Smudgie The Cat

[W]e recently bought a cat. Millions of homeowners have cats — including our very own next door neighbors. Ours was a major decision however, because about a year ago we bought a dog. The problem with us getting a cat though, was not what you think… our dog wouldn’t hurt a fly. (In fact, in a hand-to-hand combat, the fly would have her on the mat in seconds.)

Now all you dog lovers out there are probably going to get mad, but lets get one thing straight — I never called her stupid. As a matter of fact, she is a beautiful Golden Retriever with big sad eyes. It’s just that insects and certain garden vegetables are smarter than she is. (But she can catch a Frisbee better than a tsetse fly or a carrot.)

What I’m getting at, is that the dog is not the problem with us getting a cat, it’s just that we made sort of a B-I-G mistake with our dog. It is probably in no way her fault, but she just, well… pees a lot. We’ve tried everything to get her not to pee until she is actually outside the house, to no avail. As soon as she sees a stranger coming toward her, she’ll bark. This is good. She also barks at air molecules smashing together. This is not good.

When she sees the kids or my wife coming towards her, she will wag her tail furiously; in fact, her whole butt wags back and forth. This is also good. Now I, on the other hand get the same reaction, but with one added bonus… her bladder empties at the sight of me. This is bad. Everybody tells me that it’s just that she is so excited to see me, but it’s hard for me to fathom this. I keep trying to think of being so excited every time I see my wife, that I pee in my pants. It’s difficult.

Anyway, we always wanted a cat, but we all know that cats are known for sleeping, eating, ignoring you and destroying your furniture. The way I figure, the dog has already staked her claim on ruining the carpets, and the kids take care of ruining their toys and important electrical devices. For example, our two and a half year old son got bored with playing with his three jillion toys and hitting his brother on the head with a shoe while he is winning Mega-Man on the Nintendo Entertainment System, so he figured he would see what would happen if he hurled the VCR and the cable box onto the floor simultaneously. (Only the cable box survived.) So, all we have left is the furniture. Eventually the kids will destroy this too, but it looks as though we may actually pay it off before it gets ruined — so we need a cat — or more specifically, a kitten.

Our plan was to take the kitten — it didn’t matter if it was a male or a female — to the vet and have him “fix” it. Also, we decided to have it declawed since it was going to be a house kitten. (This means it can only wreak havoc on the inside of the house as opposed to going outside and killing various innocent rodents and bringing them in the house while they are still twitching, or digging up our neighbors prized flower garden to do doody in, etc.) We planned on telling the vet to remove any other parts he figured the kitten wouldn’t need as well.

We wanted to make sure that it would use its few remaining parts to go to the bathroom in its litter box so we could praise at least one animal in the household for not peeing all over the carpets. Maybe in a fit of jealousy, the dog would miraculously — I know it’s a long shot — bark when she had to go to the bathroom and we would gleefully let her out to take a dump in the neighbors yard instead of directly in front of our doorstep like she does when she makes a mistake and goes outside for a change.

We wanted to get one of those “free” kittens that you see newspaper ads for — even in the sports section. We had a choice between getting one from somebody’s house, or from the local animal shelter. We called many people for a “free” kitten, but of course, every time we called, they had just incredulously given away the very last kitten as the phone was ringing, they’d often claim. I had a sneaking suspicion that there really aren’t any kittens. The ads are probably placed by a bunch of beer-drinking practical jokers who are running a contest to see who can get the most callers looking for “free” kittens.

Our other choice was to go to the local animal shelter and actually save a kitten from certain death. So being the kind of people we are, we just about flew to the supermarket to look in the latest edition of the newspaper just in case we’d missed something. We hadn’t. When we got to the local animal shelter, we noticed that there were oodles of cats, but no kittens. My wife absolutely had to have a kitten. We asked the professionally trained personnel at the animal shelter if they had, or expected any kittens and we were told — this really happened — “It was not kitten season,” as though they were some type of exotic fruit or something.

