Dear Million Cat Challenge,
After spending weeks to bring a cat or kitten to full wellness, how do we let go of our tendency to put some of the “barriers” in place to keep irresponsible people from adopting? Example: People who lie about their intentions (i.e., indoor vs. outdoor requirements)? – Wants to Trust
Gosh, we know the feeling! It is especially hard when you have personally gotten to know the cat, whether through foster care or a longish stay in the shelter. The “Adopters Welcome” handbook recently put out by HSUS has lots of good information about this issue. A couple of things we’ve found helpful when it comes time to send our own beloved foster kittens and cats out into the world:
1. Remember that people who want cats will get cats! If they don’t get them from us, they are likely to get a cat that is not spayed/neutered/vaccinated/microchipped, and will be at even more risk if the adopter is someone with limited knowledge or ability to provide the cat with care.
More importantly, denial of a potential adopter who already needed a little education to make a great pet-owner will only turn them off of the one best information source they had – you! The very best way we can protect all cats is to keep the doors of communication open with adopters so if they run into trouble we can help, and make sure every available home is filled with a spayed/neutered/vaccinated/microchipped cat.
And remember, people won’t lie nearly as much if they’re not being judged or denied dependent on their answer. Some people want to have cats and let them outdoors. If they know they’ll be denied adoption from a shelter or rescue over this, they will either lie, or get a cat somewhere else. No opportunity for discussion, and still an indoor/outdoor cat is the result. However, if they know they can still adopt if they tell the truth, you have time for a conversation about cat fencing, screened in porches, and other cat-friendly means to have the best of both worlds. If they still decide at the time to allow the cat to be indoor/outdoor, at least they will have an identified, spayed/neutered cat that is less likely to roam, and they will have information for future reference.
2. Call to mind a time when we ourselves were less than perfect pet owners (if ever). This is Kate Hurley writing here – I grew up poor, with a single mom who grew up petless and afraid of animals. After I spent my first four years pleading for a cat, my mom let me get a free kitten for my fifth birthday (joy of joys!!!!). I christened her Pussywillow and she promptly became my best friend.
However, we did not have the money or knowledge to get Pussywillow spayed or vaccinated. She had several litters of kittens, which we gave away to others who likewise didn’t have the means or knowledge to provide that care. We didn’t even know to deworm her and she spent a couple of years ravenous and wormy before a friend finally tipped us off.
After five years, when we moved across country and left her with a friend for transport after we settled in, my beloved Pussywillow ran away. It had never crossed our minds to put a collar and tag on her, and so to this day I don’t know what became of her. I still managed to grow up to be a veterinarian and a cat lover, largely due to her influence. And for her five years with me, I guarantee Pussywillow could not have been more loved.
Most people want to do right. With education and encouragement, most people will, or at least come to an ever closer approximation. Sometimes the very best adopters don’t fit the mold – they are the ones with time and love to give, and just need a little help with the material parts of the equation.
Dr. Kate Hurley