Cat Rescue, Part 2: Happy & Sad Endings

I’m writing some blog posts about volunteering in cat rescue. (In the photo on the left, me and two of my fosters, both since adopted.) See Part 1 to find out how I got involved and what it basically entails.

My last post took us up to adoption, the point where someone with an approved adoption application can take home whichever cat(s) they choose or have already chosen from Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.), the rescue group where I volunteer and for which I have been fostering cats and kittens.

I get to see a lot of happy endings, which is the rewarding part. I send my fosters home with people who are so excited to get them, and in our follow-up exchanges days and months later, they tell me how much they love the cats, send me photos so I can see how they’ve grown, and say this pet is a member of the family. That is a long, long way from the ditches and cardboard boxes and sewers and dumpsters where many of our fosters were found. And that happy ending is the best part of animal rescue.

Here is a small sample of the photos I receive updating me on my former fosters.

It’s not always such a happy outcome, though. Sometimes, it is truly heartbreaking. Of the many kittens I’ve fostered, some have died. A couple of them were living with me when it happened; three died after adoption, in their forever homes, where they were cared for and mourned by people who had looked forward to having years together with them, not just weeks or months. There are diseases that strike without warning, such as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), killing kittens who seemed perfectly healthy only a few weeks earlier. There isn’t an effective vaccination against FIP, nor is there a cure.

There are also mystery deaths. My foster kitten Chili, an adorable little bobtail kitten with an affectionate, playful personality, had some sort of catastrophic collapse the same night that Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida. I rushed her to the animal ER, where they were puzzled by her condition. She died there 12 hours later, and all they could determine was that she had some sort of brain damage or neurological disorder, either infectious or congenital. (The rest of the litter is still fine.)

As painful as it is to see them die, it’s even worse to learn they’ve died in their new homes. I have felt every time that  I have unwittingly brought sorrow to those families, though I had no idea that the apparently healthy kittens I sent home with them would die within weeks or months.

Some of the ones who didn’t make it. (Top row: Chili and Polar. Bottom row: Scarlet O’Hara and Ziggy Stardust.)


Additionally, adoptions sometimes also result in appalling outcomes that frankly make me hate people.

Despite the thoroughness of our adoption process, one of the saddest things I do multiple times each year is go to kill shelters to collect our adopted cats after they have wound up alone in the world again, this time abandoned by the adopters we sent them home with. C.A.T. remains the contact associated with the microchips our fosters all get, precisely so that we can re-rescue them in these situations. (My own cats, all adopted from C.A.T., all have microchips registered to C.A.T.) 

We have a clearly stated and written policy that we want our fosters back—no questions asked, no problem, no matter when—if the adopter decides not to keep the cat. Despite this, there are some people who dump or abandon them.

The very worst or these situations is when we get the phone call from a shelter to re-rescue only one of a pair of kittens or cats that we adopted out, and we’re never able to find out what happened to the other cat. When our former fosters turn up at shelters, it is extremely rare that the adopter is frantically searching for them, or wants them back, or has a good explanation, or even answers the phone number we have for them.

Those are very upsetting events. And they happen to every rescue, no matter how careful we are. (And we’re so careful that a number of adopters comment on it… and some have walked away from the process in an angry huff. Which is fine. I went through this process to adopt my cats; if it’s too much for you, then I don’t want to send home my fosters with you.)

Finally, despite good people trying hard, sometimes things just don’t work out. A cat turns out to be a bad fit for a family, or the family’s life changes in unforeseen ways that make keeping the cat untenable… and they return them to C.A.T.. This is sad for everyone, but it absolutely the right thing to do in such circumstances.

I will talk about returned cats in my next post about cat rescue.

Meanwhile, check out Cat Adoption Team’s How You Can Help page. 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 returned cats, the criteria for taking in cats, and related topics. I’ll post all of these under “Cat Rescue.”