I’m writing a series of blog posts about my volunteer work in cat rescue with Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.). Part 1 discusses how I got involved and outlines how it works. Part 2 talks about the happy endings that are so rewarding in this work, as well as the sad ones (and also the appallingly infuriating ones) that make some days very hard.

There is another kind of outcome to pet adoption, too. 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 tragic ways that make keeping the cat impossible… and they return them to C.A.T.. This is sad for everyone, but it is absolutely the right thing to do in such circumstances.

I cannot stress this strongly enough: if family decides not to keep a pet, they should return the animal to us (and any responsible rescue group has this same policy). The most important thing to us is that the cat should always be safe. By rescuing the cat, we made a promise that we will never abandon this animal or allow it to return to the condition from which we rescued it, alone and forsaken in the world. Do not break our promise by abandoning the animal we entrusted to you at the time of adoption. Return it to us.

To date, out of the 65-or-so cats I’ve fostered, only one of my own fosters had been returned to us. The family tried hard, but they finally returned him to us. I was sad it had not worked out, but it must be admitted that Airy is a pretty challenging cat. He has also been through a lot.

Airy turned up in a feral trap as a starving young kitten on his own, looking for food, a couple of years ago. Before long, it became apparent that something was very wrong with him. It turned out to be an ear polyp, a growth in the middle ear that affects balance, which is why he carried his head at a tilt, was always falling off things, and hated being picked up (it was disorienting). The polyp was also painful (the surgeon described it to me as “like having a low-level migraine all of the time”). It would cause recurrent (and painful) ear infections, and it would eventually cause deafness. The polyp had to be removed, but Airy was too young for the surgery, so he stayed with me for a few months, then had the operation when he was big enough. Here’s a photo of him afterward, with “the ugliest haircut you’ve ever seen,” as the surgeon warned me. His leg was shaved for the IV, and his neck was shaved because the entry point for the surgery was under his jaw.

He recovered well and didn’t have any of the possible side effects (such as nerve damage), but he never lost his head tilt. Since he also has a clipped ear (common practice in Trap-Neuter-Release programs like the one where he entered the system) and an overbite, he’s a slightly odd looking fellow. He also has a very forceful personality, as well as some behavior issues. He was returned to me because he had started urinating outside the litter box and around the house soon after moving into his adoptive home, and no matter what accommodations they tried to make, they couldn’t get him to stop. When they decided to give him up, I was very glad they brought him to me rather than abandoning him or passing him on to someone who’d abandon him. They cared about him, but just felt they couldn’t live with him.

When Airy came back here, now an adult rather than a kitten, it was a difficult adjustment all around. He was very upset and disoriented (and even now, I’ve no idea whether he remembers having lived here before). Achilles, one of my cats, was appalled by an adult male moving in, and Airy never backs down, so the two of them had violent fights daily. Poe, my pathologically shy cat, hated him (and hates him still), and so Poe had shrieking fits daily for a while, whenever Airy upset him. Airy didn’t even get along with Hector (Achilles’ brother) when he came back—and almost everyone likes Hector. Before long, the stress ensured that I was having the same problem his former family had—he began urinating outside the litter boxes.

At one point, a kindhearted adopter expressed an interest in Airy… but as I heard myself describing him on the phone honestly, because I wanted to be sure the next adoption succeeded–which meant knowing exactly what they were dealing with… I thought, “Oh, good God, who is ever going to adopt this cat?” (That person did not follow up.) 

Finally, though, after about four months, things started settling down. Airy and Achilles stopped fighting and learned to ignore each other most of the time. Airy and Hector became friends. Poe stopped shrieking every day. Airy was using the extra litter boxes I had added to the cat area in the basement. He also stopped being so high strung, anxious, and fussy, and he started to relax, play, and purr more often.

Strangely, the turning point for Airy occurred, as far as I can tell, when he established a small cardboard box as his territory. I received a package one day, opened it, and left the box sitting on the kitchen counter for a few minutes. When I came back, Airy was sitting in the box. i figured he’d get tired of it soon, and then I’d recycle it. But, in fact, Airy has never gotten tired of that box. He sits, nests, rests, and sleeps in it. He also seeks it out as his “safe” place when he’s upset, scared, angry, or not sure what to do with himself. The box seems to be Airy’s security blanket, and ever since he chose it as his spot in the house, he has been doing much better here.

