I may have mentioned that last summer, we adopted a kitten. My sister and I went to the animal shelter (with headphones on). It was very loud inside with the dogs barking in the back, but I toughed it out for a short time, knowing I would likely never be going back to one again.
My sister did the negotiating with the staff, who brought us kittens in the private visiting area that blissfully had a door.
The first 3 kittens were either way too hyper or hid under a chair. Then came Tiger Lily. She hopped right in my lap and purred. She also trembled each time the door to the dog area, and I felt a mutual chord had been struck. We both cannot tolerate the barking. It seemed like a good match, and after praying, we took Tiger Lily (we changed the name to Lily Anne, keeping her familiar name and adding my late mom’s middle name).
For the first 2 months, she was my little buddy. She liked my sister, but seemed to love me. I was home alone with her all day. She climbed up on my shoulders going from one to the other. She is very active. We played together. She took direction well such as a firm “NO” when she tried to play bite.
She gave me tongue baths! Scratchy, but worth it.
My biggest fear was that she wouldn’t bond as much with my sister being at work all day.
As expected, she became independent as a “teen cat”. She wanted to explore and be alone for periods of time.
I was glad that I researched cat behavior at all life stages on Vet Street.com.
What I wasn’t expecting is that, by a year (still a teenager of about 18), she would basically be done with me, except when the food bowl was empty or she wanted play to release pent up energy.
She no longer let me pick her up at will. She tried to bite if pet very long. It wasn’t a play bite.
The look I get most of the time I approach Lily, unless it is dinner or playtime.
Having autism, for me, means that unexpected change can lead to having to lie down and shut down to violent meltdowns. Fortunately, the former proved true.
Unpredictability is extremely stressful. Always having to be on guard exhausts me in a very short amount of time. It is the reason I cannot be out in the public for more than a few hours tops. At least I can do it, but the trade-off is plenty of down time. It can take me from 24-48 hours before my sensory filter is clear again.
We re-homed Lily at a year, as I thought I couldn’t handle the unpredictability. A family friend took her in.
This change in itself was excruciating, riddled with yet another change and guilt. My sibling never said anything about how she felt, so being mind-blind, I didn’t think she missed Lily and we could get another cat, perhaps older, at another time.
While on a visit to a Japanese garden a few days after re-homing Lily, I noticed my sibling wasn’t talking, which was rare. I notice change in vocal tone and lack of or too much talking. Though I loathe eye contact and rarely make it, I do notice voices, hyper sensitively so.
I asked if she missed Lily. She broke down in tears. She isn’t what I would call an emotional person (I am not implying that she is cold, she keeps stuff on the inside). She said she missed her terribly. I had no idea she felt more than disappointment.
Long story short, I did some problem solving for both of us.I prayed first and foremost. I said to ask the family friend if they would let Lily come home (they had her about 6 days). I said I didn’t have to interact with Lily, other than to feed her and clean her box. They were willing. I have learned over the years not to think so much in black and white. Some of it is ongoing therapy and some of it is life experience.
As for the void I felt, I did a lot of research about robot cats. I found the Hasbro Joy For All cat (Hasbro.com). Though designed with senior citizens in mind, he fit the bill. Though he can’t walk, Teddy proved beyond his “disability” by cuddling, purring and meowing. His meow is loud, but it isn’t too loud for me. He has a mute button if it becomes too much, which when I have a migraine or am in sensory overload, I use.
He uses technology called Vibra Purr. I enjoy feeling Teddy vibrate as it is calming to both hear and feel. It isn’t weird like a vibrating bed in a hotel room, nor is it creepy like something you would see advertised in the back of some catalogs.
Yes, I put my glasses on Teddy. He had no complaints.
Teddy can’t judge. He is anitromic. He is always in love mode, no matter what. He can’t bite or run off when I’m lonely. Lily now prefers my sister, and I have my Teddy. Family gave him to me as an early birthday present.
I have heard plenty of people say that animals don’t judge. Maybe they don’t judge the clothes I have on or my preference in music, but they definitely judge character. As I’ve just illustrated, at least with cats, they can change their minds over time; just like humans do.
I like the idea of robotic animals as companions. I am not advocating that people stop adopting organic animals. I am saying, for me, the more predictability in an unpredictable world that I find frustrating and disheartening, that a cat like Teddy (or even dog with a customized bark and volume setting-maybe he could talk like Brian from Family Guy!) is the answer for me.
I missed out on AIBO back in the early 2000’s. They cost way too much anyway. I am hoping the geniuses in Silicon Valley can come up with a less expensive model. Since I am on the subject, personalities could vary (from spunky to docile depending on the owner’s personality). Volume and custom sounds could be incorporated. It could cost 100$ or less.
For now, Teddy fits the bill. Perhaps when he wears out, robotic (AI) pets will be the new normal-without replacing the old, organic standbys.
Maybe you are finding yourself or a loved one on the spectrum cannot relate well with animals, live in a place that won’t allow them, is incapacitated or otherwise unable to care for their upkeep.
Hasbro Joy For All Cat: http://www.hasbro.com Can be ordered @ Walmart as well as QVC.com They cost $100.00 Wonderful for a go-in gift.
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