At school, were you always the last kid left standing in line when sports teams were chosen?
For some people, this lack of sporting ability as a child means we are familiar with the feeling of being invisible.
And this is sad.
But not as sad as being the last cat at the rescue shelter, the unadoptable cat that no-one shows any interest in, the cat who is passed over time and time again when prospective fur-ever parents visit the shelter.
So, what makes a cat unadoptable?
We thought society was past judgment based on colour, but when it comes to cats this is far from the truth.
Which colour cat stands the poorest chance of being adopted? Black!
The RSPCA (UK) state that of the 1,000+ cats in their care, over 70% are black or black & white. But what’s even more shocking is that the figure is rising, and has shot up in the past few years.
Why is this? Could it be superstition – after all, black cats are supposed to bring bad luck. . . But isn’t a black cat crossing your path lucky. . . (Actually, it’s a bit of both. Black cats are linked to both good and bad luck, depending on your culture.
No! The rise in black unadopted cats is due to their colour making them difficult to photograph. And this matters because. . . drum roll. . . people want to upload pictures of their pet onto social media. Quite simply, it’s more difficult to take the purrfect picture of a black cat, so more photogenic tabby, white, or ginger kitties go the top of the queue.
What can be done about this inequality?
It’s a matter of changing perceptions and re-educating potential cat guardians to embrace the elusiveness of a black cat’s portrait. Instead, think of them as unique, as true individuals who are too cool for social media and don’t want to appear part of the pack.
Instead, celebrate that black velvet, that sleek silky shadow of a black cat. And if you do want to take a picture to share, concentrate on their eyes. The wonderful contrast between a coal black coat and startling green eyes makes a wonderful visual impact.
It’s not hard to fall in love with a kitten, but seemingly our hearts turn to stone once they get to a certain age. When this cut off point is reached – when a cat goes from being adoptable to being walked past and an unadoptable cat – depends on the eye of the beholder. But the older the cat, the fewer and fewer second glances the cat gets.
The thing is older cats have a lifetime of experiences. They have established personalities and have honed their snuggling skills to a fine point. If you want a companion, especially a lap cat, then consider an oldie. They are far more likely to want to cuddle for comfort and warmth than climb the curtains.
In addition, you know what you’re getting with an adult or senior cat. When you fall for kittenish cute looks, they may grow up into a stand-offish prima donna, when what you wanted was an appreciative and content cuddle bug to watch TV with you every night.
Another reason to consider an adult or senior cat is if you’re away from home for extended periods. An older cat is far more likely to settle down for a snooze whilst you’re gone, waiting patiently for you to return. Whereas a kitten or younger cat left home along is likely to knock over ornaments, claw the sofa or toilet on the carpet in an attempt to amuse themselves or just because they can.
The cat with behaviour problems who is left at the shelter is perhaps easiest to understand. One of the reasons cats find themselves at a shelter is through no fault of their own. They become unwanted because of behavioural problems such as scratching furniture or toileting outside the litter box. Who’s going to invite such a hooligan into their home?
Actually, these cats are often perfectly well-behaved, but misunderstood. Frequently the behaviour displayed isn’t ‘bad’ but ‘natural’. For example a stressed cat without a proper scratching post is going to mark her territory (to make herself feel more secure) by scratching the sofa. What she needs is a sense of safety and appropriately placed scratch posts, in order to make a wonderful pet.
Likewise the cat that uses the carpet in preference to the box may have come from a house of five cats with only one litter tray. Being the most subordinate cat, she was bullied and not allowed near the box, leaving her with no other option. Again, all she needs is fewer cats around and more trays.
Before turning down a cat with ‘issues’, dig deeper into their background. Maybe this unadoptable cat is just craving someone who truly understands a cat’s needs, who will work patiently to help them correct inappropriate household behaviours. In return for a little compassion and training these cats often make the most devoted and loving companions.
And finally. . . Three-legged cats. One-eyed cats. Deaf cats. Special needs cats.
What chance do they stand in a world where we judge so much by physical appearance?
Actually, quite a good one as it happens. In a bizarre quirk of human nature, it seems we find cats with body parts missing or those with special needs strangely attractive. They seem to trigger sympathy at the deepest level which somehow makes people want to protect them and offer a home.
Many rescues report they have no problems rehoming one-eyed or three-legged cats, because people feel sorry for them.
Next time you have space on the sofa for a new feline friend. . . please don’t overlook the invisible cats. When you visit your local shelter take time to talk to each cat, and make a decision based on how they react to you, rather than the colour of their fur.
Have you ever adopted the unadoptable cat that everyone one else passed by?