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08 November 2009

Hey, I have a pussy! To the surprise of all who know me, including me, I adopted a cat on October 30. I waited until I had pictures to post about it. The cat is three, male, and has white fur and blue eyes. I've named him Trilby. You can see pictures of him here and here.[More:]

I've never liked cats (it's my firm belief that, if the DSM applied to cats, they'd pretty much all qualify as sociopaths). It was a dog I wanted, but eventually I resigned myself to the fact that a dog isn't practical for me.

I wanted a pet for companionship. And I am just so fed up with the mouse situation at Swan's End. I've trapped about 40 mice in the past 2.5 years. So... a cat it was.

The Humane Society was an interesting experience. One woman looking to adopt told me the new cat would be her fifth. Another told me she was getting a new pet after an interval of mourning for her two previous pets, which she'd spent $5K and $6K respectively trying to save.

I went to the shelter on October 23 but was told I couldn't adopt due to not having photo i.d. with me that day. I went back again a week later, armed with i.d. and a newly purchased cat carrier.

The shelter doesn't let people even look at the animals until the potential adopter has filled out an adoption contract. Okay, so I filled out the form again.

The previous week I'd picked out four possible cats, but three were gone and the fourth was available to "experienced cat owners only". So it was back to the drawing board. There were lots of cats to choose from. I had a look at them all, and passed on, among others, the cats with feline leukemia and a 35-pounder named Tinkerbell.

I picked out two I wanted to consider: Pandora, a buff-coloured female with green eyes, and Hector, a white male with blue eyes. The staff names the cats, and occasionally the names are really inspired. I loved the name "Pandora", and another that gave me the giggles was "Azrael", which was the name of Gargomel's cat on The Smurfs.

So then I was interviewed as to my suitability for adopting a cat and those respective cats' suitability for me. That form they have you fill out is quite something. You have to agree that the Humane Society has the right to enter and inspect your home, though it would seem they don't routinely do that. You are not allowed to ever give the animal to anyone else. You have to agree to stay on the Humane Society email list. You must agree to spay or neuter the animal if it is not already fixed. You must promise that you will never declaw the cat.

And then there are trick questions on the form. One questions asks why you want to adopt a cat, and gives a list of possible reasons. I checked off "mouser" and "pet and companionship". Apparently the "mouser" answer is wrong. I was told if I had only checked off mouser, I would not have gotten a cat from the Humane Society. As it was I got a stern lecture on how I mustn't expect the cat to be a mouser.

In answer to the question about disciplining the cat, I had mentioned using a spray bottle of water. No, I mustn't do that. It would make the cat afraid of water and besides "some people think it is cruel".

The Humane Society doesn't allow the potential adopters to touch the cats. I asked the employee, who was allowed to touch the cats, to come visit the two possible animals with me and pet them so I could see how they responded.

So we visited Pandora and Hector. Pandora was very friendly and rubbed herself up against the THS employee's hand, purring. Hector was nervous and on his guard at first, but then he did let her pet him.

The employee recommended that I take Pandora. Well, Pandora had had a benign tumour removoved from her neck a few months back, and to my mind that put her at high risk for developing more tumours. I thought I'd take Hector instead and trust that he'd come around.

We filled out the paperwork. I made a "donation" (and got shamed because my "donation" wasn't as high as the "suggested donation") and I was handed my cat.

It was a long streetcar ride across the city. The cat was very quiet. I thought about names for him. I got him home and put him in his litterbox, which I located in the back part of the kitchen. He wouldn't move out of it at first.

That evening I updated his microchip infomation on line and registered for his six weeks of free medical insurance. I named him Trilby. And I petted him a lot. He was quite happy to be petted at least.

Since then... he's been gradually settling in. He didn't eat for the first 24 hours, but has been making up for lost time since. He spent a good part of his first Saturday hiding behind the dryer in the basement laundry room, and a good part of Sunday hiding behind the stove. And at first he wouldn't come upstairs with me. After giving him a few days to adjust I carried him up, but it was several days after that before he would come up to my room on his own, and then more time before he'd come up to my attic workroom.

