“WTF?! I’m no animal expert but isn’t that what cats like to do?”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Rob Cannon

“Dear PoPville,

I recently submitted an application to Home Alone Feline Rescue to adopt an adult cat. On the application they asked the reason for wanting a cat, to which I innocently replied “to be a mouser” (because I live in hill east, and you known, we have lots of rodent issues here). They rejected my application on the grounds that “We do not place any of our cats to be mousers.” Wtf?! I’m no animal expert but isn’t that what cats like to do? And is the only “good” reason for adopting a cat “to hang out with me Friday nights while I stuff my face with Chunky Monkey and watch bad Lifetime movies?” And is there such a demand for adult cats in DC that this poor kitty Donny will get snapped up by someone from from the anti-mousing cat lover constituency? Can anyone shed some light on this please?”

117 Comment

  • Perhaps the concern is what you’d do with the cat if at some point there are no rodents? If you move somewhere rodent-free, will you still want the cat? I’m assuming this is the issue – they want to make sure adopters will keep the cat for good, and not temporarily to solve a problem.

  • Your response to them was that you wanted a working animal not a pet. Maybe you should have made it clear that you just wanted an ice cream eating companion.

  • Their reasoning is that once your mouse problem is resolved, you’ll probably dump the cat.
    They want to hear that you want a companion, because they think that we treat companion animals better than we treat working animals. Guess they never met a retired farmer (always has at least a couple dogs, no matter how long ago they sold their last sheep or emptied the corncrib for the last time).
    I think it’s short-sighted and ultimately detrimental to their cause.
    I also think your characterization of cat people as lonely ice-cream-gorging losers is not going to win you any friends here.

    • “Guess they never met a retired farmer….”
      Not in DC, no.

      • Oh FFS.
        Right, everyone in DC was born in DC and has never left DC for any period of time nor ever read/ seen/ heard of life outside of DC. How silly of me.

        • i think the point was in DC there are no farmers who need outside cats to chase mice away – I

          • Whereas my point is that it is possible (probable, normal) to love your working animals, even after they are no longer needed for work.

          • No, the point is that farmers owning retired working animals and urban dwellers owning pets are very different scenarios. Animal adoption agencies in DC are concerned about how adopters in DC will treat their animals, not how farmers elsewhere do.

          • Tsar of Truxton

            Absolutely. It is also possible that you abandon them when they stop serving their purpose. My guess is the shelters know more about the probability of either outcome than you do.

          • Yeah, the initial response of “wanting a mouser” was not good. But most rescue groups do in fact often have “barn cats” or “indoor/outdoor” cats that they try to place. Because the simple fact is that lots of people, rural or urban don’t spay/neuter, and don’t always take care of animals, and often dump or abandon them when they no longer want them around.

  • Not all cats are good mousers. Putting that down as your primary reason for adoption might be considered a red flag that you will return the cat or abandon him if he doesn’t care about catching mice.

    • They might not chase mice, but when mice feel the smell of a cat they stay away from the house.

      • Not so in my experience. We have had a cat in the house for years, always got mice in the cold weather. Smell of a cat does nothing. Blocking holes in the house with steel wool keeps mice away.

    • Linc Park SE

      They dont need to be a mouser. Usually their presence alone keeps mice at bay.

      • Yep, our cat scared away the mice when he was a baby and couldn’t kill anything. Now, woe be it unto the rodent who enters our home.
        We got our cat 1) because we like cats; and 2) because we had mice. The second reason was what drove us to adopt at that particular moment. Killing rodents is probably why cats were domesticated in the first place and so Home Alone’s policy strikes me as akin to refusing to give a chicken to someone who wants eggs.

      • Emmaleigh504

        I wish presence alone worked. I had a mouse problem for a while and my cat did nothing to deter the damn things. As it turns out, my cat was a great mouser, but I would have preferred no mice to begin with.

        • MY sister saw a mouse eating the cat food , the cat just sat there….

        • My former cat did that… sat and watched (and complained) while a mouse ate his food.
          He was an ok mouser in his youth, not great. But he retired young. And his presence did nothing to deter the wee beasties.

