It’s like dating: Not every cat is right for every human. Just like a quiet bookworm won’t be happy dating a loudmouth, a cat’s innate personality traits can be a major factor in whether she will be happy in a new home — and ultimately whether an adoption will be successful.
Tammy Kidwell, one of the founders of Cat Matchers, a nonprofit, foster-based rescue group in Dallas uses the simple idea of compatibility to place cats in the best possible homes for them. For example, a shy cat will be fearful and intimidated in an active home full of other pets and children, and a playful, highly social cat will be bored spending the day alone in a small apartment while his owner is at work.
“We really try to stress what’s the right cat for your situation,” Kidwell says. “We don’t just want to adopt any cat out — there is the best cat here for you. That is really our focus.”
Because Cat Matchers is foster-based, each family spends a lot of time getting to know each cat. Based on face-to-face interviews with potential adopters, Kidwell is able to determine the activity level of their household (kids or no kids; other pets or no other pets). She also finds out what kind of cat a particular family is looking for — for example, a quiet lap cat vs. an independent cat who loves to play.
“We ask them what kind of cat is most conducive to the lifestyle they have,” Kidwell says. “Most of it we do face-to-face. It’s easier than making them fill out a lot of paperwork. You can glean a lot more in talking to people about their lives.”
This approach has been successful for Cat Matchers: Since the group was founded in 2005, they have adopted out approximately 350 cats each year, most of whom were rescued from animal control or surrendered by their owners. And if it doesn’t work out, they always take the cat back.
Recently, Cat Matchers took back a cat who ended up being a bad fit for her home. The cat was shy and quiet, and the large, noisy family was overwhelming for her. As a result, the cat was “very grumpy” — almost to the point where the family believed she might be feral. Turns out all she needed was a home that was better suited to her personality.
“We found the perfect couple — they’re home more, and this cat has blossomed,” Kidwell says. “They’ve sent us pictures where she’s the biggest love bug, and she enjoys their company. It was a perfect fit. Oftentimes if you move a cat who has behavioral issues, you can get rid of those if you change the environment.”
Correcting behavioral issues can be particularly important for cats who have had a rough start. Cat Matchers recently found a home for an indoor/outdoor cat named Jewel, who got caught in a fence while running from a predator, most likely a neighborhood dog.
“She’d been hanging there for probably a day or more by the time they found her, because they didn’t know where she was,” Kidwell says. “They took her to the vet and she was going to need a leg amputation because of muscle damage and nerve damage.”
Unfortunately, Jewel’s family could not afford the surgery, so Cat Matchers stepped in, paid the bill, and got the cat into foster care. After Jewel recovered in her foster home and learned to trust humans again, she was placed in a forever home with a couple who dotes on her and loves her.
Just like every forever home isn’t right for every cat, not every foster home is conducive to every cat’s optimal well-being. Kidwell was able to find a match for Jewel by moving her into different foster homes to find the one that best suited her needs.
“We found the best situation for her, and that helped us find the best home for her,” Kidwell says. “She’s very bonded to humans. It was a rough start, but now she really relies on her humans.”
For every kitty or human Cat Matchers helps, there’s always another in need. The group’s 30 foster families always do what they can, especially when people can’t keep their pets due to extreme circumstances, such as financial hardship, illness, or death. Occasionally Kidwell gets a call from her vet saying a cat’s owner can’t afford a certain procedure, and Cat Matchers will provide assistance. Similarly, the group recently helped a disabled individual pay the deposit required to keep the pet in the home.
“The sheer number of people who need help, either finding animals homes or due to life changes where they can’t keep their pets — that’s overwhelming,” Kidwell says. “But it’s knowing that we’re making a difference in humans’ and animals’ lives — that’s the most rewarding.”
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About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she’s an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix.