West Coast Alcohol Cats

I was standing in the corner of a dog kennel with my back turned, as a large, young Boxer jumped up, pummeling my arm, not letting me leave. It was the first day of work at my new job, and I could feel the bruises start. The shaded outdoor dog kennels house around 175 dogs at any given time, includes dozens of breeds (most common are pitties and chihuahuas, but also has huskies, shepherds, labs, beagles, etc.), many of them sweet, wonderful dogs. This particular Boxer was just young and rowdy, not aggressive at all. And he was beating the crap out of me.

As I got out of the kennel, unscathed except for a purpling arm, it was clear that this was going to be very different than my cat days at the ARL in Boston.


Scaredy Cat
Transitioning to a new coast was a very scary prospect for me. I’ve only ever lived in two places my whole life: my parents’ house in New York State, and Boston. And I love Boston. So even though I was eager for the new job, and gaining new experiences, on the inside I was panicking.

I had to remind myself of Pacino, and all the other cats who came to the ARL several times before finally finding the right home. Pacino, when he first arrived at the shelter, was super sweet but super shy. Hiding in everyone’s lap. The second time he came to the shelter, he was still shy, but still sweet. And then the third time he ended back at the shelter, something had changed. He was sweet as ever, but finally over his fear of change. He had been moved around so much, that he was suddenly able to adapt to being in new situations. He strutted the upstairs hallway of the shelter like he owned the place. And finally, he was adopted by the perfect family and became the first cat to a young boy.

I had to be like Pacino. I needed to uproot myself in order to build confidence. If I had stayed in one place, I would have been too comfortable, and in turn too scared to ever go anywhere. As I was panicking about the move, I had to constantly remind myself that it would be good for me, just as it was good for Pacino and other shelter cats like him.

So despite the fear, and with the hope of moving forward in life, I packed everything up, including Smirnoff and Bacardi, and headed for Tinsel Town.

Cats on a Plane
Animal aviation is a complex web of rules and procedure and sedatives. But after I had called the airline to book two passengers and two cats, ordered the right pet carriers, experimented with cat sedative dosages (as Bacardi has panic attacks when he travels), and made sure all of my checked bags were under 50 pounds (it was touch and go for a while, and I eventually had to leave behind Bacardi’s dry food). After I had given away or sold the alcohol cats’ nice scartching post and cat tree, and tried to encourage them to use the litterbox one last time before I threw it away, it was time to go.

At security, I had to take each cat out of the carrier, walk with them through the metal detector (while their carrier went through the xray), and have the cat hair from my hands tested. Luckily, they let me walk back and forth and do both cats (first Bacardi, then Smirnoff), so that my friend who was traveling with me didn’t have to try and wrangle a nervous cat.

But despite a two-hour delay, I was so incredibly proud of the alcohol cats. They were in their carriers for about 11+ hours, didn’t have any accidents, and only started to meow and complain about 30 minutes before the plane landed (by which time, the sedatives had long since worn off). For most of the flight, they slept under the seats in front of us.

The Pacino Theory, Part 2
When I moved last summer, it was a 20 minute drive across the Charles River. Both cats wailed the entire time, and Smirnoff huddled behind Bacardi in the bathroom of my new apartment. He had spent the past two years of his life (so, two-thirds of his total life) in my Brighton apartment. For a week, he spent most of each day under the kitchen sink.

So naturally, I was apprehensive about traveling across the country. But then the day of plane travel went smoother than I could have possibly expected. And the alcohol cats were fully settled in my new apartment in two days.

They proved once again that the Pacino Theory is true. The more you uproot yourself and take chances, the easier the transition becomes every time you do it.

So then I had no excuse. If Smirnoff and Bacardi could brave a transcontinental journey, and stand strong at the other end of it, so could I.

Best Friends Animal Society
I spent the first few days of work being pulled around by large dogs, eager to get out of their kennels and into the play yards. I knew that dogs would be at least half of the job, as the shelter can house around 175 dogs at one time, (and I made sure to spend time with the dogs in order to get more comfortable handling them), but I was eager to show my expertise.

During the quieter hours, I snuck into the cat rooms for some peace.

There are two communal cat rooms at the shelter, both designed by Jackson Galaxy. I slipped into the bigger one, and purring bodies came over, rubbing against my legs and arms.

I picked up a grey tabby with a crooked mouth. His name is Kirby and he’s fourteen. He only has three teeth, has some arthritis, and spends all day lounging on the floor. I scooped him up and he sat in my lap, purring gently and drooling as I petted him.

And despite the marks of the Boxer still on my arm, I felt like I was in a good place. A no-kill shelter that cares deeply about its animals, that will rescue all types of cats. The Best Friends Animal Society shelter in Mission Hills, CA, has several senior cats, FIV+ cats, a FELV+ cat room, and a mostly volunteer-run neonatal nursery, that bottle feeds tiny kittens around the clock. A room that would make the ARL cat ladies swoon in envy.

To be a part of that, I’ll take on a few dogs.

To Be Continued…

The Alcohol Cats Are Packing Up…

Dear Readers,

It may seem like the alcohol cats’ lives have been somewhat quiet this past month, as no blog posts have been written, and nothing has changed except for a new Instagram account (follow @alcoholcats)… but in fact, the exact opposite is true: SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED!

THE BIG NEWS: Myself and the alcohol cats are hitting the road—or rather, the air—and heading off to Los Angeles! Yes, that’s right. As I said previously, my goal was to get a job at Best Friends Animal Society in L.A. and be able to work with shelter animals full-time.

Well, it happened! My new job begins in less than a week, and I will be joining the adoption staff at Best Friends. I am in the process of selling/giving away all my furniture, sorting through all my possessions (of which I have way too many), and making sure the cats are ready for their in-cabin flight.

(Currently, Smirnoff & Bacardi are much more calm than I am, but I’m sure once they’re in their carriers and headed to the airport, all that will change.)

Wish us luck, and I will check back in once we’re settled on the west coast 🙂

Best,
Liz

Moving with Cats: A Survivor’s Tale

I’ve never had to move cats before.

Smirnoff, at age 3, had been living in my old apartment for the past 2 years, which is a significant two thirds of his life. Bacardi wasn’t too far behind. I was a little nervous after watching episodes of My Cat From Hell (Animal Planet), as well as knowing the histories of several cats at our shelter (such as Whiskers), knowing that after a move, cat hierarchies can change in a new territory. Smirnoff and Bacardi are a mismatched pair, after all. They like each other, but they’re not really bonded. So I had my reservations.

Still, I have done enough adoption interviews at the shelter to know that in any new environment, you should keep your cat(s) confined to a smaller space, such as a bedroom or bathroom (with litterbox, water, and food included) so as not to overwhelm them.

My plan was simple: move the cats and their stuff first. Set them up in the bathroom of my new apartment. Keep them in there for a couple days, or as long as they would tolerate it, and hope that no fights break out. But I know how to introduce cats. If the worst came to the worst, I could separate them and slowly re-introduce them. It would be arduous, but possible. I felt I was mostly prepared. What actually happened wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Continue reading “Moving with Cats: A Survivor’s Tale”