The COVID-19 Pandemic, which has locked down the country since March 2020, has created an interesting situation where more and more animals are actually getting adopted.
Since people have been stuck in their homes for an entire year, they are more willing to adopt or foster a shelter pet in order to keep themselves company. However, which has been a trend in America, dogs are at a better chance of getting adopted out of a shelter than cats. According to an article by Inverse, more Americans prefer dogs to cats because dogs are easier to control and, in the eyes of a majority of pets owners, are easier to form a noticeable bond with than the more "independent" minded cats.
Samantha Martin, "chief human" and trainer for the Amazing Acro Cats (which is a performing cat circus act that tours the entire country while adopting out kittens along the way) and founder of Rock Cats Rescue in Georgia, stated that cats are also more likely to get returned to shelters than dogs.
"More cats end up in shelters than dogs do," Martin said. "People are just like, 'Oh, the cat will be fine on its own. It didn't really care about me anyway. As long as I had out a bowl of food, it was fine.'"
When a cat does get adopted from a shelter, some breeds or personalities are more likely to get adopted than others. According to Michelle Ingram, executive director of Zeus' Rescues in New Orleans, fur color, age, and whether or not they have a disability are major determining factors for cat adoption.
"I'd say like an 80/20 split of people want younger cats, but we do, luckily, have people who want an older cat," Ingram said. "If it's white or grey, or has anything wrong with it, any kind of deformity like missing an eye, missing a leg, short tail, those tend to go first. I don't know if it's just because they stand out a little bit more. All of our black cats, bless their hearts, hardly ever get adopted. It's called, actually, 'Black Dog Syndrome,' where as black dogs and black cats are usually the last ones to get adopted in a shelter environment. Those are the least adopted, but are usually the most adoptable pets."
While in some ways it's comforting that adoption rates are still on the rise during the pandemic, on the flip side, a large amount of people in the country have had to give up their pets or return them to shelters because they can't financially take care of the animals any more. The pandemic has also forced organizations like Zeus' Rescue and Rock Cats Rescue to change how they would normally adopt out their cats.
Rock Cats Rescue, in particular, has been hit hard since Martin and her Amazing Acro Cats circus group can't tour the country like they used to, while dealing with personal medical problems, cats getting sick or passing away, and being scammed by a friend that put the Acro Cat tour bus out of commission.
"We haven't toured since February of 2020 and that was just a very short tour. We were already in a financial bind when the pandemic hit because of the scam. So then the pandemic hit and it was like nothing until May. Luckily, we have enthusiastic fans and followers that donated and continue to donate to get us through. But we're in pretty dire financial straits because it's going to cost another $50,000 to get the bus back up to par. I've got 18 cats to support, a lot of them seniors, and we've been relying on our merchandise sales and Zoom parties. It just doesn't transfer the same. A beautiful part of the show is the interaction. And we don't know when that's going to be able to happen again."
Zeus' Rescue has had to limit the amount of people coming into its establishment, while also dealing with being at capacity everyday because it is a no kill facility.
"We are privately funded, 100 percent," Ingram said. "So everything that we get is either coming from private donations, which have shriveled to near nothing over the last year. I am constantly writing grants and looking for grants that are out there. We're still running like COVID never hit, so our bills are still there no matter what. But with the funding dropping, it's been an interesting juggling act for sure."
If you are serious about adopting a cat, both Martin and Ingram have tips that you should follow to ensure that it is responsibly taken care of, including spaying/neutering, getting it vaccinated, getting a litter box, and keeping the cat stimulated.
"Clicker training can build confidence in cats and a cat that was once shy will just blossom into a very friendly cat really quickly just by using clicker training, which is a communication tool that gives the cat kind of a way of communicating with you and for you to communicate with the cat," Martin said. "Any age cat can be trained. We try to work with other shelters to get their less adoptable cats adopted through clicker training."
"We highly recommend that you don't let cats outside in the city," Ingram said. "Since COVID, we've had an uptick of coyotes, especially Uptown, that have been attacking and killing a lot of cats, plus the traffic. It's just not really safe for a cat on the streets, so we try to keep cats indoors as much as we can. Some cats just want to be outdoors, and we get that, and we try to put them in a house that's maybe not near a busy street. Just do as much research as you can. If you're not sure if you're allergic or not, go to PetSmart or Petco or wherever has cats for adoption and rub on them and touch your face and see if you have a reaction before you end up taking a cat home and realizing, 'Oh man, my eyes are so swollen shut, I can't do it.'"
If you want adopt a cat while supporting Zeus' Rescue and Rock Cats Rescue, consider donating directly through both organizations' websites and make appointments with them. Not only will you be helping keep these businesses alive, you can also give a loving cat a much-needed home if you are ready for the unique responsibilities that come with it.
"It's all about saving as many cats as possible and spreading the word that cats aren't disposable animals that don't care about you," Martin said. "You just have to work a little bit harder at the relationship."