This is a discussion on whether certain human diseases, health conditions or backgrounds should determine whether a cat should be adopted out to that person.
As we get older, most of us suffer from one condition or another. Some are due to lifestyle choices and others are hereditary. We all know people who are reducing their lifespan because of bad choices in food or behavior. They think it’s allowed and that “a pill” will undo any harmful effects.
Type II diabetes is perhaps the classic, most prevalent example of a self-imposed illness through allowing oneself to become obese and simply being unable to restrict food intake or increase the burning of energy to lose weight. We are all human and we have to be sympathetic towards people who don’t have the self-discipline to even save their lives when they are, in truth, dying of a serious illness such as type II diabetes which damages kidneys, liver and the heart. And more: the retinas of the eyes are damaged and the nerves in the legs which can cause ulcers, which in turn can cause amputations of the legs.
People with type II diabetes caused by obesity appear to believe that they can manage the illness through self-administered insulin but they deteriorate and die before their time. And they create a financial burden for themselves in managing the illness.
- Diabetic (which is both lifestyles as well as heredity) – take a pill and continue to eat and/or gain weight. Note: there is such a thing as a skinny diabetic so I’m not judging, being diabetic myself.
- Heart disease (including high blood pressure) – take a pill yet continue to smoke (which is horrible for not only the smoker but to any animals who breathe in second-hand smoke).
- On dialysis for bad kidneys? Mood stabilizing drugs? Should this REALLY be an issue? How far should we take it concerning what a potential adopter has or takes?
Overweight? According to stateofobesity.org:
“Around 45 percent of adults are not sufficiently active to achieve health benefits. In 2011-2014, middle-aged Americans (ages 40-59) had the highest obesity rate of any age group at 41.0 percent, followed by seniors (ages 60 and older) at 38.5 percent, and then young adults (ages 20-39) at 34.3 percent.”
Should a rescue or shelter deny adoption due to any of the above or other conditions? Should they even be able to ask for disclosure on adoption paperwork?
Some thoughts from Michael on the above
Response from Michael, the person who owns this website. Eliza wrote the above piece (which I have added to myself) around four years ago. I chose it to amend slightly and republish because I think it’s a good discussion point. Does the health of a person who wishes to adopt a rescue cat affect their application? I have added their general background to the criteria to be examined.
The answer must be YES. For example, if an applicant to adopt a cat has lost their mobility which forces them to sit in a chair most of the day, they are not going to be able to do a very good job looking after their cat. They’re are going to be immobile and if they are obese and diabetic, they will be less inclined to be active when interacting with their cat or to commence play sessions.
And if their cat is an indoor/outdoor cat allowed into the backyard a severely overweight person who is immobile is far less likely to go into the yard to interact with their cat. Therefore, their illness affects the quality of their cat’s lifestyle. However, there are two counterarguments: the lifestyle of a cat in the home an average-to-poor cat caregiver is probably better than that in an animal shelter. Also, a sick person might be a very good cat caregiver and so despite their illness they can still perform reasonably well.
The decision to allow adoption requires the intelligent use of discretion by the animal shelter worker using a carefully prepared application form combined with an interview.
The bottom line here is whether the illness suffered by the adopter impinges significantly on their ability to care for a domestic cat. There must be a threshold. I would hope the shelters have a known threshold regarding the health both physical and mental of adopters. Perhaps they don’t ask any questions. Perhaps it is too difficult to ask questions because they are private matters.
But there’s no doubt that the mental and physical health of an adopter should be taken into account when they apply to adopt a rescue cat. It just depends on the criteria and threshold. It is up to the rescue organisations to decide that.
I can think of two mental health issues which would certainly preclude an adopter: alcoholism and drug addiction of any kind.
And I’m sure that animal rescue organisations ban people with a criminal record for animal abuse from adopting one of their animals. Perhaps they don’t check but they should. Do rescue organisations check for convictions of animal cruelty and abuse? Do they do any criminal checks at all on adopters?
Obviously, some crimes are almost irrelevant to how good a person as in looking after an animal. But all criminal behaviour is relevant to a certain extent. It tells people that convicted people are prepared to break the law, that they probably or possibly are rule breakers. Ideally you don’t want rule breakers looking after cats. You want the opposite. You want reliable, decent, run of the mill people who are at home a lot.
At the same time, of course, you don’t want to put off potentially excellent adopters. It’s a balancing act like most things in life.
It is probable that some shelters have tougher criteria than others. What should be available is the success rate in adoptions across various shelters using different criteria so that the information can be used to benefit all animal shelters.