Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Celebrating Seniors!

Recently, all of the staff members at No More Homeless Pets in Utah were asked to share their thoughts on adopting senior cats and dogs in honor of Adopt a Senior Pet Month. Since she recently adopted Trina, a senior cat she absolutely loves, Volunteer Coordinator Kristiina decided to write a whole blog post to express her thoughts.

Where do I start? This is going to be a bit of a ramble because I could talk about my love of Trina for days. I really didn't know how good I had it with Trina until I fostered a teenage kitten. Trina is so much easier than a kitten or a young cat. She doesn't claw my furniture at all. The only thing she claws is her scratching pad. She doesn't really care for cat toys so the only treat I need to buy her is catnip. She always uses the litter box. She doesn't have any bad habits like stealing my food or chasing our dog.

She is perfect.

I don't want to make her sound boring just because she is calm. She still has lots of funny quirks. For instance, sometimes she meows but without any sound. You can see her mouth move but nothing happens. It's so cute. She absolutely has to be in the kitchen if anyone walks in there. She'll jump up from whatever she is engaged in and bolt into the kitchen. Then she'll just meow at the cupboard. It's totally bizarre. You can open the cupboard but she doesn't really care. She is also obsessed with her scratching pad. If she thinks you are going near it she runs to it. Because if you are going to pet her, she would really prefer you pet her while she is sitting there. It's like her throne and she feels very special when she sits on it.

But the best part about her has been watching her slowly open up over the last six months. Every week she gets more and more loving and comes out of her shell. After 3 months I thought I pretty much knew her personality, but I still learn something new every day. Last night, I figured out that she likes to get under the covers and she has recently started sleeping curled up around my head instead of next to me.

So far she has not really been a lap cat and prefers to be a next-to-my-lap cat-- but the longer we live together, the trips to my lap have become more frequent and it's really exciting to me to see the progression of trust in our relationship. I think sometimes people are more drawn toward buying a puppy or kitten instead of adopting an adult because they think the bond will be more natural . . . and maybe they are right. But for me, the bond built with an older, more reserved animal has been so much more rewarding. And what it really comes down to is that if you want to bond with an animal, young or old, you just need to spend time with him or her and the bond will form on its own.

Another reason I hear people give for not wanting to adopt a senior animal is that they want more time with the animal before he or she passes. They want to put that sad time off and feel that adopting a younger animal is a way to do that. I can sort of understand this. Losing a companion animal is one of the hardest things one can go through. But in the end, wouldn't you rather have an amazing being in your life for a few years than not at all? And just imagine what a great last few years you can help a senior cat or dog have if you're just willing to open your home to one of the older adoptable animals at a shelter or rescue group.

If people aren't willing to adopt seniors, they're going to end up in limbo at rescue groups or euthanized far before their time in a shelter. Maybe years down the road after she passes I will change my mind and say losing a loved one isn't worth it. But for now I am so happy to have her a part of my family that I'm quite sure I would be kicking myself if I hadn't adopted her.

Kristiina Stromness
Volunteer Coordinator

Monday, November 1, 2010

More musings on black cats . . .

Last week, our Fundraising and Events Director Danielle talked about black cats in her blog, and they've also been on my mind.

Last year I finally adopted my small black foster cat "Missy" (short for Mischief
Monster) from our adoptions program. She had been in our program for almost a year, and still had not found a permanent home of her own. As she is such a great cat, I was surprised that she had not been adopted out. Then one day I took her to an adoption event and noticed that she looked just like all the other pure black cats that were there. Though each had a distinct personality, none had markings that made them stand out. Even when she was at adoption events, Missy has an outgoing, playful and fun personality--but she seemed to blend into the scenery so much that passersby just didn't see her. Sometimes even now in my home she will become part of the shadows and I will not see her until she opens her sparklingly pretty large green eyes.

Back when I noticed all those black cats up for adoption, I wondered if superstition might also play a part in why they get over looked at adoption events. Surely not everyone believes they are bad luck!

In some countries like the United Kingdom or Japan black cats are considered to bring good luck. Others believe petting one will bring you good health and wealth. So not everyone looks at them like they are a bad omen.

But the other day a neighbor of mine stopped by our house. I invited her inside. She started to enter our home until Missy startled her at the top of the stairs. After seeing my friendly and inquisitive black cat, she quickly backed out the door and refused to come back inside -- even though it was raining heavily outside! She's usually quite cheerful and talkative, but this time she looked at me like I had offended her somehow.

I was really surprised at her reaction, especially since Missy has become such a great little family member and best friend to Penelope, our 6-month-old daughter. They seem to have a mutual fondness for each other. Missy can't leave Penny alone and insists on sitting right by her when ever she can. Penny giggles and grins any time Missy comes over. At one point, I even saw Penny trying to suck on her ear -- and she actually succeeded for a moment! But Missy was such a great sport. In fact, we were at a toy shop recently and found a small black stuffed animal for Penny to pack around with her. She loves her mini Missy and sucks on her ear as well.

But Missy isn't the exception to all those black cats out there; she is the rule. Since I was young, I have seen so many other black cats love and be loved tremendously by family and friends.

When I was a kid, a small and sick black kitten found its way into our window well one cold winter morning. She was barely alive, but we were determined to make sure she thrived -- despite her tiny size and severe breathing problems. My brother decided her name was Eekers, and it seemed to fit her perfectly. When we first found her, we weren't allowed another pet -- we had a full house of strays that crashed at our place. So my brother hid her in his room until she needed to be looked at by a vet. At first, the vet recommended putting her down because her lungs were small and deformed. But my brother insisted he would care for her and slept with a humidifier in his room. The moisture seemed to help. He took care of her every day and ran home after school to see her.

She needed regular vet treatment, which was an expense that my mom was concerned about, so my brother did odd jobs for neighbors like raking leaves and mowing lawns to help out with the cost. Eekers, but then a funny little string bean looking kitty with spindly legs, would follow him around or wait for him on the porch like a dog.

They were inseparable until one day she finally took her last breath in his arms. She only lived for 3 years, but her little life meant so much to my brother. She was his best friend for those years, and a beautiful black cat. Clearly, there's no reason to reject these cats simply because of their color.

Like Danielle mentioned, there really are some great black cats in our program waiting for a loving home, and you can see them all online. If you're looking for a new feline friend, don't overlook them!

Maranda Hawkes
Volunteer Coordinator