I'd bought him a mouse toy as a subtle hint at what I hoped he'd do for entertainment, and it was a week before he would play with it. He still won't use the cat bed I bought him. He still seems to prefer the kitchen to any other room in the house, but he is following me around more and more.

I'd really like to hear him meow. He only purrs and cries, so far. And I hope in time to not have to wrestle him away from my food every time I eat a meal. And his love bites could be more lovey, less bitey. There I am petting him, or he's licking my fingers, and purring, and suddenly, CHOMP. He doesn't ever break the skin, but it does hurt quite a bit.

But otherwise, as cats go, he's not bad.
Wow, we got our kitties through the local Humane Society two years ago and didn't have half those restrictions. I don't remember the quiz part and we mostly only had to agree not to de-claw them and to keep them indoors. They let us play with the cats before we decided on the ones we wanted.

You've got a handsome cat there though, I've never had a white one.
posted by octothorpe 08 November | 22:18
Congrats! He's very cute. And congrats on surviving the "application process". Honestly, you'd think some of those organizations don't want people to adopt the animals.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 08 November | 22:19
He's gorgeous. Yay you. Yay him.

I've never used a spray bottle for cat discipline (and I'm a fairly experienced with the little buggers), having generally found that clapping one's hands works well enough. Two things cats generally dislike are water and loud noises... and I've always got my hands, erm, handy.

So, anyway, splash out and make his day.
posted by pompomtom 08 November | 22:23
Is the kitty deaf? (Common in white cats w/blue eyes)

Congratulations on the new kitty! He'll be bringing you dead mice before you know it.
posted by fluffy battle kitten 08 November | 22:34
He's darling, I'm sure he'll continue to settle in. Hopefully he'll do something about the mice but alas not all cats are cut out to be mousers.

Did the Humane Society check his hearing?
posted by jamaro 08 November | 22:38
Yeah, the aplication process was insane. I basically just had to try to tell them whatever they wanted to hear. One section of it I got to skip, fortunately, was the adopter's history of pets. How long did you have the pet and what did it die of what kind of veterinary care did it get to resolve those problems and all that. I had to wonder how much they'd expect you to have spent in vet bills to keep an animal alive. A friend of mine had a dog who was 15. He was having problems climbing stairs, and gasped for breath whenever he got excited. So when he become incontinent, she just put him down. This seemed reasonable to me, but I didn't know if that would pass muster at the THS.

The THS also wanted me to promise to keep him indoors. I was planning on doing that anyway.

Someone at work told me white cats with blue eyes are quite likely to be deaf, and I've been wondering if maybe Trilby is deaf. He doesn't react at ALL to my clapping my hands or saying, "NO!".
posted by Orange Swan 08 November | 22:39
Wow, I used to work at an animal shelter and visitors were encouraged to pet the cats, as it was good for them and made them happy. I don't see the logic in not letting you touch at least the ones you are considering adopting.

He may meow eventually. When I first adopted Smooshie (who is snoring next to me this very moment), when he meowed it came out all hoarse and scratchy. I thought that was his voice, until he got a bit more comfortable and starting meowing more. It is really quite high pitched and clear, it's just that he hadn't been talking much so it was scratchy at first.

As for the mouse issue: My landlord told me that he never gets complaints about mice from tenants with cats. I responded that I can't imagine that Smooshie would do anything more than look at a mouse if it came around; he just doesn't have an aggressive bone in his body. The landlord replied that the mere presence of a cat in the apartment keeps the mice away. No idea if that's true, but I haven't seen a mouse here yet!
posted by amro 08 November | 22:42
The landlord replied that the mere presence of a cat in the apartment keeps the mice away.

Yes, the odor of a cat is a stay-away signal for mice.
posted by jason's_planet 08 November | 22:44
The dander the cat leaves lying about is supposed to be a big deterrent for mice.
posted by Orange Swan 08 November | 22:45
Try dropping your keys behind the cat. Or turn on the vacuum. If he doesn't react then he is likely deaf - though it's really weird the humane society didn't mention it. How is his balance?

