Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Small Victory for 2 Cats

I had to post one more time before I left for Switzerland. I received an e-mail this morning from someone I know - I thought I'd share the thread of e-mails with you:

Dear Beth, I don't know if you remember me, but my name is *** and I used to work for ***** Animal Hospital until about a year ago.A lot has happened in the year since I've been home. I've had a second baby and all is going well, except that I just don't have time anymore for my two cats. I never thought that I would be in this situation and I've tried everything to convince myself that I can take care of everyone, but I can't. They are lovely, healthy, 7-year-old brother and sister European short hair and are serously neglected. I went to cut their nails recently and noticed that on the female cat her nails were so long that they had almost curled into the pads of her feet. That was the final straw for me. I couldn't believe that I could let that happen, but I guess that I'm just so busy with everything else, it just kept getting pushed back. They are always the ones that end up getting left for the 'I'll get to it tomorrow' list.My husband recently got hired for a new job up north and we will be moving within the next couple of months and although the cats travel well and adjust very quickly to new environments, I just can't cope with the stress. My husband keeps telling me to get rid of them and I've been holding on, but it really isn't fair to them.They are very friendly, not shy with new people and adapt very quickly to new surroundings. They tolerate other animals, but generally don't get cozy with them. They would be lost without each other and I just don't know anyone who can take them. I absolutely hate having to do this, but I think it's best for them and for me.

Hi ***, Of course, I remember you. Congratulations on the birth of your new baby. I'm so disheartened to receive your e-mail. As you can imagine, I receive e-mails like yours every day but I never thought I'd receive one from someone as educated about cats as you are. If you remember, we rescue primarily from Animal Control. This time of year over 30-40 cats arrive in the shelter - EACH DAY. They're euthanizing SO MANY each week at the one shelter. The reason I'm telling you this is because if I take your cats, it means 2 others die a horrible death alone in the shelter. I moved to Canada 4 years ago from Southern California with my 3 children, 4 cats and 2 dogs. You can move a few hours with your 2 children and 2 cats. It's not really that big of a deal. Yes, having two children and moving are stressful. But cats don't require much. I can't imagine that the cats are what's stressing you. Getting rid of them won't solve your problem. I honestly think you need to reexamine what it is that's creating the stress and deal with that. If you feel the need to abandoned your cats with someone else, please consider lovingly holding them and having them put to sleep at the vets. It's cruel that you want to dump 7 year old cats. I've seen the look of sheer terror and abandonment in the eyes of middle-aged cats as they change homes over and over again. If you give them away for free, the chances are very great that they will end up as scientific research. Step up to the plate, be responsible and own up to your commitment to your pets. You're not the first parent that's been too busy to remember to trim their cat's nails. Your cats don't need a new home. They need their family.

Hi Beth,

You are absolutely right.
I am probably just stressed and sleep deprived in combination with everyone around me telling me that I don't need the added work. It makes it difficult to think straight. Your email just confirmed what I've been saying to myself all along. I guess I needed to hear it from someone who is as passionate about animals as I am.
Thank you so much for responding so quickly and giving me the kick in the pants that I needed to stop doubting myself.
I wish you all the best with the great work you do with abandoned cats and I will be keeping your email as a solid reminder to myself to always do what I know is right.
My cats and I thank you.

I'm completely blown away! I had opened that e-mail with great trepidation. Surely she was going to tell me to "F**k off". But she didn't. Could it be that my experience with motherhood, pets and moving really helped somebody CHOOSE to keep their cats?
It's a small victory for 2 little cats that didn't know how close they came to losing their home.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Just For Today...

With rescue, some days are harder than others and you begin to wonder if you're making a difference. This morning I gave some encouragement to a volunteer who was wondering if we were REALLY making a difference.

I found myself telling her that today is April 23rd, and the shelter is only euthanizing cats TWO days per week instead of the usual THREE days per week. Unless I've missed something, I've never known the shelter to have their "vet days" 2 days per week. But they've been doing it for some time now.

When I was at the shelter yesterday to rescue some cats, I was told that they had to euthanize 10 cats that morning. All of these cats were either totally feral (wild & unadoptable) or very very ill. Again - this is the end of April when things are becoming VERY busy and only 10 cats lost their lives yesterday - and these are cats that were wild or very sick. I'm sad to say that I can live with that.

