Cat Rescue, Part 1: In the beginning...
As people who follow my Facebook page know, I volunteer in cat rescue. (This is a photo of me trying to read the morning’s emails while the Wild Bunch, one of my foster litters last year, make themselves comfortable.)
Since I get a lot of the same questions over time about how I got involved in cat rescue and what it entails, I decided to write a series of blog posts about it. So here we go.
To date, I have fostered approximately 65 cats and kittens in my home (which is why my upstairs carpet looks like it belongs in a crack house). Although I have fostered a few adult cats, I mostly focus on kittens–for several reasons. Kittens are easier to place (that is, more people want to adopt them), and so I can save a greater number of feline lives by fostering kittens; they move through here at a faster rate, making room for more fosters. Also, this is a small house that already has 4 permanent cats, so I favor fostering kittens because, again, they’re more likely to find homes elsewhere, rather than go unadopted and remain here the rest of their lives. Finally, my adult male cats accept the presence of kittens–they even like kittens and help me socialize them. But two of my cats are very hostile to adult cats moving in here, which creates a lot stress for everyone (including me).
Kittens very often arrive without a mother. Sometimes the mother is feral (doesn’t want contact with people, can’t be adopted), so she’s spayed, vaccinated, and released. Often the mother isn’t around; the kittens are at the age where she has stopped caring for them or is about to stop. Sometimes the mother is dead. And sometimes the mom comes into foster care with the kittens (I’ve had two such mom-cats here with their litters; one got adopted, the other is still awaiting adoption).
I got into fostering by adopting a couple of cats from a rescue group. While researching pet adoption (I am a writer; I research everything I do), I read that black cats are hard to place (and therefore have a very high rate of euthanasia), and also that bonded pairs of cats (and dogs) are harder to place than solo animals. I was perfectly willing to adopt both/either kind of cat, and Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.) had a bonded pair of black cats available, estimated age 8 months old, probably brothers. I named them Hector & Achilles; I am a Bronze Age geek and a fan of Homer’s Iliad. They were two heroic little fellows who had survived on their own, as far as we know, until they were about 5 months old, when they turned up together at a kill shelter during one of the harshest winters on record here. I adopted them a few months after C.A.T. rescued them. Several years later, they are still inseparable.
(As it happens, by the way, I would describe myself as a dog person, but I love (almost) all animals, and cats are more suited to my current lifestyle—though I would eventually like to get a dog.)
Then, although I had only planned to adopt two cats, I got interested in another cat fostering with C.A.T. who was so pathologically shy he had little chance of being adopted, Poe. For whatever reason, I felt like this was the right home for him and adopted him, too. It took more than a month for Poe’s foster mom to catch him (though he lived inside her house) so she could transport him here, and it was another month before he would even let me see him. A friend asked during that time how I knew he was still alive, and I said, “Because I haven’t found his body.” Poe now allows me to see him regularly, and I am once in a while even allowed to pet him (briefly); but no one else ever sees him—to the extent that my father refers to him as my “fictional” cat.
|Hector & Achilles||Poe|
Well, by the time Poe arrived, I knew some of the people in Cat Adoption Team and was increasingly interested in the work they were doing. I started following their Facebook page, and one day when they needed an immediate foster for two kittens who had turned up at a kill shelter that had no facilities for cats, and time was running out for them, I found myself raising my hand. My two tiny new fosters had multiple infections, which is common in rescue cats, and had to be kept isolated for a few weeks. So I started learning how to medicate and care for young kittens. They both survived and, a couple of months later, they were adopted by a wonderful family that stays in touch and supports our work.
And since then… there have been oh-so-many more. Below is a small sampling. With so many kittens passing through, it reduces confusion if we name the litters thematically. In these photos, you see (in descending order): the Donuts (Sprinkles, Powder, Cream, Glaze, etc.), the Gone With the Winds (Ashley, Scarlet, and Rhett), the Bollywood stars (Rani, Kajol, Rishi, Raj, Shakti, and Dev), and the French Girls (Chanel, Colette, Simone, and Piaf).
Our group rescues cats from the street, kill shelters, hoarding situations, and similar circumstances. Many of our cats come through a system of rescuers who have working relationships with foster groups like ours. Although I do sometimes go to a kill shelter to get cats we’re rescuing, most often, my fosters arrive via other rescue organizations we partner with, such as Ohio Alleycat Resources, to get cats who are abandoned and alone in the world to a safe place.
C.A.T. is an all-volunteer nonprofit group and a registered 501(3)(c) charity. It covers all the medical expenses and prescriptions for my fosters and provides all the supplies they need (dry food, wet food, litter, over the counter medicines, etc.). I’ve purchased some toys, blankets, litter boxes, food bowls, cat carriers, syringes, etc., but I sometimes get those supplies via C.A.T., too—or via donors.
We operate on donations, and we do a lot of fundraising to pay for all this. Most of our funds go to covering the fosters’ medical bills, which can get very high; this year, for example, we’ve had multiple fosters who’ve needed life-saving surgeries. We receive donations of money, food, litter, and various supplies from generous individuals and companies. There’s also an excellent organization here in Cincinnati, the United Pet Fund, which serves as an umbrella organization and central network for many local rescue groups and orgs here. I’ve attended seminars at UPF, and we occasionally collect much-needed donations of food, litter, and other supplies from them. (A litter of six kittens with chronic diarrhea can run through a lot of cat litter.)
We get our fosters spayed, neutered, vaccinated, and healthy (which takes time, money, and a lot of care in some cases), then post them for adoption. Prospective adopters find our available cats via C.A.T.’s website, our public adoption events, our Facebook page, and our adoption centers. They file an adoption application, their references are checked, and they get interviewed—and, yes, we do turn people down. (Additionally, I told one applicant I turned down that she needed a fish, not a cat.) After the application is approved, they can take home whichever cat(s) they choose or have chosen, and they pay C.A.T. the adoption fee.
And when enough cats have been adopted to make room for more, we rescue more.
Check out our How You Can Help page. Obviously, we welcome donations, but there are other ways to contribute, including something as simple as linking your Kroger card to C.A.T. so that Kroger will donate to our rescue every time you buy groceries—at no cost to you!
In some future posts I’ll talk about the happy and sad endings in rescue adoption, the criteria for taking in cats, and related topics. I’ll post all of these under “Cat Rescue.”