Thursday, March 31, 2016

Four Legs - Part I

So despite my admonition on Sunday's blog post, you should adopt cats. I'm going to focus on cats for this post, and though you may not think it 100% relevant to running/Star Wars/my usual blog fodder, it is relevant to health. I'll tell you why in Part II tomorrow.

To start, you should know two things:
  1. I do not like cats. And I own two. So I don't want to hear you say "I'm not a cat person." Tough. Adopt one anyway.
  2. Ok fine. You can feel free to substitute dogs. Or Rabbits. Chinchillas. Miniature ponies. I really don't care. All pets are good for your health. 
My love/hate relationship with cats began in early 2012 when I made the following seemingly innocuous observation to my husband:

"There's a cat in our yard."

Had I any foresight into the series of events that followed this particular random cat sighting, perhaps I might have cut our time living in New Jersey even shorter than it already was.

We would see aforementioned cat trotting around frequently, but she wanted nothing to do with people. Definitely feral. Our neighbor - a kindly elderly handicapped woman - took it upon herself to feed this poor feral kitty, and our neighborhood birds were thankful for it.

Within 6 months... the cat gave birth to three kittens under our neighbor's shed. (One of these kittens - Zelda - would later find her permanent home with us.)

And then 6 months after that... she gave birth again.

Oh, and by the way - her original three kittens (including Zelda) - also had kittens.

You don't have to be an actuary to do the math. Our feral cat population was growing exponentially, and we'd be overrun unless someone intervened.

Unfortunately, the outlook is hopeless for feral cats and kittens when Animal Control is involved, and shelters usually won’t take feral cats. Our elderly neighbor couldn't do much, and the rest of our block had no interest in getting involved.

So my husband and I took it upon ourselves to start the Dale Road Cat Project. The project essentially became our privately funded trap/neuter/release (TNR) program, where we spent countless hours carting adult feral cats off to a low-cost clinic (Planned Pethood) to have them fixed.

I created the website to help find homes for their kittens. No need to go through the whole site if you don't have time - these are my two favorite stories:
  1. Evolution of the Cat Hunter - or why the Garfield comic strip is not the right place to learn how to trap cats.
  2. One of These Things is Not Like the Others - yes, even mother cats are assholes.
By the end of our time on Dale Road, we had TNR'd 11 adult cats and adopted out their 22 kittens to good homes.

If you think it heartless to re-release the adult cats back outside, you have to understand that these are wild animals. They've always lived outside, and it takes a really patient person to try to domesticate them. Adult cats are hard enough to adopt out as it is... nobody is going to take a mean one to boot. So at least we ensured they could not continue to procreate during their time outdoors.

Cat running a game of "Cat Fishing" on iPad
The exception to the rule? Our Zelda.
She ended up staying with us much longer than the other adult cats because we needed her to play surrogate mom to some of the really little kittens that we captured. Because she was with us for 3 months, we were worried she might forget how to be an outdoor cat. She's been with us for 2.5 years now, and she's finally becoming a pet instead of that random roommate we never see.

So I don't know that I've done a very good job here of "selling" you on a cat, but you can imagine how grateful we were for those willing to adopt. And even though they drive me up a wall sometimes with their claws and persistent meowing, our cats certainly have some positive traits I can't ignore:
  1. Entertainment. Break out a laser pointer around a cat one day and you'll see what I mean.
  2. Pest control. Zelda hunts and eats the bugs that find their way into our house. Bonus points to her for getting the spiders, because I have severe arachnophobia.
  3. Affection. I could do without being covered in white cat hair, but I'll put up with it since they like lap time so much.
There are so many unwanted cats out there. I hope you do find space in your home for one.

Today's exercise: 4 mile Treadmill "F-*k it" Run, 10 min/mi

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