The path to re-homing a pet.

As an animal rights advocate, pet owner, rescue volunteer and humane educator, I am painfully familiar with the pet over population issues and the euthanasia rates in our country.  That’s why it was so heart breaking for me when I had to make the very difficult decision to re-home one of my cats.  I thought it might be helpful to show the steps I took, trying everything possible to avoid the re-homing, and knowing I was not going to rely on the already stressed and over populated shelters and rescues.

Squeeky and Mia were my 2 cats, I got them both young, approximately the same age. I had Mia first, and after about 2 weeks of getting to know each other, they became fast friends. I would find them snuggled together in the sun, licking each other.  They would play chase and race through the house, wrestling, hugging, kicking, bopping each other on the head with their paws…it was a delight to see.

Every now and again Squeeky would see another cat out a window and she would panic, hiss and re-direct her anxiety towards Mia.  They would end up in a giant brawl, with fur balls flying, screeches and howling, and the inevitable scratches on my hands and arms from separating them.  It would take a day or two for Squeeky to be convinced that Mia was in fact Mia and not the cat she saw in the window.  And they would settle back into a normal routine of love and sunbathing together.

However, something happened, I still don’t know what, that permanently changed the situation.  A fight ensued and Squeeky was so afraid, cautious and sure that Mia was to be feared that I could no longer have them in the same room.  I tried to plug-in the atomizer that emit feline calming pheromones, I put the liquid pheromones in their water bowls, catnip everywhere…I introduced them slowly again and again giving treats and brushing while they were together in a calm setting, and within minutes Squeeky was hissing and on guard and Mia was fed up with being attacked.  It was becoming unsafe for them both, and for the small dogs in the house.

Not willing to give up, I put food, water and litter in 2 separate bedrooms and would do the “cat shuffle” locking one in a room and letting the other one roam the house…and vice versa. I would switch rooms so they could smell each other without seeing each other.   I consulted my local cat shelter and discussed options at length for resolution towards a happy home again. I read on-line endlessly for ideas.  Both cats had visits to the vet to be sure there were no health issues.  Both were healthy, although now seniors, they were active and showing no signs of slowing down. This separation and re-introduction effort went on for 2 years.

It finally got to the point where it was no longer possible for them to see each other, and even though Squeeky hadn’t come face to face with Mia for months, she walked around the house on edge, expecting to see a strange mystery cat.  It was sad and a constant worry about them getting out of their rooms accidentally.  And not allowing them to just roam free all day didn’t feel right for either of them.

When both my parents were sick with cancer,  I was focused on their care.  With the gut wrenching, heart breaking loss of them both within one year of the other, I planned on making a big change. I sold my house in Boston and decided to move to Florida to start a new life so I could heal from the pain and grief of so much loss in such a short period of time. However, I had to resolve the cat issue before I could make the move.

Mia is a very shy cat, she really only likes me and will hide when company is around.  Squeeky on the other hand, for all her anxiety about other cats, loves people and would instantly be part of the action when visitors were over or there was a party going on.  Knowing I could not move both cats into a new home where they would again be divided, separated, and always shuffled into rooms to avoid the other, I made the painful decision to find Squeeky a good home.  This sounds a lot easier than it is.  In a world where shelters are filled with cats and so  many are euthanized, trying to find a reasonable home for my cat was not going to be easy.

But somehow, the universe was on my side and it was meant to be.  I wrote an email to my animal loving friends explaining the situation.  I just wanted Squeeky to be safe and loved and live in a home with no other cats.  I let everyone know that she was a wonderful senior cat that just needed a chance. Through some very kind people sharing the email, an amazing couple with a wonderful home and no other pets said they would adopt Squeeky.  We emailed a bit, spoke on the phone and they said they would do it.  We planned a day, and I packed up all of Squeeky’s belongings, her favorite treats, blankies, beds, furminator brush, etc. and put on a brave face.

Being in the middle of a giant move, still recovering from the loss of my parents and now handing over my pet of 14 years, this was not an easy day.  It was pouring rain and miserable outside.  While carrying Squeeky to her carrier in the front seat of the car she got so upset and panicked that she peed all over me.  Leaving her in the carrier I ran back inside to quickly change my clothes.  Arriving at the adopters home I was relieved to see such a big, beautiful home with a cozy lived in feel. The neighborhood was nice and there were big giant windows in the house, and a big sliding glass door where the sun came in.  They had a small guest room just off the dining room area with a bed and bathroom that was all set for Squeeky’s “home base.”

Alan and Elinor were all smiles and hugs when I arrived and they were endlessly patient with me as I set up Squeeky’s stuff in her new room.  Elinor had the table set with a wonderfully thoughtful lunch so we could sit and chat and get to know each other.  They knew this was a hard day for me and they wanted to make me feel at ease.  Their friend Kelly was also joining us for lunch -she had shared my email from a mutual friend with Alan and Elinor.  So without Kelly’s involvement, I believe the adoption would never have happened.  It takes a village sometimes, a village of kindness and people who take time out of their lives to care.  I needed this support so desperately at this time in my life, and Squeeky needed a chance to be in a perfect home as the queen bee with no other pets.  It is still miraculous to me that it all worked out so well.

After a nice lunch and a last, awful, difficult, goodbye to my Squeeky, I hugged them, thanked them, and went on my way.  I cried my eyes out the whole way home, through the rain, saying I was sorry to Squeeky over and over.

The very, very happy ending to this tale is that Squeeky is spoiled, healthy, thriving and loved in her new home.  Alan sent me an email in the days after I left their home saying “Don’t worry Karen, Elinor has a way of making sure everyone is alright.  I promise Squeeky will be fine.”  Hearing him speak so sweetly about his wife, his words set my mind at ease.

We continue to keep in touch with pictures, Facebook posts and emails all the time.  I am very happy to report Squeeky Diva Cat is doing fantastic, and although I miss her every day, I truly believe this was the right thing for her.  I learned to put my own love of her aside to make sure she had a better quality of life.  But what I’m most proud of is the collaborative effort of love and kindness that went into her re-homing.  We avoided the shelter system, didn’t ask a rescue to take her, and through the grace of the universe and higher power, Squeeky no longer has to worry about a mystery cat behind every door or around every corner.   I gained some very wonderful new friends through the ordeal, and learned that entrusting my pet to new owners can be a positive and rewarding experience when all the stars align just perfectly.

Many thanks to Kelly, Alan and Elinor for loving The Squeek as much as I do.  Bless you!! 10415609_10201556423747228_2093107790168533766_n

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