And once he adjusted and was doing so well here, I realized that adjusting yet again to another home would be very hard on him—even harder if it again didn’t work out (and potentially deadly if the next family wasn’t as conscientious about returning him safely to C.A.T.). And he was trying so hard here, and finally succeeding.

So Airy has his happy ending, too. I adopted him in November. And although we still have our moments of hair-tearing, he is doing well in his furever home.

The box, by the way, is so absurdly small, he has to cram himself into it. Yet when I have offered bigger boxes, he’s not interested. This is his box, thankyouverymuch. It’s still sitting on the counter, months after he chose it. Having a cat-in-the-box on my kitchen counter isn’t ideal… but if this is what it takes to get him to stop fighting, use the litter boxes, and feel secure, it’s a compromise I can live with.

Prospective adopters can find our adoption applications and our available cats via C.A.T.’s website or our Facebook page.

Also, please 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 our criteria for rescuing cats and dealing with behavior issues.


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.”

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 & AchillesPoe


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.”


Last year I adopted my 3 cats, Hector, Achilles, & Poe, from the Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.).  Teenagers at the time, the lads have grown up to be very handsome adults, as you can see.

Hector 09-15-14OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto Dec 23, 4 13 50 AM

I was so impressed with the work C.A.T. was doing, and the good spirits with which they do it, that I started volunteering for the organization. This includes doing a shift or two each month at the adoption center, occasionally doing some errands, and fostering once in a while.

This weekend, 4 foster kittens rescued by C.A.T. moved in with me, and they’ll be here until they’re ready for adoption (which will be after they get spayed/neutered–probably when they 12-14 weeks old). They’re currently about 5 weeks old, too young even for vaccinations, so they’ll be here a while. Since they haven’t seen a doctor yet or been tested, they have to be kept isolated from my cats for several weeks. Hector, who is very gregarious and playful, is Not Pleased about this, as you can see. (However, health issues notwithstanding, he’s also too big to play with them until they’ve grown a little more.)

Photo Jun 29, 1 15 00 PM
These kittens have been living feral, and their mother (recently caught, vaccinated, and spayed) has clearly been taking good care for them. They seem healthy and lively, with good appetites and good temperaments. You can tell they’ve been living wild, since as soon as they hear an unfamiliar noise or feel at all threatened, they all instantly disappear into hiding places–and they’re good at hiding. They’re living in a walk-in closet for now, and I sometimes can’t find them! (I’ll expand their quarters to include my office in a few days, once they’re feeling more secure. For now, they’re more anxious than curious when I open that door, and they prefer remaining in the smaller space.) They were quite afraid of me yesterday, but are starting to relax more around me today. They’re young enough that I think they’ll soon adjust to being handled, and they have outgoing temperaments.

There are 3 girls and a boy. The boy has black paws, face, and ears, and then a gray-frosted coat over the rest of his black fur, like a silverback gorilla. He also has only a partial tail. One of his sisters has no tail at all. (This seems to be congenital in both cases; there are no signs of injury.) One of the females is a beautiful pewter gray, and the other two are black (one of these is the one with no tail). For whatever reason (maybe it’s the male’s frosted gray overcoat), they look to me like characters out of Chekov or Tolstoy or Pasternak, so I’ve given them all Russian names: Boris, Natasha, Katya, and Sonya.

If you’re interested in helping C.A.T. from afar, it’s a nonprofit charity which runs on donations (which are tax deductible), fundraising, and volunteer efforts. So please consider donating to C.A.T. or sponsoring a foster–C.A.T. was able to rescue these four kittens because a kind donor has sponsored them (sponsorship helps C.A.T. cover the medical cost of fostering; these kittens are currently taking meds for worms and diarrhea, and they will all be blood-tested, vaccinated, and spayed/neutered before being eligible for adoption).

If you’d like to follow C.A.T.’s activities, they’ve got an active Facebook page. And if you’re local to the Cincinnati area, they can always use more fosters and volunteers, if you’re interested–as well as “furever” families for their rescues, if you’re thinking of adopting!

And if you’re specifically interested in Boris, Natasha, Sonya, or Katya, let me or C.A.T. know, and fill out an adoption application. These kitties will probably be ready for adoption by late August! Meanwhile, here’s a first peak at these little rascals. (They’re dark kittens in a dark closet and constantly dashing around, so it may be a while before I post any good photos of them.)

Boris 1