When I adopted my cat Ramona from FurKids Animal Rescue, I had to complete a thorough application, consent to a home visit, and have a phone interview with a volunteer from the organization. One of the questions on the application was, “What would you do if you moved to a rental property that did not allow pets?” I answered, “I wouldn’t,” and in my mind (because I didn’t want to sound like a delinquent right off the bat, even in the name of animal rescue) I answered, “Or I would move in and hide the pet, and if anyone got evicted, we’d both get evicted together.” Further down, the application asked, in multiple choice format, “Which reasons would justify giving up a pet?” and it listed scenarios like a new baby, a partner developing allergies, and behavioral problems. In the “Other” box, I wrote, “Nothing justifies it.”

I’m Childfree (in the way of, “Kids aren’t for me, but good for you for having them and I’ll totally support you as a parent,” not in the way of, “Damn breeders and moos. I hate kids and therefore, no one should have them”), so maybe it’s easy for me to say I’d keep the pet regardless of whatever issues a baby had with it. But I’m also hugely allergic to trees, grasses, flowers, molds, dust, sulfites in food, and animals, so I know what that’s all about. In fact, before I was born, before she was married, my mom had a dog named Toby, who she raised from a puppy. She still says he was her “first child,” and she means it. She didn’t dress him up in outfits and take him out in a stroller, but she learned patience and responsibility from him. He was still around when I, her first human child, was born, and baby LCAmazing made it known early on that she was allergic to damn near everything, including Toby. If it wasn’t sneezing, it was asthma attacks. I’m sure that doctors advised my parents to “get rid of” Toby since I remember the lists of other forbidden items like carpet, stuffed animals, Christmas trees, and curtains, but Toby stayed around until he died of old age when I was 7. And I’m so, so glad that he did. Granted, my parents had insurance, funds, and resources that allowed them to properly manage my asthma and allergy attacks, but with or without privilege, animals are part of the family, too. And that’s why I’m still OK with paying what I see as a “pet tax” for the monthly prescriptions of Allegra, Flonase, Advair, and Albuterol that allow me to have Ramona around and also to breathe–it’s just what you DO.

There’s an issue other than dander with Ramona, though. She has cerebellar hypoplasia, and I adopted her because of it: I was determined to adopt the most in-need cat ever, and her color (black…silly superstitions), disability, and age (6 on July 21) were three strikes against her. She’s more wobbly than Charley in the video is, but she doesn’t know it, and she’s the sweetest cat I’ve ever had. The other day, I described to someone how Ramona sidles up next to me, slides her way under my arm, collapses against me, and purrs loudly as she luxuriates in her hug, and the person told me, “She’s thanking you for rescuing her. She knows.” (I’m all about anthropomorphism.) But the other thing that she does is (and there is no delicate way to say this) have chronic diarrhea (the vet and I are working on it) which she tends to wobble and fall into when she’s in her litter box, and then track it around my apartment’s white carpet and white comforter and new “butter”-colored couch and sometimes, myself. I keep OxyClean and Seventh Generation bleach products close at hand on my bookshelves, I’ve done loads of laundry full of towels I used to clean, and I covered my furniture with plastic like Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond.

Things have gotten better, thanks to a new, more accessible litter box, new food, and yes, the plastic. But I’m not going to lie: In the thick of it, at 1:30 in the morning, as I scrubbed my carpet and changed my sheets, anticipating needing to be at work in six hours, I wondered if I could really do it. I wondered if I were cut out to “parent” a special-needs cat. The adoption paperwork I signed stipulated that if I did have to give Ramona up for any reason, I was to bring her back to the (no-kill) shelter. They take good care of cats there, and she had been in foster homes previously, not cooped up in a cage. She would be in good, patient hands and my apartment would be in security deposit-returnable shape. I think I went to bed (at 2:00 a.m.) in tears that night, vowing to myself that I would think more and think better in the morning when my head was clearer. What did it was remembering the shelter staff saying they were so glad I was giving Ramona (well, her name was Precious there) a “forever home” because cats pick up on weaknesses, and the other cats at the shelter were bullying her. Even if she did go back to a foster home, she’d be like a child in foster care*, never having stability or a place of her own other than a little bed in the corner. And she gave really good hugs. “We’re in this together,” I told her, as she rubbed her face on my hand. I still wish I didn’t have to have squeaking furniture and I wish I knew less about stain removal, but I’m so glad I have my Ramona. This post isn’t about imploring you to keep your pet at any cost (though I do kind of think you should), but it’s about the fact that I kind of get it. I went through more than just a minute of questioning myself and my dedication, and I’m not perfect, and it isn’t easy, and I want to be honest about that. And thank you, Ramona, if you read my blog, for being patient with me when I remember to feed you dinner at 11:00 p.m. instead of the preferred 5:00 and when I have to snip dried litter out of your fur because I’m not prefect, either

*Trust, I have nothing against foster care for children or animals. It’s not something I could ever do, so I have nothing but admiration for foster parents, and it’s not inherently bad. But I am more into the idea of forever homes.

Photo at the top of the post is Ramona wearing the sparkly pink bow tie and shirt collar that she received as a gift from Aviva, one of my BFFs, and sitting on Aviva’s lap. It’s tricky to get a well-lit photo of a black cat and trickier when she’s wobbling 90% of the time.

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