I thought I was a smart cat. After all, my person goes to an Ivy League school. She got me for free in a Wal-Mart parking lot when I was just a little ball of fluff. My girl lived in an apartment with two other students. When they remembered, they’d feed me cool stuff like chicken tenders and baloney. Most of the time I slipped their minds. Talk about a bummer. But I always forgave them.
Now school is out for the summer. They all packed up their stuff in the car and drove away. They left food out for me, but the tomcat next door ate it all. I don’t know what to do. I’m so hungry I could eat a grasshopper. I’ve been drinking water out of a neighbor’s birdbath, but this morning it went dry.
I keep waiting. I really thought they loved me. What should I do?
Poor Orphan Annie,
You wouldn’t believe how many cats this happens to. Students and even adults see those big sweet eyes next to a free kitten sign and their hearts flop open wide. Unfortunately, so do their heads, cuz their brains fall out at the same time.
There ain’t no free lunch, and there ain’t no free cat. That free kitty still needs food, litter, shots, spay or neuter, disease testing, ear mite treatment, worming, and emergency vet stuff. Properly cared for, a "free" kitty could cost $200, maybe more. And that’s just starting out.
Adopting a cat is a lifetime commitment. A kitty lifetime averages between 14 and 18 years for us inside guys and four to eight years for indoor/outdoor types. When people say "I do," they gotta understand what "I do" really means. We pets don’t understand a marriage of convenience. We need and want a forever home.
Humans shouldn’t think it’s OK to throw us outside on the street. It doesn’t give us a better chance at finding another great home. (Like someone who would kick us out gave us a great home in the first place!) Out on the streets we have to face a slow death by starvation. It’s not like the world has its arms open welcoming another stray animal.
When the fun’s worn off the relationship and a kitty finds herself living on the street, abandoned cats also have to worry about vicious dogs and other predators, disease, mean people, and the worst predator of all: cars.
Of course, most of us poor pusses who are dumped haven’t been spayed or neutered, so boys go looking for trouble like fights. Then they get sick from abscesses and catch fatal diseases like feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus (kitty AIDS.) And the girls are always looking for boys. That means for kitties like you, the problem is compounded. In a few months you’re going to be looking at a bunch more mouths to feed.
The National Council on Pet Population Study conducted a survey at animal shelters on why people give up pets. Moving and landlord problems (translated: "got caught with a pet and no money for a deposit") and "other lifestyle issues" (translated: "fianc├® doesn’t like cats" or some such) were the top reasons for dumping pets. More than half of the poor pets who wound up at shelters were "humanely put to sleep" (killed, in other words). Other studies found that most of the people who abandon or surrender their animals are under 30, and more dogs are taken to shelters than cats and all other animals combined. Lots of cats are just turned out; those statistical types have no way of knowing just how many.
It’s so hard for people to say no when they look at those cute little kittens being given away in front of the grocery store. But people need to ask themselves some questions before walk away with a bundle of fur.
Before adopting a kitty, here are some questions you should ask yourself:
Annie, my best advice to you is to ask a neighbor for help or try to find a feral cat colony that looks fat. If someone’s feeding them, they might be able to help you get back on your paws again.
Read more about abandoned kitties:
Read stories of rescue and love on Catster:
About the author: Einstein’s assistant, Dusty Rainbolt ACCBC, is the vice president of the Cat Writers’ Association, editor-in-chief of AdoptAShelter.com and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She’s the award-winning author of eight fiction and non-fiction books including her most recent paranormal mystery, Death Under the Crescent Moon.