One of my most favorite cats ever was a huge 20 lb deaf kitty I had in my teens. He would snooze on the vacuum cleaner when I used it (canister type). He was good stuff!
posted by fluffy battle kitten 08 November | 22:50
He is a fine looking fellow. We've been visiting cats at our local independent shelter. They let you in to play with the kitties. We go sometimes just because we like petting them and playing with them and the cats like the attention. It's very hard not to leave with several each time but we're not quite ready yet.

Trilby looks quite intelligent and discriminating to me. He looks like he has a very sensitive nose. I predict he'll be a great friend and a staunch protector.
posted by Kangaroo 08 November | 22:58
Trilby didn't react at all to the vacuum cleaner or to any music I've played. I'll try the key trick.

His balance is just fine. His eyesight seems to be good, and he sniffs the air and heads straight for any food I've got out.

Goodness, the THS won't let anyone visit the animals. You have to be ready to adopt before you can view the animals. And there are notices on each cage that it's forbidden to touch the animals or the cages and that if you break the rules you'll have to leave.
posted by Orange Swan 08 November | 23:11
He's a good looking guy.
posted by gaspode 08 November | 23:39
Funny coincidence! LT and I adopted a cat today. It's a little less than a year since we lost my first cat, Sadie. I still really miss her, but at a level that I always really miss the uniqueness that was her. Today we went and met a great cat who, in the shelter, went by the name of Big Boy. That won't do, so LT started calling him "Johnny Cash" just off the bat. We brought him home and he's been wandering around, finding all sorts of nooks and crannies, and in many ways exhibiting his own individual approach to the house, doing things Sadie wouldn't have done, like thread his way behind the couch, and leap up into my cabinet to sleep in a big pile of my sweaters, and 'counter surf' to eat leftovers. So it's already fun having a new presence and we already love him.

Having animals to care for is so great in so, so many ways, and I'm glad you jumped in, OS!
posted by Miko 08 November | 23:56
Ah, cute kitty. Good for you for giving him a home!

The Toronto Humane Society has become even more strict in their policies in the last few years! Before, a visit with a future pet was normal so that the owner and the pet could see if they go along! I have a friend who used to be a vet tech there. He said that there were alot of internal power struggles, which is why he left. The internal strife also became public when the Globe and Mail did its expose in the summer regarding the THS. Anyway, as an independent organization, it sets its own criteria including adoption rules.
posted by typewriter 09 November | 00:07
Oh yay! Miko has a new kitty as well!
posted by typewriter 09 November | 00:09
Trilby looks like a great guy. Wow the THS sounds like a real pill.
posted by arse_hat 09 November | 00:13
Trilby's a handsome fellow, serious and dignified. He looks like you'd meet him out one night with his mates, decked in retro houndstooth, but he'd be more concerned about getting back to his flat to check on his research project, getting a decent night's sleep, and starting tomorrow with a nice fry-up and some strong tea.
posted by Miko 09 November | 00:18
Sorry, should also warn you the newspaper article I linked to has some slightly graphic photos of pets in the shelter.
posted by typewriter 09 November | 00:19
Someone at work told me white cats with blue eyes are quite likely to be deaf, and I've been wondering if maybe Trilby is deaf. He doesn't react at ALL to my clapping my hands or saying, "NO!".

Interesting. He might indeed be deaf. A good friend of mine adopted two feral kittens, both white with blue eyes, and both stone deaf. His vet told him that 1/4 of white blue-eyed cats are deaf.

