Sunday, February 21, 2010

Why You Should Adopt A Pet From Death Row

My friend asked me to go cat shopping with him while I was visiting in the USA. He said he wanted to rescue a cat. I suggested he go to the shelter and look on death row.

"What's that?" he asked. I told him it was the cats that were about to be put down, most shelters were overwhelmed and often the older cats were passed over for adoption while folks carted off the cute kittens. I then went on the rave about the virtues of adopting an older cat:

Typically they are already house broken, they use the litter box, they don't climb the curtains like playful kittens, generally, if they've been indoor cats before, they already know about breakable things and avoid them, they know not to scratch the furniture and they tend not to dribble their food across the floor, or play hockey with it, like little kittens are wanton to do.  They tend to know they shouldn't scratch you, and drinking out of the toilet is frowned upon. While kittens are a load of fun, they can be a load of work, if you want to properly train them to take care of your house and not destroy it in search of playful pursuits.

So at the shelter, we asked for death row and were told it was a no-kill shelter. We were surprised, apparently, they had some good funding now from special bequeaths that enabled them to not kill the cats. We passed by all the cute kitties, and went on to look at the adult cats. (I found out later they pass their overflow to a shelter that does kill.)

My friend liked a cute black cat, we opened his cage, and went to pick him up, he hissed, scratched and cowered in the corner with teeth bared. Well, um, that might be more work than my friend was up to, he hadn't had a cat in decades and he worked full time. We perused the rest of the cages. 

In one cage was a big lethargic tuxedo cat.  We opened his cage, and he briefly looked hopeful. I cuddled him in my arms and he purred mightily. His head seemed awfully big and funny looking, and he smelled bad. For good measure, he sneezed on us a few times.  

I turned to my friend, "Here is a needy cat in need of a good rescue."

We left to go do the paperwork and fetch the cat carrier we had brought with us. I went back to the cage to rescue the cat. A crowd was around him, poking fingers in his cage and I was proud to say "Excuse me, this cat's been adopted!"

The crowd parted, and I opened the cage again.  He was sleeping but woke up and gave me a wary eye. I picked him up gently and held him close. He fired up his loud purr and hung on to me for dear life. 

I walked back out to reception and he put up quite a fight while I shoved him into the carrier and zipped it up, all the while talking sweetly to him.  He scowled at us, looking pretty mad. 

A few minutes later, we were paid up and ready to leave. I held the carrier on my lap while my friend drove.  I unzipped it part way, talking sweetly "What a good cat you are!" and I reached in and stroked his fur to calm him down. 

Surprisingly he didn't try to escape, but settled down and went promptly to sleep. My friend thoughtfully played classical music on the stereo, as he thought the cat would enjoy that. 

A half hour later, we carried the sleeping cat and carrier into his new home. While he sat in the carrier, wide awake now and looking most unhappy, we let him watch us put out a bowl of dry food, a bowl of water and a bowl of canned cat food. Then we opened up the carrier and let him walk out on his own steam. 

He looked at us, looked at the bowls, and finally ate a little bit, then stood around looking at us expectantly while we stood there staring at him. 

So we showed him the litter box in the corner of the mud room. He looked at it and looked at us, then he toured the house and ended up in the bathroom, which he refused to leave. My friend was nervous and asked me more than once if the cat was going to poop on the carpet or what. I told him cats were smart and generally loved their litter boxes, but only if you cleaned them daily. Most cats that poop inappropriately are trying to tell you "Clean out the dang litter box!"

Finally, with the three of us crowded into the bathroom,  my friend said, "I think he wants his litter box in the bathroom!"

So we relocated the litter box.

The cat promptly hopped in and made a runny deposit. Yuck!  He also raked it 90 different ways, as if it was his Zen garden.  Then he headed for the food bowls and chowed down. When he was done he toured the house some more, and alternately coughed and sneezed. 

We called the vet and made an appointment to take him over in a few days. My friend said the cat stinks and asked me to bathe him. 

"Are you NUTS?" 

You never bathe a cat unless they are just super sick and physically can't do it themselves. Give him time, he will probably clean up his stinky self. 

