As pet lovers, we all vow to always do what is best for our pets.
Pet adoption is one of the most wonderful experiences. I'm a huge #adoptdontshop advocate, and take joy in giving shelter pets a loving home. According to the ASPCA there are an average 7.6 million animals that enter shelters each year; pets all waiting to find their forever family.
But what do you do when you've searched for the perfect addition to your family, and bring them home, only to find out that it isn't all you expected it to be?
That's what happened to me. Here is Fitz's rehoming story.
It was our Saturday ritual to go to the local shelter and "window shop." As a previous volunteer in the cat wing at that very shelter, it was always fun to go back and spend time with the animals, as well as catch up with the volunteers.
We'd leave every Saturday with the same question, "Okay, who would you have brought home today?"
One Saturday, we were greeted by the shelter manager, and she told us to make sure we checked out a cat in the first room. In we went and up on the top shelf was a beautiful Siamese, curled into a little cat loaf.
We cooed and we scratched at his shelf to get his attention. He opened his eyes and lazily glanced at us, clearly not moving from his perch.
We spent several minutes coaxing him off his shelf, down to a level where we could interact with him. He tolerated our chin scratches, but didn't seem interested in the toys we tried to play with. But man oh man, was he beautiful.
We made a decision on who we would be taking home that day.
Once we got our new cat, which we renamed Fitzgerald, we were a little apprehensive about the introduction to our rescue Chihuahua, Hambone. We thought about confining Fitzgerald to one room, to acclimate himself, but then realized the apartment wasn't that big. We instead just gave Fitz the run of the apartment.
From the moment Fitz sauntered out of the carrier, the two were friends. Hambone tried to get the cat to play and vice versa. While the cat checked out the apartment, Hambone was nearby, showing him the ropes.
Within hours I was on the couch with both of them curled up around my head. They were content and I was thrilled to have expanded my eclectic little family.
Fast forward a few weeks.
Our vocal, confident Fitzgerald had gone from outgoing and friendly, to almost silent and hunched over in pain. His normal disposition was very outgoing, and being constantly in your way. In a matter of days, he went from tripping us at every corner, to taking shelter under the bed. Something was very wrong.
When he wasn't hiding, he was very cautiously walking around, and all of a sudden his entire back would twitch and he would jump straight up in the air while furiously licking his back, as if something were biting him.
After a trip to the vet and hours of concerned research on my part, we discovered that he had tapeworms from being a stray, and a stress-induced condition called hyperesthesia. The condition is essentially a mild over-stimulation disorder triggered by stress.
Since coming home, Fitz had a few very distinct quirks- not uncommon with oriental breeds. Not only was he extremely talkative, but he was very confident in letting you know when he was done being touched. His go-to move was face biting, which he was easily, and thankfully, trained out of with a spray bottle.
But we were soon walking around our own home on eggshells.
Part of not wanting to be handled all the time was due to the hyperesthesia. With an over-stimulation disorder, it makes sense that constant handling wasn't his favorite. But once the tapeworm situation cleared up, we were still struggling with his behavior.
- We changed his feeding schedule, and started feeding him more. That helped.
- We tried a facial hormone diffuser. That helped even more.
- We tried Rescue Remedy drops in his food. Also helpful.
- We tried different kinds of food. Finding a higher quality food definitely helped.
- We tried calming treats. Those helped, too.
- We tried getting him more vertical space. That definitely helped.
We started studying him and taking cues from his behavior. We learned when he wanted what, and when he wanted us to leave him alone. We obliged, and he got better. But only slightly.
I wasn't sure that adoption was supposed to be this stressful and time consuming.
We tried everything. I contacted almost every local vet for resources. I maintained contact with the shelter manager. I reached out to online communities specializing in Siamese behaviors.
We tried time out in the bathroom, removing him from the situation while only rewarding his positive behavior. We tried puzzle toys, strict scheduling, hours of play time, even interactive play time.
Months later, we were left with a very active, very intelligent cat that was restless and unhappy. He paced at the door and yowled. Not his happy chattering sound. Or his happy-you're-home yowl. Not even the I'm-hungry yowl. It was just a very lonely, unhappy, relentless yowl.
While our apartment would be perfect for a less-active and smaller cat, it simply was not enough room for Fitz. He came in to the shelter originally as a stray, so he is used to being outside. But we live on a busy street, and can't afford to let him outside. While we've done our best to give him as much vertical space as our home will allow, it simply is not enough. We finally decided to take him back to the shelter.
We're not throwing in the towel. But we literally tried everything within our means to make this adoption a successful one. While we love him very much, and consider him a part of the family- it would be selfish of us to keep him knowing that he wasn't happy.
Fitz deserves the chance to be a success story.
We were able to give the shelter an abundance of information about Fitz, which will help him find a home that is better suited to his needs. We will be able to resume a somewhat quieter life, and hopefully someday find a feline that is the perfect fit for us.
As my friend, and shelter manager, said to me, "Sometimes it's the cat who feels they need something different from a household and it's not your fault at all."
As pet owners, we vow to do what is best for the pet, and sometimes, that means letting them go.
I will undoubtedly miss Fitz climbing into my purse every day, purring, when I get home from work. I will miss the extra weight on my legs as I fall asleep at night.
But I won't miss the feeling of knowing that he's not happy. Or him dunking his arms into my bubble bath to sink his claws into my toes. This is not a loss for anyone, but a new beginning.
Regardless of the cat-hair-covered void he will leave in our lives, it's important to put his needs first. He deserves the chance to be an adoption success story, and find his forever home.
All photos via Samantha Bubar