What I look for in a suitable cat is one that is outgoing, playful, and affectionate. Since I don't often get a chance to spend time with our cats, I rely on the comments our volunteers put on the cage cards, and on how the cats behave as I walk up to the front of their cages. Generally I reject the cats that stay in the back and am more likely to consider the cats that come running up to the door and rub up against it soliciting attention from me. Since this cat will be traveling, going to a new place and meeting lots of kids it has to be a cat that will be able to cope with the stress of that.
One of our adoption counselors saw me looking and suggested I take Grover since he is really affectionate and loves attention. I'm always appreciative of advice in these matters from someone who actually knows the animal. So Grover and I set off for Saratoga School at 3:30 Monday afternoon.
The kids were really excited to see Grover, and once they had settled down and were quiet I opened the crate door. Grover was much less excited to see the kids. He ran off and hid under a cart on wheels. I told the kids we should give him some time to feel more comfortable. As time went on it became apparent Grover wouldn't be feeling comfortable anytime soon.
Poor Grover -- I had to drag him out of his secure hiding place and hold him as the kids petted him. I don't know whether he started to feel more comfortable with the kids, or was just resigned to his fate, but he actually started to relax. And I was able to allow some of the kids to hold him.
No matter how well animals behave in a familiar environment, it's difficult to know how they'll behave when confronted with stress. Grover would have been much happier had he been left behind at HAWS and I had taken another cat. And when he goes to his new home he most likely will need a few days to settle in before he becomes the outgoing socialite our staff has come to know.
Taking an animal to a new place to meet new people isn't the only stressful situation they'll encounter. As we head into the holidays realize that having guests at your house will be just as stressful for many of your pets. Patricia McConnell recently wrote a wonderful post on just this subject on her blog "The Other End of the Leash" and I can highly recommend you read it.
I wish everyone -- human, furry and feathered alike, happy and stress-free holidays!