  • Part of the issue may have been that when you say the cat will be a “mouser”, that implies to some that you don’t intend to feed the cat, instead letting them rely on what they can catch and kill.

    Also, people that adopt cats solely to eliminate mice often find out that a) the cat may not actually be very good at it and b) when the cat does succeed, there’s a fair amount of clean-up required after by the owner. This results in a frustrated owner/adopter, and a neglected/returned cat.

    Finally, saying you want to adopt a cat because you need a mouser is like saying you want to adopt a child because you need someone to do the dishes and take care of you when you get old.

    • “saying you want to adopt a cat because you need a mouser is like saying you want to adopt a child because you need someone to do the dishes and take care of you when you get old.”
      Maybe it’s like that to someone whose grip on reality is a little shaky. Or more charitably, someone whose passion for a cause clouds their thinking. I think most of us can recognize that cats and children can’t really be compared.

      • “I think most of us can recognize that cats and children can’t really be compared.” Maybe, but I think Exiledinarlington’s point holds re. adoption for the wrong reasons.
        And in less enlightened times, people sometimes _did_ adopt children for coldly practical reasons. After being widowed circa 1880, my great-great-grandfather kept his son (my great-grandfather, who was about 12 at the time) but adopted out his daughter (who was about 6). Turned out that the couple who adopted her basically wanted a domestic servant, and she had a very hard life until she could get out. 🙁

      • HaileUnlikely

        I think there was a legitimate point lurking beneath the imperfect metaphor. If for whatever reason I needed to find a new home for one of my cats, and somebody who expressed interest told me that the reason that they wanted my cat was so that my cat could perform work for them (the details of which are basically irrelevant), that would not make me want to give them my cat.

    • Emmaleigh504

      Not feeding the cat and relying on what it caught as food would be my main concern.

  • Cats may like to chase mice, but suggesting on the application that you expect the cat to fulfill certain duties implies that your desire for the cat is provisional. You scoff at the idea that the only good reason to adopt is to hang out with the cat, but yes, that is essentially true. Pets are obligations. You need to show the adoption agency that you understand that and that you anticipate caring for the animal indefinitely without expecting any specific outcome. If you don’t, then you shouldn’t adopt and they are right to reject you. There may not be anyone else lining up to adopt this specific cat, but your adoption does no good if you’re only likely to re-abandon the cat.

  • On a similar note, we had friends in NY rejected because the window in their sky scraper could be opened. Even though they told the adoption place they would keep it closed. I know cats do not have great depth perception, but are suicidal sky scraper cats really that much of a thing that its an automatic ding?

    • My guess is that even if you believed that you would 100% never open the window, who’s not to say that a guest/housecleaner/visiting firefighter might not open it & leave it open?

    • NatGeo did a great documentary on cats years back — and one of the segments was on why cats land on their feet, focusing on the NYC jumpers (and how they survive).

      • NPR also did something of the like

      • Eh, my mom’s cat fell off her third story balcony and was pretty badly injured. Survived though, but I think the velocity of falling off of a skyscraper would be too great for a kitty.

        • Surprisingly, according to that NatGeo documentary, short falls are often more dangerous than long ones — to a point. During a long fall the cat has time to right itself and arch its back to prepare for impact while a short fall sometimes doesn’t allow for that opportunity. But yeah, a cat falling at terminal velocity from a skyscraper might face some pretty long odds of survival.

      • That documentary was amazing. They called it high-rise syndrome, if I remember correctly. There was also all sorts of cool information about how most housecat behavior has an analogue among the great cats.

  • In my country you find cats abandoned in boxes, and people would adopt them without intermediaries and take care of them and allow them to be free and play with their cat friends in the neighborhood. It’s hard for me to understand why having pets it’s so complicated here in DC, it’s crazy, absurd, unreasonable, etc, etc. I think your answer was sincere and clear, and you should have got the cat.

