Tuesday , 27 June 2017

Memories of My Foster Cats: The One That Got Away

It’s been ages since I’ve written a post for the Dog Blog. It’s hard to justify, but trust me when I say that the veterinary technician studies are very time-consuming. In my second year of out-of-town vet tech studies, I decided to adopt a cat.

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Our first meeting.

I decided to adopt my new cat the first time I met her, which I suppose sounds like the normal way of doing things. Not so much for those involved in animal rescue, though. Animal rescuers adopt the animals they’ve fallen in love with over weeks and months of interactions. Animal rescuers adopt the animals they bring into their homes to rehabilitate or raise from kitten- or puppy-hood. Animal rescuers adopt the animals that have captured their hearts through incredible development and growing trust that would never be shown to visiting strangers. I adopted…some cat I just met, on a complete whim. But thinking back, I know what prompted me to adopt her above all other cats. She had reminded me of “the one that got away”. I’m not referring to some lost romantic interest – that would be kinda awkward. I’m talking about that one foster pet that every foster family has: the one that, had circumstances been different, they would have kept.

For me, it was Minnie (shortened from Mini-minoune, which is just far too many syllables to say on a regular basis).  Up until then my family had really taken in more adoptable cats – the kittens, the youthful, the robust, the beautiful… And then there was Minnie. My sympathy senses went into overdrive when I first spotted her in the cattery, huddled up on the floor underneath some shelving. A confident cat is one that comes out openly in the centre of the room and climbs up and enjoys the tiered shelving on the walls. Minnie didn’t do that; she couldn’t do that. She couldn’t jump up to those high perches because she was missing her right hind leg.

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So that’s strike one for adoptability—because even though there are people who like the animals with those conversation-starter traits, there are just as many who think of health problems like arthritis later down the road. Strike two: Minnie was over 6 years old, which when it comes to shelter cats, people seem to think is an end-of-life stage even though the equivalent human age is only 40. Strike three: Minnie was sick. Runny eyes, runny nose—nothing fatal, but sick is sick and nobody wants a sick cat.

309900_10150778352755627_7499672_nFor all of these reasons, Minnie stayed with my family for longer than any previous foster cat had. Aside from the “ick” factor of the constant snot stain on her nose, she was a perfect guest. She kept quiet in her designated bedroom, happily accepted affection when I went in to visit, and never started conflicts with other foster cats we introduced. She had her quirks, like pretending that she couldn’t make the jump from the floor to the bed (even though I had seen her succeed many times), and getting offended and leaving if she felt me about to cough while she was sleeping on my lap. After a while of living in our house, Minnie’s chronic booger face cleared up and revealed a 100% adorable, healthy cat. I would have loved to have called Minnie my first foster failure, but her fear of my dog was too strong – she deserved a home she could feel completely at ease in.

And after Minnie made her media debut in a Montréal newspaper, her future family contacted me. The reason they were drawn to Minnie was a story of “the one that got away”. A three-legged cat had been in their care and tested positive for one of the big bad feline diseases—either feLV or FIV—so they made the difficult decision to have the cat euthanized. The decision haunted them, so when they saw Minnie’s profile in the paper, it seemed like a chance to make things right. Rest assured, I’m not condoning the adoption of animals based on guilt here. When I met Minnie’s adopters, I could see the instant love they had for her, a quiet older couple who would give Minnie the peaceful home she needed, unlike my family’s chaotic home of constantly rotating foster pets.

To this day I still remember Minnie as one of my favourite foster cats, one who I would totally have been happy to adopt had circumstances been different. This brings me back to my initial anecdote: I adopted a cat I had just met…why? Because she was missing her right hind leg, because she was breathing hoarsely, because she was slated be moved into the cattery the next day…because I didn’t want her to have the same terrible experience Minnie had had, a life of hiding and growing sick and not getting the affection she craved, all because she was scared and physically restricted.

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Some similarities were impossible to ignore. Like the oozing snot.

With those thoughts in mind, I reserved Gabrielle for adoption. We’ve now been roommates for over a year and I can say with complete certainty that her similarities with Minnie end at their physiological shortcomings. My cat has all of zero reservations about getting attention when she wants it. She attempts to jump to heights that she couldn’t dream of achieving, falls down, and then tries again like nothing happened.  She has left snot stains on every window and cushion and bedsheet she can reach. On a couple of occasions she has smacked me in the face because she decided my glasses looked like a fun toy. My cat has no tact and no grace, but she does have the loudest purr in the house (okay, so it’s amplified by her chronic respiratory issues, but it’s undeniably the loudest), and her brazen personality leads to her being as friendly as a goofy, slobbering dog. The name Gabrielle just seemed too refined for this…creature. That’s one of the reasons that I have since renamed her Trini.

I wonder if it’s a coincidence that Trini rhymes with Minnie?

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