Loving my pet is hard to do

For Christmas 2010, my lovely husband (then-fiance) got me the one thing missing from my life.

Meet Pebbles, my sweet kitten. She was 5 months old when we adopted her from our local animal shelter, where she had been living for a month. She was cuddly and sweet when we met her and I knew right away: she was my cat. And I was hurting for a pet. My last pet, a tortoiseshell kitten, was taken from me when I was 12 after we married my highly allergic stepdad. I had a hamster after that, but it was never the same. Pebbles filled that hole.

Until she started acting out. Biting and clawing in a kitten is not as cute in a full grown cat. We tried to teach her early with swats to the nose, loud claps at bad behavior, dumping her off our laps, etc. Everyone online, in books and in person has different tips for dealing with an unruly kitten. And at times, we literally had the sweetest cat in the entire world. But those times are hard to remember when she is clawing at your feet under the comforter at 2 in the morning.

Over the past year, her claws have gotten sharper, her bites have gotten stronger. I cannot get close enough to her paws to trim her claws, let along try “soft paws.” Yes, I’ve tried everything. I’ve read everything. I know all the ways to make her better. I know everyone thinks declawing is cruel. I’m not a huge fan myself. But when my cat continues to claw me in the lip, eye and cheek, I’m strongly considering declawing her myself.

It was after a visit with the vet (in which she clawed the vet in the face) that we realized our sweet Christmas kitten is probably never going to get any better. We’re trying behavior modification with a water squirt bottle. It doesn’t seem to be helping. But she hasn’t clawed me in the face in the past 2 weeks, so what do I know. I’m still afraid of her. I can’t have her on my lap for too long or I get scared. But I’m trying.

It’s times like this that I hate being an adult. Rarely is this the case, but when a vet tells you to put your aggressive cat to sleep because she will never be safe, I wish I had a parent to decide for me. Instead, I have to wrestle internally with the idea that my kitten, the one I’ve waited for for 10 years, may be too feral, too aggressive. And that sucks. Simply put, it sucks.

There’s no neat and clean way to wrap up this post. Because there’s no black or white answer. As much as I wish there were.

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