Three cats might be a little too much company
September 16, 2010 1:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm usually at the top of the class where cats are concerned, but I'm too emotionally involved and could use some outside opinions. Summary: found a cat, took it in on behalf of the owner - but it turned out to be a different cat. I would normally only take a cat in if I could look after it, and I'm not sure I can commit to the new cat - but how can I not? tl;dr inside.

A lost cat/kitten found my balcony and my heart; I fed it but left it outside yesterday and felt like a terrible horrible person for the rest of the day for leaving it crying in the cold (it stayed for an hour and a half crying at the door, so I don't take it as a curious neighborhood cat). Pictures of the cat online led to a call from the owner, so when it came around for breakfast today I took it in. The owner showed up this afternoon and... it's not her cat.
I can't in conscience put the cat back outside; also, (s)he's the sweetest little puddle of love that ever melted into your lap and fell asleep purring with its legs in the air.

1. I have two rescue cats already. They have a delicate dynamic based on mutual affection and jealous competition for my affection. Interestingly, they haven't reacted to Cutie cat with any hostility, just curiosity and some worry. No flat ears, no raised back hair, no open mouth breathing. Cutie, on the other hand, has growled and hissed the two times I've carried him into view of the homeboy cats, and growled some more when he thought they might be near (otherwise he just radiates sleepy love at humans).

2. When I brought my two rescue cats home several years ago I had an existing older cat. He was very stressed by the new cats and died a few months later. This still fills me with guilt and makes me worry for my now older rescue cats if I were to try to add Cutie to the mix.

3. Further complication: I'm way broke. I have a job but it's had trouble paying me this year, and at the moment I have no reliable income and a credit card bill that's growing by leaps and bounds. I can't responsibly take in a cat without taking on the responsibility of medical care.

Cat is almost certainly owned - clean and massively affectionate, wanted to come in, very hungry and hoarse - usually means lost from home. I have ads online, and will put some posters up in the street soon, but I know that most found cats don't get claimed.

I've scheduled a vet checkup for Cutie tomorrow. I can't afford it but I wouldn't mix in a new cat without getting it checked.

I'm feeling guilt on all sides. I took the cat in, and can't throw it back out into the cold. When I carried it in the door I took responsibility for it. But I also have a responsibility to my existing cats, and don't want to make their lives worse by introducing a stranger that might make them unhappy or worse, sick. And I can't afford three cats. But... there he is in my bathroom, full of love and trust.
I don't know what to do without feeling like a bastard to either the new cat or the old cats.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you had the new cat scanned for a chip? The vet should be able to do that but many shelters will do it for free.
posted by mhum at 1:20 PM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

I just googled the city in your profile plus cat+rescue, and came up with a bunch of hits. Is giving the cutie to a rescue group - which will find a good home for it - not an option for some reason?
posted by rtha at 1:22 PM on September 16, 2010

If he is that adorable then he will be easily adopted out to someone else. I would hit the neighborhood blogs, private cat shelters, twitter accounts, everything, put up a picture and explain that you already have two rescue cats and cannot take on this adorable creature.

I know that my old vet used to have a deeply discounted rate for people who picked up domesticated cats off the street. Does your vet do this, or can you call around to find someone who does? That might help with the finances for now.

I would also put out the call for someone else to help with fostering/temporarily housing the cat.

Maybe my neighborhood is just exceptionally cat-friendly but adorable lovely cats for whom wonderful blog posts are created get adopted immediately. I always oooh and ahh when I read these and beg Mr. M. to go visit them, and he rightly points out that Cat + Blog means that they'll get adopted soon, and they do.
posted by micawber at 1:25 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can locate a rescue, tell them you'll foster him if they'll adopt him out. Often rescues will then cover vet care etc, or at least some. So: you don't have to toss him out on the street, but he doesn't have to become a permanent resident.
posted by galadriel at 1:26 PM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I had a similar issue recently and, reluctantly, decided to take the cat to the municipal animal shelter. On the intake form, it asked if you wanted to be contacted and given a chance to adopt the animal if they would otherwise have to euthanize it due to lack of space. I was very happy about that, because I hated the thought of the sweet kitten I found dying just because nobody else adopted her in time. And, even better, if I do get the call to take her back, I don't have to pay the adoption fee and she'll have had all her medical needs taken care of (spaying, shots, etc).
posted by katemonster at 1:32 PM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]