He had both cats for 8 years. The female died this past fall of a sudden illness. The male is still thriving. Their deafness had a near zero impact on their ability to be catlike and enjoy life. They were both great hunters, especially the female. They were both affectionate and warm and friendly. For my friend, it was kind of an advantage that they couldn't hear, since he's fast-moving and somewhat klutzy and would have startled a hearing cat. Also, one of the two siblings was longhaired, and he is actually able to just plain vacuum the longhaired cat. Most cats would run out of the room at the sound of the vacuum, but this cat finds it sort of massage-like, since he can't be scared by the sound. They were both very very alert visually, and to percussive things like footfalls and stuff dropped on the floor. So even if he's deaf, he'll probably still be very very with it.

Those two deaf cats are definitely among the most awesome cats I've known. So if he turns out to be deaf, don't fret - it's not really a huge detriment for an indoor cat. It certainly won't affect hunting. The female of the pair I knew was the most clever, fast, aggressive hunter cat I ever saw, despite deafness. As a kitten she was even a little scary, attacking anything that moved (including Christmas ornaments, toes in socks, and dangling fingers). I think whether a cat is a good hunter is more down to individual inclination.
posted by Miko 09 November | 00:27
Oh, Orange Swan, welcome to the White Fur Club! We have no need of a secret handshake; we acknowledge each other by politely picking white hairs off the other person's garments. All our meetings are about couches. Light couch that won't show the hair, but will show dirty paw prints? Dark couch but brush and vacuum hourly? Patterned? What if you don't like chintz? We have a special S&M branch (except it's all "M") known as We What Wear Black Sweaters but Wuv Whitey (WWWBSWW).

Pix, Miko?
posted by taz 09 November | 00:30
Another handsome boy! I love white cats, but they kinda freak out the mister. He says he's the only white cats he's met have been mean. I say it's how their owners treated them that made them that way.

My younger brother had a white cat when we were kids. His name was Igor. I think he got the name from Young Frankenstein.

And with your comments about his non-reaction to your yelling and the vacuum, I'd say it's a pretty strong bet he's deaf. That shouldn't be a problem as long as he's an indoor kitty.
posted by deborah 09 November | 00:32
Wow, I just read in various Google results that it's actually 65 to 85 percent of white blue-eyed cats who are deaf.

I liked this quote:

"A cat deals with its deafness very well and compensates for the lack of hearing with its other senses. So well, in fact, that it is almost impossible to distinguish a deaf cat from cats with normal hearing."

Pix, Miko?

He has been with us about 8 hours, and doesn't stay still very long. But I did catch him checking out the nap potential on our down comforter.
posted by Miko 09 November | 00:37
Whitey Ford was a feral and as such never vocalized except to purr or hiss. But about 2 years back he learned, by watching our other cat, that vocalizing can bring attention. Like, "Hey! I want some food!" or "My ear ain't gonna scratch it's self!" or even "Yes you are on the phone but you are sitting down and still have a hand free so scratch my tummy!"

Now he talks all the time.
posted by arse_hat 09 November | 00:47
*picks white hair from Miko's shoulder* Why, hellloooo, there!
posted by taz 09 November | 01:04
I know. A friend told me this morning "Just don't get a white cat." And I wear a loooot of black.

Oh well. Love is unaccountable...
posted by Miko 09 November | 01:18
If Trilby can't hear, this is probably why he doesn't "meow" ... but this is actually good in comparison with many cats who go deaf and who, since they can't hear themselves anymore, just meow really, reaaaallly loudly. He will probably develop cute and interesting physical ways to get your attention, more like tapping you on the shoulder rather than yelling into your ear.

Plus, it will save you some skin when he sitting in your lap and there's a sudden loud noise.

