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.