I had great news when I heard that another rescue had rescued 4 of the "chinese cats". These are the cats that I wrote about in another post. They are terribly overweight - probably 25 lbs each. I agonized over those cute cats. I wanted so badly to rescue them but had NO clue where to put them. But 'lo and behold another rescue took them! I'm over the moon about this news!! The guilt was overwhelming and I'm so happy that they're safe.
Not too long ago, those cats would've been euthanized and had no or little hope for rescue.

While I was at the shelter, I notice that there were FAR less kittens and pregnant Moms than there has been at the end of April in previous years. Could it be more people are spaying, neutering and keeping their cats inside? I'd like to think so. I know kitten season isn't in FULL swing yet, but I'm damn happy that things are pretty slow in that regard.

I'm leaving for Switzerland tomorrow and will take these happy thoughts with me until I'm back next week. I'll stick my fingers in my ears and hum "lalalalalala" on any negative news until my plane takes off tomorrow. I'm going on holidays with the hope that things are getting better and it's not my imagination.

Just for today, I'm going to think we're making a difference. Tomorrow might be a different story.
(Update from the shelter tonight April 23rd 7:30 pm: 20-25 cats PER DAY are coming into the shelter. Looks like I posted too early. *sigh*)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Adoptathons and Me

"Adoptathons." Just saying the word makes me tired. I wanted to write about the adoption event we had yesterday, but I was just too exhausted to even sit at my computer! I have a great appreciation for people who work on their feet all day. I have a deep respect for people who are forced to smile all day and look excited and happy on their jobs. God knows, when I come home from adoption events my face hurts from smiling.

Sound like I'm complaining, eh? I'm really not. I look forward to adoptathons about as much as I look forward to doing anything. These events are filled with the rescue's volunteers and I'm surrounded by people who love these cats as much as I do. The dedication that the volunteers have to show up at adoptathons is really inspiring. The majority of our volunteers work all week, and for them to come out on a Saturday at a local pet store is a beautiful thing.

"Just Showing Up" is only part of it. There is another group of volunteers that set up for these events. Talk about a "thankless job"! When I first started with the rescue, we used old beat up cages that were donated. Now we use beautiful, matching cages - we have seasonal decorations on the cages too! One of our volunteers even makes up "grab bags" for adopters to choose a toy or something special that they can take home with their newly adopted baby. I feel so proud when prospective adopters come to these events and look so impressed with our organization. My name might "be on the door", but I can't take any credit for how spectacular these adoptathons turn out.

I love talking with the people that come to adoptathons to meet the cats. Some folks show up to actually adopt - others come to heal their hearts and tell stories of cats they have recently lost to cancer, or ? Many tear up and their lips tremble as they tell the story of their beloved cat that has passed away. They know that we will understand. I always give these hurting people a hug. They need it. Nobody else understands their loss - but we do.

The worst part of the day is cleaning up and taking down the cages. Holy crap...if I'm not tired already, this usually puts me over the edge. It never fails that really good adopters show up as we're trying to leave. This is when I'm starting to get cranky. I'm sweaty, I smell bad, my feet hurt, and I have cat hair stuck to my lipstick. By 3 pm, my husband David has called and says in a chipper voice, "Hey! Let's go to the movies tonight!" about going to Blockbuster - that sounds MUCH more romantic. (riiiight.)

Nine cats went to their forever homes on Saturday. It was a good day. Nine cats that didn't have a home on Friday, now have a place to be forever and ever on Saturday. I always tell the cats that didn't get adopted that their time will come - that "special person" is out there for them too. While my husband and I are watching some "guy movie" he rented on Blockbuster, I sit and worry about the ones that were adopted.

The best part is.....I get to go to the shelter and rescue 9 more cats that don't have a home tonight. Hang in there guys...we'll find you a home too.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tossed Out With the Garbage

I received a phone call yesterday from a young woman who has a neighbour that has a female cat who is constantly pregnant and delivering kittens. When the kittens are 8 weeks old, she puts them outside to fend for themselves and waits for the next batch to arrive 63 days later.

This kind of thing blows my mind. How can ANYONE throw out kittens? Even if you don't like cats, there are animal shelters to take them. Needless to say, the young woman (Robin) asked me to help her with the next batch of 4 kittens that were about to be tossed out. Sure. I can help. There's always room for 4 kittens.

Robin arrived at my house with her sister Laura. What lovely young women! In their crate were 4 six week old kittens. Holy Moly - the cutest little angels I've seen in a long time! I was really expecting them to be malnourished and flea bitten, but they weren't. They were healthy, but obviously had never been held or loved. Their new foster Mom, Connie picked them up this morning. They'll be loved and won't have to worry about becoming raccoon food. They're the lucky ones.

