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When Is It Okay to Interfere With a Friend’s Cat Problems?

A friend recently got rid of her cats, and I knew it was time to speak up -- but in a respectful way.

Catherine Holm  |  Jan 15th 2016


Have you ever been in a situation where you had to decide whether or not, or to what extent, to interfere with a friend’s cat problems?

I was in this situation recently. I’m not sure there is any right answer to such a predicament, but let me tell you about my thought process. Maybe it will help you in a similar circumstance.

I have a friend who is going through some major life changes. She is moving, uprooting her life, and suddenly needed to find homes for her two cats. These were very nice, mostly outdoor cats. They lived in a heated garage during the winter and were able to come and go as they pleased. They either lived in the garage or spent time outside, but they did interact somewhat with their humans.

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Two cats sit in window by Shutterstock

Of course, my bias well before this was that these cats would have blossomed with some time in the house. But I kept my opinions to myself, knowing that I wasn’t going to change my friend’s mind. The cats were well cared for and seemed to be savvy enough to survive and not wander too far into the woods and fields around the garage and house.

But when the friend let me know that she was going to have to find homes for the cats, I knew I would have to get involved.

While I was grateful that she was at least trying to find homes for the cats, I wondered if she shouldn’t be trying harder to keep them with her. My friend has the resources to continue providing for the cats. She was going to have a place to live, though it appeared it would be an extremely small place. Her plans about where she was going to end up, exactly, were vague, due to the nature of what she was going through.

But I wondered — why couldn’t she keep them and make it work? I especially worried about one of the cats — a very shy yet sweet boy. I knew that he’d require a home with some patience and cat savvy. I knew that people would need to be willing to work with him to bring forth his sweet personality. Not everyone can or will do this. I wondered if these cats had personalities that would blossom if they got to spend more time with humans in a house.

And I was several states away, with a house full of my own cats. These are the things that worry me. To be honest, I really don’t know how people who do a lot of rescue deal with it.

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Young woman with red cat by Shutterstock

So, what did I do?

I bit my tongue regarding my initial thoughts

I really wanted to say, “But why can’t you keep them and take them with you?!” But I know this friend and I knew there was going to be no changing her mind. I also knew that she was going through some immense life stuff, and whether it’s right or not, I knew that she believed that she couldn’t deal with this complication in her life right then.

I took a breath and took some time to think about an appropriate response

I am a slow processor, anyway, and I wanted to give her suggestions that would help the cats. Ultimately, I wanted the cats to end up in good homes. I didn’t respond with these thoughts right away, but waited for a few days until we talked again.

I stressed to her that she’d really need to find the right people, particularly for the shy boy

These would need to be people who understood cats, had patience, and were willing to work gently with this cat, who would probably be very scared and shy for a while.

I reminded her of a really savvy animal person that we both knew

This person was local to my friend, and I suggested that she follow up with the person, who might have some ideas for potentially good new homes.

I continued to bite my tongue

There were things I really wanted to say, but I held them in. She was going through a tough time and I was trying to be respectful of that and not add to her angst. Life happens, and sometimes it is hard.

red-cat-shutterstock_349112285

Red cat by Shutterstock

Know that my reaction was not the end-all or the “only right way.” I’m not even sure it IS right. I might have done better. But maybe you will take some insight from how I reacted in this situation. We’re all different, and each situation is different.

The story has a happy ending — both cats found good homes, thanks to my friend’s efforts. It sounds as if they are kind homes, with people who are willing to provide for and understand the cats and their unique needs. Change is hard, and I certainly would have preferred that these cats could have stayed with their original person. But at least they are being cared for in loving homes.

I would love to hear how others deal with this. When a friend of yours raises some kind of an issue with cats that rubs against your ethics, how do you handle it? What do you say? What do you not say?

More by Catherine Holm:

About Catherine Holm: Cat Holm is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, and a contributor to Rescued: The Stories of 12 Cats, Through Their Eyes. She’s also a yoga instructor. Cat love living in nature and being outside every day, even in winter. She is mom to six adorable cats, all of them rescues.