Watch Out, Red Cats
Cats at the shelter are broken down into two categories: red cats and green cats. (OK, yes, they're also broken down into male and female. But that's not the point, is it?) Red cats are the ones that have behavior problems. Too aggressive. Too shy. Too aloof. They'll take a swipe at you if you go near them or cower under a towel non-stop. Or you take them into a room and they just ignore you. It's hard to find homes for cats that act like evil assassins (as opposed to the kind ones), dysfunctional loners, or teen-agers.
You need special training to become a red cat volunteer and tomorrow I'll meet up with one of the animal behaviorists and learn how to deal with problem cats. I love the idea of helping the most-in-need kitties with their behavior problems so that they can go to a good home. But I'm a bit uncertain as to whether or not I'll be any good at it. It takes tons of patience (not my best quality) and a genuine love for animals (OK, that I have). What I find the sticking point for me is that when you work with these cats you might not get the usual paycheck you get from working with the green cats -- purrs, a ball of love in the lap, a hand lick. You're more likely to come away with scratches than a shirt covered in cat fur from too much cuddling and too much shedding. (I swear there are some cats that shed little whirlwinds of fur when you just look at them.)
So far the cats I've worked with have given me far more than I've given them. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to play with them, comb them, and have them cozy into my lap. But these new cats will probably not be as generous. I may spend 30 minutes of love, patience, and attention and be rewarded with a bloody hand. So will I still love this when I'm not spending time with non-stop cute? Some of the green cats can be unpredictable and I've had my share of scrapes and difficult kitties who didn't want to leave the kennel or wanted nothing to do with me once they got into the room. So maybe I've already had my trial by fire. I just worry that I'm not good enough to give these problem children what they need.
I'm am looking forward to my next step as a TLC volunteer and am happy that they think I'm ready for it. I'll still work with the green cats, so I don't need to give up on my favorites. But this way I'll be cleared to work with every cat up for adoption, which is a very cool thing.
Have I mentioned lately how much I love this? I swear I've found my calling. Too bad it doesn't pay. I'm going to mourn when I have to go back to work and give up my furry children.