Monday, June 24, 2013

Bloggess Kelly Rheel reveals how a single cat changed her outlook on life

I am not old, but when I caught myself telling a twenty-year-old how bike pants as street wear were all the rage in the late 80s, I felt very much older. When I told one of my friends about this, she sent me a link (as you do when you reassure your friends these days) to a blog by Kelly Rheel, a laser hair technician who just happens to be a gifted comic writer on the side. Not only did I feel better, I also learned that Kelly is a cat devotee and thought I'd interview her on SAT. 

So hi, Kelly. 

Hey there SAT readers! My name is Kelly Rheel and when I'm not blogging about nonsense on therheeldaze, I work as a technician in a laser hair removal spa. I'm also a lover of animals, so I'm really happy to be featured on this site. 

Your cat features in many of your posts. Can you tell us about him?
"I spent forty minutes on a Friday night perfecting this photo. The first twenty was agonizing over which of the dozens of different filters I should choose from. The second twenty I spent deciding if the bokeh lights should be hearts or stars. Look at how annoyed the cat is. This pretty much sums up our relationship."
My cat is a little boy. People always ask me what his name is and unfortunately I don't have an answer. He never told me and I never bothered to ask. See, we met when he was already a cat, not a kitten and I kinda felt it would be weird of me to all of a sudden tell him he was Bob. However I have had a couple of nicknames for him over the years. He's been called Killer, Winks (cause he winks all the time which makes me wonder if he's serious about half the things he tells me or if he's being facetious) Feathers and more recently Skinny Mini because he's a senior citizen now and has lost a lot of weight. Mostly I just call him the kitty though. I think he's a Tabby cat? He has that W thing between his eyes. 

How did you meet?

I used to live in an apartment in Brooklyn that had a window with access to the front porch. In the summer time we didn't even bother to use the door because when we left the window open we could basically step directly into the living room. One night my roommate and I were watching TV and the kitty put one cautious foot through the window, then another. He took a minute to look around before walking in like he owned the place. We let him visit for a while but I told my roommate "Whatever you do, don't feed that thing. He'll never leave." The kitty came back a couple of times after. Once in the middle of the night. I suppose we had forgotten to close the window and around two in the morning I heard a shriek much like a seven-year old girl would make if she got her finger caught in an escalator. My boyfriend at the time came running into our bedroom and said "There's a rat in the kitchen THIS big!" He calmed down once we turned the lights on and and saw who it was. It wasn't long after that I started hooking him [the cat] up with sardines when he would stop by. Eventually he was just a full time guest. Now we're like besties. 

The motto of your blog is "chasing the a comfortable pace". How does your cat aid in this regard?

Nothing this cat does in regard to me is at a comfortable pace. He screams at me constantly. It starts with my four a.m. wake up call to watch him eat. Yes, watch him eat. Anne, maybe you can shed some light on this odd habit but he won't chow down without me standing behind him. I attribute it to him being from the streets and wanting to know someone has his back when he's in a vulnerable position but a vet once told me that cats are just communal animals and they like to do things together. Either way, it's non-stop. He also yells at me to watch him drink which he now will only do out of the running faucet. So we often make many trips from the kitchen to the bathroom at any given moment. I suppose he keeps me from maintaining too comfortable a pace. 

[Ed - re the eating, cats can be very social although I find that if they have an increased appetite due to metabolic disease, like an overactive thyroid, they often want you to watch them eat so you are on hand to deliver the next course stat. I know cats that are fussy eaters in hospital will often eat when someone is watching or even patting them. It would be interesting to know what your vet says but senior cats often develop conditions that cause an increase in thirst - such as chronic renal insufficiency or kidney disease. Thyroid disease and cognitive dysfunction - aka dementia - will also cause cats to take night walks and talk a lot more. Blood and urine tests can help diagnose metabolic disease, but cognitive dysfunction is a little trickier].

Not sure about in the US, but in Australia there seems to be an exchange of knowing looks between people when one is a woman over 30 who lives with a cat. Do you get those? What is the deal there?

You know what I say to those people? I don't have a boyfriend, I don't have any kids. Something needs to listen to me complain about how Weight Watchers raised the points on vodka from two to four. And at least by having a cat as my little buddy I can avoid all of the massive responsibility that comes along with taking care of a man. Haha! See what I did there? JK, I'm sure husbands are totally cool. 

You mentioned you wanted to be a vet tech. What is the appeal for you?

I wanted to be a vet tech because I love animals pure and simple. I wanted to work in an environment where I could make their lives better. However I decided to go in a different direction because the cost of living in NYC is silly and unfortunately, in the U.S. vet techs aren't compensated very well for the work that they do. I also considered becoming a zoologist but once again, living in New York, unless I was working at the Bronx Zoo it may have been hard to find a job and as much as love to travel, I wasn't comfortable with the idea of picking up and moving to Africa. 

Have you ever had to take your kitty to the vet and what was the experience like?

He is a holy nightmare at the vet. He thrashes around and growls so loudly she can barely hear his heart rate. The vet is actually quite traumatic for me because he appears to be in pain and I have a hard time watching. I can't be in the room when they take his blood. 

What do you think we need to do to improve the lives of companion animals?

I think people should realistically consider what it is to be a pet owner. I have a number of friends who thought it would be fun to have a dog or a cat but ultimately gave them up if they misbehaved or if they had to move. This leaves an abundance of unwanted animals. Pets can be a wonderful addition to your life but they are also at times annoying, expensive and inconvenient. My cat is quite old now and his body doesn't work as well so he often leaves messes of all kinds around the house. It's gross, but I manage it because I love him and this is what it is to have a pet. If that's something you think you wouldn't be comfortable dealing with, think twice about welcoming an animal into your home.

Any favourite pet or vet related websites that you want to share?

Well if I didn't already fit the stereotype of "spinster cat lady" this is going to seal the deal. I haven't always been such a sap but I work with only women so a website like this was bound to make it's way into my life eventually. It's called cuteoverload and I dare you to spend five minutes on it and be in a bad mood afterwards. 

[Ed: Ah yes, the CO remedy...I use it often!].

How has having your kitty changed you?

I think I'm a more compassionate person in general because of him. I used to dislike cats but living with the kitty has not only turned me into a cat lover, but a true animal lover. I donate regularly to an organization that helps to improve the lives of domestic and farm animals. Also, three years ago I became a vegetarian (and sometimes vegan) because I want to do all I can to make sure that animals are not being abused. I'm of the opinion that if I wouldn't be OK with my cat being killed for food, I can't be OK with cows and pigs and chickens being killed either. My cat showed me that critters have real feelings and we should be respectful of them. I don't begrudge meat eaters by the way, this is simply the relationship I've chosen to have with animals now. And it's all due to the kitty. 
"I had thirty wallet sized photos of the kitty made up to send to friends and family along with my Christmas cards as revenge for having to look at pictures of everyone's kids all year. To my surprise, they were a hit and many ended up tacked to office cubicles and home refrigerators. Now kitty's a star! And I'm much more gracious about looking at pics of other people's kids." 

Thanks Kelly!