    • Feral cats are bad for the surrounding ecosystem. but if the poster wanted to find a feral cat and adopt it that would great. The rescues main job is to ensure that all the animals in their facility are well cared for and that a situation like you mentioned in your country doesn’t happen here. That type of environment isn’t good for the cats or people…

    • Ashy Oldlady

      Well, most things in DC are complicated, crazy, absurd, unreasonable, etc, etc.

    • In your country, do the people who take in these cats pay to have them spayed/neutered? Vaccinated against distemper & rabies? Given flea treatments? Dewormed?

  • I was once denied a dog for adoption because I didn’t have a car. Didn’t matter to the adoption group that I had access to a car (taxi, uber, Zip, friends, etc.) or am withing walking distance of vet, because I didn’t have one of my own, no dog.

    • Ubers and taxis don’t accept dogs and friends and zip cars aren’t going to be useful in an emergency. can you walk to an emergency 24/7 vet? if not than there was good reason to reject your application.

      • So you’re saying someone who doesn’t own a car can’t be a reasonably competent dog owner if they’re not within walking distance of a vet, period? That’s outrageous, and obviously false.

      • HaileUnlikely

        What? Blind people obviously can’t get drive, and lots of them have dogs.

      • Ubers and taxis do accept pets. It is generally left up to the individual driver. I’ve used Lyft to take my dog to places I didn’t want to drive countless times. You just notify the driver when they accept to make sure it’s okay with them.

    • I was denied an application for a dog because I worked full time and didn’t have a private, fenced-in yard. Never mind that I was planning to hire a dog walker and live literally across the street from a dog park. I think some of these requirements are really counterproductive.

      • Tsar of Truxton

        Was it a puppy you were trying to adopt?

        • No, it wasn’t for a specific pet or a puppy. It was a general rescue organization (can’t remember which one) and their statement on it was “dogs are supposed to be companions, and we don’t adopt to people who aren’t going to be around.” It’s not like I was going to leave the dog to fend for itself, for crying out loud.

          In the end, I bought a dog, who has a great (spoiled) life.

      • some dogs require different things. For puppies you do need to be home to train them. Most rescue places are fine with people without yards but if its a large dog or one the rescue agency knows will need more then normal outside time they may require it.

        Sometimes you are not denied all together but just for that specific pet.

        When i adopted kittens they pushed for them to go in pairs because they get sad leaving their litter mates

    • HaileUnlikely

      I do not know how animal adoption works in DC, but when a friend in Baltimore used me as a reference when they were adopting a dog, I learned that the agency in question contracted out the screening to some reference-checkers in some other part of the country (the one with whom I spoke happened to be in Georgia). I would not be surprised if the call was made by somebody far away who was conceptually unfamiliar with how it is possible to be a functioning adult without a car in some places.

    • We were once almost denied a dog because we mentioned that we would take him to the dog park. The person doing our screening said that many rescues don’t like to hear that, since so many problems happen at dog parks, but that she personally didn’t discriminate based on it so she didn’t ding us for it. She did warn us to never mention that during an adoption screening again though. Weird rules.

      • I’ve convinced that many of these dog screeners totally get their jollies on exercising this power over would-be adopters. Sad that this is the apex of their responsibility.

    • I was denied a dog for being a single woman. To quote: “We don’t adopt to single women. They give up their dogs when they meet a man who doesn’t like them.” Since DC has one of the largest populations of single women on the *planet,* I don’t see how that’s an even remotely sane policy.
      Also, I was 30. Not some potentially silly 20-year-old who might have my priorities that ass-backwards.
      And Kay, you can f right off. Ward One clearly stated here that they were not applying for a specific dog. If that’s a concern of the rescue, they should specify that Ward could only adopt dogs small enough for a carrier, as those are permitted in taxis (the driver must accept the pet unless they have a special allergy placard that is displayed in the car) and on the Metro. DC also has several pet taxi services for larger dogs in emergencies. Many Uber and Lyft drivers are fine with dogs (I’ve had several tell me to take my dog out of his carrier, they didn’t mind him riding without it). Most of the population of many major cities are “unqualified” to adopt pets in your (uninformed and narrow-minded) opinion.

