The people at Mitchell County Animal Rescue knew they’d have to get creative when it came to Perdita.
The 4-year-old black and white cat, who wound up at the shelter after her owner’s death, had an adorable face and a not-so-adorable habit of swatting and scratching when people least expected it.
“It was already going to be difficult to place her even if she didn’t have behavior issues,” Amber Lowery, executive director of MCAR ― the nonprofit that operates the county animal shelter in Spruce Pine, North Carolina ― told HuffPost.
Lowery explained that most people who come in gravitate toward kittens, or cats with unique features like blue eyes, meaning that finding a home for an adult cat with an attitude to boot wasn’t going to be easy.
So they put Perdita’s worst foot forward.
“World’s Worst Cat,” was splashed in big letters above two photos of a ticked-off looking Perdita in the shelter’s January Facebook post.
“We thought she was sick, turns out she’s just a jerk,” the post read, listing Perdita’s “likes” as “the song Cat Scratch Fever,” jump scares and “lurking in dark corners.” It touted her as “ready to be socially awkward with a socially awkward human who understands personal space.”
The ad went viral, made national headlines and garnering nearly 200 adoption applications. Perdita ultimately went home with a couple from Tennessee who now call her Noel and post updates on her new Instagram account.
“We had an instant connection to her and her to us as well,” Betty Samimi, one of the cat’s new humans, told HuffPost in an email.
Perdita, aka Noel, is still adjusting to her new situation, with “some days better than others,” Samimi said. While there have been some scratching and biting incidents, Samimi noted Perdita is “very lovable,” playful and runs up to greet Samimi when she walks in. She’s also already bonding with one of her new feline housemates.
Jackson Galaxy, the cat behavior expert who hosted Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell,” isn’t surprised the ad went viral.
“When you put out an ad for the ‘world’s worst cat’ looking for her human equivalent, that intersects the cat world and the human world, and people respond to that because they can relate to it,” he said in an email.
The impact of Perdita’s ad shows the benefits of thinking “outside the box in order to help get these animals into homes,” Galaxy said.
But while applauding MCAR’s innovation, he said shelters should be wary of tactics that paint pets in too negative a light.
“I would put out an appeal to do anything we can do short of shaming an animal,” he said. He added he believes the world is “in a different place” than when “My Cat From Hell,” which ran from 2011-2018, first launched.
“Let’s do everything we can to keep the message purely positive, uplifting and heartwarming,” he added.
Both Galaxy and Lowery stressed it’s important to set up realistic expectations for adopters, particularly when it comes to animals with unique needs.
In this case, Lowery said it was crucial to find adopters who were’t just trying to “jump on the bandwagon” of Perdita-mania.
And though Perdita’s adoption fee ― which normally would have been $15 ― was waived, the application process was as rigorous as it would be for any cat.
“[The ad] was funny and it was meant to be a joke, but we also knew that whoever took her was going to have to be a real cat person,” Lowery said.
Fortunately, the couple who adopted Perdita fit the bill, with feline experience, plenty of space, and dedication to giving Perdita what she needs.
“She really is a joy and our wish for her is to have a long and happy life,” Samimi said.
And as for everyone else drawn to Perdita’s story, Lowery doesn’t want them to forget there are a lot of other adoptable animals out there, in Mitchell County and beyond. Most will never go viral, but they have plenty of quirks that make it harder for them to get adopted ― even if their cases are far less dramatic than Perdita’s.
“I’ve got a cat sitting in my lap right now named Hagrid that has food allergies,” she said.