One last repeat and then we are back to original columns starting tomorrow!
I am back from vacation! I have had a wonderful week lounging seaside and sipping catnip margaritas while working on my tan (under this black fur I am paper white!). While away, I ran into a horrifying discovery: someone had abandoned a family of eight angora rabbits! These domestic animals could never survive in the wild, so I immediately contacted animal services! Once they got over the shock of a talking cat these wonderful people caught the bunnies, saw them treated, and have put them up for adoption. How could anyone be so cruel to an animal? I have said it before and I will say it again (below and here): pets are not disposable; pet ownership is a commitment, and if you are not ready to take it seriously do not adopt an animal!
[Ed. Note: Tazi's story has been pieced together through many sources, including veterinarian reports and post-adoptive behaviors].
About a month ago, a reader sent me this picture and suggested I write about the sad phenomenon of abandoned pets.
I thought about it, decided that I would not be Sarah McLaughlin-ing you all if I wrote on this topic, and am dedicating space to this sensitive subject.
The subject of pets is a sticky matter. Some people see pets as a form of home security (from human intruders to rodent invaders); others see pets as a member of the family; some go so far as to consider a pet equal to a human child. I have met in person and received mail from many people who have chosen to have pets instead of human offspring or who prefer their pets company over that of their children. As flattered as I am that quadruped companions play such an important role in a person’s life, I am of the belief that we are valued family members and surrogate children – not children per se, so please do not treat us like infants.
Now that you understand that I do not equate pets with human children, I can move forward without worrying about scathing letters calling me an egomaniac. I am a cat – we are all egomaniacal; however, it is not egomaniacal to expect someone who has taken us into their home to treat us like family. I ask you:
How many times has a child destroyed something you valued; you have not banned them from your home, have you?
How many times have you dated a person that did not like children; you did not send your children to an orphanage, did you?
How much money do you spend on extras, like cookies; candy; chips and other non-nutritional food? My Mommie once gave up coffee so she could afford to feed me. Would you be so selfless in order to feed your pet? If not, excuse me while I report you to child services…I can only imagine what kind of parent you are!
Would you abandon your children because you could not find housing in a good neighborhood; or would you keep looking until you found the right place? I know it can be difficult to find an apartment that accepts pets, but they are out there; you just have to look a little harder, and be willing to ask questions. Most places that do not explicitly say “NO PETS” are willing to negotiate a lease, some without a “pet deposit”. (Please do not argue that it is illegal to refuse to rent to someone with children; such discrimination is almost impossible to prove).
Congratulations, you have a “real” baby now! Will s/he still be a member of the family should other babies come along; or will he or she be joining me at the shelter? If you cannot handle the responsibility of a child and a pet, I would hate to see how you handle what life throws at you when your child learns to crawl, walk, talk, and run you ragged. When your child gets old enough to ask for a pet, do the animal kingdom a favor and tell your child “no”.
I know that sometimes the inevitable occurs – financial loss, divorce, etc. - and you simply cannot afford to keep your pet any longer or you are unable to give it the attention it deserves. If you cannot bear to bring them to the shelter, put forth the effort to find them a new home! Do not abandon them in your foreclosed home because “it’s the only home they ever knew”. Even worse, do not allow them to return to the wild – they cannot return to whence they did not come. If an animal was born into a domestic setting, freeing it into the wild is sentencing it to a slow death from starvation and injury. Some animals can adapt – The Call of the Wild has some truth to it – but that leads to the problem of invasive species; Florida and Hawaii have a terrible problem with pythons and after Hurricane Katrina packs of wild dogs roamed New Orleans.
Animals are quite adaptable and will take to a new home with new owners. I should know; I have been there.
