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Monday, November 26, 2012

Cat Interviewing, Part IV

A week has passed without any cats crossing my path.  Then, I get a call from another knowledgeable friend/consultant that we might try one of the B.C. animal shelters.  She gives us a link to its website.  It has pictures of cats, she adds.  I look at the site; I look at the pictures.  Well, there they are, each with a name more disrespectful than the next, in my view.  They are called "Pounce" and "Scratchy" and "Inkblot" and "Boots." These are names largely like tribal names (which might actually be appropriate if the tribe had bestowed them, but it is instead the humans who are bestowing them as if the cat could be reduced to its appearance or a single behavior).  Alternatively, these are the kind of names given to the seven dwarves, and not as a gesture of respect.

Since I am a human taking this fur animal into my culture, I tend to look at them, look deep into their eyes, and over time I am able to discern their essential name, and their essential name will have to be, largely in human form because that is the language I speak.  Thus, the cat will be understood, e.g., to be named Howard, which in Cat is pronounced Hoosfoos, say.  You could also just name and call the cat Hoosfoos if you wanted to advertise your bilingual skill, but most of us are unsure of how to know OR pronounce cats' real names in Cat.  So, if we are careful, we will just name the cat Howard.

I look at the site, Ed looks at the site.  He finds favorites; I am suspicious as to (a) what I can discern from a photo and (b) how much of the puff piece written to accompany the picture is true.  I am willing to wait until an interview is conducted and I can have some first-hand knowledge.

We drive to the shelter, borders and miles away.  A perky young person sends us to the cat rooms to do the interviewing.  Ed inquires about one of his pictorial favorites, but that cat has been sent out to a petstore for better showing, I guess.  Some cat rooms have loose cats, some have cats in tiered metal cages.  It feels a little more like visiting a prison (my only experience with that would be from the movies) than I expected.  We visit the cages and Ed takes a cat out of the cage even though a sign says "Do not put your hands in the cages."  He holds him, pets him.  The cat is cheerful enough but does not purr, Ed reports.  I look at and read about the other cats.  I do not put my hands in the cages.

Mostly, I don't know quite what to do with the cat information.  That it appeared without identification: should I be concerned about this?  Would it be a more reliable/friendly/ healthy cat if it had a microchip or a tattoo or a wallet with ID? (Some seem to have these ID's, but if that is so, why is the cat in the shelter?  Well, there are a million stories in the naked city, so why not in an cat shelter?)  None of the signs say things like, "This cat will bite you as soon as look at you."  One cat is identified as feral, so I strike it off my mental list.

We visit the loose cats (2 of them) in a room with many cat toys.  Ed plays with them, using a fishing rod with feathers attached.  They carry on with the feathers as if they were birds.  I have played with toy-like stuff with kittens (stuff hanging from strings, paper bags), but I never did with grown up cats.  I would have thought adults cats were beyond that sort of thing.  That they could spot the difference between a bunch of feathers on a string and a bird.

But this is now.  My guess is that cats nowadays, like children, have much higher expectations about their needs and their equipment.  That they tend not to go outside to catch real birds and thus do not, indeed, know the difference.  I begin to make a mental list of what we will need for a cat: special beds, toys, blankets, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, clothing, etc.  Something beyond food and water dishes and a litter box.  I make a mental note to ask one of my consultants about cat needs in the 21st Century.

The interview ends after we have both sat with, held, petted, and talked to the cats.  We settle on the older of the loose cats; he is big and grey.  I am a little hesitant because he seems to prefer me to Ed, which is clearly a sign of bad judgment on the cat's part.  I appreciate cats, but I will largely express that appreciation by providing necessary food and care and by talking to them.  Ed will hold them, pet them, roll around with them if they like that sort of thing.  He is enormously more fun than I am.  This cat does not seem instantly to notice this difference between us.  But this cat is perhaps somewhat institutionalized and will be clearer when back in the real world.  At least that is what I think.

We go to the perky girl at the entrance and announce we will be happy to adopt this cat.  She gives us a somewhat disappointed look.  "Oh, I'm sorry, but that cat just came back from vet's and she has a bladder problem and will need special food and treatment and if she recovers well then she could be adopted.  But if she doesn't recover from that, she will need a $2,000 surgery and it doesn't seem fair to stick you with that."  No, it doesn't.  She's definitely right about that.

"Call back in a week or two and we'll know more," she advises us.  We leave and make the half hour drive including border crossings back to Point Roberts to our cat-less home.  Which is OK, at least for now.

(The end of Interviewing Cats, Part IV)

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