I asked Robin and Laura to give that woman my phone number. I'll pay to have her cat spayed. It's going to be TOUGH for me to do this woman a favour, but I'm going to do it for the cat - not for her. I'm actually hoping she'll give me the poor Mom cat too.
I hope she calls me. It's going to be hard to be nice.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Nobody can say that I don't live an exciting life. I had the honour of taking a VERY hard to adopt (or foster) senior cat to meet his new family today! "Salem" is a 12 year old cantankerous black siamese guy that was an unhappy camper in his original foster home. He's been living at our vet's office for the past 2 months and we truly thought he'd NEVER leave the place. Even our vet was growing very attached to the old grump. Salem sat out on his front desk and grumpily greeted the already terrorized patients. Seriously, that cat didn't take any shit crap from anybody!

I arrived at our vet clinic this morning to pick up Salem. I think Dr. S was a little sad to see him go. As usual, Salem was hanging out on the front counter. He really panicked when I put him in the carrier. I felt so badly and tried to reassure him in my usual high pitched "happy voice" that he was going to his new home.

We headed down the highway with Salem making those LOUD siamese yeoooowls. I turned on my CD of Michael Buble` which calms ANY anxious cat. (I wonder if I should e-mail Michael and tell him I use his music to calm anxious cats?) Sure enough, within a few minutes Salem was quiet. Then....

Yes....sure enough...Salem had pooped in his crate. No problemo! Experienced cat rescuers are prepared...unless the "experienced cat rescuer" is in a rental car that day and didn't have her usual "de-pooping" equipment with her. *UGH* Fortunately, we were meeting at a Tim Horton's so I knew I'd have a few extra moments to clean out the crate before they arrived.

I'm about 2 blocks from our meeting spot when a car pulls out in front of me. I slam on the brakes so hard that Salem's crate goes tumbling over in the backseat. (No, he wasn't seat belted!!! *grimace*) I looked around the backseat and saw my beautiful black boy COVERED in poop. It was in his was in his was squishing out the air vents of his crate. Seriously - if this was nuclear, we would be Chernobyl.

I always try so hard to make a good impression on people. The lovely couple who commited to Salem are in their 70's and SO excited to get their new cat. I dash into Tim Hortons and grab 100 napkins and wet them down in the bathroom. I held my breath, opened the crate and proceed to clean him and the crate. Honestly - I didn't know what to clean first - the cat or the crate! I had to go into the restaurant 5 more times before he was even remotely clean. I washed my hands just in time to meet the very happy couple. They weren't even remotely phased by the poop or the stench. They were completely thrilled with their new boy! They both made "baby talk" and sweet words about a warm bath when they got home.
It wasn't until after they left that I realized I had poop all down the front of my leather jacket and stuck to my watch and bracelet. It doesn't matter really. When Jim called me tonight they told me Salem was asleep in his wife's lap. They love him and this grumpy feline gets another chance at a wonderful life. I love days like this.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Four Lucky Kittens

I need to stop reading the listings on Craigslist. I've become one of those manic anonymous screamers that blast people who want to rehome their cats for stupid reasons. Today was a little different...

There was a post this morning from an outraged citizen who went into a petstore in the north end of the city and found kittens who were being neglected. No She even posted the name and address of the place and begged somebody to help them. C'mon. Let SPCA do something. Don't call me.

But I was bothered by the post. I sipped my coffee this morning and kept reading the post over and over. I "mapquested" the address of the place and realized it was only 40 minutes from me. But it was - it was *pouring* this morning. It was dark outside and my coffee was tasting SO good. I had planned on staying home and doing administrative crap for the rescue. I sent the link to D- and asked for her thoughts. I should've known better. I've known D- long enough to know she'd say to go get the babies.

I threw on some old clothes, put my coffee in the travel mug, and put a cat crate in my car and drove to the north end of the city. was a nasty area. When I got to the pet store, a Himalayan cat with a collar greeted me. I made kissy noises at him and reached down to give him a pat. He tried to look up at me, but had pus seeping from his swollen eyes. God. What did I get myself into? I asked the store owner if he had any kittens, and he pointed towards the back of the store. I'll never forget what I saw...

There were 4 kittens sitting in a gerbil cage. They had NO food. NO water. NO litterbox and were sitting in their own feces and urine. They were very very thin. There were two tabbies, a little orange guy, and a fluffy grey kitten. I'm guessing they were 4 weeks old at best. Who took these sweet angels away from their Mom? Is it so hard to give them food and water?

