March 19, 2010

Would My Older Cat Be Happier In A New Home Where She Got More Attention?

fluffytummyQUESTION: I have a beautiful, loving cat that I adopted as a kitten many years ago. She is now 10 years old. The kids no longer pay any attention to her, and I am so busy with work that I’m beginning to think she would be better off in another home. She is a sweet cat and enjoys sleeping in sunny windows or sitting on laps. I think she would make an older person or couple an ideal companion. Wouldn’t she be happier if I surrendered her to Cat Angel Network so she can find another home?

ANSWER: Can I tell you the honest truth, from a cat’s point of view? The truth is, NO, she wouldn’t be happier. The fantasy most people have is that there are many potential adopters for a friendly senior cat like theirs. They believe that their “nine-year-old-or-older” kitty will soon leave the comforts of the shelter to be taken home by a lovely retired couple who will lavish her with the time and attention she craves.

The reality for a kitty like yours is more likely to be an experience like the following. Upon entering the shelter, she’ll go into a cage so she can feel safe until she acclimates. She will probably not want to come out of her carrier so it will be placed in the cage with her. Being in an unfamiliar room, approached by unfamiliar people, and surrounded everywhere by unknown cats, she’ll huddle in her carrier, some cats for days, others for weeks and even months. Most refuse food, requiring days of persistent prompting by the volunteers so they don’t succumb to liver damage. The adjustment period can take months, and some, especially former “only cats,” never adjust to a life surrounded by other kitties. Aggression is very common in a cat under such stress, and even the nicest cat can lash out at anyone or anything approaching the sanctity of her cage. As nice as our shelter looks to a visitor, it is a terrifying place to a cat leaving the only home she has ever known.

Once kitty adjusts, she is available for adoption. Here’s where that loving older couple puts in an application for her and takes her home, right? Unfortunately, that is not likely. Although your kitty WOULD make a wonderful pet for them, they are most likely to request…. a kitten. At least 90% of the applications we receive are for the youngest kitten possible. Whether it’s because adopters don’t want to go through the loss of another pet too soon, or they’re afraid of vet bills for an older kitty, adopters most often choose kittens, while wonderful older cats wait on the sidelines, passed over again and again.

Sometimes adopters will state that they don’t want a kitten, but an “older cat.” Asked specifically what they’re looking for, most reply, “Oh, everybody wants kittens so I’m looking for an older cat, somewhere between one and three years — definitely not older than five.”

fireplaceThe sad reality is that only one or two cats that are nine years old or older get adopted from Cat Angel Network each year. Those days on which a senior kitty goes home are very, very happy days for everyone at CAN. So, please, please, let your kitty live out her golden years in the comfort of her own home, surrounded by her family and enjoying the simple, familiar rituals that cats love so much. Believe me, she would NOT be happier having to join the ranks of the many, many homeless cats competing for too few homes. That competition leaves senior kitties at a distinct disadvantage, most living out their last years in the shelter, waiting for an adoption application that never comes. May she never be in the position that so many of us are, of watching the shelter door, praying, 

“Please, God, may the next person who comes in to adopt not say ‘Too old, too big’ when he looks at me.”

Posted in: Ask Angel