In May 2012 my fiance, Caitlen, and I decided to move into a more spacious apartment with our two companion animals. We realized that our 3-year-old maine coon, Ariel, seemed lonely. We started to consider the fact that adopting another pet might help keep her out of trouble and also keep her company when we were away at work or unable to be at home. Ariel had gotten along famously with my old roommate’s male cat, and they were the best of friends. Ever since my fiance and I decided to get our own place, Ariel would play every now and then with our papillion, Gizmo, but she still seemed lonely, so we decided that perhaps adopting a new feline friend would be the route to take.
A few days later, as Caitlen’s birthday approached, we were shopping at Petco during one of their adoption days. I was routinely reading the labels on canned wet food when Caitlen suddenly appeared at the end of the aisle out of breath and excited. “You have to come see this cat. Please?” she pleaded. Somewhat annoyed at being interrupted in this daunting task of finding the healthiest food for Ariel, I placed the can in my basket and followed her into the back room where they keep the cats that they were trying to adopt.
As soon as I saw his beautiful green eyes staring back at me through the wired cage, I knew that he was the one. “Brian” the tag on his cage read. “Two-year-old neutered cat found as a stray. Previously had a very bad case of fleas.” He was a black and white tabby missing some of his whiskers and in need of some serious feeding. He was scrawny, to say the least. We asked one of the employees if we could see him. As soon as the man opened his cage, Brian jumped down and immediately climbed up onto my shoulder and nuzzled me with his head, purring quietly. My heart melted and, again, that feeling of completeness took over me. “We’d like to fill out an adoption application, please.”
A few days later, we were starting to get nervous since we hadn’t heard back from Petco or Planned Pethood yet. When we had filled out the application to adopt Brian, we were told that several other families were also interested, and we could tell from the way they were fawning over him that they were just as eager to make him an addition to their families as we were. We were relieved when we finally received the phone call telling us that our application had been accepted. We were asked to come to Petco right away and fill out additional paperwork, following an interview to ensure that we would meet the requirements for providing for Brian’s needs.
About an hour later we were driving home with him in his crate, as he meowed excessively. It became obvious rather quickly that this cat had apparently learned to hate car rides. Our guess was that he probably had been driven somewhere and abandoned before Planned Pethood found him as a stray. We just couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want this beautiful cat in their home? He was so cuddly and sweet at first glance.
Upon bringing him home, it took months for Ariel to warm up to him, which was something that took us by surprise. Sure, Ariel was the type of cat who doesn’t trust other people or animals easily and takes awhile to warm up, but the fact that it took more than a week or two for her to finally tolerate Mowgli was alarming. (We decided to change Brian’s name to to better suit his personality. Very energetic like the main character from The Jungle Book, we decided to follow suit and name him after a Disney character, as we had done with Ariel.)
It wasn’t until we went to lay down in bed one night that we smelled urine. The stench was very strong, ammonia like. We knew then it couldn’t be our dog, and since Ariel had never used the bathroom outside of her litter box once in the three years we had kept her, we knew immediately who the culprit had to be. Sweet, cuddly and, most of the time, far too hyper, Mowgli. We told ourselves that maybe he was just having trouble adjusting to his new home, and threw the comforter in the wash. What we didn’t realize is that for the next year we would continue to experience behavioral issues that you usually only find when watching an episode of one of my favorite television shows “My Cat From Hell.”
What was a day in the life of Kylie and Caitlen like during anytime during 2012 you ask? Let me paint you a picture… Finding fresh pee stains on the carpet, sometimes by accidentally walking into them with barefeet, finding pee on the kitchen floors and walls, on the couch, pillows, bed, outside the litter boxes, on top of the microwave, and to my biggest horror, finding it leaking off of the stove top into our drip pans. It gets worse. We had to start keeping the bathroom door shut at all times because if we didn’t we would come home to find a lovely surprise of fecal matter and pee in the bathtub. Upon coming home from shopping one day to an apartment that smelled god awfu,l it was to our disgust that we found since he could no longer access the bathroom, he had taken it upon himself to defecate in the next best place, in our kitchen sink near our dirty dishes. I can honestly say that no amount of bleach will ever make your kitchen feel clean enough after an experience like that.
