Monday, January 7, 2013

Before Adoption... Please Consider

As someone who has fallen victim to I Am A Cute Kitten Please Adopt Me syndrome (see: Natalie), I can understand why those adorable little paws and whiskers grab people's attention. It's easy to fall in love (KITTEN SNUGGLES!), and besides, adopting rescue cats is a wonderful thing anyways. But there are some serious commitments that come along with adopting a kitty, and serious repercussions for them if you decide to go back on your commitment.

I've seen first-hand how hard it is for a cat to readjust to life on display after being in a home for a significant amount of time. Especially for creatures of habit, who like forming routines and enjoy familiarity. Goodness, try to rearrange the living room and watch the cat go crazy investigating everything to make sure he's still in the same house.

So when they're placed in a home, it's highly stressful for them to be ripped away and then put on display once again. They go from having a place they know and feel comfortable in, to being put back into a place where hundreds of strangers wander up to their windows and gawk at them. And the worst part is: they don't understand why.

That's why I'm asking: please consider your life a year, five years, even ten years down the road before you consider adopting a cat. They live, on average, for 13-17 years depending on circumstances, but they can live upwards of 20 years in some cases. So please, consider these questions before going out and adopting that adorable kitten at your local shelter:
  • Are you planning on starting a family in the future? What are you going to do with the cat once you do? This is the most common reason I've seen for putting a cat back up for adoption: "Well, he was really a great cat, but we're going to have a baby so we decided to bring him back..." If having children is a possibility within the next 15 years, and you don't foresee yourself keeping the cat when that happens, please do the cat a favor and pass so that he can find his forever home.
  • Are you planning on moving at all? Are you prepared to look for a place that will allow you to have a cat if you're going to rent? Are you prepared to move the cat cross-country? Moving with a cat is difficult; I've done it x3 with 3 cats. But the commitment to give a cat a forever home is not one to take lightly, and sometimes it takes a little work to find the right circumstances that include kitty as well.
  • Are you prepared for the work that can come with having a cat? Not just the normal commitments of scooping the litter box, but the occasions where sometimes kitty gets sick and uses your rug as a litter box instead. Sometimes they get things like fleas, earmites, or worms, and need medicine that can either be hard or painfully (and I mean that literally) difficult to give them. And yes, sometimes they go places you don't want them to go, and get into things you don't want them to get into.
  • Can you currently afford the cost of adopting the cat in the first place? If you have to borrow money to pay down the fee in the first place, you should probably wait. Now, I'm not one to claim that one ought to have thousands stashed away on the off chance kitty needs to see the vet. I'm not one to point a finger of shame at people who started out in a good place but fell on hard times. But there's a difference between finding it difficult to pay thousands out of pocket for an emergency, and not being able to afford basic care of kitty. And there's a difference between falling on hard times after getting a cat, and getting a cat despite already struggling with the bills.

There are some legitimate reasons people will have to bring back a cat, things that couldn't really be foreseen at the time they adopted the cat. People fall on hard times. People have to move when they didn't plan on it. People get sick, injured, or die and it's not fair for the animals left behind to stay in that situation instead of being re-homed. It's tough, but it happens, and I'm not here to make anyone feel guilty for that.

But it's heartbreaking to see cats who thought they had found their forever homes come back, over circumstances that could have reasonably been considered at the time of adoption. It's no surprise that cats live more than a couple years, so when you're asking yourself, "Can this cat fit into my lifestyle now?" also ask yourself, "Can this cat fit into my lifestyle years down the road? Am I willing to make it work?"