The Five Stages of Orphan Cat Ownership

by Greg on June 3, 2013

Vet bills.

This is the fallout I forget about when fostering my wife’s favorite hobby, pet harvesting.

If she weren’t so compassionate and caring, we’d have far less dander in this house. But because her heart behaves like some maniacal co-pilot struggling to take the controls away from her brain, we have a stockpile of litter in the stairwell. Enough to outlast a nuclear winter.

I can’t say I fault her entirely. I mean, I suppose I could have said “No.” I could have asked her to take the handfuls of fuzz back to the barn in which she found them. But then, if I did, what kind of person would I be?

Well, in hindsight, I’d be a smart one.

Eusless and Jazz plan their escape to the outside world.

Eusless and Jazz, foiled by a screen, plan their escape to the outside world.

Instead of banishing these kittens to the harsh outdoors, I agreed to bring the three felines into our home with the understanding that A) I get to name the ONE we keep IF we keep it, and B) we will find a home for the other two.

I’m happy to report that we finally accomplished the latter. I’m not so happy to report that the home we found for them is ours.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying. It’s just downright impossible to find people willing to take kittens unless you have suckers like us in your circle of friends. We thought it’d be easy to find them a home because of how welcoming we were to the pitter-patter of kitten feet. What we learned is that we *don’t* have suckers like us in our circle of friends. They have some rare gene that makes them immune to kitten attachment.

While bringing kittens into your home and acting as a conduit for adoption is a noble and humane gesture, it has to be done properly and without emotion if you want to avoid going from homeowner to zookeeper. It’s too late for us, but perhaps my “day late” realization can help other leaky hearts considering doing the same.

Snooze train.

Snooze train.

Of key importance is to remember that you have a very small window in which to rid yourselves of the kittens. If too much time passes, you’ll go through what’s known in therapy circles as the “Five Stages of Orphan Cat Ownership.”

Stage 1: Denial – “They’re adorable. It won’t be hard to find homes for them.”
It’s a well known scientific fact that puppies and kittens have some sort of mind-melding power that suppresses both reason and logic in some humans. These are the humans you need to find, because once you deny the reality that not everyone on the planet wants five cats, you’ll find yourself cradling a crate full of kittens that are harder to give away than the plague.

Stage 2: Anger – “$278!?!”
In the world of pets, “Free” can cost a fortune, and if you can’t find homes fast enough, the kittens’ initial vet appointment will become your responsibility. This introductory visit, which is mere foreshadowing to the lifelong financial commitment you’ll have to a creature that repays you by nonchalantly vomiting in your shoes, will include shots, de-worming pills, ear mite treatments, stool samplings, and a series of belly pokes and prods that are referred to within the vet community as “Fee Justification.”

Some veterinarians will offer you a bulk discount if you arrive with kittens en masse. To see if yours will do the same, here’s a handy little phone script I created that netted a sizable discount for our kittens’ first appointment.

Me: “Yes, I need to make an appointment for our kittens but I’d like to get two quotes so I can see which option would be more affordable.”

Vet: “Sure thing, how can we help?”

Me: “First, I need to know how much you would charge to see three kittens and give them their shots, treatments, and overall stamp of approval.”

Vet: “Okay, and the second?”

Me: “What’s the going rate on three euthanasias?”

This is the point when the veterinarian will break out the calculator and ensure that you’re getting a good deal on the treatments. Not so much because of their love for cats, but rather because they know that each cat will generate approximately $17,000 in revenue over the course of its lifetime. An amount that doubles if the household has kids.

Stage 3: Bargaining – “If you take this kitten, you can have my car.”
When the realization hits that no one wants your kittens, panic will start to set in. For some, this results in shameless begging. For others, it results in late night calls to unscrupulous Chinese restaurants. For us, it resulted in a relentless assault of our address book. No one denied the kittens were cute, but they all denied they wanted one.

We assured them that if they took a kitten off our hands, they’d be rewarded with an unfathomable amount of good karma. We also promised that the cats wouldn’t shed, expel dander, or require grooming of any kind.**

** Once shaved bare.

Brave kittens snuggling with a beast 100 times their weight.

Brave kittens snuggling with a beast 100 times their weight.

Stage 4: Depression – “We’re gonna be stuck with all these f’in cats.”
While the blow you’ll suffer in this stage will be softened by cute little antics and kitten brawls, there’s still the realization that for the next 14+ years, the cats will act as a constant reminder that you need new friends. Friends who share the same spineless reaction when it comes to furry freebies.

