I recognize that all too often, "cat people" (for lack of a better term), can get a little too animated and excited about their cats and the daily antics that come with them. So if you are one of those people that rolls your eyes when people start discussing their cats, maybe skip this post. I've recently had another wonderful cat join my life (yes....another).
Working in an animal shelter comes with lots of perks (like plenty of adorable fluffy snuggles) but also has a bigger list of frustrations than most people realize. There's a long list of things that people working in animal shelters have learned to not even try to discuss with "non-shelter" folk. Not only just the difficult euthanasia decisions we occasionally need to make or the tricky process of getting to know and evaluating a new animal and determining what sort of home will set the animal up for success, but also the vast majority of interactions we have with the public. There are of course some infuriating situations with people surrendering their pets, blantant lies we are told over and over again, but less obviously, some of the most trying interactions are with people looking to adopt pets. Often times, the public is simply uninformed about how a shelter functions and that we are not a pet store but rather a place that cares deeply about every animal there we are caring for and our primary concern is not simply getting the animals into homes, but finding appropriate matches for both the animals and what the adopters are looking for in a pet to ensure that we have done our best to send that animal into what we hope will stay its forever home. Some examples of this are say, a dog with a history of snapping at children or a cat becoming very fearful in loud environments or around quick movemts, we will not send to a home with young kids. For the most part, once this is explained to people, adopters are receptive and understand that our aim is to help find the family what they are looking for in a pet. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, which often leads to people's worst sides and tempers being thrown at us (working in animal shelters is the only job I've ever been at that multiple occasions the cops have needed to be called to assist with unruley and threatening clients). This preface leads me to talk about how this new cat, Mayor McCheese, found his way into my life.
Mayor McCheese (we obviously named him at the shelter) was brought to us with his 2 sisters when they were about 9 months old. They had been born in someone's basement to a stray or feral cat. When the family discovered them, they simply let the children care for the kittens, but didn't interact with them a whole lot, allowing the 3 cats to grow up in the basement and roaming inside their walls. Once they were no longer adorable kittens and the children lost interest in feeding them, they were brought to the shelter. Sadly, had these cats been brought in as kittens, they would likely have been totally normal, very adoptable sweet kittens. Instead, we were brought 3 full grown adolescent cats who were decently scared of people and were totally overwhelmed in a shelter environment, outside of their basement walls. McCheese was by far the worst of the 3, totally petrified and shut down completely in a cage. After many weeks of working on gaining his trust and building his confidence, we decided to move him into an office space to help him get more comfortable with people, outside of a cage. Once in the office we discovered what an incredibly sweet, affectionate boy he is. He remained pretty skiddish and freaked out if you tried to pick him up, but with some patience and a handful of treats he would happily befriend you. Unfortunately, he was young and very cute at a time of year where there are few to no kittens available at shelters, which made him top choice for every kitten seeking family. When introducing him to a family we would, as always, explain to people our best guess at what he would be like in a home. We knew he liked other cats and felt that he really would do best and thrive in a home with another social cat that he could bond with and pick up on their confidence around people. He ended up being sent home to a family that, unfortunately not surprisingly, did not listen to a word we said about him or how to appropriately introduce a cat like him into a home. He was brought back within a week with the adopter loudly proclaiming as she walked through the door "this cat is EVIL". A word to the general public: announcing something like that to a staff full of people who have loved and cared for a cat that they know much better than you is NOT COOL.
Heartbroken about his return and knowing that this experience certainly did not help him, I started to think realistically about how he might fit into my life. (As a side note: our other cat, Leeroy Jenkins, went through a very similar experience with a quick return from adopters who disreguarded all the information we gave them about his fiesty behavior). Mayor McCheese needed a quiet, cat-savvy adult only home, ideally with a cat companion. We had all of that. I talked to my partner and we decided that Leeroy really could use a playmate (especially as I was unhappy about how rough he played with my cat, Sausage) and I felt like Mayor McCheese was likely to be a great match for Leeroy's energy level and play style. We decided to bring him home for a bit to see if they would bond (yes, a perk of working at a shelter). It was quickly obvious to us that he was a keeper. It took him a little while to become totally comfortable with us, at first frequently needing to be bribed out from under the bed with treats and only allowing fleeting pets, but he and Leeroy were instant buddies. He is now officially part of the family and has been an incredible addition. Leeroy loves him and it has brought peace to Sausage and Leeroy's friendship as now there is another young cat for Leeroy to chase and play with and McCheese continues to get more and more comfortable with us, now even frequently settling next to or on top of us and demanding attention and snuggles. We've even been able to start scooping him up and giving him kisses without him freaking out (he still kinda hates being picked up though...). He is sweet and appropriate with my rabbit too, another prerequisit to joining the family.
So I hope you took heed of my cat-talk warning, as I know this post could cause lots of eye rolling from non-cat folk, but a lot of my life is cats, so I thought I'd give an update about my evolving cat clan.