March 6, 2012

What It's Like to Take a Cat Back to the Shelter

I see I left the cat topic hanging. This will be part update, part "Here's what it's like to return a cat to a shelter, in case you have such a thing in your own future," and part "work-arounds for neuroses."

I kept trying to just call the shelter and initiate the process, but my throat would lock up when I picked up the phone. Finally I emailed, even though that wasn't one of the options, and in my opening paragraph I was semi-frank about the situation (so that they wouldn't email back "Sure! Just give us a call to set up an appointment!"): I wrote that I kept trying to call but choked up every time and had trouble organizing my thoughts because of being so self-conscious about the crying, so I hoped it would be okay to at least start the process on email. Recently I've been thinking there are times when I have to just find a way AROUND the phone, even if it's a bulky/awkward way or seems weird/inefficient to other people; even if it DOES seem weird to them, it probably doesn't linger in their minds for long.

Anyway, email WAS fine, and I'd gone into probably far too much detail about the situation in the email so she didn't need to ask any further questions before agreeing that it sounded like returning the cat was the best thing to do. She gave me an appointment: I was lucky they had room so I could have an appointment just a couple of days later (it's a no-kill shelter, so sometimes there's a waiting list or even a long waiting list). She also had me print some forms to fill out about the cat's behavior, habits, litter/food, personality, etc. I filled out the forms right away, and I was glad because then over the next couple of days I kept thinking of things I wanted to add/modify.

She also asked me to bring in a copy of the medical history from the vet, which meant another call. I really agitated about that one (how to open that conversation? how to keep from choking up?), until I thought of the way to say/ask: I called and said that the cat would be going to another home, and so we'd like to send her records with her. That solved two things: (1) my reluctance to say "going back to the shelter" and (2) the difficulty of needing to inform the vet that they no longer needed to send appointment reminders. I think they could have rushed the forms if I'd needed them right away, but again I was glad I didn't wait until the last second: it was a Wednesday, and I said I needed them by Friday afternoon, and she said I could pick them up Thursday morning.

On Friday afternoon I left Henry with my mom. I wasn't sure if it might help to have a child along for company/distraction, or if it would be better not to have to deal with it. I think it would have gone okay either way, as long as I'd prepared him that I was likely to cry. But as it was, it was just me and the cat.

The shelter has a special entrance for drop-offs, and I got confused and went to the wrong one. Which was completely fine: someone just walked me through some interesting back hallways until I was at the right place. Then she asked if I'd already talked to someone, and I said who I'd talked to, and she paged that person---which was very nice, because then I didn't have to tell the story over again and she already knew what the scoop was.

When she arrived, she looked over the paperwork I'd filled out and asked a couple of questions, and then looked over the vet paperwork and asked when the last flea/tick treatment had been (I was glad I'd thought to check so I could answer, but I don't think it would have been a huge deal to have to call her later that afternoon with the information).

I had to sign a form giving up responsibility/rights to the cat. The fee for relinquishing the cat was $45, and there was a little sign suggesting that increasing this amount would help them with their costs. We periodically give donations to this shelter anyway, and the little sign helped with my anxiety that donating more would look like Guilt Money, so I went with $100. (Particularly easy since the last time I'd looked into this, many years ago when a stray found us, the fee for relinquishing was just over $100---so that's what I'd been expecting.)

The shelter worker was very positive and kind and matter-of-fact (non-disapproving) throughout: she said they had had a surprisingly active adoption month in January, but that the kittens wouldn't be cropping up until spring, so their cat area was quite depleted and she thought a nice cat like this one might get snapped right up. In fact she said she was eager to get her "out on the floor" (the cat could go right out because she was up to date on vaccinations and so forth; otherwise they can spend a month or more in quarantine), because the weekends were busy times for people coming to look at animals. She also said it was nice how the cat was purring and chin-rubbing inside the box, obviously unbothered by all the shelter smells and sounds.

She asked if I needed some time to say good-bye to the cat, and that's when I crumpled/choked (while shaking my head no: I made sure to do the final snuggle at home, based on good advice from the comments section on that first post). It was the right time for the tears, though: I hadn't wanted to be sobbing and speechless throughout, but if you imagine this event as taking place in a movie, we would EXPECT the actress to show some emotion at that point, so I wasn't too embarrassed, and in fact I hoped it helped accurately communicate that this wasn't some casual thing to us.

I'd brought her in the same cardboard carrier they gave us when we adopted her, so that was handy too: I could just leave the whole thing behind, and didn't have to remove her in order to get my carrier back.

The shelter worker let me dab my eyes for a minute, and then she said, "Okay, well then I'll get her settled in..." and I knew the official part was over and I could go. I had to walk weepily past several shelter employees outside, but again I wasn't much embarrassed: I'm sure they understand it when the person is leaving through the "Animal Intake" door.

When I got home, I checked the shelter's website, and they already had the cat's profile up. I posted the picture/link on my local Facebook account, hoping a friend or acquaintance would adopt her. The next morning, someone commented that the link didn't work---and I checked and the cat was already gone! I checked several times over the next few days, wondering if maybe they just took the profile down to edit it (they'd put back up the same one she had when we adopted her), but it stayed down.

So it looks like she only spent one night at the shelter, maybe not even one night! I like imagining her in her new house now, luxuriating in how there is no one leaping out to scare her, no one bothering her, no one policing the litter box, maybe several people who like to sit still and pet cats. Assuming she really DID go to a good new home (I have lingering anxiety about her going to another house where things aren't good for her, but that's out of my control so I try to suppress), this really was the right decision. It was a very hard and stressful decision, and the day I had to drop her off was pretty grim, and there were several episodes of last-second panicking, and there was some crying in the car on the way home---but after it was done (and especially after she was re-adopted so quickly), I felt much better, and also felt gladness for her that she wouldn't be suffering at our house anymore, and gladness for our other cats that they could settle down (they've been way happier), and relief that the decision and resulting actions were done with.

