I've written about my Litter From Hell, maybe mentioned a mother cat from hell, had long hellish days (as I'm sure all of you have), but I've decided to blog about my nightmare kitten buyer. First, my disclaimers: I love meeting my kitten buyers, become personal friends with some of them, and of course, I love hearing about how much my kittens mean to their lives once they have left me. Second disclaimer: I've changed the name of the kitten buyer, but the story is true. I've dealt with pompous kitten buyers, disorganized and inconsiderate kitten buyers (if you're going to be 45 minutes late, call and tell me), and ignorant kitten buyers...I can deal with all that. This man built up a slow boil with me that ended tragically.
Dr. C wanted a Maine Coon kitten. He's a medical specialist at a NYC hospital and lives in a Manhattan apartment with his mother. From the beginning, my notes from our conversations said things like, "Needy, but a nice guy.". He already had a male Maine Coon he said he obtained from a pet store in Manhattan, admitting it wasn't the best place to get a cat, but that the cat was okay. He loved his cat and wanted to get him a coonpanion. In the past, if a potential buyer told me they had a male Maine Coon and wanted a female, I would have asked for proof that the older male had been neutered, fearful that someone may want to breed her. But since I spay and neuter my kittens before they leave me, I didn't worry about this with Dr. C.
Like some of my kitten buyers, Dr. C was obsessive about his new kitten-to-be. Many kitten buyers are anxious and will call or email, asking for advice because they want to do everything right for the new family member. I see it as a sign of caring. Dr. C, however, called about twice a week before getting his kitten from me to ask my advice on his existing pet shop cat. He wanted to know what to feed, what I thought about what his vet said, what certain behaviors meant, etc. I was already starting to dread his long, self-absorbed phone calls concerning a cat I wasn't responsible for. The family even commented that we'd miss listening to his voice mails after he got his kitten as some of them were quite amusing.
I had a mental image of what Dr. C would look like long before I met him; an older, but not old, balding man who lived with his mother, with a personality like Felix Unger from The Odd Couple. When Dr. C showed up to meet his kitten, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, his mother was sitting in the back seat of his Jaguar like Miss Daisy, but Dr. C actually looked pretty hot in his shorts and he looked about my age. The voice on the phone was opposite from what appeared in front me. I think my jaw dropped open and stayed that way for quite some time.
Dr. C was getting Mia, a blue torbie girl from Myra's "M Litter" (all the kittens had names beginning with the letter M). He kept the call name we had given her. After I'd agreed to sell Dr. C a kitten, I regretted it because of all the obsessive phone calls I received while he waited for her to mature enough to take home. I was afraid that he'd keep up the behavior after he got his kitten, but he didn't. As a matter of fact, after Mia went to live with Dr. C I had a hard time getting hold of him just to find out how she was doing. I spoke to him once and he told me she'd been at his vet's for several days due to recurring diarrhea and was undergoing tests. I asked him to let me know the results of the test, but I didn't hear from him for almost two years after that.
Then shortly before the holidays, Dr. C's voice showed up again on my voice mail. He said his older "pet shop" Maine Coon had Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), a fatal, incurable disease believed to mutate from the common Corona virus. This was bad. I was concerned more about Mia because frankly, if the other cat had FIP, that was tragic, however there was nothing I could do about it. He was going to die anyway. She probably had the corona virus, many cats do. From what we know about FIP, it seems to strike the young and old cats, those with weaker immune systems, when the corona virus mutates into FIP. I just hoped that Mia's immune system was strong enough to keep her healthy.
The reason Dr. C called me was to let me know that he knew his other cat was going to die so he wanted to line up a replacement kitten after that happened. I advised him to wait awhile and at least have Mia tested to make sure she didn't have a high titer for the corona virus, sometimes an indicator for FIP. Dr. C disagreed, said he'd been consulting veterinarians from Cornell, and there was no need for Mia to be tested or wait. Not feeling comfortable that I wanted to risk a second cat into his home, I told Dr. C I did not have a male kitten available and didn't expect to for quite some time as I had a long waiting list. I also posted a warning about Dr. C on some of the Yahoo groups I'm on for Maine Coon breeders as I didn't want anyone else's kitten to risk exposure to a potentially fatal disease. His male cat apparently lived a few more months, but meanwhile Dr. C called Maine Coon breeders all over the east coast, from New York to Florida, looking for a male brown tabby kitten. Many breeders contacted me privately, asking me what was wrong with this guy. One breeder said she'd told him she didn't have kittens and wouldn't until the summer. He still called her 2 to 3 times a day, saying the same thing. She asked me why Dr. C didn't "get it", she didn't have any kittens and him calling constantly wasn't going to magically produce any. Another breeder in Pennsylvania actually accepted a deposit from Dr. C for a brown male kitten, then called me to ask advice when he started having problems with Dr. C. Apparently Dr. C and his mother got so ugly and combative over the phone, demanding to have first pick of the litter, that the breeder broke off the agreement. Dr. C then threatened to sue the breeder if his deposit wasn't returned by a certain date. Another breeder in North Carolina reported similar problems with his demands. I have to admit that Dr. C was never rude to me. His mother barely said two words when we met.
Yes, we breeders talk about our problem kitten buyers. Many of us are on Yahoo groups where we share information about cat shows, kittens, triumphs, health concerns, etc. One thing cat breeders all agree upon is that we look out for the best interest of our kittens. A breeder I work with reported that Dr. C called them looking for a kitten, stating that his blue female "Mia" was purchased from a pet shop, but "she was okay". This was the same language he'd used with me when talking about his other Maine Coon before he bought Mia. So now I wondered if he'd really gotten that cat from a pet shop or just wanted to keep me from contacting his breeder as a reference. Although obligated to keep in touch with Dr. C to a certain degree because he had one of my cats, I was certainly not going to sell him another.
Dr. C left me a voice mail a few weeks ago, saying that now his male cat had died, he thought perhaps Mia would get along better with a female kitten and it might be easier for me to have females available (Maine Coon males are more popular than females). He rationalized that Mia had met his neighbor's female cat and got along with her. I didn't return his call. Two days later, he called back and I answered the phone. This time he told me that Mia had fallen off the balcony of his apartment. Then he went on one of his tangents about how close he'd become to her since the other cat had died, she'd only eat when he hand-fed her, he'd gotten a male kitten from a breeder in Chicago and they were getting along well, he'd tried to block off the railing to his balcony with plants he'd spent $400 on from Home Depot to keep her from jumping onto the railing, the apartment management wouldn't allow him to put up chicken wire above the balcony, but he'd let her out anyway. When she'd jumped over the plants to perch on the railing, he'd taken her down and "given her a smack", but he said he "probably should have beaten her, maybe that would have taught her a lesson." He knew he shouldn't let her out there, but she loved it so much and she was like his child, he couldn't say no. A friend had warned him about the danger he was putting her in. Still not fully getting it as I was envisioning a balcony on the second or third floor, I interrupted him to ask, "How's Mia after her fall?" "Oh she's dead, she fell 23 stories." Mia had fallen to her death the day he'd left the voice mail asking about getting a female kitten, but he said he couldn't tell me the whole story then. I heard no angst in his voice, no crying, just excuses. My shock over Mia's death has vacillated between anger, despair and guilt. Writing this is supposed to be a cathartic release for me.
There was an article in the New York Times recently about how high rise dwellers are making their balconies safe havens for their cats so they can't fall off, referred to as Catios. Too late for Mia. At least some cat owners understand what Dr. C didn't. Just like a small child doesn't comprehend all dangers, cats don't either. Our responsibility is not to make excuses, but to protect them.