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The John Shinnick Web Site (Prior)

Last Update: February 4, 2023

John Shinnick 3.0: It's All About Me

Cats (Not the Musical)


Michael, a friend of mine from my Wednesday lunch group, had me on the distribution list of an email he sent out recently. A friend of a friend was about to enter hospice, sad enough, but he had adopted a couple of cats along the way. What would become of them? Little did Michael know when he sent out his communique that bubbling up under my conscious thoughts was the idea of taking on a cat myself.


As a kid, I’d always wanted a dog. My father, having grown up on a farm (a gentleman’s farm, but lots of acres just the same) had gotten the idea that dogs require lots of space that we didn’t have. At least that’s the story he’d tell when I’d bring up the subject. I’d learn later how true this wasn’t, but he may have simply not wanted to take on the responsibility. As I grew into adulthood, that was my reason for not taking the plunge into dog ownership. And cats? What fun are they?


Over the years, I’ve visited my brother and his brood as I like to call them, a few times a year. I’ve talked about Chip, Alice, Linda and Brian, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned that they’ve generally had a cat or a dog, or more often, both. The two most recent furries, canine Inka (recently deceased) and feline Ziggie, always behaved true to form. Inka loved to bring his most recent cloth toy up to me, encourage me to wrestle it away, and then await me throwing it to some random corner of the room. Yes, a rousing game of indoor fetch. Ziggie is simply a presence. She occasionally likes to crawl up on the couch and snuggle with her pet humans. Sadly, this poor creature uses her claws more often than is comfortable. Kira, her predecessor, didn’t have this habit, at least to the same degree.


Still, I’ve found dealing with her very pleasurable, and eventually came to the decision that despite my youthful preference for dogs, I had become more of a cat person. Then came Michael’s email, complete with pictures of Sheba and Pop-Pop, the up for adoption cats. Aged seven and four, they evoked a gut reaction that it was now my time to take the plunge.


Cats, certainly compared to dogs, are low maintenance. I surmised that two cats would keep each other company on those occasions I might be away from the house, alleviating my tendency to feel pangs of guilt. Would I run into unforeseen difficulties? Sure. All pet owners do, and I’m smart. I’d work my way through them. The ages were also in their favor. Both had been rescue-cats, so seven and four were guesses, but they were full-grown, and that was fine with me. I wasn’t looking for a “cute phase.” My desire was to have a presence in the house.


I’d had an aquarium before, but it just wasn’t the same. When I was a kid, we’d had a parakeet, but it’s still not the same. And like I said earlier, a dog would be more to take on than I’d want. And if a dog is too much, a wife seems just as out of the question. But that’s another story. An adult cat would make much more sense, I don’t care what all you meddlesome matchmakers say. Of all the beasties of the world, a cat was feeling more and more like a good fit for both my temperament and my lifestyle. And two cats seemed like they’d be just as easy to deal with as one.


I called Michael who put me in touch with James, a close friend of the owner. James said he’d love to take the pair on himself, but that he was caring for five rescue birds. In his first email, he offered that the cats were indoor-outdoor types, making liberal use of a swinging “pet door”, sleeping outside when the weather was warm, preferring the owner’s bed when it was too cold to overnight in the wilderness. Then came the curious part. Though they loved curling up in the lap of their owner, being picked up was another thing altogether. They both hated it, more than anything but perhaps being put into a cage.


This was all offered before I’d asked any questions, and I had two that came to mind, that I felt were pretty basic. First, had the cats neutered? I assumed the answer would be yes, since they were spending so much time outside. Taking on a pair of cats from the street (not the first time he had done so) led me to believe that he was responsible. Second, had the cats had their requisite shots and trips to the vet? Again, my assumption of responsible ownership made me think this would be another easy hurdle.


I was wrong on both counts. The stated reason was the hating getting picked up / hating cages thing. I could understand having some kind of moral thing against neutering or even against shots, but not the beasts’ phobias. Some measure of tough love should have been exercised. And at their ages, these dislikes might be too much to overcome. Further, the more I thought about it, I realized I didn’t really like the idea of outdoor cats at all. I’d worry too much about their safety. 


Of course, there must be lots of books on the subject of adopting cats and what to look for. To my great surprise, the local Petco store had stopped carrying books about pet ownership completely, so I went to the Barnes and Noble in the same mall. Again, there was not much available on cats, so I turned to the internet. I found what appeared to be perfect, “Adopting Cats and Kittens” by Connie Jankowski. It proved particularly unenlightening about the matters that concerned me.

The Search for a Housemate

I wrote an email outlining the situation to my favorite nephew Keith. Okay, he’s my only nephew but if I had another one, he’d have to go quite a way to be better than Keith. Besides, Keith’s wife, Dawn, has worked in veterinary clinics and is into “Hello Kitty” big time. Between them, they’d had lots of experience with felines, and I figured I could get some good cat advice. Keith replied the next morning. He agreed that my perceived red flags were all legitimate, and as a first-time cat owner I shouldn’t take on so many potential problems. He was especially in agreement on the issue of cats venturing into the wilderness; he and Dawn have lost three to the great outdoors.


It didn’t really matter, though. I knew I’d already talked myself out of Sheba and Pop Pop. The night before I received Keith’s answer, I contacted James and told him that I’d decided against the adoption. He responded that he understood, though I could sense the disappointment in his email.


But I’m not ruling out adoption in general. A furry companion in my house would be a good thing, and having gone through this exercise, I’m more confident that a good fit for me is out there, be it one or a pair. I found a nearby animal shelter that holds cat exhibits on weekends at the aforementioned Petco. I visited Saturday and I had a wonderful experience. They had only a small number (about 20) of the many cats they have available, but I saw several likely candidates. I thought “Yeah, I could make this work.” 


The only real question I have at this point is what to do if I want to take that three-week trip to Spain and Portugal that’s been calling me. A quick stop on the internet informed me that there are several cat visitor and cat boarding options. It all looks promising. In the words of Rachel Maddow, “Watch this space.”

The Cat Hilton

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