Confessions of a Cat Parent
Nine years ago this month my husband Alfredo and I traveled to Denmark and Paris. When we got home we noticed that Mr. B, our black and white fluffy cat, was looking wan and thinner than we remembered. After a few days and no improvement, we took him to the vet. X-rays showed cancer throughout his internal organs. We got a second opinion, same diagnosis. After a week and a half of slow decline and suffering we had to say good-bye to Mr. B.
A few days later we noticed that Shadow, his sister, was moping. At first we thought it was mourning, but she didn’t improve. Back to the vet, another x-ray. “I can’t believe it,” Dr. Davis said sadly. “Her x-ray looks the same as his.” Within a few days there was no eating, and then we found Shadow dead on the floor.
Stunned, we came home to an empty house. We deeply missed Shadow and Mr. B, our characters. It was odd walking through the house without worrying about stepping on a cat. There was no cat hair! But it wasn’t worth it. It was all too quiet and too incomplete without our cats. Yet we were not ready for new ones for awhile.
We waited until after the holidays. Prospecting on the Internet, I found a couple of likely next cats, one orange and one black. There were applications to fill out, pages of them. With every sentence I wrote about caring for these new cats, I became more and more intent on adopting them as soon as possible. Then there was the phone interview, and at the end I was told we were rejected! Not suitable parents for cats that needed a home? No, I had said I would let the cats outside. That was not allowed and there would be inspections!
The Laguna Beach shelter said they had no cats, so we went to San Clemente, then to Mission Viejo. None of the cats seemed right, so finally to the Orange County shelter. There was a black, fluffy male cat stretching his paws out through the grill. Alfredo was smitten, and we had Maestro. A petite blonde that I call the Marilyn Monroe of cats became Bonita. Can we have one more? Yes, there was a calico whose name is Gretchen.
For awhile we kept our new charges inside. Being rejected as a cat parent had a big impact. How long does it take, and how many treasured pets are lost before we realize—cats get hit by cars, and if they’re not in at night they get eaten by coyotes. But Alfredo had a solution: leashes and harnesses. So we let them out in the yard on long leads when we are home, bringing them in when we leave and when it gets dark. It’s not perfect. There have been security breaches, but after eight years we still have three cats.
Then recently Maestro seemed to be sick, spending a lot of time in the litter box, and meowing plaintively. What was wrong? X-rays showed no cancer. Maybe it’s a urinary infection. Antibiotics only sort of helped. He has fleas, they said. He got a little better with some flea treatment. Recurring symptoms, and vomiting. Does he have diabetes, I wondered. Blood tests said no, but they showed a reaction to a parasite like fleas.
Finally the message got through. We must be much more diligent: baths, carpet cleaning, there was a list of instructions. I felt like a bad cat parent once again, not being thorough enough on obvious things I could have done.
In fearing the impossible to cure, the worst-case condition, we can neglect the simple things we can really remedy.
Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former mayor.