Painful Truth: The second lives of shelter cats

My cat allegedly has nine lives. I’m just not sure which one he’s living right now.

Cats are mysterious creatures. And I don’t just mean, “Why is he climbing on the books again?” or “Why did he just go crazy and run across the room three times?” or even “Why do does he show affection by biting my ankles every morning?”

Those are all mysteries of cat-kind in general. Our cat has a few specific mysteries attached.

My wife and I picked up Dax a couple of months ago at the Patti Dale Animal Shelter in Aldergrove. He was a recently picked-up stray, found or dropped off by someone.

We got to meet him before we decided to adopt. He walked in and circled the room quickly, then came over to us and said hello. He seemed to like us, rubbing his head against our legs and hands. So a few days later we were back, with a cat carrier and an adoption form, and a name picked out.

He spent the ride home letting us know that he does not like cars. He was quite vocal on this point.

We expected that once home he might want to be alone, to hide in a corner for a bit until he got used to his new place.

Instead, as soon as he was out of his carrier, he crawled into my lap. 

This was our first introduction to Dax’s personality. 

We discovered our cat is as outgoing as a small dog. He loves people. He will admonish you if you aren’t playing with him often enough. 

He will also wake up briefly to yell at loud cars if they interrupt his afternoon naps. He is curious enough that he will try to climb into the fridge to see if you’ve go anything that looks good to eat, and will worm his way under the couch in search of toy mice. He has, twice, managed to open lever-knob doors and seemed very smug about it. He’s fearless around humans, trusting almost to a fault.

We’ve learned a lot about Dax, but we are in the dark about many things.

Dax isn’t a kitten, he’s about a year and a half old. And from the way he behaves, we think we know a little bit about his life before we adopted him.

Dax was not a barn cat or a feral cat. He was a house cat, and probably a pampered one. He seems to have been fed canned food, judging by his reaction to our can opener. He may have been given table scraps – he’s certainly fearless in trying to eat off unguarded plates. 

We don’t know how long he was alone. For months, he would wolf down anything food-like within range, up to and including an attempt to eat a cold boiled potato. Our cat had some hungry days.

Before he was called Dax, he had another name. He had another owner, someone who clearly loved him. And then something happened. His owner moved, or died, or simply left a window or door open, and feline curiosity got the better of him. From a kind home, he wound up a lean but friendly cat in a shelter, and no one came to check, to ask about the outgoing tabby. We’ll never know why, but we’re thankful we get to have him with us now.

If cats have nine lives, Dax is on his second, maybe his third or fourth. There are a lot of cats like him – or nothing like him, with their own quirks – who will get second names, thanks to a shelter adoption. 

The shelters around the province are full of animals on their second, third, fourth lives. Kittens and puppies are cute, but adult cats and dogs need homes just as much, if not more.

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