By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“Do you want a cat?” the e-mail read. I’d sent this message out, en masse, asking people if they would adopt Soy, my friend Sharon’s cat. Sharon was moving from Los Angeles to New York. People pointed out to Sharon that you can still keep cats in New York, that many people have indeed successfully transplanted their West Coast cats and made them East Coast cats, and that there is an abundance of resources available to ease the transition — pet carriers that fit under airplane seats, pet-friendly hotels, pet boarding kennels, pet foster parents. But for reasons best known to her, Sharon was determined to give Soy away.
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If there were no takers, she would bring Soy to her local city shelter, where Soy would have five days to find new parents before she was euthanized. Sharon had been busy getting the rest of her life in order, packing clothes, changing addresses, finding an apartment, canceling utility services, scheduling dinners and lunches with people she wouldn’t be seeing for a while, if ever. By the time she got around to truly dealing with where to put her cat, it was very late in the game. Her flight date was set. We had three days.
If Sharon is not coming off too well in this story, I should clarify that she is a good person. Nice to a fault, fun to hang out with, someone you’d be lucky to call a friend, someone you could call in the middle of the night if you were in trouble. Letting Soy go says more about her inner psychology than anything else. Ultimately, you cannot guilt people into keeping their cats if they deep down do not want to.
Finding Soy a home became my quest. Her résumé reads like that of so many other cats: 4 years old, soft black fur, yellow eyes, a friendly meow, spayed and prefers the indoors. The most appealing pictures of her (the cutest ones, most likely to get her adopted) accompanied the mass e-mail, and included one particularly heartstring-pulling photo of her curled up in the bathroom sink. Love me, these photos said, take me home.
“I wish I could,” friends, and friends of friends, wrote back. “But I have dogs.”
Or, “I’m allergic to cats.”
Or, “Sorry, but good luck! She’s so cute, I hope Soy finds a home soon.”
These responses were to be expected. As were the ones from people speculating that they might know someone who knew someone who might possibly want the cat. And the ones who remembered, vaguely, no-kill places that took in strays with the goal of adopting them out: “I took a cat to this store a while ago and managed to give it away to a couple looking for a mouse catcher,” said one. What I wasn’t prepared for were the angry responses. Pets are our surrogate children, and our children are a reflection of ourselves. Soy’s dilemma tapped into some serious rage.
“Tell your stinkin’ friend cats are for life!” a colleague wrote.
“Foreals!” someone seconded.
“This story kills me,” said someone else.
“Your ‘friend’ has a heart of gold. Packing, laundry, off to the gas chamber!”
My local PetSmart did indeed host a rescue group that schlepped in each Saturday and Sunday with crates and crates (and binders of photos) of adoptable felines. The group shelters them or finds them foster parents until permanent parents can be found. But, alas, there was no room at the inn.
“When is your friend moving?” the women asked — and they were all women, all in cartoon cat-and-kitten-printed medical scrubs. They looked at me with recrimination. There is a private-school-caliber wait list to get into a crate, at times months long. The lucky cats at the store that day (“lucky” being a relative term) peered out of their cages languidly, flicking tails and grooming faces with paws.
“Can you find someone to take Soy for the time being until a spot on the list opens up?” one woman asked, after giving me a short but vigorous lecture on the evils of a throwaway society that looks upon animals as disposable accessories.
My friend and co-worker James, who lives in a studio apartment with his own cat, suggested taking Soy to our friend Frank’s house. Frank loves cats. He unofficially takes care of a dozen or so neighborhood cats that wander in and out of his backyard. But Frank might say no. A lot of people were saying no.
“Leave her at his front door? Like, in a picnic basket?” I said. “Are you for real?”
“Well, it’s better than having her euthanized!” said James. “Or set her free in his backyard. At least she’ll have a fighting chance. At least she’ll taste a few days or hours of freedom before the wolves eat her.”
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