  • I’m sure your intentions are totally fine, but my guess is there’s not a great track record of pet care for people who simply adopt a cat to be a mouser, as opposed to ones who want a pet/companion.

    • This, basically.
      Rescues are wary of people who want to adopt (or borrow) cats to be mousers, because they worry that the owner/caretaker will intentionally withhold food on the theory than a hungrier cat will be a better hunter.

  • If you lived on a farm and wanted a mouse hunting kitty I do not think anyone would have an issue, maybe even if you lived in the burbs. A mouse hunting kitty with plenty of space to roam and be free would be a happy kitty. However in the city its different. Do you want the cat to hunt inside or outside. I know some people have outdoor cats in DC and they lead great lives but others are at risk of getting hit by cars.

    Additionally, when you move or have no mice will you still care for this cat? Or do you just see it as a means to an end? Because if that is the case you are not the best person to adopt a cat in the city

    • I’m not too familiar with this particular rescue league, but when I adopted my two cats from local shelters the agencies required me to state that I would keep them as indoor cats before the adoption could go through.

      • I adopted 2 cats from the humane society and was told they should be kept indoors as well.

      • Yep, I think the municipal shelter here (WHS, which has now joined forces with the rescue WARL) and all of the major D.C.-area rescues require cats to be indoor-only (occasionally with exceptions for certain cats that have demonstrated while in foster care that they need outdoor access).

        • I thought this was because it is illegal in DC to have an outdoor cat (although I could be wrong).

          • Most animal-welfare organizations in the United States recommend keeping cats indoors. The fact that it’s the law in D.C. is kind of coincidental, as far as I can tell, since it’s little-known and not enforced.

        • I was told when I adopted from WHS that it was okay to leash-train my cats and take them out for supervised walks. (In practice they’re more like supervised “cat wanders in circles around my back yard while I pull weeds” sessions, because my experience is that my cats have zero interest in walking any distance. They just want to roll around in the dry leaves and maybe try to eat a beetle.)

          • Yep — I’d imagine shelters/rescues wouldn’t consider supervised on-leash walks to be a violation of “indoor only.” Mainly they just don’t want cats to be free-roaming, with all of the danger that entails.
            I thought about trying to get my cat used to a harness and taking her for walks… but she seems afraid of the outdoors, so I decided it would be unkind and didn’t pursue it.
            I like your description of your cats’ outdoor ventures. 🙂

  • OP here – I hear what you guys are saying, but I love animals and have had many pet cats over the course of my life – that I fed well and doted upon with much affection. If “mouser” is a red flag, they could have come back and asked the questions you’re asking and we could have cleared it up quickly. Instead they outright rejected me, a potential good candidate for an adult cat in a city over-run with animals looking for a good home.

    • Honestly, I would have balked myself. Kind of akin to someone making Cosby rape jokes on a first date.

    • Well your experience echos mine with DC pet adoption agencies. I know they have the right intentions, but they come off as smug and elitist and overly intrusive. Why, for example, would you need an employment reference?

      I think the explanations of the people above make sense (and it’s not what I immediately thought when I read your question), but you are right that they should have come back to you to ask for more info. If it makes you feel better, my mom was denied a dog adoption in California because she had a pool that she didnt want to fence in…

      • Employment reference to see if you have a job, where you make money, so you can provide food and medical care to and for the animal.

      • I think that they really just don’t want to see pets routinely returned. Its bad for the pets and when they are returned repeatedly it stresses them out and makes it harder for them to adopt.

        It seems totally legitimate to ask about employment. Animals are expensive.

        To the person who got denied a dog because they did not have a car – that’s just sad.

        OP- we all hope our cats with catch spiders and mice ect but if your prime reason to get a cat was to serve a job I would have denied you as well.

      • Considering I just dropped $450 to get a battery of tests done on my dog and then another $200 to get meds for a bladder infection/another checkup, I’d say that’s why they want to verify employment. Pets are an incredibly expensive commitment and if you can’t afford it there’s a very good chance they will end up being returned to the rescue or shelter, which of course they want to try to prevent.

