Cat adoption filter: should we take in a young feral who seems to have adopted us, or should we find a different kitten to bring into our home? Complicating details inside. Bit of a novella, apologies in advance for the length.
posted by Scientist to Pets & Animals (56 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
My girlfriend and I live in an apartment in a city with our miniature poodle. We both work, and we've been thinking for a while that it would be really nice to have a cat, not just because we love cats, but also because said kitty would give the dog someone to interact with while we were out.
There are a great many feral cats on our block, due mostly to the presence of one of our neighbors (who has ended up becoming sort of the villain of this little drama; more on that later) who puts out copious amounts of cat food. We're on good terms with this neighbor, but we're not really sure that she's doing the neighborhood cats a favor by feeding them. Far be it for me to deny a single, disabled woman the company of her feline friends, but she has at least four on the inside and about fourteen on the outside, and has confided in the past to me that she doesn't have money for vet bills or anything. She's also moving out soon, due to some legally-dubious but basically unrelated pressure from her landlord. Due to the sporadic care that the neighborhood ferals get, there are periodic explosions of kittens.
The most recent explosion of which I am aware happened about six months ago. One of the kittens from this latest batch is an orange tabby who has absolutely stolen the hearts of my girlfriend and me. He comes out nearly every time we walk the dog, seeming particularly interested in her (which would bode well for our plan to get our puppy a friend) but also letting us pet him and play with him and even pick him up. We know that he's been visiting the cat lady, so we assume some of this friendliness is her work. At the same time though, none of the other neighborhood ferals are nearly so curious and interested in us. He has even tried to come into our house on occasion, when we're sitting on the porch with the door open! He's absolutely a total sweetheart and while he's still a little bit wary about people at times, we think he has incredible potential to make a wonderful new addition to our little family.
We would like to adopt this cat. We have gone so far as to research the best of cat foods (Thank you, Ask-Mefites of yore, for your excellent advice. Wellness brand wet kitten formula it shall be!), the cost and availability of relevant veterinary procedures, and have even gone out and bought all of the necessary cat-keeping equipment. We were pretty much ready to take the little guy (we planned to name him Tyrion!) into our homes, but then things started to get complicated.
We stopped seeing "our" cat around for several days. We went out and searched for him, brought the poodle to entice him over, left out cat food on our porch to persuade him to visit, but nothing happened. We also stopped seeing the cat lady on her porch, whereas typically she spends about half the day out there in her wheelchair, watering her plants, reading romance novels, and feeding and petting the cats. When we did finally see him again, lo and behold but he was slipping out through her door from inside her house! We had come over to ask if she'd seen him about (she'd mentioned to me before that she thought he needed to be adopted, so we knew already that she had a special interest in him) and explained in a neighborly way that we'd been considering adopting him. We told her that we certainly didn't want to take him away for her since she'd apparently already adopted him herself, but that we were glad to see he was OK and all.
She replied that she'd been bringing him inside some and that she was attached to all of her ferals, but that she wouldn't mind letting us take him since she knew that he would be going to a good home! Hooray, right? Except that she then added that she didn't think he would be happy being an indoor-only cat, and that he was very attached to his brother (earlier litter, same mom) and she would hate to see them separated.
We sort of have a feeling that she was trying to say without saying that she didn't want to let go of him, and from our previous interactions with the lady we know that she can be a bit passive-agressive and weird, not to mention more than a bit judgmental. She's also the neighborhood gossip, though I'm not sure too many people pay much mind to her opinions. She's been nice enough to us though and it's good to have someone out on the porch all the time who's watching the neighborhood and relaying any significant information about what's been happening on the block. (We figure she probably noticed us getting friendly with "her" cat and started bringing him inside as a defensive measure, to prevent us from scooping him up.) We don't really want to be on her bad side, though of course she's not going to be around forever. Also, when she does leave, we don't really know whether she would be able to take him with her. He might just end up homeless again, except without a reliable food source this time.
Also, perhaps her reservations have some merit. We do sometimes see the two cats ("our" cat and his older brother) hanging around together, and he's lived outside for pretty much all of his life, so perhaps he would indeed not be satisfied with a life indoors with us, no matter how well-fed and cared-for. (We don't think that we have the space or resources for two cats and a dog, by the way. And we don't feel that keeping indoor-outdoor cats, especially ex-ferals, in a city is really a great idea. The mortality rates are so much higher, they kill songbirds, and besides he might decide not to come back!) He sure does seem to like us, though. And we sure do like him.
We're a bit torn about what to do here. We're thinking about just going to Craigslist and finding another cat to adopt. After all, there are many kittens and cats in this world who are in need of homes, and we'll never be able to take in all of them. Who are we to say that our kitty is more deserving than some other? And perhaps we would be able to find another cat who would be a better fit with our family – more comfortable indoors, for instance – though that's so unpredictable that it's almost not worth trying to figure out at such an early stage. And we would be able to avoid drawing the ire of our neighbor.
On the other hand, we love the kitty we have been seeing already, and would feel a bit guilty about getting another cat – especially if our neighbor moves away and leaves him behind, though we know we'd be able to give him a higher standard of care in any case. And we're not sure how much we really value this woman's opinion of us, in the end. There's still the issue of whether he'd really be happy with us, but honestly I think that after some initial adjustment he'd probably do just fine.
So what, O Great Metafilter Hive-Mind, are we to do? How best do we proceed in this sticky situation? Guidance, counsel, anecdotes, and advice are all greatly appreciated regarding this most delicate and earth-shaking of dilemmas. Our gratitude to you is, as ever, unending, boundless, and redeemable for store credit at over thirty major national retail chains.