Since starting this column, many people have read my bio and asked me about life before I came to live with Mommie and her people. It is not something I like to discuss because I still suffer residual anxieties from that time; I will not approach a street for fear of cars, I will not go into a car for fear of being left far from home, I will not let Mommie leave the house without a promise that she will return. People say I have the spirit of a dog; I tell them I express the behavior of a creature that has been abandoned and left to starve. Here is my story:
I don’t remember much about my early life – a kitten never does! I suppose I was playful and full of mischief; I know I had a special blanket to sleep upon because that was the first thing I demanded of Mommie after she adopted me, the red one on her bed, please. I was also trained not to sit directly on a table or a counter-top, but to sit on the newspaper on top of the table or counter-top instead – that was how I became such a literate cat! When I arrived at Mommie’s, I was so happy to see she had newspaper on the table! The shelter didn’t offer newspaper, and I never knew where to sit, so I just curled up in the back of the cage.
The first few months of my life were quite happy! I lived in a home with a nice human who treated me well. Then one day, when I was about nine months old, I was taken for a car ride. I did not like this and soon discovered why when the human driving the car put me out at the edge of something called a “biking and walking path” and left me there. I was so scared! I was just a little kitten, and had never before been outside in the big, wide world! Where were they going? Why were they leaving me there? Where was my human? I cried so many little kitty meows, but nobody heard me.
That first night, as it started to get dark, I got hungry. I meowed for food, but nobody brought me any. I looked for my bowl but nobody had brought it; same with my box, and I had to go! This terrible existence went on for three weeks; the weather was so cold and so was the ground – the white stuff on it stung my paws as I walked! I was ever so hungry, all the time…
By the fourth week, I was ready to curl up in a ball and die; so that is what I did. I wandered into the backyard of a nearby house, tucked my nose under my back paws, and waited for the hungry and cold feelings to stop. They didn’t; instead, a miracle occurred. The humans who lived in that particular yard saw me! Thinking I was already dead, they called the Animal Shelter and asked if “someone could come pick up a dead cat” in their yard (those are the exact words they used! I heard the shelter telling Mommie about it!). When the shelter got there, they found me. They called me, “a little ball of fur, shivering with fear, more dead than alive”. Too weak to fight, I let the Animal Control Officer pick me up and carry me into a truck figuring nothing could be worse than what I had already gone through; just make my end a painless one was all that I wished.
When I got to the shelter, they put me in the back room and had a doctor check me out. I was malnourished and needed my shots. I had avoided dehydration by eating the cold, wet stuff on the ground; the doctor said that is what saved my life. For three weeks I got to stay in the back room, where I was nursed and pampered and allowed to sleep and eat as much as I wanted! I gained three pounds during that time and tipped the scales at eight pounds when they moved me to the adoption area! I liked the back room, and wished I could have stayed there – the main area of the shelter was full of angry looking cats, most of who had been “surrendered” by their owners; I understood why those cats looked so angry, but at least their humans had been kind enough to bring them to the shelter.
I was on display in the Cat Adoption Area for a week when a woman in a red sweater walked in, looking for her feral cat. She had taken him in a few years ago, and feared he had “heard the call of the wild” and gone back to being feral. Well, duh! Just like you can’t free a domestic, you can only cage a wild animal for so long! Knowing she would be looking to adopt a new cat – and loving that red sweater she had on – I burst forth from the back of my cage, hooked my paw through the bars, grabbed her sweater in my claws and gave her the saddest, most pleading meow the feline world has ever heard (I also gave her my best Puss In Boots eyes). The shelter employees were accordingly shocked – I had not displayed such affection for any of them; they, however, were not wearing red. I have to admit I was quite shocked myself when she left without me! Knowing she would be back to look for her erstwhile feral, I made a plan to redouble my efforts at adoption, going so far as to stay awake and wait for her during nap time!
To make a long story short (too late, I know) I spent three weeks inducing a guilt trip on that woman in the red sweater…and have spent the last eight years calling her “Mommie” as I shower her with affection (and requests for treats) in return for giving me a loving home. In the words of the immortal Paul Harvey, now you know the rest of the story…and now that you know it, please think about adopting a shelter animal as your next pet! Seriously, don’t make me go all Sarah McLaughlin on you!
Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.