The third time Pacino entered our shelter, he had an office upstairs all to himself. But the gate would be left open and he’d roam the halls, wandering in to visit the law enforcement department and the marketing people and the other office cats who were kept behind their plastic barriers. Pacino was the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s own hallway patrol officer. If you went in to say hi to someone and closed the door, Pacino would meow a few times and wait for you to come back out. He’d greet you with a run—his large belly swinging—and walk you to the end of the hallway, to the door where he couldn’t pass because the Center for Shelter Dogs was on the other side, and watch you leave, and then roll around on the carpet. He wasn’t always like this.
When Pacino arrived the first time, he was a sweet but very shy cat. He was always into laps and he’d crawl right in for a snuggle. But he was also nervous. At the shelter, he seemed like the perfect cat (which of course he is). But then he came back.
“He poops outside the litterbox.”
But he used his litterbox just fine in his cage and we were eager to adopt him out again. Sometime adopters just aren’t prepared for having to clean up after a cat. It didn’t take too long for someone new to come along and fall in love. He was gone for several months. Then he came back again.
“He’s a great cat,” said the adopter.
“But he poops outside the litterbox,” said his wife. “In the tub.”
So we brought Pacino upstairs. Only, he wasn’t the same cat he was when he had first arrived. The amazing thing is that the constant switching between homes and the love poured upon him by the staff and volunteers had an amazing effect: Pacino had turned into the most outgoing, chill cat imaginable. Not only a love and a lapcat like he used to be, but a cat who was unafraid of anything. So he took over the hallway.
As for the litterbox, it took us hardly any time to solve the issue. We set up a system with two litterboxes and a litter tray. He used them and never went outside them. It just took a little more effort than his previous adopters were willing. So they gave up the best cat in the world because of a little poop. That’s fine…we were all so happy to see him.
Because who doesn’t love Pacino? We were all smitten. He insistent meow; his surprisingly athletic chase of a wand toy down the hall; his warm takeover of a lap. He had been with us for several months…
…Then today, finally, he found a new home. His litterbox needs were explained so that the new adopter knows exactly what is required to own a cat like Pacino. Hopefully he will not come back.
It’s bittersweet. On one hand, I expect to go to the shelter this weekend and head upstairs and call “Pacino!” and see him run toward me. Curl up on my legs. Keep me company for a while. The shelter feels a lot emptier without our bow tie-wearing mascot. And since I was at work today and not at the shelter, I didn’t get to say goodbye. On the other hand, he’s home tonight. In a bed. With a family.
And that always makes it worth it.