I use “him” to mean him or her. I can never write “it” because it feels wrong to me. OK, what is the big deal about meeting the cat you want to adopt before adopting?
This is a follow up to Elisa’s article on cat adoptions at a distance, meaning people adopting cats from photographs and descriptions and then someone ships the cat to them. This happens quite a lot with respect to purebred, pedigree cats but less so with random bred rescue cats. It appears to be happening more with the increased use of the internet.
Attitude of the prospective cat caretaker
A lot depends on the person who is looking to adopt a cat. Meeting a cat before adoption is less important if the person doing the adopting has an excellent attitude to cat caretaking and an excellent track record. If a person is adopting because she wants to help a vulnerable cat who has had a tough time the chances of the relationship being for the life of the cat is very good – if the person is switched on and good.
If, on the other hand, the person is a first time cat owner and fancies adopting a nice looking cat on the cheap and does the whole thing on the internet, the chances of success are reduced. The reason for the adoption would not be based on sound principles.
If this person visited her local cat shelter and got to know the cats, took her time and discovered by interacting with the cats whether she could make a connection then there would be an improved chance of success when she adopted. She may decide to not follow through. I think that it is better not to adopt a cat than adopt hastily and then decide to abandon the cat. A failure for both. After all, shelters select prospective adopters carefully. This can’t be done so well at a distance.
Meeting the cats can lead to a connection before adoption
The worry about selecting a cat on the internet is that the connection between cat and caretaker takes place after the person has adopted the cat. This is likely to happen but it depends on the person. However, there must be a higher risk of failure. The ideal is when a healthy cat comes to the person at a local shelter and a connection is formed there and then. Thereafter it progresses and becomes deeper.
The people in the know say we should check out the cats before adopting. One thing you check for is the outgoing, confident nature of the cat or kitten. You can do that by watching how he interacts with you. Also, you can check out basic health problems such as upper respiratory infections (URIs). These are commonplace.
You can’t tell at a distance from a photograph if the cat you think you adore is healthy and socialised.
- Are the eyes clear?
- Is the nose free of discharge and slightly moist?
- Are the ears clean looking
- Is the fur clean and glossy?
- Does he squirm in your hands or come to you and purr when he sits on your lap or does he purr contendly? You don’t know.
You won’t necessarily be able to check this things on the internet. It depends on how trustworthy the person advertising the cat is. Are they hiding something? Have they misrepresented the cat in the description? You can ask questions and if the person misrepresents the cat’s condition and character you could get your money back and return the cat. That won’t happen because it is not worth it. Where does that leave the cat and the relationship?
It is always better to check first hand when buying some expensive items. Cats are obviously not expensive items from a shop. They are more important than that. You have to be sure of what you are committing to and it is a 15+ year commitment if a kitten is being adopted.
What do internet photographs show?
The most obvious feature of a cat that an internet photo shows is the coat type and the facial features. These are appearance characteristics. That is only part of the story. Health and character are more important. At a distance you depend on the advertiser for that information. I say it is best to check and make your own judgments.
The upside of internet at-a-distance cat adoption
More people are reached on the internet. The audience is vastly increased. This should result in a lot more adoptions and bottom line that is the most important thing in the world of rescue cats.
There will be some failures, more failures than if the person had visited a local shelter and adopted there. This is not good but…overall the internet does benefit rescue cats, I sense. I don’t know of any research on this.
Focus on the wrong thing
There is a need in the world of cats to focus less on the appearance of cats and more on the character, health and the relationship formed between person and cat. Adopting over the internet tends to reinforce the wrong emphasis: cat appearance. Let’s be concerned about the inner cat. This is where relationships are formed.
The person advertising the cat should check out the prospective adopter. All good shelters do this. It cannot be done carefully enough at a distance. Cats Protection in the UK are very careful in selecting adopters.
If it saves lives do it
Adoption via the internet at a distance has defects but if it saves the lives of cats it is a success.