For while you’re surrounded by cats that regurgitate Meow Mix logs onto your carpet and unabashedly lick their kibbitz in front of guests, your friends are living carefree lives in their non-cat dander-free homes happily inhaling turd-free oxygen through their nostrils. A pleasure that will remain a luxury until you grow a pair.

Stage 5: Acceptance – “I’ll just get a second job.”
Once you realize that adoption is a fruitless notion, you’ll slowly begin to embrace the cats as members of your family. You’ll give them names, you’ll play with them more often, and you’ll hope and pray that they’ll at least have a tolerable personality and a “dig, squat, and bury” approach to using the litter box. It won’t happen, but you’re in their house now anyway. Your name may be on the deed, but it’s abundantly clear who owns the place.

Jazz crawled up and fell asleep. This is how they get ya.

Jazz crawled up and fell asleep. This is how they get ya.

What started out as a well-intended good deed to find three kittens a home, ended with an unintended good deed of allowing them to have ours.

At the time of this writing, Eusless, Jazz, and McMuffin are nestled together in one big kitty clump at the base of their cat tree. I’ll admit, they’re adorable, but they’ll soon grow into life-sized cats. And I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that we’ll have five of these things running around the house.

As I said before, if there’s a “crazy cat lady” line in the sand, we’re dangerously close to crossing it.

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{ 24 comments }

Laura June 3, 2013 at 2:45 am

You missed a critical stage: deception. In that stage, you say things to your friends like “of course I understand you can’t take a kitten” and act like the matter is settled. Then you casually invite them to dinner and, when their defenses are down, expose them to high levels of in-person kitten cuteness. That’s how I wound up with the cat in my avatar photo.

cat June 3, 2013 at 4:19 am

sighhh, i know the feeling…i had one..then a rescue and a sibling came to be fostered till a home could be found, it’s been 12 years now and i do believe a home has been found. those cats aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

meg June 3, 2013 at 4:40 am

Yea.. mine started out similarly.. we have 5 now as well. He (the hubby half) says no more until they start dying out from old age.. but then we each start looking at kitty pics on the computer, and you hope for your sanity’s sake, that you do the right thing.. stay away from any kittens, for a LONG time.

Alanna s June 3, 2013 at 5:40 am

we fostered a mom and her 6 babies last September. I called some of the cat shelters in the area, but they admitted because the mother was a stray (she lived at the shop boyfriend works at) the kittens would have been euthanized immediately. I couldn’t do it so we kept them for 10 weeks and managed to sucker 4 other people into taking one. We kept 2 to bring our total to 5… that’s a lot of cat fur…

Michelle C June 3, 2013 at 6:31 am

I feel ya. What you need is 1 cat who hates all other cats. It’s worked for us. He’s a great cat, full of personality and loving (although he does suffer from the “I don’t need to bury anything.” syndrome), but he hates any cat other than himself. This makes it very easy to say no to rescuing others. We do have 2 large dogs, and sadly we are “casually” looking at rescuing a horse for our horse-crazy daughter.
BTW, Jazz on your shoulder is totally adorable. Your realize that Jazz has chosen you as his/her? human.

Laurie F June 3, 2013 at 7:13 am

My line in the sand is 2.Because 3 cats is half a cat too many.

Joanna June 3, 2013 at 7:37 am

I would have happily taken one. But the hubs heart is two sizes too small. Look at it this way, at least you’re not being compared to the the the the….THE GRINCH! (yes, I’ve watched that movie way too much) 😉

valmg @ Mom Knows It All June 3, 2013 at 8:40 am

Dead on accurate and absolutely hysterical. I lost it at the vet phone script.
I was called the cat lady when I was a teenager because we had cats and one of them used to follow me to the bus stop and wait there.

Nancy B June 3, 2013 at 9:58 am

I live vicariously through you and your family.. and that’s good enough for me.
So get more cats, I’m enjoying the ride!

Kaytee B June 3, 2013 at 11:43 am

I’m going to make sure my husband reads this… so he’ll understand that he isn’t the only one who suffers from a “pet-harvesting” wife…

And I love the quote, “Well, in hindsight, I’d be a smart one.” Four dogs later (about 216 lbs worth), I’m adopting it as my new motto.

Mishka June 3, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Just love this…at least you know that most cats never get bigger than 25 lbs at the very most (with very few exceptions). It would be different if you were bringing home 3 150 lb dogs…that is some serious food.

We are recently catless (our 14 year old died from diabetes last year) and I am figuring that at some point, we’ll have another, but it will happen when it happens and we are not “looking” for pets at this time…LOL. I hope to also have a dog in the future but that decision is much harder to make than getting a cat since the cat is generally lower maintenance.

