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Adopting a Cat: Emotional Choices

Posted by Jennifer on September 29th, 2011

Just when we think our friends over at The Way of Cats blog have covered every possible topic relating to cats, they post yet another great article that makes us think, educates us, and amuses us! Their latest is titled “Cats Who Are Attracted To Us” but as is their style, they start off on what seems like a totally different topic at first, which is the huge range of emotions an adopter can feel when walking into a shelter and seeing the cats for adoption. Then they delve into how that emotional response evolves into a connection, and some of the emotions that could motivate you to pick a cat that might not be the best match for you home. Then… well, we’ve given enough away for now! You can read on to find out the rest below…

Pamela writes: “My friends like to tease me that I will choose the “most pathetic kitten in the shelter.” It’s not that I choose them because they were pathetic; I chose them despite their pathetic-ness. I chose Reverend Jim and Olwyn because they were the right type of cat for our situation. But also because they both reached out to me and declared they liked me on very short notice.

This is like going out with someone who we know likes us. We have a head start on the relationship.

It’s not that people don’t use emotion when they choose a cat. It’s that they often use the wrong ones.

Nostalgia. There’s nothing wrong with choosing a cat who looks a lot like a favorite, past, cat. As long as we realize we are getting a new cat; not a replay of our old one. We can grow fond of a Maine Coon Cat’s cuddling style or the talkativeness of a Siamese. Discovering which breeds we love can help guide us to suitable choices. But we must never expect a “replacement” cat. This will disappoint both of us.

Amusement. I see it over and over; people are captivated by the little clown who has endless antics. They bring them home to the mild-mannered older cat who has never lived with another cat. This is the operating springboard of most situation comedies. But we don’t want to actually live with this much conflict. By all means bring home the lively little one, only make sure they have a playmate. If our existing cat or cats will not fill the needed position; there’s a whole roomful of applicants right there.

Aesthetics. Oh, the pretty ones. There’s nothing wrong with choosing a beautiful cat; unless that is the only reason they attracted us. This can often take the form of seeing a “purebred” and finding the prospect so appealing we overlook warning flags about this cat’s suitability for us… or even, at all. Many people will go for the cheap purebred, discover the serious issues that come from ignorant breeding of a restricted gene pool; and abandon the cat. It’s not that such cats cannot be good pets; my Chantilly/Tiffany rescue, Smokepuff, was both gorgeous and sweet. But he also had problems my vet agreed could have a genetic origin.

Pity. I only get the “most pathetic” if that cat has problems I know how to fix. A kind heart that overrules a cool head is the quickest way to take on far more than we can handle; and then find our whole household disrupted. It is delightful to bring a shy cat from their shell, rehabilitate a little bag of bones, or turn an aggressive cat into a love bug. But we must be prepared that our efforts might only make these cats more comfortable being the way they already are. This will make for a happier cat, but might not bring much change to their outward behaviors.

These are all strong emotions, but better expressed when applied to a cat who is suitable in many ways; not just this one.

People who don’t feel much confidence in their ability to figure out cats will feel reluctant to choose. That’s why choosing a cat, who chooses us, means so much. It means we’ve already demonstrated the ability to emotionally communicate.

In my experience, humans make a fundamental mistake when they do not use emotion to make an emotional decision. We are looking for a cat to feel close to. That is not a given.

Except when we choose for it.”

For more about choosing cats from an emotional linkage, see The Way of Cats post on Feeling the Connection.

 
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