Maybe ask all the local vets and put up pics on their boards, if it is well looked after they probably took it to its initial vet appt and for shots and deworming after they got it.
posted by meepmeow at 1:37 PM on September 16, 2010

Start by putting up signs -- this guy really sounds like an owned cat and someone out there may be desperately looking for him!
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:38 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd agree with galadriel; The vet will surely check for a chip, but put up signs, try what you can to locate an owner, if that doesn't work and it looks like you are going to have to come up with a long term solution, see if you can work with a rescue where you will be the foster while they try to find it a permanent home.
posted by quin at 1:54 PM on September 16, 2010

Agreed on checking for a chip.

If there are no rescues that will let you foster this little guy until you adopt him, and/or the local shelters are too full and he's sure to be put to sleep there: Best Friends has materials you can download on how to find a responsible home for a cat (questions to ask, screening and so forth).

I know the feeling of having a cat in need that you can't take care of - I'm starting a business, very short of funds, and have a 15-year-old cat who doesn't like newcomers. Big ups to you for knowing your limits and being responsible.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:20 PM on September 16, 2010

I have heard more than once that Craigslist is a good way to find a cat a new home.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:30 PM on September 16, 2010

First of all, I believe the phenomenon you are currently experiencing is something I like to call "CAT MATH."

Cats are a slippery slope. Sooner or later, one cat = THREE. The details on this are in your contract, just check the fine print.

Second, you can't go wrong here by doing the right thing. Relax!

- You can walk-in to any vet or animal clinic to get a scan for a chip. Do this ASAP.

- Hold off on the full vet appointment until after you've posted the neighborhood and given it a few days. Keep the cats separated if you're nervous. It's OK. Even if they all complain a bit. It's OK.

- To cut down on the cost of paper and ink, print out one flyer and make cheap B&W copies at the local copy shop. Get permission to post in the nearest area grocery stores along with posting on street corners.

- Look for adoption alternatives if posting flyers in your neighborhood doesn't yield the owner and you decide you really can't keep it.

- Yes your vet will probably give a discount for a rescue, so ask.

- If the cat is spayed, it has probably already been vaccinated. Let's hope there is a chip, tho. The chip really is step #1.

I guess my advice here is just to take it one step at a time and don't make any decisions or spend too much money before you have to.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 2:35 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you end up surrendering the cat, a little research into which group you're turning it over to will help. I would rather go hungry for a week or two a month if it meant not turning over a kitty who will just end up dead in a few weeks in a kill shelter. Kill shelters disgust me.

Do the best that you can to find the owner. Look farther than you think you should, because kittehs can travel surprisingly long distances.

If it's a kitten, it's probably outside the normal cat hierarchy -- kittens are exempt, usually. They just slide on in to the organizational table and grow up that way. So if you end up naming the little turd and keeping it, everyone will hopefully be less stressy about it.

My little furball was a middle of the night crying at my window rescue, spent three weeks looking for her owner until I figured out she was only really happy when she was wrapped around my neck. I wasn't planning on keeping her either, but it doesn't always work out that way...
posted by Heretical at 2:36 PM on September 16, 2010

"I had a similar issue recently and, reluctantly, decided to take the cat to the municipal animal shelter. On the intake form, it asked if you wanted to be contacted and given a chance to adopt the animal if they would otherwise have to euthanize it due to lack of space."

Just be aware that they don't always follow this policy - we turned in a dog that was found roaming around collarless, and signed the same kind of form. We couldn't keep her, because our apartment didn't allow dogs, but we didn't want her euthanized, either.

Well, a few days passed, and on Christmas Eve we called to see if they'd found a home for the dog - only to be told that since she failed some part of the personality test they gave (she was very timid), they had euthanized her the day before.

This story ended with me going over to the "humane" society in the hope that it was a mistake, and then throwing a few chairs around their waiting room. One of the few times I've completely lost my temper.
posted by HopperFan at 2:38 PM on September 16, 2010

Ah--if you haven't headed out for this already, DON'T take a "found" animal into a shelter to be scanned for a chip. They may well seize it. If you're willing to turn it in as a stray, no problem. If your shelter has a bad reputation/is full/if you're willing to hang onto the animal until you find its owner, etc, take him to a vet to be scanned.

