Monday, August 4, 2008

Finding a Kitten

Ted and I have been looking to get a new kitten. We have one tabby cat at home, Rose, who is eleven, and last year we had to put down our much-loved calico cat Katie, who was twelve. So after a bit of a respite, we feel it is a good time to get a new kitten, but it hasn’t been easy. When we went up to Herkimer we continued our search.

If you have ever lost a pet you will understand that the experience we went through with Katie was heart-breaking and especially in our instance because it was completely unnecessary. Katie was a beautiful cat, a beautiful thing. She was white and grey and cream, a wonderful combination of nuetral tones. As an extrovert, she liked to come out and visit when we had company. She also had lovely, gentle manners, unlike Rose who is cute but would just as soon give you a swat with her paw.

Katie had been biting the fur off her stomach so we took her to a new vet at the Washington Square Animal Hospital on East 9th Street. She said Katie had a thyroid problem and prescribed a drug called Tapazol which I religiously forced down the cat’s throat. Tapazol made Katie’s blood anemic and the doctor did not catch it. Even when the cat's blood tested anemic, the doctor was not aware. And then, suddenly, it was too late. We spent thousands of dollars trying to save the cat but we could not; irreparable damage to her had been done. If we had never gone to that new vet in the first place I’m sure Katie would be alive today, with a hairless tummy. After Katie died, the doctor sent us a condolence note saying it had been a “learning experience” for her. At her age, the doctor should not be learning about the lethal side effects of the drugs she prescribes. And especially not learning on our cat. I have never seen Ted that upset and I hope to never again.

We are definitely looking for a new vet; we do not recommend the Washington Square Animal Hospital.

On to the kitten. The spring and summer is when kittens are born mostly so we started to look in the spring. With all the homeless animals in New York City, no one would give us a kitten! Katie and Rose were both from farms in upstate New York. You drive your car into the driveway of the farm and you say to the farmer who lives there, “We would love this kitten,” and he says, “Fine, good luck to you,” and you drive off. In New York City, not so fast.

On Saturdays an animal shelter comes to the Petco on Union Square to give away homeless animals. Metal cages are piled up with lonely creatures inside. One Saturday I spot a cute kitten I like and approach the woman working for the shelter. “Do you have a cat at home?” she says. “Yes.” “How old is the cat?” “Eleven.” “Oh then,” she says, “I don’t think we will give you a kitten because the age difference is too great. I’ll ask my associate here what he thinks.”

This is like something out of Charles Dickens. She is heavy and has wild frizzy red hair and crooked teeth. He is short and slight and has greasy, straight hair. “Should we give him a kitten? He has a cat at home. What do you think?” she says. He eyes me narrowly, up and down. LONG pause. “No,” he says, “No, I don’t think we will give him a kitten.”

I look up pets on CraigsList. There is an ad for free kittens at an animal rescue place called Social Tees on East 4th Street. I call the number and talk to a guy named Robert. “You have to come over and see all the kittens, you won’t believe it,” he says. I get on my bike and go. It’s a storefront in the East Village. You step down into this warren of cages. Robert asks me to fill out an application. One of the questions is do you mind paying an adoption fee? No.

Then he tells me the adoption fee for a kitten is $75. Not exactly free as advertised, but ok. “So,” he says. “Do you have a cat at home?” Since this seems to be an issue I decide to fib and say no. “Ok then,” he says, “You have to take two kittens. We don’t separate them.”

So it’s not free, it’s $150.

He says, “If we separate kittens they have psychological problems and then people abandon them.”

A little grey kitten in a cage piled next to me reaches out and taps me on the shoulder as if to say,”Hey, take me home.”

But I don't want two cats. “Wait a minute,” I say. “We have adopted two single kittens and neither of them have problems. In fact of all of our friends who adopt a single kitten I can’t think of one single one that has had problems.” “No,” he says, “People abandon their single cats. Take two kittens, their small.”

On our car trip upstate we think maybe we’ll pass by a farm with kittens… I email Chris and Leon Frost at the Bellinger Rose Bed and Breakfast in Herkimer to keep an eye out for kittens. We throw our cat carrier into the back of the car. When we get up to Herkimer, Leon and Chris suggest we stop by the Herkimer Humane Society which is just on the other side of the Erie Canal. There are three rooms filled with homeless kittens and cats; I’ve never seen so many animals. We’re there quite awhile looking at all the kittens. One little white kitten with black spots catches our eye. We hold her a bit and get acquainted. She hangs off my tee shirt. "Shall we, Ted?" "Yes, let’s do it."

We go back out to the desk with the kitten and get an application to fill out. It says there is a 24 hour application period. But we’re leaving Herkimer the next day early and we won’t be back. Can you speed up the application? “Where do you live?” says the manager. New York City. “Oh that is so far away, it will take 24 hours," as if we live on Mars. "Plus," she says, "that kitten is too small. That kitten can’t go.” All of those kittens and we leave empty handed.

Back at the Bellinger Rose we tell Leon and Chris our sad story. The next morning I wake up dreaming about that little white kitten with the black spots. Then Leon and Chris hatch a plan. They will adopt the kitten and we will pick it up from them somewhere. Later in the day when we are at the family reunion on Oneida Lake, Leon calls to say they went down to the Humane Society to fill out the paper work, and the kitten needs a few shots and can leave in two weeks. Aren’t we lucky? We hope it works out; keep your fingers crossed.

We think we will name her Bell after the Bellinger Rose.

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