Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Cat Is Back

My efforts to avoid, or at least significantly delay, the arrival of a living, breathing and dander-producing pet in our household are taking on water. Some helpful background on this is available here. Madison and Ava still want a cat, actually they’ve refined their ask – they each want one of their own. The girls are getting fairly territorial and particular about their stuff, and since an animal can’t be split down the middle like a can of Play-Doh or a pack of foamy paper and survive, we’d probably have to accede to a pair if we were to go down this road. We're not looking for trouble with PETA.

If we took a family vote on this issue today, I would lose 3-1. The only member of the majority likely to offer up any kind of sympathy or concern over my propensity to go into allergic shock as a result of our new arrival(s) would be Ava, and her counsel would basically amount to, “It’s OK, Daddy, you can just go into a different room!”

Gwen called me in the office one day last week to let me know that she and the girls had just returned from a play-date at a house in the neighborhood that recently welcomed two kittens. Two adorable kittens, apparently, as if there were any other kind. “I just want you to know,” she said, “Madison and Ava were all over these things and they may ask you about them.”

The barrage didn’t kick in that night, but it did over the weekend and now it’s here, hovering in the background, an unresolved discussion point just waiting to be activated, like OnStar. I didn’t think I was going to get through Sunday without a visit to a pet store or shelter, especially after the girls disappeared during breakfast and returned moments later carrying their respective change jars, which they were willing to happily surrender to help pay for one of those $4,000 hypo-allergenic cats that have recently been in the news. (A quick Web search revealed that the price of these specially-bred cats is going up to $7,000 as of May 1, a result of an "increase in the cost of liability insurance." Now that's an encouraging development, where do we sign up?) Luckily enough, Madison had a soccer game in the afternoon, so her attention shifted away from her current inability to chase a terrified creature around our house and to the much more pressing need to chase a little ball around a field.

The subject of a cat or pet comes up from time to time, as outlined in the original post referenced above, so I've had a recurring opportunity to refine my reactive messaging. During this latest episode I broke out all of my familiar artillery, which is unfortunately proving increasingly ineffective.

There was the prospect of maybe getting a fish. I’ve been stalling on this, fully aware that once we begin the cycle there is really no place for it to end that doesn't involve resident fur. I have to say, though, I didn’t think this starter-pet option would be deemed a failure until we were about a week into having one. I was wrong. Madison’s current response to the fish concept is, “Fish are boring, they don’t do anything, you just sit there and watch them. You can’t even play with them!”

The notion of yet another Webkinz (a sure sign of parental desperation) was also a nonstarter. Madison greeted this with the following, “Daddy, let me tell you how much better a real cat is than a Webkinz cat. A Webkinz cat can’t snuggle you or lick your hand, you just play on the computer and it’s not real, it’s a stuffed animal, it’s knitted! I just think real pets are more fun because you can really feed them. A Webkinz pet you can’t really feed, you just click on some buttons.”

As is her nature, Ava was a little more direct. “Daaaaad! Can we pleeeeuuuuaaassee get a pet? We’ll taaaaaaakkke good care of it!”

I successfully put down the rebellion and the wave seems to have subsided over the last couple of days, but the underlying dilemma persists. The girls want a pet, a real pet, and while I am predisposed to spoiling our children within reason, I also enjoy breathing in the place where I live. For the first time in my life I’m considering a visit to an allergist to investigate the battery of shots that might actually open up our house to the wonders of pet ownership without shutting down my nasal passages. Right now it’s only a notion, but I think the chances are excellent that at some point it becomes a concept, and later an idea. Place the inspiration for that line and win the big prize... follow up hint: "Max, are we driving through plutonium?"

There are tangential benefits associated with such a move that I have to say are attractive to me, especially now that I have this forum and am always on the search for new material. Heather Armstrong of has practically turned her dog chuck into an employee, and there’s something to be said for having the option, on a slow news day, of filling space by ascribing complex human thoughts and emotions to an animal by virtue of its willingness to be photographed wearing a pork pie hat, or tendency to tilt its head at curious angles in response to unrelenting lens-driven torment. A dog or cat at home could easily be good for 75 or 80 phone-it-in posts a year, which would totally be worth it if I could find a way to avoid tourettes-style sneezing episodes or itching my face off.


Blogger Heather said...

I just succumbed to a puppy, so I feel your pain!

2:33 PM  
Blogger bunninmonkey said...

"...I also enjoy breathing in the place where I live" - Brilliant! haha
Glad you're not experiencing any problems.

7:09 PM  
Blogger beth said...

We always had dogs or cats in our house . . .and I started getting the head-to-toe itchies and morning Tourette's sneezes after bathtime when I was 8. Allergy testing (finally) in college after nearly suffocating on my own snot (joy of joys, can you imagine the COD description on the coroner's report?!) revealed I was highly allergic to cats (and dust mites). I had one cat and refused to give her up--she was my Portable Family when I was on my own far from my biological family.

I changed my pet habits--wash hands after petting, no kissing or being kissed by Kitty, cleaning better/more often, etc. The result: 10 years later I'm retested for allergies and am no longer allergic to cats. Modifying my own behavior and keeping my kitty was like having a daily allergy shot. No chemicals involved . . . and more importantly, no stinkin' shots!!

2:51 PM  

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