By Dawn M. Sanders

It seems unyielding expectations are finding their way into the most feasible areas of our lives, even in adopting a cat, creating unnecessary conflict and complication.

For some time I have wanted a cat, as my landlord has okayed it in the last 6 months and I’ve had several for many years.  Staring down the barrel of possibly more stents of house arrest (or lockdown as the mainstream phrases it) with winter coming on, is almost too much to bare – living alone and working from home. I read countless stories of how people faced increased isolation and depression during the last 7 months and I know from experience, services addressing those issues are already almost impossible to access unless you’re desperate. So I’ve been trying with no success, to adopt a feline friend as an addition to my quiet semi-rural spot on the edge of Exeter, with fields surrounding, tucked away at the top of a hill – well away from a suburban road. With advice from my neighbourhood facebook group, I first tried the most obvious outlet, the RSPCA, after a cat was advertised available on their website. A young, fast-speaking woman took the call and, when I asked to fill in the form over the phone instead of online, due to not being great at forms online etc. she was hesitant and less than willing. After she initially took my details and asked some questions, her slightly edgy veneer gave way when I said I didn’t have a cat flap, but would have an open window for the cat to access going outside. “Oh well I don’t know about that – it’s best if you have a cat flap.” She carried on with how particular the cat was about other cats and asked how many there were in my area – like anyone is supposed to know something like that?  It’s like asking how many seagulls visit a specific rooftop in a day… She took my postcode, obviously with the view to looking at where I live on google maps and then kept me on hold for at least ten minutes at her leisure, instead of just saying she would ring back after talking to her line manager. When she came back she said: “Oh well it all sounds fine and, you can have a cat, but you can’t have boo, because you might forget to open the window.”  So that was that and there was little point in arguing, as the snobbery had been in her voice along with her natural pitch throughout our conversation and trying to convince her otherwise when her mind was made up, would have been futile.

So, back to the neighbourhood group, this time I asked for any independent rescue places.  Several people suggested the next obvious port-of-call, the Cats Protection League.  In looking at their website, I was immediately put off by the lengthy and bureaucratic process of paper work, getting it all approved, being sent back to sign, whether hardcopy or electronically and then something like the next phase of meeting the cat and I thought, ‘jesus, I’m adopting a cat, not a child!’  All the places I was trying were varying in their tightened, closed-to-the-public rules, due to the pandemic. The third place I tried was in earnest an independent rescue centre run by just a few cat lovers.  They had several reserved on their site, so I waited to see one which wasn’t yet taken.

After some weeks of being caught up with other things and drumming time and effort into my journalism, I looked again. There was a cat available on the first independent site and another Maine Coon advertised on their spin-off group. The one with the Maine Coon stressed specific experience with that type of larger cat, so I did a lot of research, as I was intrigued. There wasn’t much else to be experienced at with the Maine Coon, but as my son is wary of animals, I decided against something so big, as not to freak him out when he next visits.

The new arrival at the rescue place in Totnes was gorgeous, having been described to me.  I rang up and again described my setting and was directed to where he, the attractive male tabby, was being fostered. A slightly nervous-sounding older woman described him and his circumstances of where he was rescued from and I reassured her, he would be loved and looked after, as I live alone, with no other cats or kids. She then wanted to come and view my home – not something I was used to in simply taking on a cat as I had always gone to places, they choose me, a connection was made and I brought them home.  I however agreed and set a time and day for her to visit. When she walked into my flat, not surprisingly she said: “I gather you’re partially-sighted, are you going to be okay with a cat?”  I thought, ‘here we go’… “You don’t need to see to have a cat, as I say I’ve had several.” I said trying hard to contain my irritation. “Just wanted to make sure, if the cat was around your legs you would be safe.” She said, continuing to stand in the middle of my living room. When she made a comment that I’m not on the ground floor, I showed her the ledge I had built onto my outside window sill, where a cat could walk out onto and then jump to the suspension bridge that goes from my front door to the pavement – she seemed fine with that. After talking to her and her husband who, was seemingly there as a bystander, just having done the driving, sitting relaxed and laidback on my sofa, there seemed to be a mutual common ground reached as they liked my place and they went away saying they had to visit one more interested someone, really out of courtesy.

