The CATalyst: Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week

Steve Dale, CAT FANCY writer and syndicated newspaper pet columnist, provides a weekly cat news roundup.

Loving the Less Loved
Think about it, pets at animal shelters have little to sell themselves on aside from what they are.

You may not be attracted to big orange cats, but, happily, many people are. Lots of people like calico cats, kittens are most popular of all and pedigreed cats are hopefully snapped up by rescues. Black cats, however, don’t have it so easy, even though their personalities may shine, many of these cats don’t find a home.

Even tougher sells are cats that have tested positive for the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or cats with special physical needs. In fact, many shelters are so overwhelmed with cats, they can’t afford the luxury of even entertaining the idea that disabled or FIV cats might be adopted. They don’t have the staff and/or the space. So, these cats don’t even have a chance.

But they should have a chance. And is supporting that notion by proclaiming this week (through Sep. 25) Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week.

Tree House Humane Society, renowned all-cat shelter in Chicago, does take in special needs cats, and there’s a spacious room with eager-to-be adopted FIV-positive cats.    

Sucre arrived at Tree House Humane Society with a severely fractured leg. The veterinarian couldn’t repair the damage, and decided it was in Sucre’s best interest to amputate. “That’s the thing, if Sucre had all four legs, I believe he would have been adopted within days,” says Ollie Davidson, the shelter’s program manager. “Sucre is very friendly, and surprisingly agile. We’ll come in and find him on top of the cat tree and wonder, ‘How the heck did he get there?’”

In truth, Sucre isn’t a special needs cat – there are no special needs required, although it may take a special person to adopt him. Sucre needs a person who can see him for the cat that he is, for his spunky and determined personality.

Sucre, who is only 2, will hopefully be adopted soon. Moonchild may not share the same fate. Moonchild is 15 years old, and as if his age isn’t enough to deter most adopters, he’s also diabetic. The truth is that administering insulin is easy to learn, and usually easier than trying to give a cat a pill. Still, dealing with needles discourages some people. And dealing with his fairly advanced age makes matters worse.  

Davidson has a special place in his heart for older cats, “I once adopted an 18-year-old cat,” says Davidson, “He lived five more years, and it was all pretty easy until the end.”

Still, Davidson admits that adopting an older animal is a tough sell. “Sure, people think they’ll bond to the cat and then the cat will get sick and die. I understand, but look what you’ve done for this cat. We all get older, that’s no one’s fault. All cats deserve a home. I think our shelters are wonderful places, and the cats do get lots of love from our staff and volunteers. Still, it’s not the same as a home.”

Meiko arrived as a kitten with two severely infected eyes. Davidson began to tell his story on the Tree House Facebook fan page. People became emotionally invested as they followed the little dude’s progress. Though he has severely impaired vision, don’t tell Meiko, he doesn’t believe it. Because so many already felt they knew Meiko, when he want up for adoption, finding a home wasn’t a problem.

“We told the story in real time, and it was pretty compelling,” Davidson says. “People stepped up.”

People aren’t stepped up to adopt FIV positive cats, however. Unless these cats fight with any existing cats in the household, there’s virtually no risk of passing on the virus. And while FIV is related to HIV in people – there isn’t a single instance of a human coming down the feline version of the virus.

Davidson concurs with the popular sentiment that somehow FIV positive cats are often the friendliest cats in the shelter. In fact, at Tree House the return rate of adopted FIV cats is virtually zero. “I don’t know why, maybe they really are so appreciate to be in a home and to receive human attention.”

When I told Davidson that I felt FIV cats actually purr more – I thought he’d draw the line there, but he actually agrees. “I’m telling you, FIV cats are wonderful, all these big boys want is to be with you.”

Instead of saying these cats have special needs, I prefer to say these cats are special and so are those people who adopt them.

Why Cats Spray
Watch my conversation with Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins on the reasons behind cat spraying here.

Is this Like A Sex Offender Registry?
In West Australia, the “Cat Bill” ensures that the area’s 200,000 cat owners will have their names, addresses and pets’ details posted in a public registry. All cats will require a license (like dogs are licensed).

The bill also requires owners to spay/neuter their cats by age 6 months, and to microchip their cats as well.
It seems that owned pets allowed outdoors have been canoodling with ferals, which increases numbers fast. Some communities have already enacted cat curfews to keep cats in at night because the various wild species’ threatened most by cats are nocturnal (particularly various opossum species, and indigenous and endangered marsupials).

According to the proposed law, which is in the final stages of debate in the Legislative Assembly, sterilization exemptions will be granted for breeders and owners who can prove the procedure will affect their pet’s health. However, no word on if the breeder exception will include a fee (my guess is that it will).

Owners who have security fears can apply to have their names kept off the register. It seems having your name, address and phone number on a public register because you have cats is excessive and an unwarranted breach of personal privacy.

While I understand the temptation to mandate spay/neuter, in the United States similar mandates have proven unsuccessful. In fact, it’s feared that some cat owners simply won’t divulge their feline friends and might even avoid visiting their veterinarian – that’s not in their cats’ best interest. You generally affect this sort of change through education rather than political force.

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