During the entire visit, my wife stood in front of the same cage, which contained a beautiful gray tabby with black and white stripes. He really was a beautiful cat. His name was “Smokey.” Technically, he was only nine months old, which still made him a kitten, but he was BIG. We wanted little, so we drove back (15 miles) to our town to check the supermarket message center. There were a few parakeets, snow tires (which make horrible pets) and an antique Flintstone-style push mower, but no “free” kittens. By now the “Kitten Fever” was with us — we had to have a kitten today. It was 3:30 PM. We had noticed that the animal shelter closed at 4:00 PM — so we did what we knew we were going to do all along. We went back to the animal shelter to get ”Smokey.”

So there we were standing in front of his cage checking him out. He was a house cat, good with kids, had no debilitating diseases and was not constantly meowing — which I hate. He was there because his family moved, and he wasn’t able to go with them. We decided we would take him. Now I was under the impression that if you were going to save a cat from being “put to sleep,” and they had all these extra cats all over the place, that while you were getting your “free” kitten inside, several animal shelter volunteers would be stashing more cats in your trunk, glove box and even the ash tray, but I was wrong.

There is a $15.00 “donation”– without which you cannot even get a kitten, plus a $30.00 spay/neuter fee which you get back after spending — guess how much?! — $30.00 to actually spay or neuter the cat. This “free” kitten would cost us $45.00. To add insult to injury, it actually cost us $33.00 to neuter the kitten so we could get our $30.00 back. I was about ready to tell them that they could keep their friggin’ highbrow cat, but now everybody had their hearts set on “Smokey,” who by this time was already renamed ”Smudgie.”

We walked out of the animal shelter after “adopting” our “free” $48.00 cat (not kitten). Personally, and I know it will offend some people, I feel it would be cheaper to put them to sleep. According to an animal shelter spokeswoman, they have to charge these fees for feeding and maintaining these animals (which, by the way, include goats and horses). Now here is an ironic note: directly in front of the animal shelter is a very busy highway where hundreds of animals are run over each month, but the ones that they can actually catch or have brought to them get to live for another week or two before they are “put to sleep.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we saved what is turning out to be a very ungrateful cat’s life, but I think it could have been done cheaper. You’d think that they would pay you to take the animals home to a loving environment after the rigorous screening process: Do you own your own home? What do you plan to feed your cat? (I was going to write “beer and pretzels” but decided against it at the last moment.) Are you allergic to cats? etc…

As it stands, we paid $48.00 for our “free” cat; a cat that once had testicles the size of mature eggplants; a cat who actually rocked back and forth when he sat down because he was so well endowed. The very same day that we brought Smudgie home, my wife came up with a wonderful idea. “Let’s get a kitten!” So we went to the pet store and did exactly what we didn’t want to do in the first place, and spent money (again!) for our new kitten — “Gizmo.” This one cost us $36.99 which was still $11.01 cheaper than a cat from the animal shelter. To add insult to injury again, we’ve now paid a combined total of $84.99 on two cats — not including food, toys and a scratching post that they laugh out loud at as they sharpen their claws on the $1500.00 dining room set and they still have their claws.You may be asking yourself why.

Somewhere down the line, the animal shelter decided that declawing is a disfigurement comparable to cutting a human’s finger off at the first knuckle joint, but cutting their testicles off against their will is completely natural. In fact, they make it seem beneficial — like the cat would rush right out and say “Please cut off my testicles, Mr. Veterinarian,” if he only knew about this marvelous procedure. They also say “He won’t wander as much,” even though the furthest he wanders is to the bathroom to drink out of the toilet. “He won’t spray obnoxious fumes in the house,” which I’ll have to agree is a plus. “He’ll be more mellow,” which defeats the purpose of getting a kitten in the first place.

After we spent all that money on our two kittens, and this is true, there were free cats in the newspaper under three different headings: Pets/Livestock, Free Items, and Hobbies/Crafts — although I suspect this last one may have been an error, unless you decorate cats as a hobby. The horrible irony of of this situation is that these kittens will probably be brought to the animal shelter.

Oh yeah — did I mention that me wife and I are both allergic to cats? Probably not.

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