My financial situation is a cat-astrophe

How adopting a cat was the best and worst decision I’ve ever made

sam-1
The Spectrum

It was almost a month ago when I found myself walking through the back entrance of a sketchy house in Cheektowaga. I ignored every “Dateline” special I’d ever seen and followed the directions to an address sent to me by an anonymous Craigslist user. 

I high-fived the red flags as I passed through the threshold into my own spiraling descent into spinsterdom. What was waiting for me beyond that beer can littered patio? It wasn’t a serial killer –– It was, however, about 20 cats. Twenty assorted cats that ran around their house. 

What did this reckless trip, my drunkenly cut bangs and boxed wine all equate to? My super fun emotional spiral of a summer. 

When my long-term relationship ended, I did the most rational thing I could think of –– I moved over an hour away and got a cat. 

In my defense, I was going to move to Buffalo from Rochester anyway for school. The cat just happened to be a little extra bonus. 

My certified dog-person character was retroactively smashed after weeks of scrolling through Craigslist ads. I always wanted my own dog, but understood that the responsibility that comes with owning a dog was more than I could handle. A cat, however, was an entirely different story. My allergies be damned.

After convincing myself that a cat was significantly less of a commitment than a dog, I decided on a Craigslist ad. I spent the weekend preparing for my cat and bought all the necessary cat supplies. One hundred and twenty-five dollars later, I was fervently anticipating a response from this anonymous Craigslist cat plug. 

After a few days of back-and-forth with a potential Craigslist serial killer, I ended up sitting in someone’s driveway just for a cat. 

My trailer park-chic cat plug told me about how she considered her home a refuge for cats. She let them come and go as they pleased, returning pregnant just to abandon the litter for their annual Craigslist ads. I can’t speak on behalf of the unavailable cats’ vaccination records, but their lack of neutering was very telling. The kittens available for “adoption” were also unvaccinated.

Looking back, although I love my cat more than anything, I should not have gone through this route to find a cat. This was a breeding ground for fleas and disease. I felt that I could not leave without a kitten and I had to give one of these kittens a better life. I gave that late-Courtney Love impersonator my $20 and left with the most personable kitten.

This is how Simon, my tabby cat, came into my life.

It only took him an hour until he started running the house. I expected him to be scared of how massively different our house was compared to his, but he explored the entire place within that afternoon.

His disposition changed completely after he became accustomed to everything. It was super fulfilling seeing him so happy, but I knew he had to see a vet as soon as possible. 

Everything was going well for the first week, and then he started getting sick. He started throwing up multiple times a day and stopped eating. He was only three months old at this point and I freaked out.

One hundred and seventy dollars later, we left the vet with a special food and flea medicine. We were in the clear. Except we weren’t. 

I always considered my income considerably high compared to my peers. I made more than minimum wage and received tips. I thought that I could handle the impending vet bills. I could, but only to an extent. Kitten vaccines are expensive, and despite living independently, I did not qualify for low income services. 

I went three weeks without buying groceries so that I could pay for his medical bills. Every paycheck went to him for an entire month. I hadn’t violated my lease and I had a consistent income, so I didn’t understand how this became so difficult. 

People started seeing me post about my cat and how great everything seemed superficially, but then I saw acquaintances of mine adopting cats. I saw people who brought kittens into their homes despite their lease agreements. I saw people who made significantly less than me, who worked significantly less hours, take on the financial restraint that came along with owning a kitten. If I was struggling financially, how were they coping?

These are the kind of situations that lead to pet abandonment and the constant Craigslist ads from desperate students looking to re-home their reckless choices. I can’t imagine committing to another living being if I wasn't certain that I could handle the responsibility that came along with it. Adopting cats and dogs is not the same as buying a plant. You can’t just transfer responsibility to someone else when it gets hard. 

My cat became my financial priority when I made the choice to adopt him. If I have to live frugally because of him, that’s what I’m going to do. Pets are family, and you take care of family.

Samantha Vargas is the asst. arts editor and can be reached at samantha.vargas@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @SamVargasArts