For "calling" him, you might want to try something that he can feel a vibration from... not sure what - maybe like a couple of sharp knocks on the floor with a broomstick (if you don't have someone downstairs) when you put down food for him. Eventually maybe that (unique) noise that he can feel will be associated as a "call."

btw, a funny thing I read about a "mouser":

A cat I know is a very fine mouser. He catches mice in the yard, brings them into the house through his cat door and there lets them go, because he is too kind (or perhaps too well fed) to kill them. No house could be better stocked with live mice.
posted by taz 09 November | 02:16
... and since we're talking pets, here's a cute recent pic of Sky on Areopagus:

≡ Click to see image ≡
posted by taz 09 November | 03:49
Okay, deaf cat, hadn't thought of that..... *slinks off*
posted by pompomtom 09 November | 06:37
My cats, who would catch mice when they were younger, today usually don't bother. However, I can add my own experience as evidence that the mere presence of cats keeps mice away. What's more, I can even declare it true and, since I am a landlord, my statements on this topic are authoritative.
posted by Obscure Reference 09 November | 07:01
Congrats, OS and Miko for the kitties! Yay!
posted by Stewriffic 09 November | 08:24
I love white cats too. My last cat standing is Oreo The Snow Leopard. He wasn't deaf before (brown eyes), but now that he's 17, he is, and so the vacuum cleaner that used to scare him, he now loves -- I suspect what he can hear of it sounds like purring -- so he's always underfoot when I'm trying to vacuum up all the hair he leaves around, silly thing.
posted by JanetLand 09 November | 08:31
Hurrah for new kitties! We got ours from the local RSPCA shelter, and the checks were quite strict, including a home visit after a couple of months to make sure everything was OK. We were allowed to pet him in the shelter though (not that it helped - he seemed friendly, if shy, in the shelter, and as soon as we got him home he ran under the stove and stayed there for six weeks).

Luckily, by the time the home visit occurred, he had decided humans were OK and had come out of his hiding-place. When the home visitor came he was asleep (and snoring) on a cushion that was perched on a beanbag, upside-down with his paws in the air.

Ours has turned out to be an excellent mouser, but even if your cat doesn't catch mice, the presence/smell of a cat tends to deter mice.
posted by altolinguistic 09 November | 08:33
I'm not worried about Trilby's possible deafness. As an indoor cat he'll manage just fine with his other senses, and even be spared a lot of frights. But I think I'll definitely have to use the spray bottle for disciplining now. NYAH NYAH, THS.

Trilby's a handsome fellow, serious and dignified. He looks like you'd meet him out one night with his mates, decked in retro houndstooth, but he'd be more concerned about getting back to his flat to check on his research project, getting a decent night's sleep, and starting tomorrow with a nice fry-up and some strong tea.

Heh! That's something like what I thought about him. He has a certain refinement and to-the-manor-born air about him. So I picked out a name that seemed to suit that. Tristan and Quincy were a few of the other named on the list of those I considered. As a friend of mine once pointed out, all the male names I like tend to be English surnames.;-)

I hadn't originally planned on a white cat. My favourite colouring in a cat is probably tabby. Three of the cats I picked out October 23 were tabbies, with lush, beautifully tinted coats in brown and rust and gold. But they were all gone and there wasn't another tabby that really appealed and that wasn't 12 or had health problems. And Trilby's sky blue eyes were the most striking cat feature in the shelter.

Fortunately I wear very little black — only track pants.
posted by Orange Swan 09 November | 09:22
For most of my adult life, there have been cats in my house. We are down to two, (and a dog) but the max number of animals was once 4 cats, a dog, a bunny, and a goldfish.

We are allowing the 3 remaining pets to have good lives and attrition out. It's a lot easier to travel without having to arrange animal care.
posted by danf 09 November | 11:21
Trilby's quite the dandy. Above posters are correct - vacuuming your deaf cat is pretty great. Miko - Johnny Cash looks like my boy a bit - the van patterned-coat, maybe a little mutty Turkish van. He's got a little hat and his tail is the same color, and a little spot on his side. Gorgeous cat.
posted by Medieval Maven 09 November | 12:06
He does look a bit like that! I didn't know what a "van pattern" was until yesterday when we got JC home and Googled to figure out how to describe him. He does have a big saddle-spot on his back that's tabby, so I gather he's not a classic Van.

Great pic of Sky, taz!
posted by Miko 09 November | 12:44
Yay, new (deaf) kitty! And Yay, new kitty for Miko and LT!
posted by essexjan 09 November | 12:56
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