The cats at the Eatontown SPCA were networking. This morning one of the volunteers had come in and mentioned that a nice lady would be coming in soon to look for a kitten to adopt. She happened to mention that it was the same lady who had adopted Tatum last year. Some of the cats in the big area for adult cats who had lived there for a long time remembered Tatum as a very sweet kitten who unfortunately had been at the shelter for a very long time before he had found his forever family. They didn't remember the humans who had adopted him, but the volunteer had said how they continued to send her photos of him for months after he was adopted, and had sent news of how well he'd adapted to his new home. So, even though there were people who came in every day to adopt kittens, this was good news because the lady was a proven cat owner and lover.
It was always a bit of a risk for shelter animals when they went home with a family. Sure, the SPCA humans interviewed the prospective families, asking lots of questions to make sure that the adoption would be a good fit, but humans were like cats, they tended to describe themselves and their living situations as at least slightly better than they were. And some humans exaggerated a lot. Every once in a while an adoption wouldn't work out and a cat would come back with horror stories of human children who were too rough, giant dogs that tried to eat them or in one case a house with more cats per square foot than, well, corn in Kansas. An owner who had previously adopted a cat, and moreover still lived with that cat was a relief to any shelter cat.
So, the older cats who remembered Tatum spread to word to the cages within hearing distance. Then, when one of those cats was taken out of his or her cage to be held by a prospective human, the news spread to cats in the next room, and within an hour or so, all the cats in the shelter knew that there was a 'live one' coming in sometime soon. Someone who didn't just want to hold every single kitten because they *liked* holding kittens. Someone who wasn't likely to decide to come back another day to see if there was a better selection of kittens. Well, hopefully not for that last one. You never know what humans are looking for, but Tatum was just a garden variety grey tabby cat. If she'd liked Tatum she probably wouldn't hold out until she found a Scottish Fold at the SPCA, like that was going to happen!
The older cats talked very slowly and carefully to the younger kittens whenever they could get them to listen. The attention span of a two to three month old kitten was about, oh, ten seconds if you were lucky, so the older cats had to space their instructions to the kittens, once they'd given them the basic information about the nice lady. The human had longish dark hair and dimples and was a bit past plump. She'd probably be wearing blue jeans and those funny rubber clog shoes they called "Crocs". How the volunteer knew all this information, the cats weren't sure, but it was good that the cats would be able to identify her.
"Make sure you groom yourselves, kittens." "If she takes you out of your cage to hold you, snuggle up to her and purr really loudly." "Stand at the front of the cage and put your paws up on the bars and open your eyes real wide. Then meow very nicely. No yowling, mind you." "Make eye contact when she looks at you." "Keep your claws sheathed - velvet only!" These were some of the instructions repeated over and over to the kittens.
The volunteers and SPCA staff who were working were amazed at the amount of meows they heard throughout the day. One cat heard an SPCA employee say, "It's not a full moon, so it can't be that. I wonder what's got the cats in an uproar, and it's both the adult cats and the kittens, but not any of the dogs. Very odd. I hope they settle down soon, or someone is going to have to stay with them tonight to make sure they're not getting sick. I'd hate to have to suspend all adoptions, but if there's a possibility of illness among all the cats we may have to."
For a few minutes there was even more meowing, as the cats who'd heard this spread the word to the other cats and then there was near silence. None of the cats wanted adoptions to be suspended. All of them dreamed of going to forever homes, even ones who had lived there for several years. The employee who'd made that comment looked around in amazement. Every single cat was suddenly on his or her best behavior - sitting or lying quietly with angelic expressions on their faces. "Hummph. You'd think they were listening to me! Imagine that - although I love these cats, I don't think they're smart enough to understand what I said. Oh, whatever." She walked out towards the office and passed cats who were quietly snickering to themselves. The human would be amazed if she knew what the cats understood and thought, but that was probably never going to happen.
Photo courtesy of Alan Chan - http://www.flickr.com/photos/alanchan/5113198256/