dog 5-6 times a day, particularly in the early mornings. In addition, many dogs are yippers. Cats can be loud too, but dogs tend to be much louder and more persistent. When I arrive home in the evening, I need solace. I could not see getting much with a dog in the house. In addition, I have found dogs to be a bit too devoted for my taste. I do not mind adoration from a pet, but 24×7 in your face adoration is too much for me. Therefore, we scratched dogs from our list.

We were hopeful in our cat free environment that my wife’s allergies would subside. That has not proven to be the case. She takes multiple pills and sprays for her allergies. After Sprite died and the dander receded, she went off her Flonase nasal spray. Yet she soon developed sinus infections anyhow. The doctor put her back on the Flonase. So while cat dander would remain an irritant for her, it would be just one of many. Since she would have to treat her allergies anyhow, getting another cat is no longer out of the question.

We are considering cat breeds that have less dander. Bengals and Abyssinian cats reputedly have less, but they are harder to find. (There are also hairless breeds of cats, like Sphynx cats, but I find them personally revolting.) Having had Squeaky and Sprite as kittens, I am not particularly anxious to go through that furniture-shredding phase again. Instead, I would prefer a gentle indoor adult house cat, preferably one amenable to lap sitting. Perhaps a new cat would restore some sense of balance to our out of kilter lives.

Our daughter seems more anxious than I am to have another house cat. She spends much of her free time surfing web sites looking at cats for adoption. Through my covenant group, I know a woman who works for a local animal rescue shelter. She sent me a flyer of cats available for adoption. Since this week will find me in Shepherdstown, West Virginia attending leadership training, this weekend is not a good one to adopt a cat.

My wife seems happily resigned at this point to another cat. She too prefers cats, just not their dander. Perhaps next weekend we will start our search for a new feline friend in earnest. With another cat, we know that our house will be louder, messier and dirtier. However, I think our house will feel more like a home again. Perhaps when I retire in the evening, I will once again find a faithful companion on my bed, his nose pressed into my face. Like our last cats, he will probably want to sleep with us on the bed. Like them, he will be disappointed. We will cuddle him (if he will let us) then gentle drop him outside our door before we drop off to sleep.


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