Long, long ago, in a state far, far away, I walked into a bookstore one afternoon. Before I even started scanning the shelves, though, I noticed the cage against a wall. A sign on the cage said something like, "I’m here visiting from the Humane Society, and I’m looking for a home."
Inside that cage sat the most gorgeous cat I’d ever seen. Her short fur was thick and soft, and an amazing shade of blue-gray. A pair of tranquil yet sad green eyes stared out at me between the thin metal bars. I held out a hand and allowed her to sniff me and then reached a finger in. She rubbed her head and flank against me, and her fur was so soft and luxurious I just wanted to pick her up and bury my face in that velvety coat.
I looked at her cage card: Her breed was listed as Russian Blue. I also noticed, to my horror, that she had been declawed on all four paws.
"This cat is a purebred, and she’s at the shelter?" I asked.
"Yes," the woman at the counter said. "The person who bought her had her declawed because she was scratching the furniture, and then decided they didn’t want her after all."
I was flabbergasted. Even at my relatively young age (I was in my mid-20s at the time), I was cat-aware enough to know that Russian Blues were very rare and that declawing is an awful torture to inflict on a cat.
I couldn’t believe someone would spend so much money on a cat and then dump her because she became an inconvenience. But at least whoever had bought this cat had enough sense to bring her to a no-kill shelter rather than leaving a clawless cat outside to try and fend for herself.
As I became more immersed in the cat world, I realized this kind of thing happens all the time: People buy purebred cats for their looks rather than compatibility with their lifestyle, and when they realize the cat isn’t going to behave the way they expected, it’s off to the shelter they go!
Most responsible breeders talk to potential buyers extensively before they sell their kittens and do their best to help those individuals understand that breed’s particular needs. But maybe some people are good BS artists and fool the breeders, or maybe there are a few breeders who don’t exercise such diligence before selling their cats.
However it happens, I can tell you for a fact that as a shelter volunteer, I’ve seen lots of purebred cats come through our doors: At the last shelter where I worked, we had a Himalayan, a peke-faced Persian (her face was so smooshed in it was almost concave, and we had to pile up her soft food so she could breathe and eat at the same time), two Bengals, and an assortment of Siamese and Oriental breeds in a foster home with a couple who was passionate about these breeds and understood their needs better than anyone I’ve ever known.
I’m not saying all purebred cats in shelters ended up there because the people who bought them couldn’t be bothered to see if the cat was right for their lifestyle, but what I am saying is I’ve seen it happen and it breaks my heart.
If you were going to invest thousands of dollars in a car or an apartment, I’m sure you’d do plenty of research to find out whether the place is in a safe and fun neighborhood, if the car has a good reliability or performance record, if the dealership selling the car has complaints against them, and so on. Why wouldn’t you do the same kind of lifestyle appropriateness research (and research on the breeder, too) for the sake of a living, breathing being who’s going to depend on you for everything?
The sad thing is, the kind of person who would buy a cat and then discard her at the shelter probably would hang onto their car for a lot longer.
Have you seen the aftermath of a poorly thought out purebred purchase? Are you a shelter worker who’s seen purebreds coming into your facility? What reasons do people usually give for surrendering purebred cats? Are you a breeder, and what do you do to screen out people who don’t understand your breed’s special needs? Share your thoughts in the comments.
One last note. I’m sure you all want to know: Did I adopt that Russian Blue cat? I lived in a no-pets-allowed building, but I still asked my landlord just in case there was some room for negotiation. The answer I got was a firm "no."
I hope she found a wonderful home with a person who appreciated her for who she is, and who was able to deal with any behavior problems that she might have developed as a result of being declawed.
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.