Look for the Moral in This Tale of Two Kitties
Ollie showed up in mid-April. Judi and I would hear Melvin, Auggie, T.J. and Jean Louise screeching at night near the back screen. Spayed, neutered and declawed, they are indoor cats, but they still claim the back patio as their territory. Obviously, an interloper was present.
Days later, I finally saw Ollie. He was a tabby like Melvin, but far too thin. It was evident that despite having no collar, he wasn't feral. He wasn't frightened of me, but he did exhibit that "please-don't-turn-the-hose-on-me" look.
His hunger must have outweighed his fear, because I got close enough to leave him some food. Of course I knew that was a mistake, but I'm a softie. Within a week he was a permanent resident in the igloo I'd built under the fig tree.
Ollie was not lost, but probably abandoned by someone. He stayed in my arms while I walked around the neighborhood trying to find either his former owner or a new one. As he gained weight, he blossomed into a beautiful -animal - probably 3 years old, gentle, affectionate and sociable.
Ollie was even comfortable around Mae and Fred, the dogs belonging to our neighbors Russ and Jill.
"He'll make a wonderful pet," I told the shelters after he'd been fixed and vaccinated.
"We already have more than 250 adult tabbies," I was told. "No one wants a cat. People want kittens."
I asked Judi about keeping him. When one has four cats, what's one more? She said no. I wasn't going to fight her. The male cats and I share a common condition, theirs caused by surgery, mine by marriage.
But as usual, she was right. The tribe resented Ollie, especially T.J. Certainly no alpha male, T.J. was sometimes bullied, often ignored by the others. Maybe he'd decided to drop no further down the pecking order, and to put his foot (and his bodily fluids) down. So Mel, in his alpha role, began countering. Obviously, something had to be done.
The solution was a surprise: Mom. The woman who'd never permitted us kids to have a pet wanted my stray.
I drove Ollie to Pittsburgh with food, litter necessities and a Steelers collar. But a week later, Mom was having second thoughts.
"He won't listen to me," she complained.
"Mom, neither did I, but you didn't give me away," I countered. Eventually, being so low-maintenance, even to an 88-year-old, Ollie won her over.
Meanwhile, we weren't so lucky. T.J. and Melvin's battles hadn't stopped. We tried everything. One of them had to go, and it was obvious who. Melvin even predated me in Judi's life. T.J. would go.
Theodore James is a gorgeous, gray Maine Coon. He's 6, afraid of dogs and children, and seeks quiet. He prefers sitting by the door and watching the birds and squirrels. He's gentle, but boring. Getting him adopted was impossible. ("No one wants cats or dogs; people want kittens and puppies.")
The thought of him locked in a cage for the rest of his life affected me more than I care to admit. The most humane option, unfortunately, was to put T.J. down. I contacted a vet to set the date. Judi suggested I drop T.J. off and leave. I couldn't. Having set events in motion, I felt his problem behavior seemed my fault, and so I had to be with him at the end. I dreaded the following day.
Miraculously, as in a cheap Hollywood movie, T.J. got a last-minute reprieve. A friend called to say that the longtime feline companion of an elderly man in her hometown had been struck and killed by a car weeks earlier. Though devastated, he refused offers of a kitten. Kittens had too much energy for someone his age, he said. What he needed was a mature cat.
I last contacted Melvin (the irony!) about a month ago. Though it took T.J. a week to stop hiding under the bed, he now alternates between sitting on the windowsill and Melvin's lap. Both are happy, and I'm greatly relieved.
Yet I become sad when I go into the pet store and see children fawning over the kittens and -puppies. Meanwhile, the mature animals, with an index card telling the sad story of their -abandonment, desperately seek someone's affection. Or, having long ago given up on ever receiving any, they just lie there.
I'd ask anyone looking to adopt a pet to consider a mature animal first. They are less work, low-maintenance and affectionate, and they probably have an -interesting story they could tell. Please consider one when -adopting.
Rick Gagliardo is a retired high school teacher living in Pinehurst.
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