It can be argued that I should have called SPCA immediately. My fear was that they wouldn't come out on time to save these kittens. So I took pictures with my cell phone camera and prayed that there was enough evidence with the Himalayan, guinea pigs and birds to get some action from the SPCA.

The owner told me the kittens were $39.99 per kitten. I told him that I would take all 4 kittens. He didn't even look that surprised. He didn't ask me if I would love the kittens forever. He didn't ask me if I would declaw them, or let them outside. He just rang up the bill and grabbed them by the scruff of their necks and put them in my carrier. Yes, I *bought* the kittens. I asked to buy the Himalayan too, but he wouldn't let me take him.

I took them to the vets where the vet proclaimed them to be underweight, (no surprise there) but in OK condition. D- is going to foster them (again - no surprise there!) and give them lots of TLC and good nutrition. They'll look like happy, wonderful babies in no time at all.

I'm sitting here tonight knowing that because I took these kittens, there may not have been enough evidence when the SPCA did show up. I'm hoping that the pictures I took will help the case against him. Maybe I won this battle, but I'm scared to death I lost the war.

Wait until David gets the VISA bill for the kittens...(*wince*)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Nobody Told Me

When I became the Director for the rescue 4 years ago, there was so much to know and learn. Some of it was common sense. Other stuff...well...

Nobody told me....that I wouldn't be working with the cats. This is a people job. Volunteers, foster parents, adopters, jerks people who wanted to surrender their cats, etc. I'm not complaining about working with people. I'm probably one of the few people in cat rescue who really LIKE people. I believe that most people have good hearts and try to do the right thing.

Nobody told me... that words like "Poop", "Vomit", "Pee", "Urine", "Blood", "Anus", "Euthanize", "Discharge", and "Diarrhea" would become part of my common vocabulary. Enough said on that topic. You get the picture.

Nobody told me... that this was a SALES job. Of course, we're not selling cats. They are for adoption. But I'm still required to use descriptions, and care for these cats that make them adoptable. It hurts like hell to not take a cat from the shelter because the poor thing isn't adoptable.
I'm selling potential foster parent on the idea to give their home and heart for a cat that needs them. I'm selling volunteers on the idea to give their time, money and energy to help the rescue.

Nobody told me.... that I would consider selling my Mercedes Benz for a gas efficient hybrid because I drive so much. The inside of my car is filled with empty cat crates, foster lists, blank adoption agreements, and Tim Horton cups. There is cat hair stuck to the carpet of my car from it blowing out of crates from frightened cats from the shelter.

Nobody told me.... that I would be required to hold my tongue. God, there's so much I want to say to stupid people. We had an EX-foster home that adopted one of our cats and promptly had him declawed despite the fact that it's against our policy.
The number of people that call me daily that want to surrender their "beloved" cat drives me insane most days. Are you REALLY allergic?
I decided a while ago that it doesn't do anyone any good for me to *blast* stupid people. It just gets my blood pressure up and it doesn't change anything. Stupid is, as stupid does. Some days I worry that I'm getting numb to it all.

Nobody told me... that I'd be choosing outfits to wear each morning based on the colour of the cat hair, or if it easily snags. Lord help me if I wear a black shirt to an adoptathon.

Nobody told me... that I can't save the world. The cats just keep coming into the shelter. The phone calls from stupid people keep coming. But I can make a difference in the ONE cat that I save. I can make a difference in the life of the person that adopts that ONE cat.

Most importantly - Nobody told me how much I would love this job. I've never stayed with any job - volunteer or otherwise this long. Each morning, I brush off the dust of the previous day and am hopeful that THIS is the day that the vet at the shelter says there's nobody to euthanize. THIS is the day that people will be responsible with their pets.
THIS is the day that somebody leaves the rescue a million dollars.
Until this happens, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing. Because there are kittens at the shelter like little Snapple that need us. Damn the people that hurt this little baby.
Maybe this is the day I won't hold my tongue.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Taking My Own Advice...

I give great inspirational advice to our foster homes on how to let your foster cat be adopted. It's a shame I can't seem to take my own advice.

My beloved "Bandit" was adopted last night. I was really grateful that the couple that called about him showed up within 2 hours of their call. I didn't have time to get sentimental or apprehensive about it. I went into "Business Mode" and wouldn't even look at Bandit for the two hours before they arrived. I knew I'd cry if I spent any time with him. God, I'm a coward.

