Why I Returned My Adopted Kitten to the Shelter


For a long time, I couldn’t wait to have my very own cat, but I lived with roommates who didn’t share my feline fancy, so I filled my needs by volunteering in animal shelters.

But finally, much to my delight, about two years ago my roommates gave me the okay to get a cat — just as long as I kept the litter box in my room. (Side note: I do not recommend this. No matter how much you love cats, waking up to the smell of poop is never pleasant.)

I decided I would try my hand at fostering a cat to make sure I was truly ready for the commitment. After all, my childhood cat lived to be 18, so it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.

So when the shelter where I volunteered blasted out an email about fostering a cat, I quickly agreed to take in Kikkoman for a week or so. The adorable five-month-old orange tabby was awaiting eye surgery. He was born with a non-functioning eye, and it would have to be removed. He had the sweetest face and I couldn’t wait to bring him home.

Like many animals in a new home, he was shy and scared during his first few hours. We eventually went to bed and he slept next to me the entire night. I was in love and thought he was perfect.

Of course, Kikkoman (who was renamed Paul Rudd at the suggestion of a friend) had his quirks. One day, I came home to the lovely smell of poop. Paul Rudd aka PR decided that the kitchen sink would be his new litter box. I broke him of this habit by moving his waste to his litter box. It smelled like him and it seemed to fix the problem.

For the next few nights, Paul Rudd became more comfortable. He still slept in bed with me, but became more active and took to meowing — loudly and frequently. He had tons of energy and literally bounced off the walls of our long hallway. He provided endless amounts of entertainment and liked to hang out in our trash can.

With every day that passed, he became less sweet and more aggressive. But I just chalked it up to being a kitten and since I had not lived with a kitten since I was seven, I couldn’t remember what they were like that young.

The day came to return Paul Rudd to the shelter so he could be neutered and have his eye removed. I was going to miss the troublemaker. I went back and forth about whether I should adopt him. He was just too cute and I figured he would grow out of his aggression. But that also meant that I wouldn’t be able to foster other cats in need. I was torn.

Against my better judgment, I decided to adopt him. I was SO excited. He looked even more charming with one eye. I am a sucker for less-than-perfect animals.

Paul Rudd picked up right where he left off. Still adorable, he became increasingly aggressive. I bought many toys and tried to tire him out. I shook a penny-filled can at him to get him off me when he attached himself to my leg with his claws. My arms were covered in scratches. He consistently drew blood. He thought my entire body (including my head) was a playground at night. He meowed constantly while I tried to sleep (he stayed in my room at night so he couldn’t bother my roommates). He destroyed a pair of my roommate’s shoes. Even a veterinarian friend of mine was scared of him and told me he was extremely aggressive.

It was awful, but I still loved the crazy guy. But he wasn’t getting any better. He was just getting worse. He wasn’t pleasant to be around. I struggled with what was the right thing to do. I couldn’t sleep at night — due to his nocturnal antics and the stress of what to do.

I felt terrible about even thinking about taking him back to the shelter since I had made a commitment to him. I had seen it many times before — someone gets a dog or cat and for one reason or the other, takes the animal back to the shelter, or even worse, to a kill-shelter.

Luckily, many shelters and rescue organizations have a policy of always taking back an animal who was adopted from them. And after several more unpleasant days, I decided to take Paul Rudd back to the shelter. I felt awful about it. But I knew he was not in the right home. He was getting more and more brazen with his aggression. My roommates were losing their patience. What he really needed was another kitten to put him in his place, or someone who worked from home who could work with him. I had made a commitment to him, but I also knew we were not a good match. Many animals are returned to the shelter only to be matched with the perfect home.

So, Paul Rudd and I got into a taxi. It was such a sad ride. I cried the whole way. I thought I had let him down. I kept telling myself it was for the best. I cried at the adoption desk. They were very nice about it and I was so thankful for that.

After filling out paperwork, I went to work my volunteer shift. I played with the cats and I said goodbye to Paul Rudd one more time. I went back the next week to volunteer and the cat formerly known as Paul Rudd was still around. I opened his cage to pet him and he scratched me. “Fair enough,” I thought, but it only reinforced my decision to take him back.

And the next week, he was gone! He had been adopted with another kitten. That was what he needed. I was so thrilled for him. He needed another cat around to play with him and keep him in line.

For weeks I was nervous that he would be returned. Weeks turned to months, so I think it is safe to say that he settled in nicely in his new home.

This past summer, I decided to try my hand again at fostering. I took in two tiny kittens, a boy and a girl, from the shelter where I now volunteer. I called them Goldie Hawn and Wesley Snipes (co-stars of the movie Wildcats!) When the time came for them to go back to the shelter to find their permanent homes, it was tough to part with them. It is so easy to become attached.

One of these days, I’ll have a forever cat when the time is right. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to volunteer, helping out cats in need. And I’ll thank Paul Rudd, the one-eyed cat, for teaching me many good lessons about the cat life.

Have you ever adopted a cat that, for whatever reason, you had to return to the shelter? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

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