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Thursday, October 15, 2015

When Giving Up A Pet Can Be The Right Thing.

I recently got this email from Margaret.....

I received my first cat when I was 9 years old as a Birthday gift. She was my constant companion and friend and I grew up with her. Finally at the age of 18, I had her euthanized due to age complications. Then, Molly followed.

Molly is my big, black Fluffilicious. What a character!

My mother became sick with cancer in Sept 2012 and passed 9 months later. Cats are not stupid and Molly was no exception; she knew things weren't right and comforted me over the months and after the death.

I moved out in early 2015 to live with my fiance. Ultimately, I decided to leave my now 11 year old cat, Molly, with my father and the decision was not an easy one. If this was Daisy, I'd not have hesitated to bring her with me, but Molly is an entirely different cat, of course.

She is very territorial, a big cat, bold, vocal. All her expressions are shown on her face. The house is the only one she has ever known. My fiance has a cat, a four year old former feral male (he worships my fiance, they've such a sweet relationship. I'm only tolerated in true cat fashion), not declawed or fixed (Molly is declawed and neutered). 

Both cats are Alphas, without a doubt.  

In addition, the intervening months have shown the bond growing between my (elderly) father and her. He is not alone in the house and that is a comfort to me.  

The last visit with my Dad, she greeted me at the door as she always had and "talked" to me. After I'd been at the house for a couple of hours, I went to pet her again and she swatted at me with a stubborn look on her face. She begrudgingly let me toss a plush toy at her that she batted back at me and we played.

I knew she was wondering why and where I'd gone and why I only came back for these quick visits.

My fiance keeps telling me that 'I'm not like the people in the ads who just abandon cats, that I thought the matter through and left her with a loving person that she knew and the home that she knew". I believe this, the statement makes sense. Yet I know there are people who have moved with cats before. 

Did I make the right decision to leave her at my childhood home due to age, personality and the presence of another Alpha?

I want to try and answer this by sharing a personal story of my own.

Back in 2001 my wife and I were without children and only had cats.  Her parent's dog, whom she had also grown up with, died of congestive heart failure.  This started her wanting a dog of our own.  At that same time one of my techs was fostering a young long-haired chihuahua that a friend of hers couldn't keep, and was looking for a home for him.  The timing was right and we ended up taking him home.

Tucker was a great dog, very friendly, loving, and well-behaved.  All things that don't typically describe a chihuahua!  He was there when both of our children were born and was a perfect addition to our family.  He got along well with the cats and was never any trouble.

He moved with us from Illinois to North Carolina and handled it great.  But things weren't always perfect.  Tucker had been chased and even a bit terrorized by a couple of my nephews when they were very young and hadn't learned better.  I believe that this led to him being scared of small children, something he never got over.  He was great with teenagers and adults, but would growl around younger kids.  After we moved we also got our second dog, a Labrador retriever puppy.  She was sweet but she was a typical young Lab, which was more energy than Tucker could really handle.  They never really got along well, which made for some tensions in the house.

In 2005 my family went on a vacation to the beach, leaving our dogs with my parents.  On our way home we got a call that my mother had fallen and broken her hip and was in the hospital.  She had been under treatment for cancer, having undergone surgery and chemotherapy over the previous couple of years.  Things didn't go well, and after a short hospital stay my mother was taken home to be in hospice care.  A few days later she passed away.

My parents had been married for almost 40 years at that time, and my father had always been a "dog person".  Knowing that the house was very lonely for him and Tucker was great company, we let him keep the dog a bit longer than we had originally planned.  As time went on my wife and I had some serious discussions.  Tucker was great, and all of us loved him a lot.  But we had to watch our kids around him, and he didn't handle our lab well.  When he was at my father's house he was calm, affectionate, and very much a lap dog.  I really think that he helped my dad through an incredibly rough time.

It was hard for us, but we made the decision to give him up and let him stay with my dad.  While it made us sad, we also think that in the long run it was better for everyone.  If my father hadn't wanted him we would have gladly taken him back home and worked on the adjustments with the rest of the family.  But I think it was a great fit for Tucker and my father.

Margaret, I hope you can see some of the parallels between your situation and mine.  Sometimes the best thing for your pet is to be with someone other than you.  Not because you don't care, but because the situation is tough for your pet.  In the end only you can decide if you truly made the right decision.  I'm also not a psychologist so I can't help analyze your motivations.  But it doesn't sound like you made the wrong choice.