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Foster Cat Journal: Winners and Losers

I made the call last night at 5:25pm and spoke with the adopter. I was so nervous, that I ended up just reading off my typed up script. I got to the point of asking to return the cats and I heard the adopter telling his wife “she wants the cats back.” After that point, there wasn't much more to add. I offered to return their adoption fee and to waive any future fees if they wanted to adopt more healthy cats, since it is not our policy to adopt out sick cats in the first place. The adopter said he would call me back.

So I waited.

I didn't let the phone out of my sight. I even did things, thinking it would make the phone ring. Back “in the day” we used to light up a ciggy at a restaurant to make the waiter appear with our food. Nothing helped. The phone didn't ring. I checked my email over and over. Nothing but emails from friends concerned about what was going on.

I tried to second guess what would happen. I tried to be positive that I would get the cats back, though the more time passed, the more I felt it was unlikely that I would get the result I was hoping for.

I went to bed. Little Blitzen sleeps between us now, right next to my pillow. His purr is so loud it fills the room. Spencer and Nicky were at the foot of the bed. While there wasn't much room for us, it was comforting to be surrounded by them. I passed another restless night, wondering if the phone was ever going to ring.

This morning, just about 10:00 am, I got an email. It was a long, clearly written statement, point by point going over the reason why the family was not willing to return the kittens to The Animal Center at this time. It was obvious from what was said that even though I did not say ANYTHING even close to suggesting that the family was neglecting or harming the kittens, that indeed, that's how they heard what I said. As I read their points, it was clear that they are determined to provide an excellent home for the cats. Perhaps my asking for the cats back, caused them to take notice that they DO need more than they are being provided?

Instead of getting into an email war, I called the adopter. If yesterday was tough, today was worse. I told him right off the bat that my request was in no way directed to them, as a family, and that if nothing else, I wanted him to understand that this is about my making a mistake, not what they are doing (unless they let them outdoors!). After that I could tell that any stress or animosity between us was gone. I told him that while I respected his decision that I would still like to request that he make a few small changes. He was willing to listen, so I asked him to move the cat bowls away from the cat litter, to make sure Donner goes to the Vet to be checked out and that if it wasn't being too pushy, that I had some toys for the cats that I wanted to drop off.

He thanked me for the suggestions and welcomed me to stop by and drop off the toys. He said he wanted to keep an open line of communication and I offered to be of any help at any time he needs it.

Considering how badly this could have gone, starting up some sort of legal trouble or very bad blood, it was a small success. I didn't get the kittens back, but I do feel a bit better that they are going to get better care. I will also know that they'll have a lot more toys and a cardboard scratching pad and I have to be okay with that. I'll drop those things off later today.

I shed more tears after I got off the phone, but it's done now. I did as much as I could. I made my points clear with them and I heard their concerns and got assurances that they would be taking great care of the cats. I also got permission from my Director to do home visits, as I deem necessary. I believe this will help me a lot moving forward. It just won't do much to stop me from looking back on this with regret and some embarrassment or shame over my own stupidity.

Robin and Donner copy.jpg

Donner and Me. Taken before she was adopted (©2010 photo by Ryan Feminella).

In the end, I can't say there was a clear winner or loser or if that even matters. It's all about the cats-always. If this family is determined to provide a good home for the kittens, that's all I can ask. Maybe having their reassurance is enough? Okay, that and moving the litter pan away from the food bowls!


Oh my gosh! I am so proud of you. You handled the situation SO well.
I am just amazed at your patience and kindness. Sometimes people just need
to be educated! Maybe you can teach this family how to be top notch cat parents.
Yes, you are right things could have gone MUCH worse. They are willing to talk and hear you.
That is HUGE! The seem to love the kitties, that is HUGE. If they were uncaring jerks they
would be happy to give them back. I too find it very difficult to imagine that anything that
isn't done to my high standards is OK. I know I take the BEST care of everything and everyone,
and I know you do too. But, sometimes we have to trust that others can do it to in their own way.
Not as good as us of course! But good enough.
With your help, I think everything will be AOK.

Big hugs!

PS LOVE the photo.

though i wish they'd given up the kittens, i'm glad the family was receptive to your feedback. and i do like the idea of future home visits. not a total win, but stress alleviated. well done.

