My mind, when left on its own, tends to drift, and while it is drifting, I wonder about all sorts of things. Regular readers of my column will have no difficulty believing this.
One of the things about which I have recently been wondering is what it must feel like to be the last cat at the shelter.
I know what it’s like to be picked last when people are choosing sides for a game.
I was popular enough when it came to contact sports such as football. I enjoyed hitting people, and causing mayhem and misery among my opponents was fun for me.
When it came to sports in which I was not allowed to flatten other players, however, it was a different story. When It came time to pick teams for those games, I was generally picked dead last, right after the blind kid and the kid who wore custom-made shoes to keep him from constantly making left turns.
I’m no good at baseball, for example, but this occasions me no particular distress. I don’t mind not being good at things that don’t interest me.
Getting picked last for a team is one thing, but getting picked last as a family member must be far worse.
I have thought about that recently when visiting branches of the Humane Society and other animal shelters.
Animals, like humans, come in all sorts of different shapes, sizes, and temperaments.
The shelter world is a microcosm of the country as a whole.
The younger, prettier inmates get picked first, and the older animals, especially those that do not fit someone’s idea of an ideal specimen, get picked much later, if at all.
Some people say we should not anthropomorphize, but I believe animals do experience some of the same kinds of thoughts and emotions as humans do.
Shelters, essential though they are, must seem a bit like prisons to those who are confined there.
Some may not care about spending time in a shelter, and the shelter may well be a better and safer environment than that from which they came.
For the animals who do want to find a forever home, however, it must be a humiliating experience to be subjected to a constant parade of humans filing through the shelter staring at them.
Being poked, prodded, and stared at by strangers is no fun no matter what kind of animal one is.
To get one’s hopes up, only to be passed over time after time must be discouraging.
I suspect it’s easier for some animals than others.
Some cats are comfortable around strangers, while others, due to their personality or experience, tend to be more cautious and withdrawn.
These cats may take longer to warm to people and show them what good companions they would be. Unfortunately, the interview process is terribly brief, and these cats may not have an opportunity to show their best side.
The circumstances under which people and shelter animals meet can be a factor, as well.
I was recently in a pet store at a time when a shelter had brought some of its available animals for people to see.
There were a few cats and several dogs.
Some of the dogs barked nearly the entire time, which made the cats nervous.
I think it would be difficult to appear friendly and relaxed if I was constantly looking over my shoulder at barking dogs that were frightening me.
Some cats, like some people, are simply not as comfortable around strangers.
I have never lived in an orphanage. I don’t recall even visiting an orphanage, although I do confess to having caught myself singing “It’s A Hard Knock Life” while mopping the floors at the bachelor estate.
Nonetheless, I suspect the feelings cats experience when they are passed over by prospective human companions are similar to those experienced by orphans in similar circumstances.
I don’t have any particular solution to this dilemma. I only hope people who are looking for animal companions will give shelter animals a chance.
I know from experience shelter animals can be wonderful companions. Animal adoption can make life richer for the adopters and the adoptees.
I appreciate the staff members and volunteers at the shelters who are committed to doing whatever they can to serve as advocates for their animal friends, and to keep them happy, healthy, and comfortable until they can find their own forever homes.
It requires a special kind of person to work in a shelter, and the work they do is important.
Shelters are full of good animals waiting for good homes.
A lot of things remain a mystery to me, but one thing of which I am certain is that it would be sad to be the last cat left in the shelter after all one’s neighbors have found homes.