Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Adopting, and Abandoning, Cats

calico cat in trap.
Little mama Rita trapped and rescued, photo courtesy her rescuer.

On the evening of July 4 an urgent message came into the rescue group about a cat with kittens seen inside a “slimy wet gross mildew infested” abandoned building. Over the course of the next 18 hours, between fireworks and the dark of night, at least a dozen people corresponded about the building and the neighborhood, giving directions and descriptions to be able to find the building and determine if the cat and her kittens were trapped inside in the summer heat. One rescuer attempted to enter the building but determined it unsafe—not a good thing for the mother cat and her kittens inside.

With the address one person quickly found the name of the former business housed in the building, the building owner, the phone number and eventually contacted the owner himself who sounded elderly but agreed to meet the rescuers at the building. The rescuers ended up using a crowbar to get the door open, with the owner there, and managed to trap the kittens, but no sign of the mother. The kittens were taken to a foster home and were young, weaned enough to eat soft food and seemed well and healthy but really dirty.

The mama kitty was caught the next day by one of the rescuers who went back to look for her, discovering there was access to the outside through the roof and from the second floor. She apparently had some access to food and water as she was healthy as well, but barely more than a kitten herself, and there was mention of another litter before the one already trapped. Mama was named “Rita”, short for “Margarita” and surrendered to the Animal Rescue League, but when her temperament showed she wasn’t ready to be adopted they called the person who surrendered her and Rita was retrieved and sent to foster boot camp for retraining.

Why are pets, especially cats, abandoned?

That’s an awful lot of work by a lot of people for a cat no one owned, but no one questioned the need to bring her and her kittens to safety. But why did she end up, unspayed, in an abandoned building, having kittens? And if she and her kittens hadn’t been trapped and rescued the cycle would have continued, creating more cats and kittens to be rescued. Some pets do escape, but why are pets, especially cats, deemed so worthless that they can be put out of their home and left to fend for themselves? How does a person choose to do that, and why?

Why people do—and don’t—adopt cats

Perhaps if we knew why people chose to adopt or not to adopt cats, we’d know more about why people later abandoned those cats.

It’s proven in statistics and surveys that, although more cats than dogs are kept as household pets, cats overall get fewer visits to the veterinarian and fewer studies are done on behalf of their physical and emotional health and welfare.

This overall lack of treatment also bears out in lower spay/neuter and adoption rates and, unfortunately, somewhat higher euthanasia rates—and an average of 3,000 kittens born every hour in the United States (more on that later).

The Morris Animal Foundation, in its Happy Healthy Cat Campaign, decided to begin a search for the answer to this lack before the cat is even adopted. They’ve recently completed an online survey of non-cat-owners, asking how likely they would be to adopt a cat and if so, why, and if not, why not.

orange kitten is adopted
Orange Kitten is adopted!

This would help to focus on two things: finding the most likely adopters of cats, and determining the objections to cat ownership so that education and awareness could help potential feline owners with these issues making adoption more likely and permanent. Theoretically, those homes would be more likely to increase feline health care and the general population of more attentive cat owners would request more studies on feline health. If education could be simply given to the general audience of potential homes and adoption campaigns could be targeted at the audience most likely to adopt it might make all the difference to cats in shelters all over the country.

It’s a natural to think of shelters marketing animals to potential adopters as if they are a product, and when I think of my own appeals for adoption of my own or others’ fosters or rescues this is exactly what I do—think of who is most likely to adopt, write up my appeal directed at them and even contact them, and if they have objections I try to answer those objections. It may not work on the first try but it does eventually find a home for a cat—or I’d have several dozen at any given time, and I don’t, I’m very glad to say.

The survey had 1,102 non-cat-owning respondents and had very interesting results. Read them on the Morris Animal Foundation’s “Catitudes” page, and also visit Happy Healthy Cats and the rest of the Morris Animal Foundation’s website which includes information about and funding for cats, dogs, horses, birds, wildlife, fish and probably a few more living creatures. It’s good to know they’re out there working for the good health and welfare of our animal companions.

. . . . . . .

Thanks to all of you who selflessly rescued Rita and her kittens from the building, then rescued her once again as she found shelter life unsuitable and acted out.

And congratulations today to the Homeless Cat Management Team which is celebrating both their one-year anniversary in their own clinic as well as the spay or neuter of their 15,000th cat! Thank you for helping to reduce the populations of cats with free-for-feral and low-cost spay and neuter and all of the volunteers who work with the group for all your efforts at rescuing cats, caring, spaying, neutering and making the population of cats smaller and healthier one cat at a time.

Browse some rescued cats and kittens!

cats for adoption

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From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

8 thoughts on “Adopting, and Abandoning, Cats

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  • Awesome post, Bernadette! I often wonder about those same questions, and wonder whether, when I gently nudge a potential adopter who is on the fence about bringing a cat home – am I really doing a disservice? I would like to repost your article in my weekly volunteer email as a guest post – would that be ok?

    • Harry, I’ve often wondered the same thing, and in my own rescue practice, where I had a limited number of cats, I would actually discourage someone who was on the fence for the many reasons they may not want the cat later. And though it finds homes for many, many cats, especially hard to adopt adults and older cats, I wonder about the “free” and low-cost adoptions. What we really need to do is simply have fewer cats who need homes.

      It would be an honor to guest post for you! Thanks!

      • AMEN to fewer cats. My goal is to HAVE TO get on a waiting list to adopt a cat in THIS lifetime. Not a L-O-N-G waiting list, but just enough that people realize that cats really are WANTED.

        As for “free” and no-cost adoptions, I was going to say Baylah and Gideon were both in that category and then I realized that we didn’t actually PAY for ANY of the current cats (until you consider neutering, inoculations, check-ups, major medical… as well as a life-time of quality food and litter). MacKenzie was a “no charge” from Animal Friends (a permanent “foster” wink-wink), Molly had been adopted, also from Animal Friends, by a dear (older) friend with the understanding that we’d take her if/when she needed a new home. Angus and Donal are two of Mimi’s earlier off-spring (Lucy and Charlotte’s brothers).

        You can’t put a price tag on LOVE. The only way the adoption fee “matters” is if the person isn’t serious about providing a lifetime of quality love and care, so it might dissuade a few people, but I don’t like the idea that animals can be “purchased” (guess that puts me on the fence). Screening adopters is a key as well as linking potential adopters with the “right” cats (preferably at least TWO).

        We also need to educate landlords and advocate for people to be able to KEEP their cats if/when they have to move. And that’s ANOTHER good reason for low/no-cost spay/neuter programs. It all comes back around to fewer cats and more homes.

        • Amby, I agree. I think that low-cost and even no-cost adoptions have found more good homes for cats than bad homes, and it’s being careful about who and not how much that often counts. After all, I let you adopt multiple times… 😉 And I wish there were many more homes like you and Danny! All my cats have been “free’ as well, at least, I paid nothing until I got them into my house.

          I think part of the answer is that the rest of the system, law enforcement, veterinarians, shelters, all have to work with adopters so that potentially abandoning your pet is met with affordable services, behavioral counseling or punishment if necessary.


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