Recently, someone sent me an Internet link to photos of cats wearing Lady Gaga wigs. I can’t think of a better way to give my cats a good reason to kill me. My family has four cats and they are all good-natured, but none would tolerate a Lady Gaga wig. There isn’t enough blood at the Red Cross to fill the Mississippi River-like channels the animals would gouge in my arms if I ever tried to slip one over their heads.
Two of my family’s four cats have been with us 12 months now. It was this time last year that we brought home Lula and Seven from the Addison County Humane Society, and so we are celebrating their anniversary. We christened Lula, but Seven was the name the shelter had given her. (“Seinfeld” aficionados know that Seven is the name that George Costanza wants to use if he and his fiancee, Susan, should ever have a baby. It is, he explains, Mickey Mantle’s number.)
Readers may recall that Lula owned our house almost from the day she arrived, but Seven was so skittish at first that I thought she might have been a hologram: She was a wisp with a permanently torn left ear who seemed to live behind the toilet and under the couch. I am happy to report that Seven is now a completely socialized member of the tribe who plays well with others and may become the goalie on my cats’ turd hockey team. She’s a gem who demands her time in my lap when I write and has a charismatic, Pavlovian squeal when I open a can of cat food.
I mention this because some cats and dogs simply take a little more time than others to transition from a shelter to a home — which brings me to Funny Face. Funny Face just had an anniversary, too. He is a gray-and-white cat more handsome than his moniker would suggest who has been living at the Addison County Humane Society for four years. He is the cat who has lived at the shelter the longest. My wife volunteers Tuesday afternoons there and he is one of her very favorite cats to play with. She says he is lively and affectionate.
His problem? Why has he been there so long? He can’t abide other cats (which makes him eerily compatible with a great many humans, who also have absolutely no interest in cats). He needs a feline-free home. My sense is that my wife would have brought him to live with us by now if it weren’t for the reality that cats already outnumber humans in our house.
According to my wife, he is not unhappy at the shelter; but neither is he anywhere near as content as he would be if he weren’t spending a significant portion of each day in a cage. He was adopted once before, but he scratched the owner and was returned to the Humane Society. “He has these little moments of panic or joy or excitement, and once in a while he’ll go a little crazy,” she says. After he was returned, he was depressed for more than a month.
Shelters across Vermont are filled with characters like Funny Face: lovable but flawed (dare I say human?) cats and dogs who for one reason or another are living out their lives in a cage. The solution isn’t euthanasia, in my opinion, because the shelters are also filled with lots of employees and volunteers who, like my wife, spend hours a week helping to keep the animals sane and connected.
Rather, the solution is this: If you are considering adopting a cat or a dog, don’t simply adopt the cutest kitten or the most enthusiastic puppy. Instead, choose the cat with that permanently wrecked left ear; the feline who has been there four years; the dog with the watery eyes.
The rewards are incalculable. Sometimes these animals take a little more work, but you just may find a perfect forward for your own turd hockey team — or, perhaps, that one feline willing to wear a Lady Gaga wig.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on November 15, 2009.)