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Dublin: 8 °C Saturday 19 October, 2019
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Opinion: I always wanted pets but our hairy, howling cat is making my life hell

Are you a 30-something couple with no kids, who are thinking about getting a pet? Well think again, writes Leah Ni Chuinn.

Leah Ni Chuinn

I ALWAYS WANTED pets.

I was one of those kids who begged their parents to open our house up to all sorts of animals. “Of course, I’ll muck out the pony’s stable every day,” I recall telling my mother.

Naturally, I didn’t get a pony and I’m starting to realise that that was good news for me and probably for the equine community too.

We always had between one and four feral, outdoor cats – who had more battle scars than the average Viking and who, if approached, soon scratched or hissed you back into your place.

I once had four goldfish too. They were doing quite well until my brother was allowed to have a house party for his eighteenth birthday.

Sadly Goldie and Salty slipped into the next world, surrounded by a floating can of Budweiser, to the backing track of some 2 Unlimited tune.

My pleas for us to get a dog were always met with encouragement from Dad but utter dismissal from Mum. Mum had suffered for many years, before us kids were born, with a Red Setter – who brought back dead sheep and stole clothes from the neighbours’ washing line.

Adult choices

Fast forward to adulthood and there I was all grown up and doing the adult thing – paying bills, doing a weekly shop and regular cleaning, keeping on top of laundry and even ironing the odd garment. 

I was enjoying the liberty of life as a real adult when that pang of yearning for a pet returned.

Since my boyfriend also shared the urge, we soon began to concoct idyllic stories of how our lives could only be enriched by the addition of a furry companion.

We both work full time, and my boyfriend had grown up with cats, so we decided a furry feline was the best option. I’d never had an indoor cat and I imagined a fluffy little darling, curled up on my lap all cosy, sitting by the fire listening to Norah Jones songs. 

Based on our joint view that our lives would be enhanced by a cat, I forked out €100 for a creature who bit me when I first petted her. Of course, I was taken in by the reassurance of the vendor that ‘she never normally does that’.

I did ask the then-owner whether Maine Coon cats shed more hair than normal short haired cats? Naively, I believed the answer that they do not.  

This – yoke – we’ll call her, was dishevelled, wild-eyed and had been wandering the streets for an unknown amount of time, possibly forever. But she was fluffy and soft, and my boyfriend loved cats, so at the time those reasons seemed enough for us to allow her into our home.

Twix, as she is named, required a litter box, cat litter, a litter scooper, cat litter bags, litter freshener, a scratching post, cat toys, three types of special brushes for brushing out her mats (none of which she will let us use), an antibiotic for her cold and twice daily ear drops for her ear infection.

A week down the line we also required couch covers, costing nearly €200, as she had begun to scratch our leather couches.

When you add it all up Twix set us back the price of a foreign holiday.

She eased us in gently at first. Although she didn’t like being rubbed and she shed huge amounts of fur all over our house and clothes – but still for the first few days, she was relatively quiet and used her litter box to do her business.

But on her fifth night in our house Twix let rip.

She started to display behaviour I can only assume she learned on the mean streets of Dublin- possibly from some hard ass kitties who hang out by the Canal.

At about 3 am Twix began yowling. Yowling was not a term I was aware of until I got a cat, but Google describes it as “a long drawn out meow”.

To us, it sounds more like someone with a shrill American accent repeatedly screaming “hello” up the stairs emphasising the “o” part. Twix howled like that every hour until we nearly lost our minds from the lack of sleep.

She has settled a bit now – but she still likes to yowl every second night, albeit for shorter periods.

Serious issues

Before you start worrying about Twix, she has a very charmed life. In fact, you could say that she is ‘living her best life’.

She is very well fed and groomed, given loads of attention and has her vet checkups when needed.

She has loads of room to roam inside and outside and since she despises other cats with a vengeance – I doubt that she is lonely for another cat.

No Twix just has issues. Serious emotional and mental issues and that’s okay.

But living with an animal that hairy, whose moods include manic and downright vicious, is a kind of hell I’d never contemplated.  

Of course, Twix has her flashes of cuteness and for 10% of our time with her, she is cuddly and adoring.

There have been times, I will admit that I genuinely feel like I might be very fond of her – but such times don’t last long as they are usually followed by her vomiting somewhere in our house.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention that Twix vomits a lot.

You see she is so hairy that when she grooms herself, she is swallowing a large amount of hair. What goes down must come up and it comes up approximately once a week in various places in our house.

This might be nothing new to seasoned pet owners but it sure as hell was to me.

It has been a year since we got Twix. It’s been a long, hard, educational year. I have learned lessons not only about cats but also about myself.

First of all, I am clearly very impulsive and must learn to research big decisions thoroughly.

Secondly, living with an animal is exactly what it says on the tin – you are living with an animal.

So, although you may enjoy an odd trip to the zoo, perhaps ask yourself if you would like to live in the zoo?

Thirdly, like humans, animals have a range of personalities, moods and tendencies so just like people – some of them do not make for good housemates. 

The only thing that makes all of this worthwhile is the happiness that Twix brings to my boyfriend.

Although she often bites and attacks him, she still somehow makes him smile and so I guess – until she drives me to absolute insanity – she is paying her way in our home.

My boyfriend recently expressed to me that he would love to get a dog.

His dog of choice would be an Alsatian but he feels it would be cruel to get just one. Therefore he reckons we’d need to get two – so they can keep each other company.

I fear that Twix won’t be the only one howling in our house if that scenario comes about. 

Leah Ni Chuinn is a freelance journalist originally from Clare and living in Dublin.  

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Leah Ni Chuinn

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