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Susan R. Meyer Headshot

The Joys and Perils of Post-50 Pet Adoption

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FEAR IS HERE
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If the fellas had been human infants, no one would have offered me one, much less suggest that I take two. And the guys did not come with warning labels. And my memory isn't necessarily what it used to be. So, it has come to pass that I now have a six-month-old and a five-month-old terrifying/terrorizing whirlwind of energy in my apartment.

How could I have forgotten that kittens don't sleep when their guardians would like them to sleep? That they chew on everything imaginable, including hands and fingers? How could I have forgotten that, for no reason and with no warning, they will stage battles in my living room? And that these are most likely to occur precisely when I'm concentrating on some impossible task? Or how much they like to "help" make the bed? or "away" things? Or chew slippers?

Well, I've forgotten a lot of things in the 30 years since last I had a young cat. Memory has a wonderful way of drawing a curtain over the details of certain events, and generally, that's a good thing. And, too, some of my current problems were not part of the picture then. Phone chargers and computer cables that clearly need to be destroyed were not part of my everyday life. I didn't have quite so many breakable items.

Oh, but they're cute. They snuggle up and purr loudly. They give little kitty kisses and love bites -- at this age, I think they're still teething and clearly fingers are a great way to satisfy that need to chew a bit. And they're mighty hunters. They chase -- and sometimes catch -- flies. Any mice that might even think about slipping in beat a speedy retreat.

And anyhow, I was clearly chosen. Odie transferred himself from his handler to me, proceeded to purr at the top of his little kitty lungs and started patting my face. What choice did I have? Then, somehow, I agreed to take his best friend so he wouldn't be lonely.

Still, here are a few considerations while you still have a choice:

1. Pick a pet that suits your current temperament. A friend had a bichon frise for many years. Max was full of energy and required her full attention much of the time. He liked romping and frolicking. He stole socks and underwear. At sixty five, she knew she wanted her next dog to match her current pace, and Rudy's favorite activity is napping.

2. Consider a cat over a year old. A catling is still young enough to have energy, to be amusing, to be in good health. At one year, the catling is also old enough to sleep through the night and to not need to chew on everything.

3. If you do take a kitten, baby proof your living space. Relocate all breakables. Hide electric cords. Cover all liquids unless you really want to share them. Eat on a surface the kitties can't reach. (excuse me for a minute as I rescue a piece of stained glass that I've left within tooth range.)

4. Learn to stifle that startle reflex. Kittens will burst into fights or races at the most unlikely times.

5. DO NOT get up and feed the kitties when they start leaping over you at 3:30 a.m. They will gradually change their habits. We've just gotten to 6:00.

6. Follow their example -- learn to nap, even if this requires considerable effort to dislodge the kitties from your -- and now their -- preferred napping spot.

7. Have faith -- they'll grow up. And you might even miss some of your current chaos.

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