Sunderland, Hartlepool and South Tyneside Branch

The Things Toby Taught me about Responsible Pet Ownership

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Hi, I’m Mel, and I’m the administrative assistant with RSPCA Sunderland, Hartlepool & South Tyneside. I decided to write this blog from a personal experience I had recently in the hope that it offers some helpful insight for those considering taking on a pet.

So, if you are one of those people, please do have a read.

It occurred to me that, had I not had Toby while he was here, I may not have had a vital perspective that recently led me to make an important decision.

Firstly, you might ask, “Who is Toby?”

Well, Toby was my first and only rescue cat. He was as laid back as laid back can be; a talkative, thought-he-was-a-dog, belly-rub-seeking, handsome, ginger tom. Sadly, we lost Toby after only two years with us, when he suffered suddenly from a Feline Aortic Thromboembolism (FATE), also known as ‘saddle thrombus’.

It is always heart-breaking when you lose a pet. The thought that helped us most though, was that Toby had found a happy home with us, in his short time as our boy, and we could reflect on the fact that we were in the right place to offer him all of the things he needed while he was here. Including the lion’s share of bed space: Every. Single. Night.

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I regret nothing. Not even the time I was woken by the sound of extremely close, creepy breathing in my ear, when Toby decided to carefully sniff my face while I was fast asleep. Nope, not even that.

Since then, a lot has changed in both mine and my husband’s lives, though we often talk about adopting a cat again sometime in the future.

What I realised recently, however, is that knowing the right time isn’t always easy – especially if you have never experienced owning a pet. Even more difficult when your heart takes over your head. And, when it comes to animals, this can happen in an instant. I say this because, this is exactly where I could have found myself had Toby never entered our lives.

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Recently, I read about a cat who was looking for a home, and his story stole my heart (not to mention, his gorgeous little face). Over the days that followed, I thought about this little guy quite often, checked to see if he was still looking for his forever home on more than one occasion, and started to feel like maybe we could offer him what he needed. My heart was taking over – we certainly could offer this gorgeous cat a loving home.

Is it the right time?

But then Toby came to my mind, in a way you might imagine Yoda or Gandalf would visit their hobbits or Jedi knights-in-training in a dream: wise, sensible, and ever-so-slightly smug.

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And I’m glad. Because I remembered what we had put in place for Toby before we adopted him: The adoption fee, the toys, the treats, the cat carrier, the beds and igloos (which he used… occasionally); the climbing tree (which he used… never); the pet insurance, the litter and litter trays, the time and patience he needed when he decided the carpet was a better place to ‘do his business’, the food, the bowls, the brushes.

And after we’d had him a while: the ear medication he needed, the vet visits, the boosters, the pain relief for his sore throat, the pet-sitting arrangements for while we were away, the patience and time he needed when we introduced him to the outside, the antihistamines that my husband and I eventually needed when we realised we had a slight allergy to Tobes, and an all-important, new dedication to vacuuming.

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None of this was ever an issue, of course – we were committed and ready to give Toby the love, the time and the finances needed to keep him happy and healthy.

But, as I said, things have changed. Our lives are busier and we have different commitments, both financially and personally.

Is it the right time?

My heart was so eager to skip over all of the reasons why it is bad timing for us to adopt an animal. Luckily, my Ginger-Yoda daydream guided me on a more sensible train of thinking.

I say, ‘luckily’ because I feel fortunate that, from experience, I can step back and say, ‘No. It’s not the right time, and it wouldn’t be fair on this little cat if we made a hasty decision that meant complications further down the line.’

We would love to adopt a cat again, and it’s likely that we will. But the current commitments we do have are, for the time being, unchangeable. And that’s OK too.

Sometimes deciding not to take on a pet is still responsible pet ownership.

And that’s what Toby taught me.

Thanks Tobes.

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