It’s tough enough to find homes for the cats we already have at the shelter but when kitten season comes around, we’re inundated with more of these babies. We do what we can to socialize the new ones as they come in so they’re ready to interact with other cats and with people. It’s good for us as animal lovers to bring a skittish kitten around but it’s even better for them because a happy cat is usually a cat who will be adopted.
Thing is, as a shelter, we can’t always control how the cats come to us. Some are from various neighborhoods and we’re called in to help trap, neuter and release. Sometimes, the ones we trap and neuter are so friendly or docile we simply can’t release them again and try to find adoptive parents for them. It’s a great feeling to know you’ve rescued a cat off the street and have found it a safe and loving home.
What’s not such a great feeling is finding animals dumped at our door.
Sure, people mean well. They think the cats they dump will be better off with us – and maybe they will. But it costs money to house and care for these cats. If someone wants to rescue a cat and decides to leave it with us, I wish they’d mail us a donation check, too. Instead, we’re left with the tab. As a shelter that gets it funds solely from donations, paying surprise bills like this is not the easiest thing to do.
Take this past Monday night… I’m driving to the shelter and I get a call from my co-volunteer. She’s scared. There’s a cardboard box precariously placed mid-way down the stairs to the shelter. It’s wrapped and wrapped with black electrical tape and the only ‘air holes’ are handle cutouts in the cardboard. There’s no sound from the box and no movement. There’s no indication of how long that box has been there. Hours, perhaps, in 78 degree weather? Imagine being alone and sealed in a box for hours.
I get there moments later, tear the tape from the box and peer inside. Two wide and frightened eyes stared up at me from way in the corner behind a small mound of ‘bedding’ (towels). It’s a kitten. A tiny calico, silent as can be.
That tiny seven-week-old calico, who we’ve named Lady and I call Lady Di, cost us an easy $100.00 right out of the box. Literally. She needed a flea bath, flea treatments, a fecal to test for worms, blood work to test for fatal and contagious diseases, and an overall exam. We want our kitties healthy. Now we have to house and feed her until she’s adopted and if that doesn’t happen before she’s 6 months old, we’re dolling out dough to pay for her to be spayed.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s what a shelter is for. But please, if you think a cat will be better off at a shelter and decide to leave that animal at the shelter door, be sure the animal is safe AND include a note stating your intention to send a donation… and then follow through.
Meanwhile, Lady Di is at my house being socialized. She’s still scared and hiding and my cats are not giving her an easy time of it, either. She’ll learn to hold her own and she’ll learn to play and trust. My job is to teach her while keeping her safe, fed, clean and secure.
I just hope I’m able to give her up when our ‘training’ period is over. She’s a precious little thing and easily wormed her way into our hearts. Take a look at her and tell me if she doesn’t do the same for you.
I volunteer at an animal shelter. It’s rewarding work but often sad as well.
We’re a no-kill cat shelter. On the surface, that sounds wonderful, and it is. We don’t kill cats that have been there “too long” in order to make room for new cats. However, what that means is we become filled to capacity quickly – and often. If our older cats are not adopted, and sadly, most people choose kittens over adult cats, then they remain with us until they live out their natural lives, never to have a loving family of their own. That severely limits our ability to rescue new cats or kittens and get them into loving homes.
This is kitten season. Kittens arrive at the shelter en masse now and while MOST of them will find homes, the young mothers of these kittens will be returned from whence they came. Yes, they’ve been spayed, so they will not repopulate the area, but they’re out there on their own again, having to fend for themselves. Why? Because we haven’t the room to house them.
The most humane way to treat the cat overpopulation problem is with a relatively simple thing called “TNR”, or trap-neuter-return. Strays are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, allowed to heal, then returned to their community. Sadly, some of the trapped cats were once family pets but have since been abandoned for various reasons – some of which you cannot imagine. They’re friendly and innocent and have only survived the ‘wild’ because of luck. They need homes. They need to feel and be safe again. Unless the cat population is controlled by the practice of TNR, too many of these sweet things will continue to reproduce and add yet more strain on an already strained system – where too many shelters filled to capacity will destroy the animals they hold or be so overwhelmed they’ll unwittingly lose sight of the reason they’re volunteering there in the first place. To rescue animals and to find them safe and loving homes where they can give (and receive) affection only those privy to a cat’s world will ever fully appreciate.
Trap-neuter-return. A solution to so many problems.
And on a personal note – Bonita, you sweet beautiful thing, you will be missed by all of us, human and feline alike.