22 comments:

ccr in MA said...

Well, that's a very satisfying ending to a difficult situation. How great that she was snapped up right away! Thanks for the update.

Nowheymama said...

Good job! It was terrible when we had to give away K's guinea pig. I was so worried about her that I was completely not prepared to start crying *myself* when I handed him over. To our neighbor who lives two houses down. It was still so sad! But the right thing to do!

Linda said...

ARGH. I cried reading this and have a vicarious upset stomach for all your stress. I think it went as well as it could go and I'm so glad you got around the phone thing and the intake lady was kind.

Gina said...

I am so happy it worked out well. I am sure that the shelter people understand that given the situation, returning her was the right thing for the cat herself - an unselfish thing to do, not a selfish one.

Erin said...

I think that generally, people who get animals from shelters are people who want to rescue animals that have not had it so good, so they give the cat a good home (and will return her like you did if it's not a good fit), so I don't think you need to worry about her being in a not-so-good home. I think it's very strong of you to have been able to return her, knowing that it's the best thing for her.

d e v a n said...

Well, PHEW! That sounds like it went about as well as it could have and I bet with your input they placed her in a home where she'll be very happy. You did a good thing.

Pickles and Dimes said...

I am POSITIVE she went to a great home, because the staff already knew that she had been returned, so I'm sure they were extra vigilant about questioning the family that adopted her (especially since she was only back for a day or so, and not an animal that had been there for months).

I get so weepy about animals, I'm not even embarrassed anymore. Routine vet visits, visits to Adoption Day, boarding, etc. Even though everything is FINE, I still get weepy. (Although the last time we boarded the dog, I got weepy and the woman behind the counter felt so bad for me, she found me later so she could give me a hug. That made me feel kind of embarrassed.)

Leigh said...

Aw, I'm so sorry you had to go through this but I'm glad there's a happy ending!

Alice said...

what a rough experience :/ however! it sounds like everything worked out as well as possible - including the happy ending of her being in a new, happy home!! i agree - now that the shelter knows more specific questions to ask new owners, i'm SURE she really is happy in her new home. poor swistle, though!!

Jessica said...

I'm so glad everything went as well as possible. You did a great job of preparing and proactively doing all you could to make it a good experience. It's wonderful she was adopted so quickly!

Beylit said...

When I was in college I had a very sweet puppy that we had to relinquish to a shelter because we lived in a small apartment and she desperately needed to be outside where she could run. We didn't have a no kill shelter within two hours of our little town, so I didn't have a lot of options. I sobbed the entire time, and had to have a friend with me to answer questions.

Again it was a small town and this little animal shelter had no website, but I had a friend who volunteered there once a week. I had her check for me and was told my pup had been adopted within a couple of days and gone out to a farm with two young children to play with.

It is always a hard decision, but we have to believe it is what is best for them. I am sure your kitty is in a home that is perfect for her now.

Leeann said...

You are a wonderful person, tender hearted and thoughtful all the way through.

I like you.

allison said...

And also, how kind and helpful of you to be so honest about this, so those of us who have phone phobias and cry at weddings, funerals and auto shows know that we're not the only ones.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

I'm super impressed by your thoughtful approach to this WHOLE thing.

SO glad that it all worked out as well as it could have!

EG1972 said...

As someone on the board of a small animal shelter (and also active in the day to day going ons there), I can tell you that your serious and caring approach to this situation would have been obvious and appreciated by the staff at the shelter. Lots of people don't even take the time to let the shelter know in advance that they are coming or bring vet records, etc. You did things the best way possible.

Anonymous said...

Aw, this post made me cry :( Both sad and happy tears, though! I used to volunteer at our local shelter back in college but had to stop. I just couldn't get all those sad long furry faces out of my head at the end of the day. I still try to donate my time at least once a month, but the 3-4 times a week thing was wreaking havoc on my mental health. I think you did the right thing! So glad she was re-adopted right away :)

Tina G said...

I have tears in my eyes just reading that- you were so brave doing the right thing- and most places like that really do great checks on people before handing over a cat- maybe one of the shelter workers fell in love with her? We have a cat who is attacked by one of the other two(there are older siblings and a younger non-related cat- the younger one is the bully)and we can't really do much as splitting up the siblings isn't happening, the younger one is bonded to my daughter, so we just love the victim and keep her safe as much as we can. Glad you had a positive outcome, Swistle : )

Ger said...

So sorry for your sadness and stress over this! You handled an unfortunate situation in the very best possible way.

Alicia C {sassyberry at juno dot com} said...

I'm so sorry this was so difficult for you.

I've been really agitated about the same thing, but we don't have a no-kill shelter that i'm aware of and when I called the shelter where we got our cat from, they said that if she'd been adopted by us and we brought her back she'd be considered unadoptable and that's the final say there. That really upset me, I don't want to take her back and have her euthanized, she's a GOOD cat, just a bad fit with us!

*sigh* Thinking happy thoughts that your kitty is now in the perfect home for her and will be happy forever.

Superjules said...

This seems like the kind of thing that you don't necessarily WANT to know how to do, but it's really helpful information to share (somewhat like me knowing how to file and obtain a restraining order).

I'm so glad it went as well as it could and that kitty has a new home now!

Mrs. Irritation said...

Hooray for kitty finding a new home!! You did the right thing, even if it was horrifically stressful, and you should feel proud of that.

Misty said...

You are so brave! I am glad it all really worked out for the best. I will admit, I boo hoo'ed a little myself. That was tough. Thanks for telling us about it.