So, when I next spoke to her, let’s call her Martha, she said, ‘yes, we’re happy you can take the cat’ and she directed me to the cattery owner to arrange payment. However, just before she hung up the phone, she casually mentioned chipping.  Chipping? I asked. “Oh yes, you must get the cat micro-chipped, because if, if, if…” she said in a heightened and hurried voice. When I said I wasn’t really into doing that she said, ‘oh no’ I’d better hold it right there and talk to the manager. Less than a minute later, the manager of the cattery rang me to say the same, only more: “If the cat goes astray and isn’t found people become heart broken.  It could end up…” and she went on and on about – if it ends up in the back of a lorry, found dead somewhere, if someone takes it. We’re on your side, we like you, she insisted and I could hear it was an exercise in twisting my arm as far back as it would go and pressing all the right buttons.  I agreed to get the thing micro-chipped and finalised on her sending her bank details so I could make payment. The next day I waited in the midst of my busy day, for her to send me her bank details.  When by that evening she hadn’t, I rang her again. “Has Martha spoken to you today?” “Not today” I said and immediately knew something was up and, it was. She began by saying how “nervous” they were that I seemed a little resistant to their suggestions of coming for the home visit and then of the chipping thing.  I said, ‘yeah, but I did agree to it in the end didn’t I’? but then she was steadfast in her obvious change-of-mind.  The change-of-mind which, had obviously come from Martha, who had a steady stream of worries, despite my reassurances. So I had to insist on being listened to, as she was all too ready to just quickly spill out her misgivings and put the phone down. “You people seem to have these rigid expectations, and if a prospective cat owner doesn’t adhere to them down to the letter, you just flippantly hold it over someone, knowing how much someone wants to adopt a cat. Having different beliefs to you, doesn’t mean for a second I’m any less of a good prospective pet owner.” I interjected.  She insisted again on the issue of the chipping and I reminded her I agreed to it, yet was entitled to my beliefs, but it was to no avail.  Again, her mind was made up and the cat was going to the other interested party.

So, yet another slap-on-the-wrist for being a naughty little girl, too honest in having my own opinions and beliefs about how an animal is too denaturalised as it is in the name of human overly-zealous tenterhooks, as the natural world, or what’s left of it, gets on with it. I have a deep respect for animals and am all for animal welfare, in fact, just as much as anyone in the business of rescuing – even though I grew up in an urban setting, we always had pets. When I put the phone down from the manager of the cattery I thought, ‘fascists’!  Cat fascists! They’re obviously decent people, but they lose the plot when it comes to judging others on suitability to be pet owners. And, I was all-too-aware, the worrier at the other end of it all, had stopped short about further making my visual impairment an issue.  It would be completely naïve to think they had not discussed it, along with a thousand other reasons to change their minds.  Had they brought it up, I would have reminded them I’ve been a single mum – raising my son solo since he was a baby, so did they not think I could take on a damn cat? I could care less at this juncture, if it sounds paranoid to deface the façade masking the issue of my visual impairment, whether it is either the big white cat in the room or the rat you can smell from miles away, when you experience a steady diet of prejudiced preconceptions, it is more what they ‘didn’t say’, rather than what they did say in making their case. Given my experience, I have no qualms what-so-ever in mentioning Mitzie’s Kitty Corner as the latest culprit in denying someone to make informed choices, based on intelligent strongly held convictions. I would no more micro-chip a cat than I would my child!  I get why people do it and, that is their choice but, not only do I believe an animal should retain living in as natural environment and as natural a life as possible within our artificially constructed world of additives, microwaves and excessive conveniences; this is after all, the age of mass-surveillance and as an outspoken, opinionated left-wing journalist, yes, I have the sharpened awareness that, a micro-chipped cat would only provide yet another portal for big daddy.

Leave a Reply