You have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about! You have done your best and this situation actually turned out a lot different that I (and probably) a lot of others expected. The adopters are willing to change and will let you help them! It really is the best outcome. Even if you took Donner and Dancer back, what if they got two other cats and refused to change? Would that really be better? In this situation, it sounds like you made a positive change. The adopters were definitely not bad, but not stellar...unfortunately, the reality of life is that not all pet owners are as conscientious as we would like them to be and if we only adopted to those who were, we'd never have enough homes for all the cats in the great news here is that you are helping these adopters to become better and provide a better home. I think it's good that you gave these adopters a chance, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they will actually make good on their promise to provide better care. Plus, I'm sure you've learned a lot and helped many others learn a lot through this process.

It's tough not to let your words in the your blogs to stick in a person's mind. Of course, as human beings, we wont always agree on something, but there was one thing that I feel most would agree upon, and that is the placement of the food bowl and litter box.

Last night in trying to sleep I was thinking about it, and thought to myself, "that's NOT a good place to keep the food bowl, or anywhere in the proximity of the litter box." I thought of it in the perspective of human beings, do we eat our food in the restroom? (I hope not) So if we don't and feel it's disgusting, wouldn't cats (animals, etc.) feel the same way? Food and restrooms, or both of them near, just don't mix.

It's good that at least you got that very clear! :)

You did great! If they aren't handing over the kitties (which would have been a miracle, really -- that's hard!), at least you probably knocked a little kitty sense in them. It sounds like the care enough about them that they don't want to give them up, and they want to make sure they're happy.

It was so good to hear that you all were able to resolve it pretty peacefully. And I'm glad you're going to drop them off some toys! They'll be OK -- and better now, I'm sure, that you stuck your nose in there.

Good job!

it could have gone much worse. It sounds like they are willing to learn, and keep the communication open - I really hope they mean it. Because those babies deserve a good home!

Oh Robin, I think you have been very brave about all this. It is so hard to realise that we've made a mistake. When the mistake is really important, it can take a lot of courage to try and put it right. You did all that you could to put this right. I admire you for sticking to your guns and finding courage to deal with this, even though it might be uncomfortable for you. Well Done Robin!

It does sound, though, as if the family will make an effort with the cats. Hopefully they will follow up the ringworm issue - which is really the most serious one just now. As the cats settle down, they will find their own comfortable spots in the house and will seek them out. I wouldn't think they will be shut out of the family living areas, so they will be able to sun themselves and enjoy the nice weather as Spring and Summer come along. They now have stuff to play with and, once the family see how much they love to play, they will make sure the toys are available and replaced - the kids will probably learn to play with the kittens and it may well be that this will help them build a relationship with each other.
As you say, the family are making an effort to make their home nice. I'm sure they will include the kittens in their plans and do their very best to make them part of the family.

I'm sure you will still worry, but it sounds as if they really want to do it right. Hopefully they now know what to do and will ask for support when they need it. The cats have a home now. They have a family who do seem to care about them. I think the children will probably not bully them, as you fear - the boys will leave the cats alone and the cats will learn to move away if the boys are playing rough with each other. Many families are just like this - and their pets have a long and happy life. It's very probable that these kitties will have a good life with their new family - not perfect, but good enough.

Congratulations on your assertiveness! You're an inspiration! I think you really did the right thing here, and with gentle compassion. (If only I could deal with my roommates in that way.) Clearly the family is dedicated to providing love, and to taking some points even if only peripherally. That's amazing. I think that they will love the kittens and do their best. Perhaps the cats will teach THEM something about caring.

And thanks for providing a full picture of you! I've never seen your face!


Maybe you gave them the kick in the pants they needed to give these babies a better home. You can always check in about the cats, right?

I think you should keep Blitzen. You,ve been through enough.

Hooray for you for getting up the courage to make both calls! I do think that it will at least put them on notice that someone is concerned about the kitties. And also, if they decide in the future that they don't want to keep the kitties after all, they know you will take them back. I wish them a happy life.

Why don't you try find out what vet they'll take the kittens to?
It seems like that might be a good start to guarantee that they'll be doing what they can in the best interest of the cats.
More convincing than a menu change.

They didn't have a Vet so I rec'd MY VET. Now I will have a way to follow up on if they are being cared for or not.

Heh heh.


I think this is really great! It sounds to me like they really love those kitters and didnt want to have to give them back. And that rules! I'm glad you at least "shook" them so they realized they needed to step it up for these dudes. Hopefully that's the kick they needed to realize they were slacking off and they'll learn and grow from this.

If they'd have said "fine come get them" I'd have been like wphew, they suck. But the fact that they fought to keep em, (with a well worded email and not an attack), that gives me a good feeling. They were level headed and pled their case in an intelligent and respectful way.

Good luck with follow ups! I think this could turn into a good relationship for everyone. :)


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