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4 Things I Never Thought I'd Do in the Line of Cat-Parent Duty

Radioactive waste disposal was one -- seriously. What are some things you never expected?

 |  Jan 30th 2014  |   14 Contributions


When we choose to share our homes with cats, we know that comes with certain facts of life -- such as litter box chores, caring for sick kitties, kitty-proofing, budgeting for food and care, and, of course, arranging your home around your cats’ needs. We also know there’s a 99 percent chance that we will outlive our cats, and that we need to love our feline friends with all our hearts despite this inevitability.

But even if you’re prepared for all of that, life with feline friends is bound to be full of surprises. There are some things nothing could have prepared me for -- here are four of those moments.

1. Finding a cat I didn’t know in a place I’d never been

You may not know this, but I’m a pet psychic. One evening many years ago, a woman called me: She was desperately worried because her cat had been missing for almost a week, and she asked if I could help her find him.

I took a moment to connect with this kitty and asked him to show me where he was. I got a whole bunch of mental pictures that didn’t make any sense to me, but I told the woman what I’d seen. At first they didn’t make much sense to her, either, but the next night she emailed me and said she’d found the cat, in the very place I’d described.

The missing cat and his family lived half a dozen states away from me, in a place I’d never even flown over, let alone visited.

2. Handing down a death sentence

When my cats and I moved to the family homestead back in 2005, we lived with lots of animals including a huge tuxedo tomcat whom my nieces had named “Kitty Jim.” Jim was sweet and gentle with people, but he was vicious with other cats. I’d been offering for years to pay to get Jim neutered, but my efforts were in vain because my brother didn’t want to do it.

Jim was the ultimate gentlekitty with people. But the scabs and scars all over his massively jowled face and the notches in his ear flaps betrayed his reputation among cats as a street fighter.

After Jim had gotten into some epic battles with my cats, I was able to talk my brother into getting him fixed. When I took Jim to my vet for a checkup in preparation for the surgery, I had a feeling something was wrong even though he looked healthy, so I asked the vet to run an FIV and FeLV test, too. When the vet told me that Jim’s FIV test had come back positive, my heart sank. People who took in FIV-positive cats were few and far between, and I knew no shelter would take him because at that time shelters never accepted FIV+ cats.

Later, I told my brother about Jim’s FIV status and explained that he’d have to be kept inside until at least three weeks after his neuter so his hormones would calm down and he would (hopefully) become less aggressive. I said that as an un-neutered, aggressive, FIV-positive tomcat, Jim was a public health hazard; and that he and his wife and kids had a very hard decision to make. My heart broke as I shared these words with my brother, because I knew I was essentially handing down a death sentence.

3. Rehoming a cat I had adopted

In 2006, my oldest niece and her family, including a cat named Miss Kitty, moved from Louisiana to the family homestead. Miss Kitty went into heat about a month after they arrived. I offered to have her spayed before she got pregnant, and my niece took me up on it. Things didn’t work out well for my niece’s family and they moved back home, but they couldn’t take Miss Kitty with them. I agreed to adopt her.

Miss Kitty was amazingly beautiful ... and she knew it!

After a month, Miss Kitty still hadn’t settled in. She was bullying my other cats and demanding all the attention I had to give. Sinéad, Siouxsie and Thomas were miserable, Miss Kitty was being nasty, and I was stressed.

I hated to do it, but I knew that the original residents had to come first and that Miss Kitty needed to be an only cat. I worked with my vet to find a good home for her, and the last time I checked, Miss Kitty was living happily ever after as the queen of her roost.

4. Disposing of radioactive waste

One side effect of Siouxsie’s recent I-131 therapy is that her urine and feces will retain some residual radioactivity for a couple of weeks. The radiation is no more than you’d receive from a cross-country flight, but apparently even that tiny dose is enough to set off the radiation detectors at the city landfill. Not having any desire to set off a terror alert -- or get myself and the clinic nailed with a huge fine -- I needed a plan.

Sure, I could flush the cat litter and that would be fine. But I know from nauseating experience that there is no such thing as flushable cat litter, no matter what the manufacturers say. My only other option is to collect the clumps for two weeks and store them in a plastic paint bucket. Then I have to dump all the leftover litter into the paint bucket and store it in a shed or utility closet for 80 days.

Yup, that’s gonna be uniquely awesome -- for values of awesome that include “this kinda sucks.” But on the bright side, Siouxsie’s doing great!

What about you? Are there any things you never imagined you’d be doing as a cat parent? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Read stories of rescue on Catster:

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

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