By the way, you can post "found" ads on Craigslist and often the local print newspapers will place found ads for free.
posted by galadriel at 2:49 PM on September 16, 2010

I was in this situation a few years ago -- we took in an adorable, skinny, flea-ridden kitty who we thought was abandoned and who came crying at our door in the rain. We fattened her up and zapped the fleas and reluctantly decided we would keep her, even though I was out of work at the time and the other three cats were not impressed one bit.

We took her to the SPCA for a checkup; the vet scanned her, found a microchip, and told us the cat had an owner in one of the streets near ours, and she was duty-bound to take the cat from us. (This, despite the fact that there had been no Lost Cat signs in the neighborhood or on Craigslist, and this cat was in such a sorry state that she had clearly been living outside for a while or was severely neglected.) We never saw the sweet little kitty again.

Until you decide what you want to do, don't get the cat scanned.
posted by vickyverky at 3:08 PM on September 16, 2010

Talk to the vet about if they have pricing for rescues/strays. A lot of vets will give you a break in that situation.
posted by radioamy at 3:20 PM on September 16, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I've also gotten a lot of advice from people from the ads I put up yesterday on Craigslist, kijiji and a local lost-pet site, Petluck, with cameraphone pics I took while he was having breakfast on my balcony.
The visit to the vet is also to see if the cat is known to them, and if it's fixed. If it's been spayed then I can make a tour of local vets to see who might have done it. They're quite young though, pretty close to the minimum age for spaying, so it's 50/50. Thanks for mentioning chips, I'd forgotten about them, and I'll definitely ask about a stray rate.

One of my email correspondents, who gave me a huge list of shelters and rescue organizations et al, told me that the local shelters are at max capacity right now and are pretty much euthanizing at entry, which sounds about right - most people around here move house June-July, with another surge around August-September when the students arrive, so pet abandonment/loss is rife in these windows. I confess I'm pretty leery of shelters in general, especially for this little guy who is clearly not well socialized to strange cats. Like Heretical, I'd rather live on rice for a month than risk letting this guy go into a potentially lethal "rescue" situation.

We'll be putting up posters - hadn't thought of bringing posters to local vets, so thanks for that! - and I'll look for more sites to post on, and then we'll see from there. My husband has started making well-we-could-keep-him noises, and lord knows the little cutie already has his paws well wrapped around my heart and ankles so... we'll see.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:04 PM on September 16, 2010

Why are there no kitten photos here?
posted by amtho at 5:02 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: amtho, thank you for reminding me of my highest responsibility! The cameraphone pics don't really do him justice. Imagine a tiny brown slinky with a fox face and gold eyes...
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 5:08 PM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

You're really doing a wonderful thing and it's all going to come back to you karmically one day.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:54 PM on September 16, 2010

L'Estrange Fruit, you might want to update your CL ad to remove the info about the owner being found. If I was scanning CL quickly (and most folks do) they might see that and close the ad.
posted by micawber at 9:51 AM on September 17, 2010

Response by poster: Visit to the vet was inconclusive. Not chipped, girl, unknown if spayed. Small breed, close to a year most like. Posters going up this weekend, until then she seems pretty happy in her nest in the bathroom.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:50 PM on September 17, 2010

Response by poster: Update: I haven't been able to walk into the bathroom for the last two days without tripping over my husband, lying on the floor with a book in his hand and a small cat purring loudly on his chest, claiming to have been brutally tackled to the ground and pinned thereupon. Methinks the little one is staying with us.
I've started work on intercat relationships with promising progress, and we're figuring out where to find the money for deworming etc.
Thanks everyone - I was a little panicky when I wrote this as I hadn't been able to talk to ye husband about it yet and was worried it would up his stress levels, moneywise, but it seems she is a highly effective de-stresser.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 1:27 PM on September 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Cats are powerful like that! Resistance is futile.
posted by rtha at 4:32 PM on September 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Little E in her bathroom quarantine (with toys and towels and cat beds oh my!).
She's unfortunately taught the household cats to hiss back at her, but Feliway is on order and I am preparing all possible tricks. Even cat buttering as a last resort.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:42 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

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