Smile Politely

Sunday with Franklin

In the summer of 2009, I felt hopeless. Prior to the summer starting, I came clean about an issue that happened to me as a child, my current relationship fell apart, and I discovered that I had a medical condition that prevented me from living the life I had grown accustomed to. I sold my motorcycle, got a therapist and distanced myself from my family. I tried my best to be reclusive, but my friends intervened before things got worse. They recommended that I get a pet. I told them that I felt like I could barely take care of myself, so the last thing I wanted was another responsibility. I was adamant about not adopting anything, not even a goldfish.

Well, one day at work my friend started sending me pictures of kittens from the Humane Society. I told her to stop, but she didn’t. I had every excuse in the book: I didn’t want to be the “cat guy”, I didn’t have enough time for a pet, I didn’t want litter all over my house, my place isn’t big enough, and so forth and so on. Each picture that popped up in my email weakened me. I eventually became defenseless when she sent me a picture of a gray kitten named Gina. Even though this hurts my ego to say this, she was adorable. I told my friend that I was willing to go to the Humane Society that weekend.

I have to tell you, going to the Humane Society and telling yourself that you aren’t going to adopt a pet is like telling yourself that you will only buy milk and bread when you go to a grocery store on an empty stomach. When I went in there and saw countless cats pacing in their cages, I wanted to adopt all of them. There is something severely heartbreaking about seeing an animal begging for someone to take them home. I wanted to resist any emotional urge, and I completely failed to do so. Even though Gina was already adopted and waiting for her owner to pick her up, I still adopted a little gray tabby cat that the Humane Society named Scooter.

Scooter and I went home together the next day. I slowly introduced him to my home. He was tiny and fragile, yet he was full of energy. He would curl up on my lap and fall asleep when he got tired of running around my house. I started to love him. I thought about naming him Thirty, since I was turning thirty soon, but it didn’t sit well with me. Then I thought about the name Franklin. With both the economy and my life being in serious disarray, I thought about FDR and how he helped the country get out of the Great Depression. I thought that if my cat was named after FDR, he would have the power to bring me out of my own depression. 

Other than a couple of minor issues with Franklin stepping in his own poop and racing across the hardwood floor leaving fecal paw prints, things started off quite well. He seemed to be the perfect little kitten and I could tell that he loved his new home. Franklin and I grew together. He really made me happy, especially when I got home. 

Over time, not much changed with us. Franklin of course put on a few pounds, grew a few inches and developed a proclivity to chew plastic. His lust for plastic landed him in the vet’s office for a few days, but eventually he puked and pooped his way through the ordeal. However, last May I entered into a new relationship. My girlfriend at the time spent a good deal of time over at my place, but I did have to spend some time at her place now and again, which made me feel guilty. Franklin seemed to be ok with it, or at least it seemed so. 

He really latched on to the new girlfriend. Since she was in grad school, she would often sleep in and be there for Franklin when I couldn’t be. I think that he started to get used to her being around. He even went so far as to actually sit on her lap, which is very rare for him. He is social, but a little standoffish when it comes to the laps of others. 

To make a long story a little shorter, my girlfriend and I broke up around the end of September. That meant that Franklin’s buddy would no longer be around the house. I think he didn’t understand why she wasn’t there anymore. He grew despondent and seemed to be mad at me. All of a sudden he stopped using the litter box. He instead chose to poop and pee in the second bedroom. Luckily I caught him doing this and quickly took action. I did a quick Internet search about litter problems and every pedant gave the same advice.

I tried every option possible. I switched litters, switched litter boxes, changed the location of the litter boxes, moved them back to their original location and even kept Franklin in more confined spaces. He consistently chose not to use the litter box. He only used the litter box when I placed him in the laundry room. Otherwise, he kept trying to get back into the second bedroom. I set the second bedroom up as a room for me to play drums in. I think Franklin knew that he was getting back at me by pooping and peeing in there. Maybe he was just trying to tell me that he hated my drumming. I will never know for sure.

After speaking with multiple animal behaviorists, they all told me the same thing: Franklin was pissed at me since my former girlfriend wasn’t around. He developed a bond with her and it would take a long time for him to come back to me. I felt like I had been kicked in the junk. I wanted Franklin to be the old Franklin that loved being around me, not the new, tyrannical Franklin who desired to kill me by placing his paws over my nose and mouth as I slept.

I got tired of closing off rooms to my house out of fear that he would poop and pee in there again. During this time I started to realize that I wasn’t giving him the attention he deserves and the life that he wants. Therefore, I recently looked to place him in a new home. I feel fortunate to find a very loving couple who lost a cat similar to Franklin. They were very excited to meet my cat, so I set up a meeting this past Friday. 

When they came over, their eyes lit up. They told me he looked like their last cat. The wife said that she works part time and would give him lots of attention. They even plan on getting him a playmate, a kitten at some point down the road. I couldn’t have asked for a better couple to give Franklin to. The only catch is that they can’t pick him up until the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I assured them that they could have him and that I wouldn’t change my mind.

I never thought I would feel this way, but to be honest, I am seriously heartbroken. I didn’t want it to get to this point, but I couldn’t give him back to a shelter and I couldn’t keep Franklin confined either. Even though he has been using the litter boxes again as usual, I can tell that he is unhappy. I truly hope that this isn’t a metaphor for my life, but it sure as hell feels that way. I keep thinking over and over again that I should have done things differently. I haven’t felt this introspective in years. Each time I look at Franklin, I feel failure. I feel like I am giving up on another relationship, another thing that I was unable to commit to. 

I have no idea what anyone is supposed to get out of my article, but I just felt like writing about it. If there is anything to be learned, it’s that adopting a pet is a huge responsibility, even if it is just a cat. Sure, cats clean themselves and seem to not need much attention, but they still have feelings and they definitely possess the ability to tell you that they are not happy. 

As I prepare to give Franklin away next Sunday, I’m filled with some relief, but that feeling is transcended by the sadness in my heart. It’s not all about Franklin. It’s also about commitment and relationships throughout my life. I am replete with the feeling that I want time back to fix things, even though it impossible to make the past better. The past is what it is and I am what I am. All I can do is move forward and try my best to make the next relationship better than the last.

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