I’ve always had obsessive tendencies, although I only realized this a few years ago. It’s taken me a long time to see that not everyone gets preoccupied with certain thoughts, subjects, or wanting to learn everything they can about something.
When I was a teenager, the objects of my obsessions were punk rock music, skinny maladjusted boys, and the whole live fast-die young lifestyle. Now that I am almost 40 and live a totally square life, I still have the same obsessive tendencies. Fortunately, I have learned to channel them into a productive outlet: pets!
As a young adult I had no interest in pets. I was busy putting myself through college and taking care of my daughter. My obsessive energy was spent studying for my classes and learning how to parent.
I didn’t grow up having pets because we lived in an apartment and were not allowed to. Plus, my mom was a single mom taking care of two kids and wasn’t interested in the added responsibility. My outlook on pets changed about a year ago when I had a dream in which a cat appeared. I don’t remember the contents of the dream, but the image of the cat wouldn’t leave. It remained with me for days. I knew I must adopt a cat.
I started looking up information about cats online. The more I read, the more I wasn’t so sure I was ready for the additional responsibility. Hairballs, vet bills, and the prospect of shredded furniture dulled my vision. Yet, the vision wouldn’t leave.
I started looking up cats that were available in the local shelters. The more I looked, the more I thought that maybe we were in the right place to give one a home. Plus, there were tons of them! In Seattle alone, there are at least five major shelter organizations, plus numerous smaller rescue organizations.
And then, in the midst of my newfound obsession, I hit a sticking point: my husband. He had no interest in taking care of a cat or scooping cat poop. Since he is the at-home parent, he would be the one who would have to do most of the scooping. No matter what I said, he did not want any animals living in our house.
For weeks, we were unable to come to an agreement. I wanted a cat and felt it was my mission to have one. All three of our children were on my side. After considering the possibility of becoming a single mom again, I changed my tactic and ramped up my attempts to win my husband over.
Finally, one day we went to the local humane society and I knew the second we walked in that we would come home with a cat.
There were cats everywhere. Fortunately, many of them were able to occupy rooms and move around, but the sheer number of them was overwhelming. There were cats in cages, behind couches, hiding in litter boxes, perched atop shelves in kitty condo rooms.
It was Mother’s Day, a Sunday, and apparently every other mother in King County wanted to adopt a pet on the same day -- maybe it was because of the Mother’s Day half-off special.
While I knew I would leave with a cat, I had no idea that it would take over two hours for the whole process to conclude.
The good news was that my husband suddenly joined my side and we both agreed on a one-year old grey and white cat with blue eyes. The kids each wanted a different one, but my husband and I actually made this decision together, so we went with it. The kids were glad just to finally be getting a kitty.
After finally being interviewed by a shelter worker, we got to bring Miko home. His former owner had brought him to the shelter after having to move. We were thankful to bring him to our house to see what life with a cat would be like.
The minute we got home and opened the box, he raced under the couch, where he stayed for most of the evening. A couple of hours later, he had migrated to hiding behind a sheer curtain to observe us beneath what I am sure he thought was his invisibility cape.
Miko was not super friendly. In fact, he was super scared. He seemed to be fairly uncomfortable in his new surroundings. I am sure that the transition of being dropped off at a shelter, then adjusting to the shelter environment, and then being brought home to live with a noisy family was a bit jarring.
After a few weeks, we decided that maybe he needed a companion so we ended up adopting Jasmine, a calico who’d been found wandering the streets of Spokane and had run out of time at her previous shelter before being transferred to Seattle Humane.
Jasmine and Miko soon bonded and became best friends. Then we decided we wanted to have a kitten. A few months later we adopted Nurse, a white and grey baby kitten. We promptly changed her name to Luna.
A few months after we brought Luna home, we decided she needed a pal since Miko and Jasmine were bonded and often left Luna out of their snuggle time.
So we adopted a gorgeous flame point named Threepio, whose name we immediately changed to Oliver.
With four cats, I had to give up the prospect of adopting any more. It seemed that our three-story house was filled to capacity with feline friends. And yet… I couldn’t stop stalking shelter web sites.
During the time that I became a crazy cat lady, I had started redirecting my obsessive tendencies in life toward looking at shelter websites. When I was having a bad moment at work, I would look at pictures of cats and then I would feel better.
Plus, cats were still a relatively new topic for me. There were books on the subject I hadn’t read. I spent time mulling over the benefits of dried, wet, and raw food. I started watching Animal Planet and have devoted a fair portion of my Saturdays to repeated episodes of My Cat from Hell, Must Love Cats, Cats 101, and Too Cute.
I was mildly concerned about my feline obsession, but at the same time decided to give myself some credit for developing a positive outlet for my neurotic energy. I could think of much worse things to be doing than looking up cats on shelter websites or watching kitty TV shows on Saturdays.
After almost a year, my obsession hadn’t faded. I’d been considering volunteering at a shelter, but between the three kids and my full time job, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to spend more time away from my kids on the weekends. None of the shelters in my area seemed to let kids volunteer. Until I found one that did!
When I discovered that Regional Animal Services of King County allowed children aged 10 years and up to volunteer with a parent, I decided the time was right to start volunteering. My 15-year old daughter and I signed up for the orientation.
I really never intended to become a foster mom for animals because I feared becoming attached to them and then having to let them go. But this is what the shelter needed. So we agreed to do it.
I went to another training on fostering animals where we learned shelter procedures and such. I started to think that maybe this wouldn’t be so bad because then I could have lots of kittens, be a part of socializing them and helping them find good homes, but without the 20-year responsibility of adopting them.
What had started as apprehension turned to eager anticipation. I began checking my email daily in hopes that a mommy kitty would be in need of a home.
About two weeks went by before we got the email: Three mama cats needed foster care for about six weeks.
I emailed the Foster Coordinator and by the end of the day was driving home a mommy kitty with her four two-week old kittens!
The kittens are the cutest things in the world! Holding them and watching them play immerses me completely in the moment. I don’t have to think about budget cuts at work, or what I need to buy at the grocery store, or which bills are due. I focus on their cuteness and try to consciously savor the moment on being able to provide them with a safe, warm home.
It is a gift to be here now with them, with my kids, in my own home, in this moment, today. The hard part will be letting them go.