Dianne June 4, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Oh my gosh, I’m laughing so hard I’m crying at, “What’s the going rate on three euthanasias?” Not because euthanasia is funny – but because you hooked me and I did not see that coming. Hilarious! Great story – and they’re adorable.

Elizabeth June 4, 2013 at 2:14 pm

My dear – you have crossed the line – it’s 3

Merry June 4, 2013 at 4:53 pm

I laughed so hard I fell off my chair. I’ll try to feel your pain later, but right now my ribs are sore.

Valerie June 4, 2013 at 6:42 pm

I have a friend that bred her dog and couldn’t find home for the puppies… She went thru these exact stages…. And now she has 6 dogs.

Hugs!

Valerie

Chelle June 8, 2013 at 11:13 am

Have you thought about having a contest for your readers? Anyone who would be willing to take a kitten can leave a comment and you draw a name (or 3) on a certain day. Then you figure out which of your readers can help you get the kittens to their new owners.

Kitten giveaway contest. Do it while they’re still cute!

Jan June 10, 2013 at 1:46 pm

They had you at “miaou”, didn’t they – admit it.

The ONE thing that keeps me from driving straight off into Crazy Cat Lady territory is that I live in a condo development and there’s a rule about only two pets whose combined weight cannot exceed 25 pounds. To my never knowledge there have been no raids with enforced weighing, but still.

PS: I love the name Larry for one of your cats. In fact, I considered it for a cat I had a long time ago but went with Indy – got him when he was a tiny kitten and he’d run laps through the house at 200 mph and then fail to negotiate a turn and crash. So he was Indy, as in 500.

Happy kittens! <– a celebratory wish and an observation

Lori June 11, 2013 at 12:20 pm

I have a fool proof way of not being suckered in by kitten wiles – I am allergic to them. Admittedly, this will not work for you*, but it works like a charm when faced with a sweet kitten face and a friend saying, “You need this kitten!”

*it may not work for others either — I have many friends owned by cats who survive by keeping the makers of allergy medicine in business

Mom June 11, 2013 at 12:51 pm

If you guys keep doing all of the wonderful things you do, I will have to leave your father and move in with you, and bring my 2 cats with me. I figure I can buy 8 dehumidifiers and live in the gardeners quarters. You are just fortunate to have such a wonderful mother/mother-in-law/nana/ animal lover to live in what is now empty basement. That way, we can get couple of dogs!! See you tomorrow, Love to all, Me

Ribena Tina @ Ribena Musings June 17, 2013 at 2:32 am

I am a horrible horrible person. Such a funny blog post but the two parts that made me laugh out loud were the second option for a vet bill and the phone calls to Chinese restaurants.

I totally feel you pain – we are similar though it is my fault entirely as I bred my first Bichon Frise as I love puppies and wanted to pass it on to other families; my daughter accused me of ‘pimping her dog’ which I guess I was doing so Cala stayed from the second litter. Cala had 7 puppies and was so big she looked like a she had swallowed a bowling ball so Hubby has banned me ‘pimping’ her out again so now we have Abi too. That doesn’t include the giraffe disguised as a dog called Fred.

4 dogs makes for lots of times on the local fields…..as well as an entire salary in de-worming and flea treatments, pet insurance, dog food and booster injections.

Jenn June 18, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I wish we lived closer. We really want to add a cat to our family. We’re planning to visit the shelter the end of July to bring one home. If you have any way of getting one to Michigan before then, send em our way!

Rebecca Flansburg "Franticmommy" June 24, 2013 at 9:46 pm

OMG ” surrounded by cats that regurgitate Meow Mix logs onto your carpet and unabashedly lick their kibbitz in front of guests”…I am laughing so hard I am crying! I will forward this to a friend that fosters kitten. She will get a charge out of this story for sure!

MItzi June 26, 2013 at 11:21 am

Today there are four kittens romping on my porch, three adult females, and one un-neutered and extremely fertile male and I’m at my wit’s end. I think we can catch the big fella but this is something like the fourth litter of kittens that we’ve had to deal with and it gets old being compassionate when it was some jerk who abandoned his un-neutered tom for other people to take responsibility. The reality is that kittens left in the wild do not survive and yes, I’ve been faced with that ugliness twice. It is heartbreaking, especially when you’ve gone to the trouble of having them spayed. If I could, I would have that compassion nerve disconnected.

Jenna September 30, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Avoid Petsmart on an adoption weekend….. like the plague. I went to return the automatic litter box that the existing cat refused to utilize. 15 minutes later, I emereged having been refunded $179 (those things aren’t cheap) and having spent $185 on vaccines and ear mites for a free kitten. I should have used the $179 automatic litter box as a way to prevent the existing cat entering any room I did not wish her to be in.

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