Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cat heaven: you can see it here in Eugene

We adopted kittens a couple months ago from the Greenhill Humane Society here in Eugene. I'm finally recovered from the flu and all the corollary problems and am a little more on top of things, so I wanted to talk about getting them. I've posted some photos of them already (you can see these at my Flickr site in the Bernie the cat section), but I wanted to tell you about Greenhill itself and how we came to be getting kittens.

Silas, Susan the Wonderchild's orange cat (the one who broke his leg) died suddenly. He turned up in our next door neighbor's yard. I think he got grazed by a car--he never did have any car sense--and then came into the backyard and died. Susan was very upset about this and after about a week announced that she wanted a kitten to replace him. That sounded reasonable to us, too, so we started talking about it.

I've been missing BC since he died several years ago. All the cats in the house are short-haired kitties and I really like longhaired cats. (Yes, it does make a difference, damnit.) Susan and I talked about it and she said that it was fair for me to choose the kitten. The Babe has long stated that we have Too Many Cats (nevair!) and that it would be ONE kitten, that was ONE, everyone repeat after me, ONE, UNO, SINGLE kitten. Yes, dear, I shall bring home but ONE kitten, no matter how cute they all are.

I started shopping for kittens. I definitely wanted a kitten, both for the potential extra longevity and the pleasure of seeing them as a kitten. I looked on a number of the local adopt-a-pet websites and even went to a volunteer cat shelter. They were doing nice things for the cats and trying to place them, but it smelled pretty bad. (It was one couple taking care of about 75 cats at that point, so I'm sure it was getting away from them.)

I was looking for longhaired kittens, but I didn't see many online. After a few weeks, Susan said we should go out to the Greenhill Humane Society and look out there. So, we toddled out there on a Saturday morning to look at kittens.

Greenhill's out a ways from the Eugene city center. I'm sure that it'll be heavily built up around there in 5-10 years, but right now, it's still mostly fields. It quite literally sits on a hill. I believe that it's an old farmhouse and several outbuildings that are now tied together. They handle animals of all kinds there. (I saw lots of cats and dogs, but they also had rabbits, guinea pigs, and rats, too. And birds, lots of birds. (I love birds, but they're just more work than I can manage in a pet these days.)

Susan and I went into the cattery. (Another nice thing: animals are all separated, so you don't have cats having to listen to dogs all the time.)

The cattery is a large room, about 40' x 40'. There's a big central area and then there are four or five side 7' x 9' adjoining side rooms on the left and right walls that have sliding glass doors so you can see into them. The small rooms are for groups of cats that aren't being allowed into the general population yet--families of kittens, for example, or cats who are being quarantined. There's also a wall of recovery cages as you walk in for cats that have just gone through surgery or are not social enough to be out in the main room.

What's special about this cattery is how warm and friendly it is:
  • In the main room and all the small adjoining rooms, there are cat perches.
  • There are all kinds of cat furniture--you know, the stuff that's covered with heavy carpet and has hidey-holes and climbing branches and places to peer over.
  • There are comfy chairs.
  • There are cushions to curl up on.
  • There are dangly things to swat at.
  • There are kitty toys of every size, shape, and variety.
  • There are dishes of food and water and lots of clean cat trays.
  • There are windows that let in lots of sun and light.
  • It's nice and warm.
  • There are lots of other cats to play with or curl up against and nap.
  • And through it all, there are half a dozen volunteers who, when they're not helping people pick a cat for their very own, wander around, petting cats, picking them up and hugging them, and making sure that everyone's okay.

It's as close to kitty heaven as anything I could imagine and I tear up every time I think of how nice it is.

Susan and I looked at dozens and dozens of cats. I was thinking of the possibility of a Siamese of some kind, but I was open. I did find a kitten that looked very much like BC and I gave consideration to her for a while--Tiffany cats are very pretty in their own right and have very sweet dispositions--but I decided that I didn't want a cat who looked just like BC because I'd expect her to act the same and I'd be disappointed if she didn't.

But we did find someone else: a half-Siamese, half-Maine Coon fluffball. He had a very kinky tail, which they explained had probably broken in utero. I kept coming back to him and I finally decided that he was the right one.

Susan, meanwhile, had found a dark orange short-haired tabby (very similar to Silas). When I'd decided on my kitten, she said "I'm going to adopt this one."

I said "Your mother's going to kill you, you do know that, don't you?"

"Oh, she'll get over it."

We took care of paperwork and had a very pleasant surprise. Adoptions are normally $95 each for kittens, which covers all sorts of things: a free vet exam from participating local vets (ours is one), first shots, all kinds of miscellaneous this-and-that for kitties. It's actually a $150 deal on the face of it. However, because they were drastically overpopulated, adoptions were costing $35 each, which falls into the Screaming Good Deal category. (I did think very briefly that we should really try to rack up the savings, but I didn't think I'd even be able to say it with a straight face, let alone survive trying to argue that POV.)

We got the paperwork taken care of and brought the new guys home. There was a minimus of hissing and sneering on the parts of the older cats. The kittens explored.

I explained to the Babe on the phone that Susan had gotten a kitten of her own as well. The Babe said "And where am I supposed to live?" I said that Susan had been quite clear that her mother would in fact "get over it," so she really needed to take it up with her. The Babe was not happy. But she came home from the office where she'd been putting in extra time and saw the kittens and did, eventually, kinda get over it.

The kittens told us their names: Sebastian was fairly quick, but Bernie--really Bernard (as in "BERN-erd") but he's a Bernie, definitely--took about 4 days to identify himself.

With Susan out of the house now, we are now down to three cats: Yang, Yin, and Bernie. Yang and Yin continue to be meatloaf cats, frequently perched asleep on top of the matching white armchairs. Bernie's more of a couch cat and he spends a good deal of the mornings romping around my office making little "Prrrmp?" noises (his Maine Coon heritage coming out). I'm very happy with him.

P.S. If you're looking to make a donation to an animal shelter, you could do worse than to pick the Greenhill Humane Society. Donations can be made here.



De Murr said...

OK, John, I definitely have kitten fever. This note about Bernie and Sebastin did it. I am, however, going to wait until December and maybe January before I do it.

I wish I were closer so I too could visit "kitten heaven." I'll just have to look for one here in Milwaukee.


John Hedtke said...

Wait until January or February, because the demand for kittens is huge in December. You may be able to get one now as we're rolling down from the summer/fall breeding season, but there are still many good selections to be had at the cat shelters. And it'll help with reducing overpopulation, too.

sarah said...

Thanks for this story, John. Recently, my friend Janine was driving to work and she kept hearing a cat meowing. When she finally stopped the car, she found a kitten under the hood! No more kittens for us for a while, though- we're trying to keep the cat:human ratio at 1:1.