Firefly Pointer Fiberglass Jacket: The story of Pirate the cat

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The story of Pirate the cat

Recently things in my life have been pretty dramatic. Some blood has been shed. And it's all from a creature that I love maybe a little too much.

When I first moved up to the Bay Area I lived in a place where pets weren't allowed. Having grown up with lots of pets, this felt like I was detoxing from heroine. I loved animals so much, and they made me happy. After about a whopping month I decided to volunteer at the local animal shelter after seeing an ad about them in the paper. I became a volunteer and would spent most of my days at the shelter. I really discovered how important it was to have animals in my life. I was happier around them, and liked them more than people. I had a lot of love to give and the animal shelter was a perfect place for me. Most of the dogs in the shelter were large and hard for me to handle. I found myself working exclusively in what we call "the cat room." I was raised with only dogs growing up, so I had a lot to learn about how different cats were. I discovered that I also loved cats and they loved me back. One day I decided that I wanted my own but would try fostering first. In the fall of 2005 I decided to foster a kitten.

 She was a 3 week old tortie who I quickly named "Pirate" after Guybrush Threepwood of Monkey Island. It was a Lucas Art PC game about a wannabe pirate.

From the moment I held her, she'd bite me. She'd put her little teeth on my fingers and nod off. It won me over. I easily fell in love with little Pirate. I took her to her doctor visits and bought her all these cat accessories. She was always kind of bratty, but I loved her anyway. At 3 months old I made if official by adopting her. After Pirate was a year old I wondered how she might do with other cats. She was always nervous and introverted, which I thought she might grow out of. I fostered other kittens with Pirate. I was very careful knowing her behavior and took it slow introducing them. Pirate became like a surrogate mom to the kitten, which was one off the cutest things I've ever seen. I found them cuddle up in a ball in a blanket in the closet. My squeal almost woke them. I fostered a few more kittens after my first foster, whose name was Pebbles. They all went the same way, and that helped me decide that now would be a good time to get another cat.

Having volunteered at the shelter now for a while I learned that black or black and white male cats were the least adopted. It was time to open my home up to another cat, and this time not another kitten. I quickly found Manny, whose name used to be "Dr Zeus" (?) and fell in love with him. He was a big soft black and white cat who was an owner surrender. Pirate did not like Manny, and as the years when on Pirate just seemed to get more aggressive and anxious. Despite introducing them slowly, and trying many different methods, I could never get her to like my other cat or calm down. I had a lot of resources at my finger tips. Volunteering experience eventually led to several animal care jobs. I tried natural sedatives, Feliway the cat hormone, clicker training, dvds, complex cat toys, and uncountable other things. It always seemed as though they were the Odd Couple and they they just plain didn't get along.

I spent years trying to make it work and help Pirate feel calm, which she never really was. It got worse with her in time, and she started to make fights with my other cat where she would scream and trash. She hurt me countless times. So much so I had a few friends and co-workers who asked me if I was a cutter. "No but my cat is." Things built and built over time, and I was beginning to wonder if I could find Pirate another home. Last month I was trying to apply advantage to Pirate when she attacked me so badly I was cut up bad enough to leak blood all over my floor. All I was doing was trying to apply some flea medication. After this dramatic encounter I was in tears and more afraid of Pirate than ever. I called a friend and long story short, brought her back to the very place I got her from. The staff promised me she'd get care and attention and that if there was a problem they'd call me.

Well, Pirate didn't do too well in the shelter. As I was spending the next few days crying out of guilt Pirate was scratching just about every cat handler in the place. I started to hunt for her new home by placing ads, making fliers, emailing friends, and most importantly calling every rescue group in the area. I found out pretty quickly that with her personality she probably wouldn't even make it through the temperament test, and basically that I shouldn't even bother. Every rescue group that would tell me no would suggest to me a place I already called who told me no. Meanwhile I am getting not so nice emails from overly concerned animal advocates scolding me for taking my cat to the shelter. They also suggested to me things I have already tried. Nothing was helping. I even found out how to contact Jackson Gallaxy from "My cat from hell" on Animal Planet. If there was ever a show made for Pirate, that was it. It was absolutely uncanny. It just so happened that Jackson was in the Bay Area that weekend. Sadly I was unable to reach him and found out he's doing a casting the LA area. Her temperament wasn't always the issue, many places I contacted were also full of animals already. And with kitten season around the corner, Pirate didn't stand a chance and didn't have many options. After trying my guts out to find her a home, I had to go pick her up again.

I cleaned up a bunch and rearranged some furniture to give her more space. She's been back for a few days. She seems happy to be back but she isn't being nice. They have fought, and she hisses a lot, so you could say things are back to normal. I hate to say it, but when Pirate was away I had much better sleep and was much more relaxed. It has been suggested to my by animal people I respect that I put Pirate down. Everyone seems to honor my 6 years of effort. And her stay at the shelter corroborated with my experience with her. I keep believing in her because I have seen her be a nice cat, but sometimes I wonder if she is literally crazy. Cat handlers who have 20+ experience working with feral cats couldn't deal with her. Gives you an idea of what the past 6 years have been like. I can't wrap my mind around euthanasia right now because I keep feeling like there has got to be an option. I've tried for years to put her at ease and give her the environment she needs and I couldn't. I gave it a good effort, but my friends, family and shelter friends can see the toll that this is taking on me.

I'm currently in what feels like an ongoing effort to do either one of 2 things: 1) find Pirate a new home with no kids or other pets, someone who is cat savvy and patient. 2) Get the help of Jackson Gallaxy from "My cat from Hell." Because ultimately I would love to have both cats co-exist in my home happily together without violence. That has seemed like a pipe dream for years. I'm not considering de-clawing or euthanasia as options at this point. I look at them as last resorts. I have reached some rock bottoms and breaking points with her, but I guess love is complicated that way. I love her, and don't want to stop trying to figure out a better situation for her and for me. Lately I've been feeling too damn sensitive, and like I love her too much. I need to get into a better habit of doing what's right for me, especially if I have the knowledge that I tried everything I could. Some people have even had the gall to suggest I get rid of my other cat instead. He's a total sweetheart, and after 5+ years with him, I am definitely attached. 

I'm on an ongoing journey to find Pirate a home. If you have any resources, suggestions, I am open minded and happy to hear it, though there's a high chance I have tried it already. 

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