Adopting a dog or cat in Taiwan
After more than a year in Taipei, and more than three living outside of the states, and more than six without a pet, I can safely say that the severe lack of cats in my life was slowly driving me insane. However, adopting a pet at a shelter in Taipei appears to be very different than going to the local Pets Mart in my own country, so I wanted to share some of the highlights. THERE IS ALSO THE MATTER OF AN IMPORTANT NEW RULE IMPLEMENTED IN DECEMBER OF 2016 (See: returning a pet).
Feral Cats and Stray Dogs (My Experience with Shelters)
First of all, I honestly believe there are pets in these shelters that should never be adopted at all. Feral Cats, if they can be adopted, will only ever trust the human they were adopted by. And of course dogs and cats can both be dangerous if they feel threatened. Now I’ve never been to a shelter in America, but brief research on the topic online tells me that feral cats are not adopted out in the states. And I’m almost positive it would have to be a very special case indeed for anyone to let you adopt a dog or cat that would be dangerous for you.
I had a coworker living here who adopted a dog that had quiet clearly been abused, which I think is common for shelters. Dogs in Taiwan, on the whole, are calmer and lazier than other countries I’ve been to (I’m not sure why but that fact that many shy away from humans makes me think it has to do with treatment). This dog was afraid of sudden movements, especially of the hands, and had frequent nightmares. I’m talking about the whining was so bad, it was like screaming. You had to call his name gently for a while until he woke up.
The cats are a little different. All I got in the Taiwanese shelter I adopted the first cat at was “Oh, do you know this cat is nervous and has attacked people?” Of course I’m thinking “Pfft! I can handle any old cat! I get stays to come to me on the street all the time!”
Nope! The shelter may have named her Mei Lee (Beautiful), but on the inside she was terrified and hostile to humans. Of course this was partially my fault for thinking I was an all-powerful cat magnet, but my apartment is very small, and while I may have considered owning a previously feral cat if I’d had the space to give HER space (bathrooms in Taiwan are very wet, and out of the question), I didn’t. I made a cat fort for her and attempted within one week to see if she warmed up. She was litter box trained, but very suspicious and tried to hide from me all the time. Also, since I accept couch surfers, and I wanted to adopt one more cat, I didn’t feel this would be a good environment for her. I was NOT informed of the new rule, and I was told I could keep the cat for one week. Of course, these may have been language barrier communication issues, but I felt a little cheated when I went to return Mei Lee.
Which leads me to…
The New Taiwanese Law About Returning Pets
You have one month to try that pet in your home after adopting, and if it isn’t working out, you can bring them bak to the shelter at the end of six days with no charge. However, if you go over that amount of days, you need to pay a little over 2,000 NTD ($60). So it was one month, or not at all, as far as I was concerned. I don’t mind paying money to support and care for the cat, but beyond that, it’s not happening.
There is another, more serious problem with returning an animal, though. According to the shelter I went to, a new law in Taiwan prohibits you not only adopting, but even buying another pet in Taiwan if the animal is abandoned or if you return an adopted animal to a shelter! Another acquaintance of mine, who volunteers at the Tayoun Shelter, confirmed that this was true for all of Taiwan. This law was implemented in December 2016.
I wasn’t informed of this before, but they insisted they told me, and thus, I had to take Mei Lee back to the apartment that she was terrified to live in.
So What of Mei Lee?
The shelter gave me a cage to keep her in, but I decked it out and then gave her the bathroom, moving my portable bath tub and giving up showers in lieu of wash-cloth baths and the hair in the sink method. She felt decently hidden under her blanket covering her open-door cage.
Later I moved her into the general room, but moved the furniture away from the wall so she could easily hide. I didn’t see her for three weeks, but she was eating, so I was happy enough. When I got the second cat, I moved Mei Lee to the balcony, which I had cat-proofed and turned into a playground.
Introducing the two took a long time, but around three months into her life here, she was alright with coming out while I was in the room, though she and Damian didn’t get on. After six months, she meows at me, plays with toys in the room and with me, if the string is long enough, and lets me feed her and cross by her area by about two feet, but I’ve still never touched her, and I’m not sure I ever will. She does hiss and she’s never been out of the apartment, but when I can I leave the balcony door open so both cats can cross unhindered. They like each other well enough, now.
If I could go back, would I adopt Mei Lee? Knowing she could learn to at least not live in so much fear, yes. But would I adopt another feral cat? Probably not. Those are best left tagged and released back onto the streets of Taipei, and there are many friendly cats who need adopting!