A Cat Saleswoman: Working in Adoption

Charlie_Liz_8-8-11A Hypothetical Situation

I walk over to the couple who are peeking at the animal inside a cage. The cat’s arm reaches out and paws at the man’s fingers.

“Are you looking to adopt a cat today?” I ask.

The answer is either something like, “No, we’re just looking,” in which case I smile politely and say, “Okay, let me know if you have any questions” and walk away. People sometimes just want to look a cute animals, and that’s fine. Or, the answer is, “yes” and that’s when I kick into the role of Car Saleswoman. Or rather, Cat Saleswoman.

My job when volunteering in the adoption center of an animal shelter, is to play match maker for humans and animals. I want adopters to walk away with a feline that is the right fit for their home and lifestyle, and has the least likely chance of being returned. (Yes, even shelter animals have a return policy.)

Yet, as much as the job is like setting two people up on a date, it’s also a lot like selling a car. I find myself using many of the same techniques, except that the “product” I’m selling is a living, breathing being.

For instance, everyone loves kittens, but many people don’t realize how much work they are. Everyone knows that a puppy needs to be trained, needs to go outside every few hours to go to the bathroom, and are only slightly less work than a human child. But not everyone knows that kittens are also work. Sure, they go to the bathroom in a box, and generally it’s not something that needs to be taught, but kittens need tons of playtime, are often up at all hours of the night, get into everything, and need to be trained just like puppies. Otherwise, that kitten grows up and around 6 months of age, becomes a bratty, out of control teenager. Plus, with a kitten, you really don’t have a sense of its personality until about 8 months. Continue reading “A Cat Saleswoman: Working in Adoption”

Why You Should Double Your Trouble

By now I’ve sent a few shelter cats home with friends of mine. It always makes me a little nervous—what if the cat turns out to be a total nightmare and then I’m the one who helped put it in a home where it’s not working out. But luckily, things have mostly worked out so far.

For instance, last year, I saw a group of kittens at the shelter, including one small gray kitten, and immediately texted his photo to my friend Sonja. She and her (now) husband had one cat, Zola, who they adopted several years ago at the age of about 4 months from a shelter in Arlington, Virginia. Sonja had been wistfully suggesting she wanted a second cat for months, and Sam had finally started agreeing with her. But I was the one who texted that photo to alert Sonja of a new litter of kittens to the Animal Rescue League of Boston. A couple days later, she walked home with Milo, a tabby from the same litter as the gray kitten.


Most people think of cats as solitary creatures. But any cat owner with more than one feline knows that cats can be just as social as dogs— in fact, most cats thrive with a companion or two of the same species.

Kittens use their littermates to learn appropriate behaviors, such as how hard they should bite and how rough is too rough during playtime and which social cues (like a hiss, or a meow) mean what. Kittens that are separated from their littermates too young often turn into cats that bite, unless their owner knows how to teach those things, which takes a lot of effort.

Continue reading “Why You Should Double Your Trouble”