The other morning, I was feeding my cat Mimosa some treats when I noticed that my hand was laid on top of her left paw. She was fine with this; Mims is about as tolerant a cat as I’ve ever come across. Except when it comes to water. Do not flick water at Mims while you are doing the washing up.
But as I realized my hand was resting on her paw, I thought back to Mei, my first grown-up adopted cat. Mei was awesome but she definitely came with a bunch of issues, many of which I suspect stemmed from her being declawed by her previous owner.
It got me thinking: If I ever had to give up a cat, how much of their behavioral quirks would I disclose? If it meant the cat going to a loving home, would I stay quiet about certain issues?
With hindsight, I don’t think Mei was necessarily abused, but during the adoption process little was disclosed. She came from a guy who lived in a fancy apartment in the financial district in Manhattan. He said his girlfriend was moving in and was allergic to cats. Mei was definitely skittish on a first meeting, but she ate some treats out of my hand. As time went on though, the extent of her apparent trauma from being declawed became more noticeable. I remember looking through her medical records and it seemed that at some point someone had paid for Mei to be seen by a pet psychiatrist. Despite asking questions about her behavior when first meeting her, none of this was mentioned. I suspect the financial guy knew she might be a difficult adoption.
My next adopted cat was Moo, so named because with her white and black splodges she resembled a little cow. She was being fostered by a girl who lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who had apparently had her for something close to a year. She was super playful upon a first meeting. After adopting Mei, I was very specific about asking whether Moo had any peculiar or distinctive behavioral quirks. The girl said no, that she was just very playful. This was not exactly true: It turned out Moo was fond of biting people while they slept. Call it her own special impish quirk. When I emailed the foster girl about this she responded with something along the lines of, “Oh, yeah, she likes to bite people at night LOL. I close the bedroom door all night and lock her out.” (Yes, she used LOL in her reply.)
Returning Moo was never an option, but at the time the apartment I was living in was a floor-through, so there was technically no door to the bedroom to close. (Not that I’d want to lock a cat out all night, anyway.) The foster girl suggested putting her in the bathroom all night. (Yes, she genuinely said this.) Moo also proved impervious to the usual deterrents like water in a spray bottle and rattling a can of coins. In fact, I think she enjoyed the sport of it all. You just kinda got used to it.
Asking around, it seems that non-disclosure of a cat’s personality and peculiarities is sadly a common thing. I remember being at a party and hearing a couple tell me that the two-year-old cat they thought they were adopting was actually 14 years old — an age difference that brings with it many extra issues. Someone else once told me that their adopted tabby had a habit of peeing on the bed at night — a little tidbit that his previous owner absent-mindedly forgot to mention. Another couple I know were told that their adopted kitten, Maximilian Jeffrey III, was microchipped when they got him. A visit to a vet later and it turned out he wasn’t. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it seems disingenuous and unprofessional for an adoption center to lie like that.
The thought of giving up your cat for adoption may seem like something you’d simply never do, but life can introduce strange and unplanned situations beyond your control. I like to think that if I was ever in that place, I would fully disclose everything about my cat to a prospective new owner. If someone becomes truly smitten with a cat on their first meeting, then they’re going to be grateful about being given a heads up on any behavioral problems — and would hopefully be willing to work with or around them.
But I suppose the lure of finding a safe and loving home for your cat can overtake the ideal of full disclosure. I can imagine that prior knowledge of a cat who pees on a bed or nips at you while you’re sleeping would be enough to deter most people from pursuing an adoption. I guess you just have to hope that the person adopting the cat has her heart in the right place, whatever feline quirks of personality arise.
What would you do? Would you be full disclosure all the way? Have you ever adopted a cat whose previous owner wasn’t? Let’s talk in the comments!
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