Thursday, November 20, 2014

Adopting Animals: A Test of Zen

Two weeks ago, Drew and I adopted two kitties. They are six-year old brother and sister, Sir Barnabas Meow-Meow and Lady Marmalade. Here they are:


Aren't they cute? Barnabas is black and white, Marmalade is tortoiseshell, and both have pretty green eyes. We adopted them not long after Colbert died. Somehow, giving them a home felt right even though we were still sad about Colbie - and still are. There are moments when Barnaby and Marms help and make us feel better, and there are moments where they make us feel worse and miss Colbie more. In my post about Colbert's life I alluded to this, but adopting animals is hard. 

There are a few reasons why it's hard, but the most obvious is that animals find any change very difficult, even when it's a change from a poor situation to a good one. Even though we're giving B&M a great new home, the transition from cage to apartment is really stressful for them. They were in the Toronto Humane Society for six months, having been transferred from the Durham Region Humane Society, where they lived for about the same amount of time, so we estimate that they were in shelters for at least a year. To move to a house after such a long time is quite disruptive. 

Little Lady Marmalade
Another reason that adopting is difficult is that one never knows what kind of personality you're going to get. Lady Marmalade is an easy-going cat, like Colbert was (it turns out - I had no idea while he was alive). She has gotten used to living with us quickly, and already knows the breakfast and dinner routines. She started using her litter box right away with no trouble and has started using the scratch pad (having a carpeted apartment means they love scratching everywhere). She purred quickly and purrs easily now, and she loves playing with fuzzy toys and watching the birds at our bird feeders. She slept with Drew the first night she was home, and last night took turns sleeping on top of Drew and on top of me. I slept surprisingly well, despite the little paw-pokes. 

Silly Sir Barnabas Meow-Meow
Sir Barnabas Meow-Meow, on the other hand, is not easy-going. He's kind of timid and a little slow on the uptake. Our first challenge with him was caused by our own mistake, in thinking that these two would use the same litter box. Many cats that live together do use the same box, and we thought that because they were siblings they probably would, but that was incorrect. Having nowhere else to go (apparently), Barnaby decided to poop and pee on our bed the first night they were here (not while we were in it). The bedroom was quickly made off-limits for the rest of the first week. With a second makeshift litter box installed in the bathroom, things seemed to improve. Barnaby used it and Drew and I high-fived triumphantly. However, when I purchased a proper litter box and put it in the same spot, Barnaby regressed, and pooped on the bathroom floor. He continued to poop on the floor for the remainder of the week, though still peeing in the litter box, while Drew and I progressively tin-foiled the entire bathroom floor to try to dissuade him. This, while very annoying, was not that big a deal, since the linoleum is so easy to clean. As I said to Drew in various moments of exasperation, at least he was in the right room! Finally, after purchasing another, different style of litter box, Barnaby seems to be back on the poop-in-the-box train. I can't say that for sure, but we've had two days of positive pooping behaviours. If it continues until the weekend, I may consider taking up the tin foil. 

Barnaby playing with his toys
Both cats are very playful and active, but Barnabas has a tendency to hide. All cats hide, especially when they're in a new place, but that doesn't make it any easier on the heart, as an emotional and needy human being. Marmalade hid a little at first, but quickly came out to explore and get to know us. She doesn't hide anymore; though she likes to sleep under the bed beside the heat vent for warmth, calling her is enough to coax her out to play. Barnabas hides every morning after breakfast. He hides under the bed and under the chairs in the living room, and some days I won't see him for hours. He can sometimes be coaxed out to play, but usually he will only come out if treats are promised. He purred for the first time yesterday, which I thought wasn't too bad, since it can take four weeks or more for a cat to purr after big changes happen. Yet, purring and actually coming around to hang out are big rewards for me, and cat-owners in general I think, so it's hard to have a cat that seems to want to avoid one as much as possible.

Marmalade watching the birds
Unfortunately, I had to take them to the vet this morning for a check-up and weighing, so I think that the big trust-steps Barnabas took yesterday have been at least partially undone. He may not purr again for a few days. They, unlike Colbert, were sweet little angels at the vet. Colbert would transform into a toothsome sharp-clawed gremlin, and I'm sure his vets inwardly cringed when they saw his appointments pop up. Marmalade and Barnaby endured all the prodding and poking quietly and with outward calm (though their little hearts were hammering). Besides both being chubby, they're healthy and happy. Diets and exercise for both! 

Let it be known that though rescuing animals is extremely rewarding and wonderful, it's also really difficult and frustrating, and because humans are social animals, it's hard for us to handle it when something we love and care for hides from us or does other things that seem to spurn our attention (e.g., the cranky baby). Patience is the main resource that a person needs to have to adopt animals (probably just for life in general). Even dogs need time to adjust to their new homes and owners, and they're far less independent than cats are. Drew and I have to be calm and wait for these two, particularly Barnaby, to really relax.

It's too early for me to say that I love them, but I like them a lot, and I'm sure glad they're here. I think that over the next few weeks they'll settle in and get comfortable. They are silly and fun, and there's a lot of love to be had over the many years ahead.