The Changing Face of Cat Adoption
by Lee Chambers
What a difference six years makes. In 2010, Dakin welcomed 1,873 kittens. The total number of kittens brought to us in 2016 was 1,270. Why the reduction in kitten intake?
While many reasons could be responsible for that decreasing number, the fact that so many people have embraced the importance of spaying or neutering their cats is reflected in the decrease of kittens brought to Dakin. However, we have seen a significant uptick in arrivals of older felines. Some of these senior cats (defined as being between ages 7-10 and up) have health or behavioral complexities that would have rendered them unadoptable in other shelters.
Thanks to Dakin’s innovative spirit, many of these obstacles are either removed or minimized thanks to strategies and procedures created to help these cats.
Being creatures very attuned to their environment, mature cats often respond dramatically when they lose their home and family and are brought to an adoption center. While kittens and younger cats tend to adapt more quickly to the change, senior cats often sink into a significant depression and may stop eating or become fearful and defensive when faced with interactions with staff, volunteers and potential adopters.
The animal care team at Dakin offers these cats every possible chance for success, from determining the best environment for them (Colony room? Roomy cage on the adoption floor? Office upstairs for those who need quiet time?), to tracking their medical condition, offering enrichment and providing play time. Their mission is to effectively guide these cats through their transition between homes with compassion and understanding.
Why do these cats end up in shelters? As with all animal surrenders at Dakin, two of the most popular reasons are the loss of home (and the person’s inability to bring the pet along to the new home), and allergies (triggered by the cat) suffered by someone in the home. Senior cats are sometimes brought to us because they may need medications that are a financial burden for their caretaker, or they’ve become house soilers and stopped using their litter boxes. In the latter case, several steps are put into play to determine the cause and correct the problem. Maybe the walls of the box were too high for the elderly cat to step over, and a different box size will save the day.
Meela is a perfect example of an elderly cat who presented some challenges as an adoptee. Brought to Dakin last fall, this cream-colored Siamese mix was a stray assumed to be about nine years old. Ongoing medical examinations indicated the beginning of kidney disease. Her eyelids were not aligned properly, which made her squint. She needed to be encouraged to eat and was losing weight. After nearly three months at Dakin, Meela finally met her person.
Renea, who has two dogs, was drawn to the blue-eyed beauty and adopted her last December. Six months settled, Meela now “gets along fine with the dogs,” Renea reports. “She’s even starting to ‘play attack’ them.” Ongoing veterinarian care confirms that Meela’s kidney condition is greatly improved, and her eyes are now wide open. Renea and her husband are thrilled to have “our incredibly cuddly little girl” in their family. “Dakin gave her so much,” Renea says, “and she gives it back to us tenfold.”
Senior cats can be exceptionally good choices for adoption. Their personalities are already developed (so you know what you’re in for), they don’t need the constant attention and supervision that kittens require, and they have many good manners already in place. By adopting them, you are also saving a life, as older cats are often bypassed in adoption centers.