There are far too many stories about puppies and kittens being given as Christmas gifts and then being given to a sanctuary because the experience is not as joyful as expected. Author Phillip T. Stephens and his wife work with the Austin Siamese Rescue organisation and has written a thought provoking article on the pros and cons of adopting a kitten. So if you are planning on doing so this Christmas, now would be a good time to think things through… and discuss with the whole family.
Comfort and Hair Balls? You Better Think Twice
It’s Christmas, you walk past that pet store or you see the adoption people at the mall and there, staring back at you is the cutest calico kitten you’ve ever seen. Big eyes as though painted on by Margaret Keane, staring at you, pleading, “take me home, take me home.” As Cele so beautifully demonstrates.
You think, “What a perfect present for the kids. It will teach them responsibility, how to feed and nurture their own pet, change its litter.”
Does Santa have a surprise for you.
Far too many of the kittens purchased as Christmas presents end up at the shelter or with rescue groups like Siamese Rescue. Parents learn far too quickly that their children aren’t ready for the responsibilities of raising a kitten.
They intend to feed Milo, as soon as they finish their homework (didn’t happen), take out the trash (didn’t happen), finish this video game. Or maybe your children do prove to be more responsible than my son, nephews and nieces but many families aren’t prepared for the reality of kittens.[ This includes puppies too. Our first puppy, Pookah, an American Eskimo, in his first two weeks, ripped the wallpaper off the kitchen and bathroom walls, chewed three pairs of Carol’s work shoes, and chewed every wire to connecting my dolby sound system to its speakers]
Kittens may not take to the litter box right away. Kittens chew books, album covers, and important documents. Kittens scratch furniture. Kittens pounce on toes and hair when you’re trying to sleep. (Many adopters think they can fix the furniture scratching by declawing, but that surgery is a cruel, painful process that removes their knuckles and leaves them with no defense against other cats except their teeth.)
Even worse, kittens cry for attention at night. All night.
You might think, how, can Phillip say these things? He’s trying to get us to adopt kitties. Well, actually, I’m not. Austin Siamese Rescue wants to match the right cat to the right family, whether it be a precocious kitten or a mellow middle-aged matron. A good adoption builds the foundation of a successful relationship. Many of our adopters talk to us years later, contact us for friends and refer us to other potential adopters. And who would not want Boyfriend.. in his tuxedo.
We don’t want cats coming back because cats suffer depression when their families abandon them. People find this hard to believe, but years of experience taught us that the more homes a cat has been through, the harder they find it to adjust in the future.
Does that mean a kitten is a bad Christmas present? By no means. A new cat can brighten your Christmas like an angel at the top of your tree. But you should adopt a kitten with thought and care. Before your family adopts you should:
Make the adoption a family decision and not a surprise.
If your child has been asking for a pet, make sure to discuss the realities and consequences of pet ownership before surprising them with that cute kitty.
Discuss the potential problems a pet may face adjusting with the rescuer or adopter.
Avoid pet stores and pet mills. They tend to not be responsible for their animals even though they claim otherwise
Consider adopting an older kitty who is older, calmer, more settled and yet makes a great family companion. Kids think they love kittens, but older cats are great with kids and the two often form deep bonds that last a lifetime.
One of the most common reasons cats are returned or surrendered is sudden veterinary expenses. Consider starting a fund, or buying pet insurance for the times when your new pet will need veterinary care. Banking against that possibility helps make sure you keep your family together.
By preparing for your new cat’s Christmas day arrival you can insure a long life of comfort and joy, rather than a return trip to the North Pole on Santa’s sleigh.
Many thanks to my wife Carol and the members of Austin Siamese Rescue for contributing to the advice in this post.
Cele courtesy of Austin Siamese Rescue
Boyfriend courtesy of Austin Siamese Rescue
About Phillip T. Stevens
Phillip T. Stephens, a professional educator and writer who developed a number of innovative classroom programs for exceptional and at-risk youth, drew on his own experiences as a minister’s son being frequently moved to new schools as well as those of his students to write Seeing Jesus. He and his wife carol rescue and rescue cats in Austin, Texas for http://www.austinsiameserescue.org/
He is author of Seeing Jesus. A humorous, coming of age story, suitable for Christmas reading, Seeing Jesus introduces young readers to questions of spirituality and philosophy they might not otherwise find the opportunity to explore.
An unlikely friendship blossoms into a community…
Eighth grader Sara Love’s parents transplanted her from Austin to the tiny town of Pollen, Texas, where she stands out like a blackhead on a bright red nose. Her father expects her to get along with the Queen Bee Jana Payne, the mayor’s daughter, and the rest of her hive because his business depends on the mayor’s approval. The hive wants nothing to do with Sara, nor does class clown Delbert Thrash, or any of the other kids for that matter.
Sara makes friends with Mr. Fisher, a homeless man, who no one else can see. Mr. Fisher tells Sara wonderful stories, stories that not only entertain her but help her discover resources within herself that allow her to cope with her loneliness and frustration.
Her parents aren’t happy to learn about Mr. Fisher, however, and just when Sara is cast to narrate the Christmas play her classmates learn about Sara’s imaginary friend, too. Sara discovers every dark cloud has even darker clouds pushing past, only when she turns to Mr. Fisher for help, he vanishes.
Can Sarah use Mr. Fisher’s lessons to rise to the occasion, gain her family and friends’ acceptance, not to mention save her father’s job and the Christmas play?
N.B. Phillip T. Stephens will release Seeing Jesus in two versions. This, the Young Adult version, and the unabridged version for adult readers. Without being doctrinaire, Seeing Jesus provides readers a chance to address questions they will confront in the news, their classes and professional lives.
What the readers are saying
“This is an important book that provides positive insights for both for adults and children who have to deal with bullying”.
“Well thought-out, fantastical journey through a spiritual life. Seeing Jesus will challenge you to see yourself.” Jen Winters author, Falling Angels
“A quirky, suspenseful story of school bullying with a surprise ending.” Lynne Murray, author of Gravitas: Valkyrie in the Forbidden Zone.
Also by Phillip T. Stephens
BUY all the Books: https://www.amazon.com/Phillip-Stephens/e/B0091XK7HS
Connect to Phillip T. Stephens
My thanks to Phillip for this article that really drives home the fact that adopting a pet is not as simple as falling in love and taking it home.. it is a lifetime’s commitment.
I look forward to your feedback and please share this message with your own friends and family off and online. Thanks Sally