Courting the perfect cat

A bobtailed kitty named Missy creeps around the corner of one of the cat pods at the Humane Society of Western Montana, as her brother Yoda slips out a cracked-open door leading to a fenced-in deck area. Missy inches up on the adjacent cat pod and manages to anger Serena, the hefty tabby on the other side, who hisses back at her through the glass.

Miriam Cordes, a five-year HSWM volunteer and founder of the Matches by Miriam pet matchmaking pro- gram, says Serena prefers the undivided attention of her adoptive human.

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“You sit down with her and it’s lap time. Perma- nently,” Cordes says.

A single cat like Serena usually sticks around the shelter for an average of 36 days, but cats who like stick- ing together as a bonded pair, like Yoda and Missy, have a more difficult time finding a home big enough for two, and sometimes end up toughing it out for up to nine months. Since February, Cordes has been working to find permanent homes for wayward kitties like this trio through her free matchmaking program.

Nicole Nolte, director of operations for HSWM, says the cat-specific service has helped cut down on the wait- ing time for adoptions by streamlining the search that pet owners go on for the perfect companion. Unlike dogs, which Nolte says are often chosen by appearance alone, cats are primarily selected based on how well their personality fits with the rest of the home.

“I don’t want a perpetual lap cat. I’m a busy person,” Nolte says. “It’s about trying to make a match that’s going to work, and going to stick.”

After filling out a brief cat adopter survey, Cordes gets back in touch with prospective cat owners for fol- low-up interviews, which can consist of as little as a phone call and as much as sitting down over a cup of coffee. Once they’ve narrowed down a handful of ideal felines, Cordes has the adopter come down to the shelter to meet and greet each prospective kitty one on one. Usually at this point, Cordes says, adopters have received all the info they need to take one of these feline finalists home—or maybe more than one.

“If they’re willing to take a pair, yay!” she says.

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