Seth got his cat Charlie about 4 1/2 years ago. Charlie is half Siamese, half whatever (tabby, I guess). He's a beautiful cat, with beautiful markings, and Seth chose him because he was very cuddly and loving when he went to pick him out. (What Seth didn't realize then was that Charlie was ONLY interested in cuddling on his own, very unpredictable terms, but he's actually mellowed a bit over the last couple of years) Seth got Charlie through the Siamese Rescue Foundation from a woman named S. S obviously loves cats, for how else could she take care of finding them homes, caring for them, offering advice to pet owners, etc. My guess is that she's still got a day job, so her love of cats is on top of whatever other responsibilities she's got. And good for her. I applaud her dedication to these animals that clearly need caring, responsible, loving homes.
When you get a cat from a Rescue Foundation (any of a number, not Siamese-specific), you sign a contract. You promise that the cat will be exclusively an indoor-cat (outdoor cats have a dramatically lower life-expectancy). You promise never to declaw the cat if it hasn't been already. You promise to return the cat to the Rescue Foundation if you find yourself unable to care for the cat, rather than finding it another home or, worse, sending it to a shelter where it could be euthanised. These are all fair and reasonable rules.
Charlie has had a number of behavioral issues, at least from my perspective. He's cuddly, but he's got an extremely short fuse, and you never know when it's been lit. Unless you can read his signs really well, it's impossible to tell when he'll go from purring and loving and cuddly to slapping, spitting, biting and/or hissing. Seth and I can tell, but no one else really can. Since he has claws, he destroyed one of my sofas. Not one of my new sofas, thankfully. One of my old ones. He's never been smart enough to know to cover up his mess in the litter box. Pipsqueak used to walk past the litter box, make a disgusting face (at the smell), pause, go into the litter box and cover his mess, and then stalk away. Charlie despises the kitten and only barely tolerates Julian. He's never scratched Julian, but I promise you, the first time he does, Charlie is gone.
Now, all that said, he IS a very cuddly cat. He is desperate for attention these days. With a toddler and a kitten in the house, plus far less time for us to just sit down after Julian's gone to bed, Charlie doesn't get nearly enough scritches, nearly enough cuddles, or nearly enough cooing. In our old house, I used to plop down on the couch in front of the TV after work so that he could curl up on my chest for half an hour or so. I don't have that kind of time anymore, unfortunately for us both.
Recently, Charlie started pooping outside the litter box. A couple times in Julian's room, a couple times in the breakfast room, once in the dining room, several times in the tub (he used to poop in the tub if we left him alone for a couple days, but this is different). Yes, we thoroughly sanitized the tub before using it again. Or, rather, Seth did. Plus, he's been peeing in random places. I definitely, definitely, definitely do not appreciate random pee. Yes, there's a toddler and a new kitten in the house, but he didn't start any of these behaviors five months ago...they started several weeks ago. So rather than just saying we were fed up and calling S., we decided to take him to the vet and figure out if there was a physiological reason for all this stuff.
There are three:
First, as a Siamese, he's at risk for megacolon. I don't really know what that is, and I can tell you I really don't want to know. My imagination has taken me far enough. The doctor gave us lactulose to give him twice a day. That didn't work really well until Seth mixed it with tuna juice. No way he'll take it twice a day otherwise.
Second, he has calcium oxylate crystals in his urine, which could potentially lead to kidney stones. Now, I've had enough kidney stones to know I wouldn't wish them on a poor cat who can't understand why there's so much pain. So he needs prescription food. A four pound bag is $13. That's more than $3/pound. With three cats in the house, it's impossible to keep them from eating each other's food, so they all have to have the prescription food. Yes, we could simply feed them twice a day and put them in separate rooms to do so, but the bottom line is it's not realistic. We'd forget to feed them. Plus they get really obnoxious when they decide it's dinner time. Plus, they start circling the nanny and she gives them food to get them out of her hair (I don't blame her). So it's just easier that they be on the perpetual feeder. Since the kitten refuses to eat kitten food, he needs to eat more often anyway, so he's got to have the perpetual feeder. So three cats=all three on prescription food. At greater than $3/pound. Joy.
Third, it turns out he's hyperthyroid. Fabulous. So what does that mean? It means a pill twice a day. G-d willing he'll take that with the tuna juice and lactulose, because there's really no way we're going to be able to do that otherwise.
Now, I'm not saying Charlie isn't worth the extra work. The question, however, is whether we can reliably hold up our end of the deal right now and give him the care he deserves. And there's still the question of whether all these problems, properly treated, will stop him from pooping in random places (this becomes a health issue after a while with a toddler in the house). As it turns out, so far he hasn't pooped randomly around the house in a week, but he did pee in the dustpan, which I suppose is as good a place as any. He hasn't been on the new food long enough to really know if it's doing any good. The fact is that we've both been slammed at work, we've got a toddler, I'm volunteering in one two many places, Seth's been doing home improvement stuff, we've both been more ill than usual over the winter, and we're tired. Can we really keep up with a twice a day regimen of medication for a cat? I can't even remember to take my antibiotic twice a day.
Now, some would say if we're not willing to go the distance, we never should have owned cats in the first place. Again, I'm not saying it's a matter of willing. It's a question of "able" to go the distance. And hey, maybe it's true. Maybe we never should have owned cats. But I find it hard to believe that we're completely irresponsible, unworthy pet owners.
I felt like the responsible thing for Seth to do would be to write to S. and let her know that we are having these issues with Charlie, that we are going to try to get ourselves into a habit of medicating him twice a day and see how things go, but all the while giving her the heads up that if we can't make it work we may have to return Charlie to her. This is not an easy, flippant decision. And we aren't saying anything final. Just giving her a heads up. (the truth is, every time I think of him going back to her, I think of how unhappy he is when he's cooped up and I almost cry, so it's very unlikely that we're going to go that route, but it IS a possibility if we can't get these things under control) So Seth wrote her an email explaining some of the things that are going on.
She wrote back a long note giving some actually quite useful suggestions, not all realistic, but most doable at least to some extent, that we can try incorporating. But she ended with THIS paragraph:
Again, I trust you'll make it work, as he has been part of your family for a number of years now, and it would certainly be a disappointment to find that the newer obligations of a kitten and a foster child warranted his return, simply because he was getting older and required a bit more care. There are solutions if you look for them.
Let me tell you something, she implied that we're bad people if the "new obligations" of a child(!) meant we couldn't give Charlie the proper care. You know what? In my book, children ALWAYS trump cats. Period. And anyone who doesn't think a child's need trumps cats' needs should be a cat owner, not a parent. Our child, temporary or not, will always come first. And what's this bullshit about "simply because he was getting older and required a bit more care?" Hello? That's the whole point. If he requires more care and we're willing, but unable, to give him the care he needs, then would she rather we kept him just because of her freaking guilt trip and not properly care for him, or would she rather we accept that we can't meet his needs and return him to her?
No, I don't think cats are disposable, refundable, or exchangeable. Yes, I think you have to understand the lifelong (for the pet's lifetime) obligation of being a pet owner. But I also know that sometimes circumstances change in unforeseeable ways. Do I want to get rid of Charlie? No. Will I if I can't care for him? Yes, but I will do so in as responsible a way possible.
Does she think she's encouraging people to stick to the contract and return cats if she gives them a guilt trip when they do? And apparently, S. will have nothing to do with you if you ever return a cat to her. Fine with me. We're not going back to her anyway. This holier-than-thou bullshit attitude doesn't fly with me. She's just lucky I didn't write her back.