The Fallibility of Cats

Cats, like humans, are fallible. People who come into a shelter—or a pet store or a breeder—looking for the perfect animal, are asking too much. Even the best cats have their own preferences, their own personalities, their own way of doing things.

I like to think that our shelter has some of the best cats around. We take care of them with food, and medicine, and most importantly love. Sometimes an adopter comes in to look at one cat and soon finds themselves swarmed by volunteers who all have something to say about that animal and its personality. I like to think that we know these cats like old friends.

We can’t know everything. So when a cat that we’ve spent hours of time with passes away before we’re able to find it a home, it’s hard to deal with. I’m not talking about a cat that had major behavioral issues. I’m not talking about a cat that had known medical issues. (I’ll save the no-kill debate for another day, because now’s not the time.) I’m talking about an adoptable cat, one that was on its way to going home, that suddenly gives up before we can fulfill our promise of giving it a better life.

I’m sending this email to just let all of you know, that unfortunately our beloved [cat] passed away last night, we found her after adoption closed during our evening closing procedures. The cause is unknown, but she was SNAP test negative. A necropsy was performed, and it was likely due to some underlying heart condition.

[The cat] will be missed, just know that prior to adoption closing she did receive multiple head rubs and lots of chin scratches.

I know I did nothing wrong. But still the immediate questions come to mind: Did I do anything to stress her out and make things worse? Were there any warning signs that I overlooked? She had been given a full medical exam, had been checked over by the vet just a couple days ago, so whatever she had, she hid it from us well. Ultimately, it comes to down to a simple fact: these things happen. Even people can die suddenly from unknown ailments. It happens. It sucks when it happens.

It would be different if I were trying to adopt out sofas or cars or insurance policies. One broken sofa, and you throw it away and cut your losses. It’s different at the shelter. One broken cat makes another tiny crack in your heart.

But you tape it up and move on.

We gave this cat all we could; she just didn’t want it anymore.


5 Replies to “The Fallibility of Cats”

  1. This is one time when I think I may disagree with you: I’m not sure that she gave up – I think it’s more likely that her body just gave out. She certainly seemed to enjoy a lot of moments of her time with us. Doesn’t make the crack in the heart any less painful, however it DOES remind us to cherish every moment we have with these wonderful friends – and to try to make sure that every last impression we make with them is a loving one – for our own sake as well as theirs.

  2. Losing a cat is hard – no matter if it is one “just” in your care or your own.
    Death is the one thing that happens to all living things. It cannot be completely avoided – we are not gods. So we have to find ways to cope with grief and sadness – and even disappointments, when we had so wished for a different outcome. Cry for the little one, cry your grief out. Just do not blame yourself or any other person at the shelter. You could not have avoided that. It was her time to “go over the rainbow bridge” as some people name it.

    I lost my cat which was not even 6 years old. I brought her to a vet-hospital – and there she died. Can’t blame it on the vets – they’d prefer a living patient over a dead one … Can’t blame it on me – still I know the questions: What could I have done differently? Fruitless. But still they come back visiting ..
    Had another cat two months later, as my FunTom was too lonely, and this little one sits right next to me and is such a little star. Would not have been able to rescue her if I still had my little Mashka.
    Likewise that lost guest of your shelter made place for a new cat. Not much of comfort. But comfort will only come with time.

  3. Nono! It’s not that she didn’t want it anymore! It’s just that his/her time was done…and you all loved them with your whole hearts. That’s REMARKABLE. I really admire what you do. Really really.

  4. I disagree with “she just didn’t want it anymore.” Life is finite; none of us know how long it’s going to last. She gave her kitty all; I know for absolute certain that everyone at the shelter gave their all. When kitty passed on, she took a lot of love with her. The gift of affection is never wasted. I think it is even more cherished when it is bestowed upon a cat whose hour draws near. It may not be on earth as we would have wished for, but kitty has a forever home. God’s speed little fluffy…

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