Apart from some fish when I was six or seven years old, I never had pets growing up. Sure, I love animals, but my only exposure to cats and dogs were at the homes of friends and family members who had them. My parents like dogs but we never had one because of my dad's very busy job and my mum having to ferry the three of us kids to and from school, sports, music lessons, and other activities. We also went on a lot of vacations so having a dog wasn't a sensible thing. My mother, sister, and I are severely allergic to cats so that ruled them out as pets. While I was growing up, I had relatives and friends who had both cats and dogs and I always swore I'd have a dog when I grew up. I just loved how friendly and playful and loyal dogs were, and I always found the aloofness and coldness of cats off-putting. When I met my wife, she had had cats her whole life and didn't like dogs due to a bad experience she had with one when she was a kid. Coupled with my cat allergy, it looked like we were just not going to have any pets. As soon as we started having kids, that was further reinforced.
However, after thirteen years of marriage and four kids, both my wife and I really wanted to have some pets, never mind the constant questions our kids had asked like "can we get a dog? Can we get a cat?" Dogs were out of the question for the reasons stated above, plus we're always in and out of the house taking the kids to school and their various activities and practices, so any dog we had wouldn't necessarily get the attention and time outside to play and go to the bathroom that it would need. That left cats...animals I wasn't particularly fond of and seriously allergic to. How bad are my allergies? Usually if I'm at someones house and they own a cat, after twenty minutes my nose gets stuffy, my eyes, nose, and ears start itching, my eyes start watering, and I start sneezing. It's BAD! Still, it was either cats or nothing and a bit of research online showed me that taking over the counter allergy medicine like Claritin should mitigate my cat allergy. Mrs. Chemist and I decided we would surprise the kids with a cat for Christmas this year as soon as we moved into our new house (which happened in late September). Of course, things never go as planned and so...
...we found ourselves on Labor Day with time to kill, all six of us sitting around the house a little bit bored. I suggested we take a drive just to get out of the house and also thought we could do something we've done before in the past, which is drive to PetsMart just to walk around and look at the animals. (Think of it as a free zoo for little kids!). So in the car and over to the store we went. The kids, as always, enjoyed looking at all of the birds, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, snakes and lizard, fish and frogs. That brought us to the area where the kittens and cats available for adoption are kept. Now, the way it works at least in this area of Pennsylvania is that an outside pet rescue and adoption agency, PAWS, cares for the animals and houses them at various pet supply stores (like PetsMart) so that people will see them and hopefully will want to adopt them. As we looked through the window, the six of us were immediately struck by what we saw...so many cute kittens! For me, the minute I saw a tortoiseshell kitten named Piper, I was in love...she was cute and had the most beautiful coloration I'd ever seen on a cat. My wife fell in love with a kitten named Ladybug who was a mackerel tabby that looked just like one of the cats she'd grown up with. The kids fell in love with twin tiger-striped orange tabbies named Andy and Amanda. We had a good time watching the cats in their cages before making our way back home. Once we got home, the kids dispersed to play and read while my wife and I sat down. She and I decided we should adopt two cats around the end of September as a housewarming present to the kids...that way, there would be enough cat love to go around for our family of six. We also decided that even though we thought Piper and Ladybug were gorgeous, we'd go for Andy and Amanda since they were so cute and were siblings. My wife then started reading so I puttered around the house doing little things that needed getting done. However, I kept thinking that since we were moving into our new house in a few weeks, those kittens might be gone by then and we'd miss out. Eventually I went to my wife and said that I thought we should just take the plunge and adopt them now as an early housewarming present for the kids and ourselves, especially because we'd regret it if they were gone in a few weeks. It being Labor Day, there wasn't anyone from PAWS scheduled at the store, but we gathered the kids, jumped back in the car, and drove back to PetsMart with the intention of filling out an application for Andy and Amanda.
Imagine our surprise when someone from PAWS was there and all of the kittens were out of their cages in the little room, playing and lounging. What luck! We went in to check them out and visit with them. However, we found something out...Andy and Amanda were skittish and a bit nervy. Any time we picked them up, they backed away and weren't too sure about us. However, Piper and Ladybug were just the sweetest; we all picked them up and cuddled them and they seemed like they'd fit right in with us. At that moment, we changed our minds and decided it was those two we wanted. We filled out the paperwork, submitted it, and were told we'd hear back by the end of the week. We were nervous when we walked out as other people were coming in to look at cats and seemed to be interested in the same two we were. The next couple of days were so nerve-wracking waiting for the phone call. We all desperately hoped we would get Piper and Ladybug and I even found myself dreaming about us getting them. Me, the non-cat person, can you believe it? Then, two days later, we got the good news...we could adopt them! All of us were so excited...the only bummer was that we had to wait until that Friday to pick them up. That Friday evening, we went to the store, bought pet carriers, food, and litter, and got everything and everyone into the car. On the drive home, Ladybug was quiet in her carrier but Piper started meowing and pawing at the door of her carrier. Before we got home, she had pooped (her pawing was probably because she wanted to get out to go to the bathroom) and then thrown up (many cats get carsick). Poor Piper! We got them into the house as quickly as we could and let them out. We cleaned up Piper and her carrier, showed them where the food, water, and litter was, and then just sat back and watched them explore our house. The first few nights they slept under the couches and were still getting used to our house and the chaos and noise of a household with four kids. Our children are incredibly well behaved, but even so, four kids between the ages of 4 and 10 make a lot of noise and have a lot of energy! Ladybug was quite skittish, bolting under the couch at any loud sound or sudden movement, while Piper was a bit standoffish and not too affectionate. However, we noticed them getting more comfortable after a few days and by the end of their first week with us they were settled in. Ladybug is not skittish any more and is just incredibly sweet and mellow. Piper is a real diva and is definitely the boss when it comes to her and Ladybug, but she is so sweet and affectionate. They wrestle and play with each other all the time, usually instigated by Piper and tolerated by Ladybug, although lately Ladybug has been countering...probably because she realized that even though she's younger than Piper, she's also bigger! Piper sleeps at the foot of our bed my wife every night, while Ladybug sleeps up near our heads. They've seamlessly become part of our family and members we could never imagine being without. It's like we've always had them and I really feel like they're the perfect cats for us. Getting a little more cosmic, I really do feel that most times in life, things happen for a reason ("there's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be" and all that), and I feel as though deciding to go back to the store when we unexpectedly had the chance to interact with the cats and find out that Piper and Ladybug were right for us was guided by an divine hand.
So yes, now I'm that guy going to the pet store late at night to restock our supply of cat food and doing research online to make sure we feed them the best stuff and take care of them the best we can. And I'm happy to report that my allergies haven't been one bit of a problem...three cheers for loratadine!