        • Yeah, one of our dogs’ applications required us to write down how much we would spend max in the event of an emergency of serious health crisis. Considering we’re getting into the multiple thousands of dollars on testing for that dog right now and pushing a thousand on the other, I get that they want to verify employment so they can verify you have the ability to take care of them if something as mundane as a broken leg happens.

    • Depending on the rescue they can have a lot of applications and if there are any red flags you’re out because they can find a better fit. Rescues are also often underfunded and understaffed so they may not have the time to do follow up evaluations if something on the application had a red flag. It may sound a bit harsh but they really don’t care at all about your desire to own a cat, all they care about (and rightly so) is that every animal in their cares gets adopted into a good forever home.

    • HaileUnlikely

      I am an unabashed crazy cat lady and immediately identifiable as such to any ordinary person. However, the people who work for WARL, Home Alone Feline Rescue, etc. make me look like a normal guy. If you wrote “to be a mouser” on your application, you basically failed an intelligence test.

    • Why do you want to adopt a cat? It is to be a mouser?

    • Tsar of Truxton

      DC shelters are not overrun with animals. DC is a high demand location, which is why many of the shelters take animals from kill shelters in the south and transport them here. They can be picky because they have networks of fosters and high demand for the animals.

      • Shelters may not be “overrun” but as a foster I can tell you that even in a “high demand” location like DC, there are thousands more cats/kittens/dogs than could ever be placed. Look at Petfinder – there will be over 1000 animals within 50 miles of your zip code.

        • Tsar of Truxton

          I also used to foster. Sure, there are always pets available, but that is because all the shelters here run at capacity to save as many pets from kill shelters as in possible. The second one dog is adopted out, a new one is brought in.

    • I probably would have responded with something more innocuous like “snuggles,” but I appreciate your honesty.

    • To be fair, you listed a reason that got flagged, and as others have said, shelters get multiple applications. The burden isn’t on them to get more information from you.

      Perhaps, and this is just a suggestion, instead of coming to PoP to vent, you might want to contact the shelter and ask them directly? Novel concept, I know.

  • Should’ve just went straight for the p***y!

  • As someone who works in rescue, I can tell you that rescues have developed guidelines over the years to weed out those most likely to return or abandon a pet. Does it always work? No, but it helps to reduce returns that can be difficult both on the pet and the rescue. Basically every return means the rescue can’t take another pet from a high kill shelter and involves a scramble in trying to find a new foster for the pet. Since most rescues are primarily volunteer organizations these are precious resources. I suspect in your case the rescue felt that you were more interested in a “work” pet rather than a companion one and that you would likely allow the cat outdoors unsupervised, which can result in injury to the pet they worked so hard to rescue.

  • The Washington Humane Society at both the Oglethorp and New York Ave locations have many a kitty seeking a loving home. It may behoove you to check out their website and locations!


  • Generally people who use animals purely to complete tasks like getting rid of mice or scaring off intruders don’t treat them well. If the animal is being used just to get jobs done then assumption is that it will be treated like a tool where it is often ignored and then disposed of when the task is complete. Rescues’ goals are always to adopt these animals into forever homes so if there is any inkling that you may bring the animal back, drop it at a shelter or just release it into the wild they won’t let you adopt.

    And with the high instances of feral cats in cities, they’re even more cautious than normal because having that many feral cats creates an environmental issue.

  • That One Guy

    Trying to channel my best John Oliver:
    I’m sorry, isnt saying you want a cat for a mouser akin to saying you want kids for the tax credit? It shouldn’t be the main purpose, just a nice side benefit. Bad parent…bad.

  • How is this any different than someone who says they want a dog to help scare away intruders? Which I have seen listed in many an article as sound advice.
    It’s one of the reasons I have a dog. I love my dogs, and I would never ever abuse or neglect them, but having a dog at home when my wife was home alone when I was on call was one of the main reasons we got a dog when we did.

    • “Which I have seen listed in many an article as sound advice.” Not in articles written by animal rescues.

