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(Coffee) Shop Talk

Welcome to the shop where I talk about things that go well with coffee, which is almost everything.

It all started out simply enough. My boyfriend and I watched an excellent Spanish movie in which an elderly lady very much wants her gentleman friend to get her a small white cat so she can traipse around in the Trevi Founain with it, a la La Dolce Vita. This brought to a crisis point something which we had been batting around for some time: we both wanted a kitty.

The simple thing would have been to go up to Petco and buy one, but we decided to adopt. I called a couple of animal shelters, but they only had grown cats and older kittens. I looked around on Craigslist and found some listings, but all the kittens offered were black, and my boyfriend (somewhat fairly) was worried that a dark-colored kitten would blend into the piles of dark-colored clothes that tend to pile up in our apartment and end up getting lost or squished.

I did find some cat-adoption agencies, and one of them had a cool feature on their website which allowed me to actually see pictures and profiles of their orphan felines. Several of the profiles stated that the kitty in question was too young to leave mommy but was eligible for pre-adoption. Purrfect. So I made some phone calls only to discover that all of the little cuties had been spoken for already. There were two others, however, who were just under three months and currently in a foster home. A few rounds of telephone tag and a couple of scheduling snaffus later I made an appointment to go visit them. (I would have been content to sign the papers sight unseen, but that is not the protocall of this particular cat-rescuing agency.)

The kittens were in New Jersey, as it turned out. That sealed the deal for my boyfriend; we Manhattanites must rescue the innocent critters from the dark, backwards wilderness of Jersey City. I got on the PATH train and made my way to a much larger, newer, shiny-er apartment building than the one we currently occupy and called the foster owner (I’ll call her Susie) to let her know I was there. “Don’t ring the doorbell,” she told me. “It scares them, and they all run away and hide.” When I got there and quitetly knocked, the door was opened by Susie’s roommate, who took me to the bathroom where the human and two kittens I had come to visit were holed up. “I’m sorry, it’s just that there’s so many places they can hide,” said Susie. “Their last visitors didn’t see much of them.”

One of the kittens seemed to take all of this more or less in stride and even purred contentedly in my lap for awhile. The other one spent as much time as he could behind the toilet. Susie assured me that they would both warm up to me after a few days. I observed that, despite their lack of enthusiasm about their strange visitor, neither cat was hissing or scratching. We all hung out on in the tiny, tiled bathroom for awhile, and then I made my way out. In the elevator I called my boyfriend and told him to email the agency; these kitties were takers.

Little did I know that this was barely half of the process.

The agency sent me an application form to fill out. Most of the questions were standard and sensible. Did we have screens on our windows, did we understand about shots and spaying/neutering, what was our address and contact phone number. There were other questions that struck me as odd, including a request for two professional references for me and my boyfriend. I tracked down the required info, filled out the form, and sent it back. An hour or so later I checked my email and found two messages. The first was an inquiry from the agency: I had stated that I planned to declaw the kitties. Was I sure about this? The second message was from Susie, who was upset because the agency had just told her that a) they were going to reject my application over the declawing issue, and b) she was a bad foster mommy for not addressing this issue with me up front.

Before all the cat lovers (among whom I now count myself) jump down my throat for wanting to declaw innocent kittens, let me say that I’d never owned a cat before and thought that declawing was a standard procedure like spaying and neutering.

I jumped on the phone with the adoption agency, but it took three calls to convince them that I wasn’t an evil kitty-torturer and that, if declawing was in fact a painful and unnecessary procedure, then of course I didn’t want to do it.

Then there was the orientation seminar. It took place on the upper west side, and I live on the lower east side. Not a convenient commute. It was also several rainy blocks from the nearest subway station. Then I spent an hour going over a 30-odd page packet that contained about three pages of information that your average cat owner might actually find useful. These, I might add, were very useful, and included common houseplants that can poison cats, tips to keep them from scratching furniture, and a list of the most healthy brands of cat and kitten food. The rest was news articles about cats falling 30 stories and living, special all-meat food that was originally developed for tigers and can be ordered online, and recipes that you can prepare by hand for that special feline in your life. Then we had the age-old wet food/dry food debate. In sum: wet food is better for keeping cats hydrated while dry food tends to be better for their teeth.

After going through this and paying the $100/kitty adoption fee, I asked when I could go pick up my new babies. I couldn’t. They had to be delivered to my apartment by the foster mom so she could make sure I wasn’t harboring a cat-sized iron maiden or a non-recommended brand of kitty litter. Wow, home delivery, the first convenient thing in the whole process, right? Not so fast. My boyfriend was working long hours, I was doing a lot of after-school tutoring, and Susie was only able to deliver the cats during the times that neither of us were home. She ended up by taking them to the agency headquarters and leaving them in a cage overnight. I went the next morning to pick them up. Finally, finally, my new pets were really my new pets!

Except that boy kitty would have none of it. Girl kitty was as nonplussed as a throw pillow when I transferred her from the cage to the carrier, but boy kitty scratched me, jumped past my hands, and burrowed back behind the row of cages. It took me and a nearby volunteer to fish him out.

I got them home without further incident, and girl kitty took to her new, albeit messy, home like a fish to water. Well, more like a kitten to a pile of clean laundry. Boy kitty waited till I wasn’t watching, then ran under the bed.

The next day I got a call from the agency. Someone would have to come inspect our apartment. That was when my boyfriend started referring to them as the kitty police. Are the kitty police going to take our kitties away? The main concern was our previously malfunctioning smoke detector, which he had disconnected out of desperation some weeks before. We stuffed the wires back in an snapped the face back on without inserting new batteries. Don’t tell anyone.

After more telephone tag, someone from the agency made it into the depths of the east village to inspect us. Both kittens hid under the bed when she came in, but when I offered to fish them out, she declined. I found that odd. For all she knew, my boyfriend and I might have eaten them already. Shouldn’t a kitty home inspection involve an inspection of the kitties in question? Anyway, we got the agency’s stamp of approval and no one tried to repossess my new pets. I did get a tongue-lashing about the evils of feeding cats dry food ever, under any circumstances, but otherwise all was well.

Thus, at last, ended my cat-acquisition saga. Finally my pets and I could settle into the day-to-day process of climbing cat trees, playing with stuffed mice, and generally getting to know each other.

That is, until it was time for their booster shots.

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