I sometimes wonder if my wife's and my
perpetual pampering has left our cat-a
three-year-old rescue from the Louisiana
Society for the prevention of Cruelty to
amnesic to her feral
fight-or-flight defenses. When the adoption
papers asked if we would be able to provide
"sufficient love and attention," I'm not sure a
three-story scratch-pad condo that doubles
as a high chair at our kitchen table, gourmet
meals on weekends, and a reserved space
in our bed were standard prerequisites. In a
post-nuclear Judgement Day dystopia (here's
looking at you, Lil' Hands and Lil' Kim), would
she be able to check her indoor privilege and
resurrect the predator within? Or
would she wander among the
ashes of man searching for
a surviving fallout boy in
hopes that he has a
stash of Fancy Feast?
While I'm almost
world leaders can
contain this Fury
to the realm of
science fiction, the
epidemic of animal
homelessness is all
too real. In particular,
New Orleans is estimated
to have the largest feral
cat population in the United
States-more than 350,000 cats
all fending for their lives on the streets.
According to a 2017 ASPCA article, "A Closer
Look at Community Cats," the average age of
a feral cat without human assistance is less
than two years, compared to up to 18 years
for an indoor cat. Fortunately, several nonprofit
organizations around the metro area
are committed to ending animal suffering
in our city.
The LA-SPCA cares for approximately 350
animals at any given time at its adoption
facility on the Westbank.
"Any warm-blooded human with room
in their heart can welcome an animal
into their home," says Alicia Haefele Vial,
communications director for the LA-SPCA.
"We have several fostering and adoption
options to help make sure that a pet fits their
Adopting a pet requires a significant time
and financial commitment. Online adoption
database PetFinder.com estimates the firstyear
costs of owning a cat to be nearly
$1,100, and more than $1,200 for a dog.
"Having a puppy is like having a demanding
newborn," says Mid-City resident and
recent mother Rachael Kansas Feder. "The
hardest part of adopting a pet is the lifestyle
change- gone are the days of post-work
Happy Hours fading into dinner and a night
out, because you need to get home to take
care of the dog. In many ways, it is a great
trial run for a baby."
One way the LA-SPCA lets would-be
adopters get their feet wet is through its
Sleepover Program. After completing the
adoption process, residents get to take an
animal home for up to 72 hours. If things
don't work out, the LA-SPCA will take the
pet back-no questions asked-and the
adoption fee can be re-applied to another
"The Sleepover Program is a great way
to encourage people to take the
leap without committing," says
Vial. "Animals often present
differently at the facility
than in a home. This
gives you the chance to
see how they will adapt
to your environment,
as well as how they get
along with kids."
The LA-SPCA also
offers a variety of
fostering programs for
those wanting to care for
an animal, but not able to
adopt at this time. Vial says
the most popular of these is
the Kitten Krewe program. Foster
parents are taught how to care for and
bottle-feed newborn kittens until they weigh
at least two pounds, at which point they are
eligible for adoption. In 2017, 800 kittens
went through this program.
If you favor felines, the Bywater's Crescent
City Cat Club may be the purrfect location to
find your next forever friend. The Cat Club
is "a cat café without the food," according to
founder Eshyah Selig. For a small fee, guests
can socialize with a room of roughly 20
adult cats or visit a smaller area reserved for
kittens-all of which are adoptable.
One concept unique to the Crescent City
Cat Club is the Senior Program. Seniors are
paired with a cat that best fits their lifestyle,
with volunteers following up with them each
week to make sure all is going well.
"It is a wonderful program, as it provides
companionship for a senior both through the
cat and the regular visits from the volunteer,"
Selig has a deep love for all of the cats that
come through her doors-courtesy of the
Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter-and assures
that no adoptions are final.
"If a senior ever feels like they are in a
place where they cannot continue to support a cat-or even if a younger person is forced
to move somewhere they are not allowed to
have a pet or may have a newborn who is
allergic-we will reassume responsibility for
that cat and find it a new home," says Selig.
Another great place to adopt a dog or
cat in Orleans Parish is Zeus' Rescues.
Located just off of Napoleon Avenue near
Freret Street, Zeus' Rescues pulls all of their
animals from high-kill metro shelters in an
effort to further their mission to eradicate
pet euthanasia in our city. Last year, Zeus'
Rescues found homes for more than 700
local rescues. Similar to the LA-SPCA's
Sleepover Program, Zeus' website states that
following application approval, a person may
take a pet home for a one-week visit prior to
Once you've brought your new roomie
home, the work has just begun. For
dog people, Vial suggests taking an
"We don't expect everyone to have to drive
to the Westbank, so we offer a variety of
classes around the city," says Vial. "Everything
from obedience and signaling (Manner,
Advanced Manners) to early socialization
(Puppy Pre-School), and leash training
(Reactive Rover)." A more detailed list of
classes and availability can be found on their
"We started taking [our dog] Miles to
classes when he was around five months,
and it was a huge help," says New Orleans-native
Elizabeth Klein. "However, the work
doesn't stop after class. Training your dog
takes much practice and repetition."
A final word on pet care: All of the
organizations mentioned above spay and
neuter, vaccinate, and microchip animals
prior to adoption. For cats, all also required
adopters to agree not to declaw their pets.
"There is nothing benign about
declawing-it is mutilation, plain and simple,"
says Selig. "It's like cutting off a person's
finger at the knuckles. I've seen declawed
cats have trouble walking for the rest of
their lives-they never recover." Further,
while most agencies prefer adoptees to be
indoor cats, there is always the possibility
that they can escape. Declawing robs a cat
of its primary form of defense.
Adopting an animal is a wonderful way
to add fun, laughs, and love to your life.
Through a commitment that must be
considered, caring for a pet is one of the
most rewarding relationships one can have.
"Miles is family, not an afterthought," says Klein. "He's a priority, and we want him to have fun just like we want to have fun. We take him nearly everywhere with us on the weekend."