Thursday, April 2, 2015

Shelter stories: Meet Charlie the cat!

orange tabby cat in an animal shelter
Yesterday, I met this awesome guy for the first time, during my volunteer session at Willamette Humane Society. He's a 3-year-old orange tabby named Charlie, and he's having a pretty typical reaction to the shelter life.

Charlie is a shy and retiring cat. He's the sort of guy that's probably used to living with a small group of humans and very little excitement. He's probably spent most of his time sitting on the couch, basking in the quiet. He probably really liked that life.

But a shelter isn't like this at all. Most shelters are pretty damn loud places. Dogs bark, especially when it's close to mealtime. Cats yeowl and mewl, especially when it's close to their mealtime. And people who come into shelters aren't all that quiet, either. They chitter and chatter about the animals, they call out to one another to look at the pets, and they talk loudly to the animals they like.

For cats like Charlie, this is all a little bit too much. And he's not sure how to react.

He knows he should get attention, so he's the first to bound over for a greeting. He yells and screeches and cheeps, just like the others. But I can tell that he's uncomfortable with the whole thing. His ears are pinned, his tail is lashing and his fur is fluffed out. He doesn't like behaving this way. He seems uncomfortable.

And minutes later, he's hissing and growling at the world. Most of that anger is directed at his roomie (who refuses to engage), so it's probably harmless enough.

But still.

If you were shopping for a kitty, you probably wouldn't choose a cat that seems a little aggressive. Especially when there are so many other awesome cats you could take home. That means Charlie is making himself a little less adoptable. And he's doing that because he's desperate to be adopted.
orange tabby cat in the shelter
Thankfully, most cats like this guy do seem to get the hang of the shelter life. After a week or so, they realize that the sounds they hear are just a little normal, and they stop reacting to them. There's no more hissing and no more panic. They settle.

But still. I'd love to see freaked-out cats like this go home during their first week, before they adjust. Why? Because they're already accustomed to the quiet life, and that's what they're likely to get in a home. When they've adjusted to the shelter, they have to readjust to a house. In a way, it makes more work for these guys. They have an extra adjustment step to make, from home to a shelter to a home. Wouldn't it be better if they could just move from a home to a home, with only a quick shelter stop in the middle?

But, I know it doesn't usually work out that way. So chances are, I'll probably see Charlie again next week.

You can help, though. If you know of someone in Oregon looking for an orange tabby male, send them out to see Charlie. He might not seem ready to go, but I assure you. He really is.

Update: Charlie was adopted!

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