Visits to the vet and shelling out hundreds of dollars became a way of life. We would take him in to be examed, all of the blood tests, check ups, urine tests, etc. would come back negative and we would return home scratching our heads trying to figure out what the problem could be. We had tried everything. We tried every kind of litter imaginable, thinking that maybe Mowgli was just a finicky cat. We always scoop the box as soon as we spot urine or poop, so it was unlikely in our opinion that cleanliness could be the issue but even so, just to be on the safe side we started changing the litter and bags completely and washing out the boxes every week instead of every other week. That didn’t work either. We tried behavioral medications, cat plug ins that are supposed to calm behavioral issues, buying more litter boxes and rearranging them, and still there was no change. We were at our breaking point.
After a year of struggling financially from countless vet visits, constantly having to do laundry and buying more cleaning supplies, litter, and other items, we packed Mowgli back up into the car and drove him to the vet for the millionth time. At this point we had already suggested several times to the vet that we thought there was some kind of problem and that Mowgli hadn’t been neutered properly or maybe even at all. Afterall, his papers said that he had been fixed before we adopted him and yet here he was still peeing and pooping on anything he could get his paws on, acting inappropriately towards Ariel, pillows, and stuffed animals, and scratching at windows, walls, and near his food dish as if to say “Hey, this is mine.”
Finally our vet took him into the back room to check and make sure that he had in fact been altered properly. When they came back out and told us the news, we were angry with disbelief. We had been right all long. We had been putting up with Mowgli’s bad behavior for a year, paying one vet bill after the next, and cringing everytime we cook on the repeatedly peed on stove, and yet here we were 10 or 20 visits later and they were just now figuring out that he in fact, was not fixed as previously thought.
Planned Pethood called us to tell us that they were angry as well. They couldn’t fathom the fact that it had taken the vet so long to realize that he wasn’t neutered. They offered to pay for the surgery and told us that if we dropped him off to one of the foster people that they would take him to a different vet that would perform the surgery. We were so worried and fed up by this point that we feared fixing him might not even help the problem since he had already been peeing and marking his territory for so long. We debated long and hard about bringing him back home after the surgery or just surrendering him back to Planned Pethood. After weighing the pros and cons and crying until we could cry no more we decided that we owed it to Mowgli and to ourselves after an entire year of struggling and trying to cope to at least give him a chance. Maybe we would get lucky and he would come back and never pee outside the box again, though the chances of this actually happening seemed very unlikely.
Mowgli was gone for two weeks as the surgery ended up having to be rescheduled due to some type of timing conflict on the vet’s part. After Mowgli was fixed the vet told Planned Pethood that the cat’s testicles had been retained and though this was very rare and sometimes happens, he had never seen a case quite like Mowgli’s where they are so far up into his body. They even had to make the incisions in a different place and perform the surgery a bit differently to take care of the problem. He came home still drugged up on pain meds and very groggy, and Ariel was as grumpy as ever, none to thrilled about his return home. Once again, it took a few months for the two to get along again but eventually they learned to tolerate each other as they once had.
I am happy to say that to this very day we haven’t had a potty issue with Mowgli since his return home. The surgery nipped that in the bud. We’re still a bit angry that the vet didn’t listen to us sooner and have since switched to a nicer vet who actually cares about the animals. Mowgli is happy as can be, though he has gained quite a bit of weight since the surgery. We struggle now with trying to keep him on a consistent diet and occasionally having to break up cat fights between he and Ariel, but for the most part we’re all one big happy family. I can honestly say that Mowgli has only made the love in our house grow. He has the cutest quirks about him, and everyone that visits or sees pictures of him always tells us what a handsome cat he is. Many even tell us we should consider making him a cat model. I’m sure he probably could win a few photo contests.
When lending advice to any prospective pet owners thinking about rescuing an animal I would have this to say, taking in an animal is a big decision to make. Being a responsible pet owner is not something to be taken lightly. When you are adopting an animal you are making a promise; a promise that you will do everything in your ability to make sure that he or she is provided for and loved to the very best of your ability. You are not giving them a temporary home, or letting them stay until you have children, or until you find an apartment that doesn’t allow pets, you are making a promise to give them a forever home. I can say with absolute certainty that I would live in my car before I ever consider getting rid of my three furry babies.
Sometimes understanding our companion animals or coping with the stress they can bring into our lives can be quite the challenge. Sometimes you will undoubtedly want to rip your hair out, scream, or cry for days. However, the truth of the matter is for every day where you feel like breaking down, there will be two more days where your pet brings a smile to your face and reminds you why all of the struggle is worth it, and you will find yourself asking the simple question “who rescued who?” At least, I know I do.