I was online recently looking up some information for an adopter who had developed allergies to a kitten she had adopted. While scanning pages for helpful information, I came across an article that I was horrified to read, but completely understood after perusing the pages.
The article by Emily Yoffe, which you can read HERE, said that adopting an animal from a rescue was too difficult and the rescue applications were meant to reject most people rather than help them bring a companion into their homes. With an increased push recently to ask people to consider adoption over buying animals from a breeder or a pet store (often from some type of animal mill) or finding them for free in newspapers or places such as Craig’s List, I was deeply saddened to learn that people have a hard time working with some rescue groups. Since millions of animals die each year in shelters, the obvious solution is to coax people away from other sources for animals and through the doors of humane societies and rescues.
While we don’t automatically approve every application that comes in to Black and Orange Cat Foundation, we strive to make the adoption process as easy as possible and move things forward quickly. We also try to keep things positive.
I know that there are cats everywhere. If I don’t start working immediately on an application, the potential adopters are not going to wait. Most of them could go anywhere and find a cat or kitten as appealing as any of ours (cats are just too cute!). So as soon as we get an application in, I begin to check over things. I have heard complaints of rescues that won’t process applications on weekends or who don’t return calls or emails. I do know that many groups are short staffed and staffed only by volunteers who have full time jobs and lives beyond rescue work–something that the general public may not realize. I try to explain this if the subject comes up.
I also know that I get a lot of comments about how negative some people in rescue can be. When you are working with rescuers, people who have seen all manner of horrible things done to animals, you are bound to find some people who believe the worst about everyone and are hesitant to allow an animal to go back out into the unknown world again. Is another human going to harm that cat or dog? The rescuer has invested tons of time, money, and emotion into helping the animal recover. Are all those efforts going to be reversed?
I hear many rescuers say, “I like animals more than people.” While that may be the truth, you cannot be in the world of rescue if you don’t like people. We need people. Our animals need people. Our animals need someone who will take them into their homes and hearts and love them like they are the most special furrball in the world. Love them to a capacity that even we cannot.
When I foster, I do fall in love and worry about each cat in my care. But I know that at some point, there is someone out there who needs that cat in their life more than I do and I need to make room for the next injured or emotionally broken feline who needs me.
Please don’t be too hasty to judge a grumpy rescuer. We rescuers are just human and we put in long hours and suffer tons of heart ache to help the animals who come to us.
I thought I would walk through our adoption application and explain why we ask certain questions. We do not try to exclude people. Our main goal is to find wonderful homes for as many cats as possible.
Black and Orange does have a “no declaw” policy. We don’t adopt an un-declawed cat to someone who absolutely must declaw. I do understand that there are reasons why some people need a declawed cat–medical reasons involving bleeding disorders or use of Coumadin (if they get scratched, they may bleed uncontrollably). Some people just prefer a declawed cat. When someone indicates on their application that they plan to declaw, my first reaction is not to automatically reject the application, but to educate. I have found that most people do not know what declawing entails. When they find out, many are horrified and want no part of the operation. For those who say they must have a declawed cat, I ask them to work with us to find an already declawed cat to adopt. Declawed cats also need homes.
I also recommend trimming nails (we include a print out about proper nail trimming in every adoption packet) and Soft Paws, sheathes that fit over the ends of claws to keep the cat from doing damage. Additionally, I recommend visiting the web site, www.declawing.com to educate about what declawing means and how the surgery is conducted. There is also an excellent book, The Cat Who Cried for Help, by veterinarian Nicholas Dodman, that includes a wonderful chapter on declawing (The Rebel without Claws) and the problems that can result from declawing.
We do ask for an applicant’s birth date, but we do not exclude anyone who is older. We have volunteers in their 70’s (who scoff that anyone would consider them old and would likely riot if we would not adopt to an older person) and we have adopted to people in their 80’s and even one gentleman who was in his 90’s (he had lost his last cat and thought he should not get another at his age, but found he was lonely without a feline companion). We do ask for the plan if the person becomes ill or passes on. But any of us could die any day. We should all have the same plan in place regardless of our age. Who will take care of our pets if we die at 30, 40, or 50? A cat is a 20 year commitment. No one wants their cat to suffer because they have not made arrangements for who will take over litter pan duties in the case of an emergency.
Actually, I have to admit that I do a happy dance if the potential adopter is older. I know that they may be retired and will spend endless amounts of time with their new friend. I also know that older adopters are very devoted to their cats.
Adopters do have to be adults. We don’t adopt to children and we do make sure they have a job or other means of income so they can be financially responsible for the care of the cat. Between food, litter, and vet care, feline ownership can get expensive.
We also don’t exclude college students or children under five years of age. I have heard that some groups have a blanket policy that they will not adopt to anyone in college, because of the increased risk that the college student will move after college and abandon the cat. Some also won’t adopt to anyone who has a child under 5. Again, I know some groups worry that small children will harm a kitten or get scratched by a cat, so they rule out families with small children. We take each application case by case. If someone has a small child, but the kitten or cat has been around kids and everything else is great with the application, I see no reason to reject that application. However, if the kitten or cat is very shy and would be frightened in a noisy, busy household, I try to explain that to the adopters and help them pick a more suitable cat or kitten. To be honest, don’t we want to create a new generation of animal lovers? If we start children out at a very young age loving cats and dogs and all things furry and feathered, won’t we be creating the next rescuers? The same holds true for the college students. Some of these bright minds will be our future leaders. Don’t we want those people to be animal lovers, pushing for policies and a world without harm to animals?
Additionally, we do ask for veterinarian info and we call to make sure the adopter does use the office, but if someone doesn’t currently have a vet, we recommend one to them. We’d love it if our kitties continued to see the vets we love.
We also adopt to people in apartments and other rentals. We don’t require someone to be a home owner to adopt. We do check on rental policies to make sure a particular complex allows pets, but we don’t automatically reject someone for renting.
We also adopt out of state. If we can figure out how to get the cat to you and you will work with us, we’ll figure out a transport to get the cat wherever the new home is located. We have taken cats to Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, and even out to Utah where the kitty found his home through Best Friends Animal Society. No home is too far away, as long as someone who loves our kitty is waiting!
Beyond the basic questions, our other questions just focus on giving the cat time to adjust to the new household and not expecting other pets to love the invader overnight. There is also a question about allergies, because, as I noted at the beginning of this posting, allergies are a big reason why cats get returned to us. And our goal is no returns. We want our cats to go to homes and stay in those homes. While we love them, we only want to see them again in photos or if their mom and dad brings them to have their picture taken at one of our “Photos with Santa” events in PetSmart. We want them to go on to new homes so we can concentrate on the next cat in need. So we need adopters and we don’t ever want to push good people away. That’s not to say that we don’t make mistakes, but we try as hard as we can to do the right thing for the cats and their potential new families.
I still think “Adoption is the best Option.” If you don’t find the right rescue or shelter, keep trying. The animals need you! And so do the organizations that are trying to help them.
To see our full adoption application (it is three pages), go HERE and download one.