The couple showed up 10 minutes early (I love that!) and they were absolutely wonderful. The first time anyone visited Bandit he bit them, so I was a little worried that after all the hoopla about how wonderful, affectionate and sweet Mr. Bandit is, he'd end up biting them too. But my fears didn't come into fruition.

Bandit was "Mr. Charming". They say "Cats choose their owners." If that's true, that's exactly what happened here. Kim & Dave sat on my sofa and Bandit wouldn't leave them alone. He sat on Kim's lap first - rubbing, purring, licking her face. She was in love. Then Bandit went to Dave - he did the same thing to Dave and promptly laid down between them and listened to us talk about him. When the time came for the cat crate to come out, my stomach was in knots. "The Moment I Dread" - The moment your foster cat looks at you with "What did I do wrong?" look and I usually start to cry. Dave & Kim opened the door to the crate and signaled him to go in. Silly people. A cat *willingly* go into a crate? Psshaw! But Bandit did. He not only walked into the crate, but he turned around and sat down!

I didn't cry when Bandit left. Bandit was ready to go. They had been chosen. Because I'm such a sap, I called them 2 hours later to see if "Bandit had settled in". Dave laughed and said, "Listen to this..." and all I could hear was the familiar purrr coming through the phone. Bandit was home. Dave said that Bandit had explored the whole house and was sitting with them and watching t.v.. Yep. That's my Band-a-rooooo. :)

I've been missing Bandit tonight. There was one less cat to feed today. I actually was able to use the bathroom by myself for a change without having a little black and white paw sticking under the door.
Time to go back to the shelter on Monday. There's going to be another cat in a cage, sitting on a wet piece of newspaper (because he spilled his water dish) that's going to need a temporary place to call "Home". (and I know just the place!)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What's in a Name?

First, let me say that I didn't name my foster cat "SpongeBob". I've tried and tried to come up with another name that fits this dapper black cat, but I keep coming back to the name SpongeBob. I've tried calling out to him, "Here Ralph!" or "Here Denzel!" No. I think his name really is SpongeBob. I may have created an all new name low despite my best efforts.

The first time I experienced a problem with naming a cat was 4 years ago. We had a darling little senior cat in our program that we named "Gypsy". It fit her! Then I got an e-mail from one of our sweet foster Dads who is from Romania. He was angry: "Beth. Did you know that the word "Gypsy" in Romania is like the "N" word here?" Good Gravey Moses! I did NOT! I'm just a little Southern California girl. I've never even met anyone from Romania much less a gypsy!! I changed her name right away. Last thing anyone can call me is "not politically correct." *shiver*

We have another amazing foster Mom that always comes up with really bizarre (albeit VERY amusing) names for her foster cats. They're always a perfect fit for her cats. It's always exciting to see what names she'll come up with next.

At the shelter right now are 4 cats that came from a Chinese home. They each have two-letter names: Er, Wi, Eu,...or something like that. The poor things look scared to death - they are obviously not cats that speak English. (Didn't think of that, did ya?) I mean - those ARE their names! So if I rescue these cats, I can't change their names. That's the only thing they have left in their lives - their names! I just have to find somebody that speaks Chinese to tell me how to pronounce the damn names.

Not too long ago we had an adorable young cat named "Turkey". I was speechless. Who would adopt a cat named "Turkey"? I even offended the foster Mom by saying something in Turkey's bio like, "This is the worst name in history for the world's cutest cat." (I think I was trying to make excuses. ) Boy...was I *WRONG* about that name. Not only was Turkey adopted quickly, but we had multiple people wanting him! In fact, I think the adopters kept the name Turkey! (yes, I apologized to the foster Mom!)

What is it about naming cats that becomes so personal for us? Our rescue has seen over 2000 cats come through our doors, and each one needs an identity. I haven't reached the point where I can just pull a name out of my hat. It has to be individual and personal for the personality of the cat. Sometimes I can't name a cat a certain name because it reminds me of a cat that died and it still hurts. It's like in sports when they retire an athletes number.

Yes, names are important. But not for the reasons I used to think. The name has nothing to do with the adoptability of the cat. It's what makes them *ours*. If cats like "MiniToes", "Conky", "Blackberry" and "Brad Pitt" can get adopted....well... SpongeBob, your luck might be changing.
UPDATE: SpongeBob was adopted on April 5th to a lovely lady who is going to keep his name! Go figure! Have a wonderful life, Spongy!