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A Shelter Gave Away My Cats and Said ‘Tough Luck’

The staff didn't scan for microchips, adopted out the cats, and didn't help me get them back.

Eden Strong  |  Sep 30th 2014


My family was going through a rough patch, which was stressful on the human members as well as the furry ones. I was stressed to the max, at my breaking point, and with two cats who apparently felt the same way and were telling me all about it by peeing in the house including on the couch and the carpet. We all needed a break.

It became very evident that we all, cats included, needed some downtime. With a screaming baby, a rocky marital situation, and a special-needs three-year-old, the best option that I could come up with was to give the cats a break from the tension of the household. A friend of my brother’s offered to let them stay with him while I sorted out the situation with my marriage and my children. The plan was to temporarily rehome the cats while I tackled the issues I was dealing with, and once the house was calmer, to bring them back into a more peaceful situation.

"This is perfect,” I thought as I packed up their food and water bowls. My brother’s friend had been thinking about getting two cats anyway. As a bachelor he often got lonely, but with his long work hours he didn’t want to leave a cat home alone all day. That said, he was unsure of the commitment two cats would require, and so when I brought up the fact that my two were stressed because of our home situation, he jumped at the chance to be a temporary foster home.

A week later he came over and met the boys. I gave him a notebook where I had written down info about the cats and all their equipment, and off they went.

I checked on them weekly. Because my brother’s friend lived several hours away, the updates were always via phone. "How are they doing? Is everyone eating okay? Do you need anything? How are they adjusting?" I sent him money every month to cover their food.

As the three months came to a close, I was impatient to get them back. I called and left a message asking when it would be convenient for me to pick up the boys. When I didn’t get a return call that day, I wasn’t really worried.

"He must be traveling," I told myself, but as the days wore on, the anxiety started creeping up. When two weeks went by without any word from him, I begged my brother to call his friend’s father and make sure he was okay.

Two days later my brother called me.

"Eden, I talked to him. I … uh … I don’t really know what to say,” he reported. “The cats are gone."

"What do you mean GONE!?" I practically screamed into the phone. "He killed them!?"

"No, no, nothing like that," my brother said. "He, uh … he gave them to a shelter."

I sat there for what seemed like an eternity as I wondered whether I still remembered how to speak English, because I had heard what he said, but it didn’t make any sense.

"I guess they were peeing all over his house,” my brother said, “and he got mad one day and took them to a shelter."

What came next was a flurry of angry questions, accusations, and threats, all directed at the poor guy who had nothing to do with the situation except for being in the unfortunate position of being the one to break the news to me.

I immediately called the shelter in the area but it was closed for the evening. After a sleepless night and lots of tears, I was able to reach the shelter not two seconds after it opened the next morning.

What I found out didn’t settle me, or the situation, at all.

My cats had been brought to the shelter two months prior and signed over "by their owner" as relinquished animals. The shelter had not scanned their microchips and therefore had no idea that they were registered to a different person in a different state. My beloved boys had been split up; one was adopted to a family and one adopted by a shelter volunteer.

I was furious. I wanted my boys back and I wanted them back NOW. The shelter, unfortunately, didn’t see my point of view. As far as it was concerned the animals had been relinquished and I no longer had any rights to them.

After multiple phone calls, the shelter contacted one of the adoptive families to let the family members know of the mix-up and to see if they would be willing to give the cat back. The reply was no. The shelter also told me that my other cat had settled very nicely into his new home with the shelter volunteer and also couldn’t be returned.

What could I do? Short of hiring an attorney and suing the shelter, there was no way for me to get my boys back.

Because the shelter didn’t check the ID of my brother’s friend and match it to the information on the cats’ microchips, I had lost my babies forever.

To be honest, I believe the cat who was supposedly adopted to an outside family might have been put down. He had a serious heart condition with an audible murmur. Every time I took him to the vet, the vet would comment that he simply could not believe the cat was still alive.

It sickens me to think that he might not have made it out of there alive, but the little voice inside my head says that the shelter vet would have listened to him and known how sick he was; there is a good chance the shelter didn’t want to invest the effort in him.

It’s been two years now and I’m still only slightly at peace with what happened. I try to convince myself that there were no guarantees that the cats would have settled happily back into my home, but that doesn’t ease the pain in my heart or my anger over the situation.

I think of them often, the fur kids who were stolen from me, and I wonder how they are. I’ve registered their microchips to show them as stolen animals, but with valid adoption papers from a shelter, I doubt any vet would report them.

I miss them, every day. I raised them up from kittens into the 11-year-old cats that they were, and now I have no idea where they are. I’m sad for the future that I’m missing, and I’m heartbroken that they were separated.

I thought I was doing everything right. I thought I was acting in their best interest, and I failed them. I just hope that whatever family has them now, that the family members understand how special they are — and if only one made it out, I hope the other can forgive me.

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About the author: Eden Strong is a quirky young woman with a love for most animals with fur. She readily admits to living her life completely devoid of most social graces, and so far she’s still alive. More of her crazy antics can be read on her blog, It Is Not My Shame to Bear.