Our new cat Zola, it appears, has a mysterious past. The computer that knows about the ID chip embedded under his skin thinks he’s a dog.
There’s more to the story. And it makes us think we may have misread Zola’s initial behavior. I’m torn between wishing he could tell us what he’d been through, and maybe being thankful that he can’t. Because if he could, I suspect I might experience an urge to go punch someone’s lights out that would be bad for my karma.
On Zola’s first vet visit, one of the techs did a routine check and discovered that Zola had had an ID chip implanted under his skin. This confirmed our suspicion that he’d been raised by humans rather than being feral or semi-feral. Carol, our contact at PALS (the rescue network we got Zola from) put some more effort into trying to trace his background.
We already knew that PALS rescued Zola from an ASPCA shelter in Cumberland County, New Jersey, just before he would have been euthanized. Further inquiry disclosed that (a) he’d been dumped at the shelter by a human, and (b) he was, in Carol’s words, “alarmingly skinny” – they had to feed him up to a normal weight.
The PALS people didn’t know he was chipped. When we queried Home Again, the chip-tracking outfit, the record for the chip turned out to record the carrier as a dog. The staffer my wife Cathy spoke with at Home Again thought that was distinctly odd. This is not, apparently, a common sort of confusion.
My wife subsequently asked Home Again to contact the person or family who had Zola chipped and request that the record be altered to point to us. (This is a routine procedure for them when an animal changes owners.)
We got a reply informing us that permission for the transfer was refused.
These facts indicate to us that somewhere out there, there is someone who (a) got Zola as a kitten, (b) apparently failed to feed him properly, (c) dumped him at a shelter, and now (d) won’t allow the chip record to be changed to point to his new home.
This does not add up to a happy picture of Zola’s kittenhood. It is causing us to reconsider how we evaluated his behavior when we first met him. We thought he was placid and dignified – friendly but a little reserved.
Now we wonder – because he isn’t “placid” any more. He scampers around in high spirits. He’s very affectionate, even a bit needy sometimes. (He’s started to lick our hands occasionally during play.) Did we misunderstand? Was his reserve a learned fear of mistreatment? We don’t know for sure, but it has become to seem uncomfortably plausible.
There’s never any good reason for mistreating a cat, but it seems like an especially nasty possibility when the cat is as sweet-natured and human-friendly as Zola is. He’s not quite the extraordinarily loving creature Sugar was, but his Coon genes are telling. He thrives on affection and returns it more generously every week.
I don’t know if we’ll ever find out anything more. Nobody at PALs or Home Again or our vet has a plausible theory about why Zola is carrying an ID chip registered to a dog, nor why his former owners owners won’t OK a transfer.
We’re just glad he’s here.