A is for adoption more than apple for me because the former’s a word I wholly embrace. To tell you the truth, it wasn’t always this way.

I think many of us start our pet parenthood journey thinking that our official animal companion will be one who costs a lot of money because they belong to a fancy breed.

A for Advocacy

I was a newly minted pet photographer 10 years ago when I fell in love with the cats in our backyard who served as my willing models. Being a newbie with cats, I was shocked by how quickly they multiplied. Two cats became seven, and when the seven cats reached adulthood, it became problematic.

As fortune would have it, a good college friend of mine who lived very near the office of Compassion and Responsibility for Animals (CARA) told me about their low-cost spay and neuter program. CARA is an established non-profit and non-government animal welfare organization specializing in education, public awareness, and affordable sterilization. They also rehabilitate rescue animals, and get them adopted out to responsible and loving homes. I quickly called and made the soonest possible appointment as cat pregnancies could happen in the blink of an eye.

Spay-and-neuter day came and I signed up on the spot to become a volunteer. I brought my camera with me to take photos of their adoptable cats as I waited for my cats’ procedures to finish. The cats under their care were rescues, a great number of them with heartbreaking stories as part of their histroy – yet they were all such a sight to behold.

These adoptable cats were equally lovable and cute as their purebred counterparts. There are no ugly cats if they are treated with love and care.

As I got to know each of them, it was then that my eyes were opened to the fact that they deserved the best homes.

D for Decision

CARA’s Project Director Gem Faisan lives by the quote, “Saving one animal won’t change the world, but it will change the world for that one animal.” Gem facilitated 100+ cat adoptions this year, even amid the pandemic.

By adopting a cat, we change not just one cat’s life, but another cat’s as well. When we adopt from animal welfare organization like CARA, we give another cat the chance to be rescued. It’s a win-win.

Want to hear another perk of adoption? Adoption fees are very small compared to the amount you would have to shell out to buy a cat.

Breeders who are profit-driven may be keeping pets under dire conditions, caring only about ensuring that they have a constant supply of cats to sell. We want to make sure that our animal companions do not come from those who are cruel to animals.

O for Overpopulation

We don’t have to go very far outside of our homes to see stray cats living in the streets. Adopting, combined with spaying and neutering all our cats, will help address the overpopulation of stray cats in our communities.

Supporting legitimate and hardworking animal welfare organizations with their projects is a great way to manage the number of strays who are prone to danger outdoors. If their numbers go out of hand, chances are they will be regarded as a nuisance by their neighborhood. We want to end the cycle of kittens being dumped and ending up in harm’s way.

It all boils down to knowing that every companion animal, pedigreed or not, will require a great deal from us as soon as they enter our homes. Breeding is not necessary for us to become legitimate pet parents, and we do not need our companion animals to pay us back through their litter, being regarded only as investments.

Breeding as though cats are rapidly becoming extinct when shelters and organizations are at maximum capacity is a little bit insensitive. Besides, spaying and neutering do not deprive cats in any way at all.

A happy cat whose primary needs are met is a satisfied cat no matter the country of origin or backstory. Patronizing only designer breeds shileds our eyes from the beauty that is already in front of us.

Having a big heart to welcome a homeless or rescue cat into our homes is us adapting to a global need even as we widen our circle of compassion.

P for Priceless

Money and fancy breeds aside, you know you love your fur-babies when you can’t put a price on them. Having a genuine bond with them is more precious than a champion bloodline. Actually, having a handsome price tag or perceived value does not guarantee anything, as pedigreed cats also get abandoned.

Companion animals, whether or not they come in a lot of fluff, will not thrive – even getting sick or ending up being homeless – without honest-to-goodness care from us and if their well-being is not prioritized. They are living beings, not just mere possessions.

Raise your hand if you can admit that it is rather the other way around – that our cats are our best friends, that they are our family, and that they possess our hearts.

When I was adopted by cats Mark and Bunny from CARA back in 2017, I paid an adoption fee of Php 800 for each of them. When we adopt, the fee actually serves as a friendly donation to the organization so that they can sustain their work in helping animals in need.

For a meager amount, I know wholeheartedly that these adopted cats have returned their love generously. My adopted cats are actually the sweetest cats of the bunch. Call me crazy but I think they are grateful, and they show their appreciation in their own little way.

Sometimes they do more for us even if we we’re supposed to be the ones to have rescued them, which begs the question, “Who saved whom?”

T for Transformation

I feel like we have come to a point where we need to be more educated, adapting to what the world needs most. As cat memes dominate the internet, our social media feed also does not discriminate.

More and more, we become conscious and more compassionate. I know that I see this upgrade, with human companions filling up veterinary offices to ensure their pets are always healthy. Clinics providing spay and neuter services are fully-booked almost everyday. We see community cats sporting an ear notch or tattoo after being properly sterilized by a vet.

Take a look around and you will most likely meet a volunteer or a kind soul who cares for community cats. These humans are armed with cat food, cat bowls, water, and cleaning supplies. These humans save extra money to fund trap-neuter-vaccinate-return programs for cats.

This is our future as humans, and it’s very nice to see it unfolding in the present.

As the holidays are upon us, you might want to consider adopting and giving the gift of a forever-home to a cat in need. Homeless animals, you may find, are quite varied, some of whom are pedigreed yet still abandoned because of some outdated notion of pet parenthood.

Adoption is a generous act that does not put us at a disadvantage. It is all up to us human companions to decide and commit.

You may adapt a kitten who will bring more liveliness to your home, or an elderly cat whose calm demeanor might just be what you need perfectly in your life. They come in all ages, shapes, and sizes.

You might have a soft spot for those missing an eye or a leg and you might already be aware that they don’t need to be perfect to be lovable, in the same way they look at us as if we didn’t have our flaws. Do you think our cats judge as according to our lineage and net worth? I think not. All they know is that we are these funny looking creatures who happen to be their source of love and comfort, and when we look at them in the same way, then we get to enjoy the gift of a beautiful friendship.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s November-December 2020 issue.

You might want to read:
– CARA Welfare Philippines: One pet at a time
– Lockdown tales of 7 Philippine eagles
– Saving animals, serious business: How to rescue animals in need