Continued from The Memoirs of Dalriada McPherson: Second Contact
Now was the time for Lee and Kath to prepare for my arrival.
I should really say that it was time for them to prepare for my hoped arrival.
You see, the Cat Shelter doesn’t work on fact but faith – not their faith where they’ll step out on what they believe to be the best owner for a cat and stand by that belief. No – the future adopter’s faith – they have to believe that all the ‘background checks’ will be completed successfully (even though they’re never given a full list of what they are) and that they’ll be first to wave the appropriate fee at the Shelter Worker so they can adopt the cat of their choice.
If someone else is thirty seconds in front of you, you lose:
‘Thank you for trying – please come again and take your chance at obtaining another of our needy cats. Statistically, you have a better chance of obtaining a cat than winning the National Lottery – but only just.’
The Shelter doesn’t lose, of course. You do.
Too bad you spent all that time making friends with the cat of your choice, seeing if she’ll attack or get on with your children, whether she’s likely to play with Auntie Marjorie’s priceless Ming vase when left alone in the house or whether she’s likely to spend all her time outside when you wanted one to cuddle.
And really too bad that you went out to the retail pet stores and purchased everything necessary to make your house suitable for your cat if you aren’t the first person in the queue on the first day that your cat becomes available.
Not only can you lose the cat, you can lose your money, too.
Unless, of course, you think that twenty-four sachets of Whiskas pouches might make a good sandwich filler for your lunchtime (try bulking it up with some lettuce and tomato) or that that very comfy eighteen inch bed might come in useful as a head warmer during winter.
The Shelter are on a win-win power play where they expect the potential adopter to risk money before they’re guaranteed a cat.
I guess that, to those who care less about us felines than they do their own pocket, they’ll make sure they secure a cat before they waste their money on supplies but, for those who want to set up their house to suit the cat they’re planning for, the odds are stacked against (as one guy – that I’ve mentioned below – found out on the day of my adoption).
Thankfully, Lee and Kath are made of sterner stuff than to lay down and die and – to be honest here – I overheard them talking amongst themselves about my ‘liberation’ if the ‘forces of darkness’ held me captive ‘against their will’.
Although I can only imagine what they’d planned, I sure would’ve liked to have seen the paratroopers crash in through the window, secure me into a carrying box and winch me up into an awaiting, hovering helicopter.
It would’ve been a fitting climax to my occupancy of Room Four.
‘Good afternoon. The Cat Shelter.’
It was the eve of the first possible day that I could be adopted and, knowing that I had to have my last vaccination to protect me against human viruses (or something like that – I can’t remember the exact details), Kath was ringing the Shelter to make sure that there’d been no setbacks after the visit from the vet.
‘Oh, hello,’ Kath began, ‘I’m wanting to know if one of the cats is ready to be adopted tomorrow.’
‘Yes, no problem,’ came the reply, ‘What’s the name?’
‘It’s Kathleen Smith.’
There was a slight pause and silence on the line before the Worker explained, ‘No, madam. I meant the name of the cat.’
All the checks had been done, a series of revelatory enquiries that became more extreme and irrationally bizarre as they fulfilled each and every obstacle placed before them.
They’d had the ‘Do you have an animal criminal record?’ check done with the PDSA or RSPCA (I can’t remember which), that blacklist of serial offenders that were debarred from ever owning a pet again (unless, of course, you know a guy who knows a guy who sells privately).
And the ‘Road check’.
Yes, that’s right. Apparently, cats are such stupid animals (sic) that there’s a certain percentage of cars on roads that tips the balance between ‘dodgeable’ and ‘squashable’, a classification that would debar anyone from being accepted as an adopter.
If you want a cat, you’ll just have to move house or build a cat friendly bypass over the offending road. You certainly can’t expect a cat to have the intelligence to stay away from roads (cough).
Then there’s the ‘Health check’. Not for me, you understand, because we’re all vetted, jabbed, poked and prodded from the moment we come in, to the last breath before we’re signed over to new adopters.
No, for the humans. Sneeze once too many and you could be debarred from taking a cat home til you get an ‘all clear’ note from your doctor following a two week course of anti-biotics, several anal probes to check your colon and a mass spectrometer analysis of your sputum.
I can’t imagine how cats managed to survive the centuries before doctors existed.
There’s a ‘Fashion check’, too. New owners have to be vetted to be sure that they’ll only wear colours and styles that won’t clash with the cat’s fur or inherent feline coolness. Donning a pair of sunglasses usually helps to fool most care workers.
And, finally, a ‘Wealth Check’.
‘Do you have the £65 to pay for the all the jabs and inoculations the cat has had since coming in to the Shelter? Only cash and cheques accepted but, if you want to make a donation as well as the minimum requirement, we’ll be happy to relieve you of it. Just don’t ask us for any favours. But we don’t mind if you do us some.’
Yes, all these checks are vitally necessary – after all, it is a cat you’re buying, not a fridge magnet or the latest CD by Oasis (although, personally speaking, I think humans should be vetted even more thoroughly before being allowed to buy the latter).
If a potential adoptee fails any one of these, it’s over. Curtains. Forget about ever owning a cat although, for the desperate, you can always have a dog. No one’s that fussy about the owner of a dog. Even dogs aren’t that fussy about who their owners are.
They are strange creatures.
Anyway, I was in the garden when Lee arrived – he only had just under two hours to wait. For once, Lee’s ‘I-get-everywhere-three-days-before-I-need-to’ policy paid off for, with about forty minutes to go, another adopter arrived, carrier in hand, and asked Lee, ‘Would you mind if I asked you who you’re going to adopt?’
‘Annie,’ came the reply.
‘Oh dear. That’s who I’ve come for…’
It was at this point that I imagined fur flying – not mine, you understand, but certainly I could envisage a real fight here for control of the first position in the queue (I never knew I was so popular). But with a ‘Sorry,’ from Lee, the guy wished him all the best and turned round and went.
Victorian gun duels have been fought over less.
But, as Lee told me afterwards, he really did feel empathy with the guy who must’ve spent time and money getting his house ready for me – let alone the expectations of returning home with me in the carrier.
Although no one – save the guy himself – has any idea the emotions he went through, Lee couldn’t help but enjoy the victory of obtaining me along with a tinge of sadness.
Click here for Chapter 4: Home, Sweet Home