For the next few days, the cat followed us around like a puppy dog, he never wanted to be left alone in a room or anywhere. Every time someone opened the fridge he ran over to look in and my friend was worried. I said "Hey, EVERYONE loves to look into a fridge, and cats are no different!"  

He ate a load of food and my friend was worried about this and I said, "Well, I think he needs to fill out and grow into that BIG head of his, once he gets back up to fighting weight, he will probably quit eating so voraciously."

"Let him check out your cabinets and closets and don't be surprised if he hides under the bed for a few weeks, until he feels safe and comfy here." As if on cue, the cat crawled under the bed and hid.  Later we found him hiding in the back of the closet.

For the next few days my friend pondered what to name him. We tried on different names.  The cat appeared indifferent. Meanwhile he ate a mountain of food and filled up the litter box with a large assortment of lumps.  He continued to sneeze and cough.  I showed my friend how to recycle that endless supply of plastic grocery bags. Just stick one in a waste basket, scoop out all the lumps from the litter box, tie the bag in a knot, and deposit it in the outside garbage can, then put a fresh grocery bag in the waste basket for the next day's use and so on. Come on, it's not that hard!

A few days later, I was cuddling with the cat and said to my friend "Do you smell THAT?"

"Smell WHAT?"  he says. 

"Exactly!  Nothing!  See?  He has cleaned himself up rather nicely, and doesn't smell at all."

Finally the vet day came and we stuffed him into the cat carrier. Oh my gosh, I felt so sorry for him!  He looked mortified and his eyes gave us that look, of extreme pleading.  With him on my lap, in his carrier,  off to the vet we went, while I talked softly too him and petted him. 

He didn't much care for the vet or having his temperature taken or the series of shots he had to endure. Finally his ordeal was over and loaded up with medicine, we took him home again. He was VERY happy. 

I hid the cat carrier, so he would know THIS IS IT, you are home now, for GOOD. 

He hopped up on the kitchen counter one day, and I loudly cleared my throat and gave him an evil eye. He promptly hopped down.  He tried to scratch the furniture one day and we ran out and bought him a scratching box and showed him he could shred that to his heart's desire, but leave the furniture alone. He quickly understood and according to my friend, hasn't clawed the furniture once since. 

I showed my friend, how to with hold the good stuff, (the canned food he craved), until he took his meds. So each morning, he had to endure his medicine, then we promptly opened a can of his favorite food stuff and fed him. He quit resisting the meds, and now gulped them down because he knew the good stuff was coming next. 

He had by now developed runny eyes in addition to the sneezing and coughing, but I gently washed his face with a warm paper towel several times a day and kept up the meds. 

Speed up to a few weeks later...

You wouldn't recognize the cat now!  His body has filled out nicely and his head looks balanced on it now, instead of too big. His fur coat that used to be dull and listless,  is now soft, shiny and luxuriant to the feel. He has no odor about him at all.  His runny eyes are dry and very beautiful. He no longer sneezes or coughs. 

And he LOVES to play.  I made him some home made toys and he loves to play, play,  play.  He likes for my friend to play with him, tossing his toys for him to catch and he does exotic ballet leaps to catch it ad show off!

He rarely meows, but has this funny "Brrrrrrrrrrr" noise he makes when he wants to talk. He purrs often and  runs to the door to greet his master when he comes home. He rubs his legs and follows him everywhere, taking naps in his bed or under his bed. 

He cuddles up to watch a good movie in the easy chair with whoever is willing. Some days he goes outside and races up the trees and back down again, then romps in the woods and comes home again, devouring food like there is no tomorrow. 

He's made my friend VERY happy and they enjoy each other's company. 

This cat was a terrific rescue, and the money and time invested in him, has paid off handsomely. He's a lovely healthy pet and my friend is proud to own him.  Everyone that meets him, says;

"What a cool cat!"

Call me when it's dinner time again!


  1. That was my "feel-good" story for the day. Thank you.
    He is beautiful and shows the love and care he is getting.

  2. Glad you enjoyed the story. Adult cats do make great adoptions. They deserve a second chance and this one, in spite of all his initial problems, turned into a beautiful well-behaved, much cherished pet.

  3. Thank you for convincing your friend to adopt an adult shelter cat! Your instructions on introducing the cat to his new home were great, and now everyone involved is happy!


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