Thursday 3 October 2013

Farewell, Felines

Oh, my mama heart.

The boy has been dealing with some asthma-like symptoms for a while now. He's on an inhaler and has been visiting the pediatric asthma clinic since spring.

In the ER when his breathing troubles began in earnest.

The specialist felt his asthma symptoms were related to prolonged exposure to an allergen, so they set up an appointment for an allergy test. He just had that test last week.

The doctor asked the usual questions. Any pets? Two cats, yes, but we've had them since before he was born. What do you and your husband do? He's an electrical engineer, and I'm home with the kids. Does he have trouble breathing after physical activities? No, never. Do his allergies seem to be tied to a particular time of year? Not really, no.

And so on.

Then came the test, which was very quick and simple. Ten minutes of waiting - no scratching! - and a physical exam, then the results.

"I'm afraid no one is going to like this news." I couldn't think of what she could possibly mean. She continued. "This dot here? The only one with a reaction? That was the cat dot."

Our cats? We've had those cats for as long as we've had the boy. And I mean that quite literally - we got the cats the same week we got pregnant with him. Apparently, though, these allergies commonly develop around 4-6 years old. Who knew?

The doctor explained that because of the severity and singularity of the allergy, there really weren't any other options besides removing the cats from the home. I didn't think the boy was really listening, but his tears quickly indicated otherwise. He sobbed in the office as the doctor apologized and sympathized and offered tissues.

The boy is heartbroken. He cried that entire day, sitting on the floor with the cat in his lap. Nothing hurts a mother's own heart like seeing her baby in pain.

Cat pillow, 2011

Although he was still holding onto the hope that he could convince us to keep the cats, he was ever-so-slightly comforted by the thought of them going to a home where he would still be able to visit them sometimes. He had particularly hoped his Oma could take them, since she already has a cat, but she was already looking forward to a cat-free home and was unwilling to take on two more. We've asked cat-friendly friends, posted on Facebook, pleaded in local email lists, contacted residential care facilities in the lower mainland, all to no avail - after all, how many people are interested in taking two cats? It's been a heartbreaking and discouraging process, and as each day goes by, the cats' prospects look increasingly bleak.

Simon is our outgoing black-and-white cat who takes an immediate liking to everyone he meets. He loves to be stroked, snuggled, and have his tummy rubbed. He enjoys spending his nights cuddling with the boy in his bed.

Lucy is our more reserved white cat who prefers a quieter show of affection, making her an excellent lap cat for those who just want some company. She loves a cozy warm fireplace to curl up in front of.

Both cats are friendly and gentle with no displays of aggression, having patiently tolerated the fur-yanking stage of five different babies without so much as a warning hiss. They were adopted as a pair when they were kittens and often spend time grooming or sleeping next to each other; it hurts our hearts even more to think of them being separated. These are lovely cats who just need a new home to call their own, and it is so frustrating to me that we can't find a single family or care facility willing to welcome them into their home.

When we moved out here, the husband and I briefly talked about giving away the cats so we didn't have to bring them halfway across the country. The boy, only two at the time, overheard us. "But they're my friends!", he passionately protested. That ended the conversation right there; how could we give away his friends? And you know, I have complained about these cats more times than I can count over the years. Cat hair and litter boxes and hairballs and meowing just as I'd get the baby to sleep - they're good cats, but they're still cats, and they lost their cherished baby status as soon as the first human baby arrived. Now, though, there's little I wouldn't give if only my baby could keep his beloved pets.

But he can't, and these cats need a new home.



  1. Hmmm. Let me talk to my husband and then kids. We live in Ladner and have been discussing getting a cat again... We have 3 kids (soon to be 4) a boy 4, a boy almost 3 and a girl 18mths. With another boy due end of November... We also homeschool and such so might be a good fit to make friends too. :)

    1. That would be so wonderful if it ends up working out! Do let me know either way. We're actually in the process of looking for a home in the Richmond area (this is The Month of Big Changes, apparently!), so we'll be even closer to you if you'd like to get together sometime. :)

    2. Courtnay, I had a thought that might help. Could you send me a quick email (thehippiehousewife [at] gmail [dot] com) so I can get in touch with you? Thanks!

  2. I can definitely relate to this post. My son, who is now 17 years old, went through the same thing when he was your son's age. We had had cats since he was born as well, and never put two and two together. I remember his first asthma attack like it was yesterday. His asthma is brought on by cats, exercise induced, and cold weather. My son is still very allergic to cats, and I have to remind him to bring along his Benadryl and inhaler whenever he is over at a friends house that has cats, and remind him that no matter how cute the cats are, to resist the temptation to pet them. :) Luckily when we found out he was allergic to cats we were living on acreage with plenty of outbuildings, and our cats had no problem adjusting to life as outdoor cats. I hope you find good homes for your cats, and that your son's asthma improves. :)

    1. Thank you, April! I'm sorry to hear about your son. That first asthma attack is indeed a memorable and frightening experience. I'm glad it worked out for your cats!

  3. as someone who has had to go through the pain and agony of finding dearly loved pets a new home, I so empathize. Hope they are able to find a home where visits are a possibility.

  4. I am sorry about the whole deal. I can't have any cats around to my kids' displeasure. The one life threatening allergy reaction I had in my life was due to cat dander. The animal slept on my pillow and then later I did. The next day I began losing my voice, then coughing and then asthma attack. The doctor made the mistake of giving me antibiotics thinking it was an infection and I ended up having a worse allergic reaction. My face got so swollen up I looked like Hitch on the movie of the same name. Not fun!

    I hope you find someone who is willing to take your pets. :)

  5. We got two kittens when I was a toddler. We had to give them away when I was in junior high for the same reason. One was my special cat; he followed me around like a dog and slept with me at night. I was pretty heartbroken but they went to a very good home where their new family adored them so that helped a lot. It's always hard to give up a pet that's part of the family but my health got so much better! I remember my mom really validating my feelings and letting me work through it and that was nice. We also eventually got a dog that didn't shed and that helped too. Hopefully it won't be too hard on your little ones!

    1. Aw, thanks Rae, it's encouraging to hear your story!

  6. I hope you are able to relocate them! I am little help seeing as I'm on the otherside of the world and my husband has a cat allergy :(

    1. Thank you, Korey, it's sweet of you to think of us.