    • Saying you want a dog to “scare away intruders” as the sole reason for adoption is a huge red flag. It would signal to me you would leave it outside to bark incessantly and be ignored (as I have seen neighbors do when it is just a “guard” dog and not a companion). Perhaps that would not be your intention at all, but as a shelter or rescue volunteer I definitely would pass up an application that had that as a reason- especially if it was the only reason listed.
      I really do understand why non-rescue people think the requirements are too stringent or “elitist” and in some cases they really are (like not having a car or a fenced yard for a dog- come on). But you have to understand rescue volunteers see humanity at its most awful on a daily basis. Anything from people dumping their very old pet because they had a baby or they’re moving to horrible abuse cases. Of course they’re going to exhibit more caution when placing an animal in a new home to try to prevent the return or neglect of that animal as much as possible.

      • +1 to “Saying you want a dog to ‘scare away intruders’ as the sole reason for adoption is a huge red flag.” I’m pretty sure any rescue — and possibly WHS too — would turn you down if that was your stated reason.

  • Next time tell them you want a cat so that you can homeschool it, send it to Harvard and eventually leave all your money to it in your will.

  • This is like getting asked in a job interview why do you want this job and saying you need the money. That very well may be true, but you don’t say it. You definitely don’t lead with it.

  • justinbc

    Many people leave poison out for rats. It can take several doses for it to kick in and actually kill the rat, but if your cat eats a partially poisoned rat it can still get sick, or worse, die. When you see a rat or mouse you should either try to kill it via traps or contact professionals.

    • Ally

      Or, if you’re my kitty, you catch it…have no idea what to do next…sometimes injure it slightly…and I end up with a new pet mouse. Sigh. My poor cat’s even afraid of the wind. Not a mouser!

  • Ally

    To echo the comments of most people here, the ultimate goal of rescue organizations is to find a “forever home” for the pet in need. They have an enormous turn-over rate for people who don’t care for their animals and give them up because they scratched the sofa, decided to move to an apartment that doesn’t allow pets (who does that?!), or because they simply tired of them. My adopted rabbit was abandoned in the dead of Summer, in SE DC, in his cage with no food or water. He became one of the poster animals for the DC Humane Society (so cool…he was even on bus ads for a while! Once spotted his ad in a Capitol Hill bar!). Anyway, point being… nothing wrong with having your cat hunt mice, but that probably isn’t the best reason to adopt a wonderful animal who probably deserves so much more in the way of love and attention.

  • anonymouse_dianne

    Wow. The fact is that the staff members who make the decision as to who can adopt an animal are often young a**hats. I was a volunteer dog adoption counselor at WARL for 5 years and often when I went to see how the interview with staff had gone, after I had given the green light, I was given some of the most judgmental reasons. I often had potential adopters exclaim that it was easier to adopt a child. As to the “enormous” return rate, at WARL it is about 8 per cent. Cats are hardest to get adopted, probably cause people get cats from friends. At some shelters (Not WARL or WHS) if a cat gets an upper respiratory infection, they are PTS. The live release rate is about 60 per cent. My suggestion would be to either call the rescue and speak to a real person, or give WHS/WARL a try.

  • I haven’t read the other comments yet, but I assume they say something similar:
    If you don’t have enough intuition to realize why wanting a cat to be a “mouser” (or even saying you do) is not right, then you probably shouldn’t own a cat – from this rescue organization or otherwise.

  • OP if you’d really like a cat, I have a 5-year old female tabby. She’s beautiful (previously featured on Afternoon Animal Fix) and scrappy and will likely fix your mouse problems! My boyfriend is severely allergic, so it’s coming to the time where she will need to be re-homed.

  • Many groups can be enthusiastic in screening. I was denied a cat because I had a balcony. Try the city/county rescues. They can be more understanding. If you have a car, the Anne Arundel, MD county shelter is waving adoption fees in October.

  • It is crazy how hard it is to adopt from many of these organizations. My guess is that they would be concerned about the cat eating a poisoned mouse. Then the cat would die too. Rat poison is dangerous stuff.