Indecision

Recently, due to the large number of kittens and cats we are fostering, and a leveling-off of adoptions, we decided to waive the adoption fees on our harder-to-adopt adult cats and black kittens.  We hoped it would encourage people to reconsider the much-maligned black cat, and the older cats—which are still quite young, most of them less than a year; they are just seemingly older when compared to acrobatic two-month-old kittens.

And it worked to some degree.  We had a couple of good weekends, with increased adoptions and a lot of interest.  But it seems to have come at a price.  We’ve had a disproportionate number of cats returned to us, often within just a few days.  Some of the reasons for return seem less than satisfactory, too.  With young rescues, however friendly and playful, there is going to be an adjustment period—both for the family and for any pre-existing pets.  We take care to explain how to allow the cat to adjust to the new environment, and to the people and pets, suggesting they keep the new cat in a room of its own for a few days, maybe even a week if necessary.

It leaves us shaking our heads when people who adopted a cat on Saturday call us on Monday to say that it is not working out, that the family’s adult cat hates the kitten.  Assuming they took our advice, the cat and kitten should not have even been face-to-face yet.  We do our best not to romanticize bringing a new cat into a house, explaining all the things that might happen and how best to deal with them should they, and the things they can do to avoid them in the first place.   So it is both disheartening and maddening when we find that people ignore all our suggestions and return the cat as if it’s a pair of shoes that fit wrong.

Had they listened to us, they might have taken the appropriate steps to ease the transition, or perhaps even reconsidered adopting in the first place.  Each time a cat goes out and comes back in, some of our efforts to socialize it are undone.  This is evidenced by the fact that we have a few cats that after multiple returns to us were simply no longer viable for adoption.

A rock and a hard place.  That’s how we feel with every adoption; that line between wanting to get each cat adopted, and get each cat adopted to the right home.  With the number of cats coming back to us, we are feeling our position between that rock and hard place becoming even narrower.  Is waiving the adoption fee the cause?  Does giving someone a cat for nothing give the impression that this is the value we place on that cat?

There’s another question I always have to ask myself, as well.  If someone is only willing to adopt a cat with no up-front cost, what does that mean for the cat should it end up with an infected tooth, urinary tract infection, or other health issue that will cost its new family a couple hundred dollars.  If they were unwilling/unable to pay $100 for a spayed, vaccinated, socialized cat, are they going to be willing/able to see it gets the medical care it may eventually need?

I ask myself these questions at every adoption showcase and I never come up with a satisfactory answer.   Whatever the answer, and whatever level of commitment people may or may not feel when adopting one of our charges, we have decided to discontinue our waived adoption policy, instead lowering the fee across the board: $50 for kittens and cats, whatever the age, color or breed.

We hope this will decrease returns by weeding out some of the impulse adopters that are mainly attracted by the non-existent adoption fee, but I am not entirely convinced it’s going to work.  A part of me—the pragamatic, non-emotional part of me, knows there will always be people who will adopt a pet, seeing it as just another purchase, rather than seeing it as a life to be cared for, loved, and protected.

Sanctuary

This coming week, several of our long-time foster cats are being placed in a sanctuary called Cat House on the Kings; additionally, we hope to place even more at Fat Kitty City in the near future.   These are just two of many similar places popping up around the country that take in cats and dogs (and possibly other pets as well) when their owners—or in our case, foster homes— can no longer care for them.  We need these facilities now more than ever.

Not that long ago we were abound in farms and nurseries that would happily take a few cats to control the vermin population, but those are growing smaller in number all the time.  When we are faced with a cat who cannot be adopted due to a chronic ailment, or one that despite living its whole life indoors has reverted to feral we are at a loss as to what to do.  We face the same with the harder-to-adopt black cats, those that come to us already middle-aged,  and those who require a special diet.  So, what do we do?

Mostly we keep them; they become our permanent fosters.  I don’t think there is a single member of Purrfect Cat who does not count a former foster cat among their household.  I’ve only been doing this for three years and I already have a group of my own.   But sometimes we just can’t do it anymore.  If every kitten season you end up with just one cat that can’t be adopted, a decade later you’ll have two or three litters worth. That doesn’t leave much room for the fosters still to come.

That’s the situation we are facing and that is what forced us to make this decision, with great reluctance I might add.  These animal sanctuaries feed, house, and medically treat all their animals for life.  A paid staff, property taxes on the sanctuary, food, litter, medications, vet bills . . . This costs them a lot, and therefore costs those sending animals there a lot.  We’re talking $1,500 a cat at the bare minimum.

For us to spend essentially all the money we made during our Maddie’s Adoptathon weekend on a single group of cats is not a decision we take lightly; we do see it as essential, though, to our being able to properly care for this years kittens and get them adopted in a timely fashion.  As always, I can think of dozens of reasons for people to spay and neuter their cats and dogs,  but as I watch our small group write a check for forty or fifty thousand dollars to place these unwanted cats, I can think of one more.

This spring I held an online fundraiser to help towards paying for two fosters of mine to be placed at Fat Kitty City; I was moved by and grateful for people’s generosity.  If you or anyone you know is interested in making a donation to help place these cats, please leave a comment to this blog or contact us via our facebook page.

Just a few of those destined for a very happy, new life in places where all cats are valued.