cat pet allergy lori welbourne jim huntA couple of nights ago I was greeted in my driveway by a small black kitten. As I carried in my bags from the truck, she followed me to the door and when I opened it she peeked in with a curious look.

It was far too late to go looking for her home, so I put my hand down and scooped her up before she had a chance to notice our dog and bolt away. As adorable as she was, I wasn’t keen on taking her in because I’m highly allergic to cats, but there was no way I was leaving her outside with the dangers of traffic and wildlife around.

The sweet little creature was wearing a pink collar with no tags and I couldn’t see a tattoo in her ear. I showed her to my children who had friends sleeping over.

“We saw her out on the road earlier,” they said excitedly. “She’s so cute!”

Immediately loving the new animal in our house, the kids started speculating on her name as I looked at lost and found pages online.

“Can we name her Hiccup?” my daughter’s friend asked.

“Or Shadow?” my daughter, Daisy suggested. “Or Pickle?”

I told them they could give her whatever temporary name they wanted and then I started to sneeze. Multiple times. My eyes began to water incessantly and I made the foolish mistake of rubbing them, which only made me feel worse.

“How are you allergic to cats?” Daisy asked. “You used to have them.” She was right; my husband and I had a couple for many years before she was born, and I had one for a long time as a kid. I have no idea how I became allergic to them later in life, but by the time I went to bed my eyes were so swollen, puffy and red I looked like I’d been crying for weeks.

The next morning, all crusty eyed, I took my last allergy pill and continued placing found ads online and reaching out to all the vet clinics in West Kelowna, thinking one of them might have treated our furry friend since her two front legs had been recently shaved. None of them recognized the kitten, but they all shared the found ad to their Facebook walls.

I called the SPCA, and as the lady who answered checked their records, I made small talk explaining my allergic reaction and that I’d be taking her to a vet to have her scanned for a microchip. She said they hadn’t had any reports of a lost black cat in our area and then gave me some advice I was shocked to hear:  “You can just go on ahead and re-home her then,” she said. “People shouldn’t be letting their cats run loose.”

I assured her I’d keep looking for the owner instead and asked her about the status of our dog who’s been missing since March, with thoughts of him being re-homed running through my mind. Do people really do that? Yes, I found out, they often do – and far too quickly.

On Monday someone sent me an ad that was on Craigslist about a dog found at a campground in Oliver. The finder assumed the animal was abandoned and she was advertising for a new home for her. When I posted the ad to Stolen and Missing Dogs of the Okanagan on Facebook many people made comments about how important it was that she look for the owner and report it to dog control rather than try to adopt out the pup.

Initially she was insistent that the canine had been abandoned by its owners, but there was no proof of that so she eventually took her to the pound and had her scanned for a microchip. Unfortunately she didn’t have one, but through many people sharing the ad on social media, the frantic owner who’d posted about his lost dog several times on Facebook was later connected to the finder and got his beloved family member back.

Luckily Oreo hadn’t been relocated to another city like stolen dogs often are. Without a microchip or a tattoo to identify him as the owner, he likely never would have seen her again.

As for the kitten I found, her name turned out to be Diamond and she wasn’t far from home. Her owner saw the ad online and called me. The recently spayed kitty is now back where she belongs with her very relieved and grateful humans.

Almost all pets found on their own have a family who wants them back. Re-homing them before trying to find them doesn’t just hurt the people involved, but the animals as well. Never assume stray, always think lost or stolen.

Keeping pets safe and getting them micro-chipped is important. There have been over 90 stolen and missing dogs in the Okanagan in the last 18 months, and that is nothing to sneeze at.