Dear Paws: Two years ago, my husband and I took in a beautiful orange cat, “Tiger,” when a friend of ours became too ill to care for him. We weren’t sure we wanted a pet—I suffer from dander and dust allergies—but we decided to give it a try. We picked him up on Christmas Eve at the airport after he was flown from Atlanta—a wide-eyed, meowing, anxious ball of fur. As soon as we got home he shot out from the carrier and under the sofa, where he hid for almost three weeks, sneaking out at night to eat and use the litter box.
Tiger gradually got used to his new home, and we got used to him, and now we can’t imagine life without him. He’s the best Christmas present we’ve ever received.
Here’s the problem: Our friend recovered from his illness, and he wants Tiger back. I can’t bear the thought of letting him go. What would you suggest?—Charles H., Dallas
Dear Charles: We become more deeply attached to our pets than we realize, often grieving more for them when we lose them than we do for many humans.
Returning a pet to their original owner’s custody is sometimes quite difficult and complicated, emotionally. I have friends who actually worked out a joint custody agreement, with a visitation schedule, for their dogs after their relationship ended.
It sounds like Tiger’s owner also loves and misses him, and because you’re halfway across the country, there’s a good chance you would never see Tiger again. But if you know he will be going to an equally loving and caring home, and the original promise was to only be temporary caregivers while your friend battled a tough illness—well, you know the answer.