Why We Call them “Forever Homes”

10

Mom here. The Bambinos said I could use the blog to vent my frustrations. This is going to be long, and will be typed from atop my soap box. Please note that these are my opinions only, and not those of the animal rescue group for which I volunteer.

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<RANT STARTS HERE>

As regular readers of the blog know, my husband and I (and The Bambinos) volunteer with a local animal rescue group. Our group is non-profit, dependent upon fundraisers and donations to fund “our rescue group’s activities”. Our time is not compensated. On average, we spend about two hours a day caring for our fosters. Then there are adoption events to attend, screenings I do to confirm that a potential adopter is appropriate for the pet, meds we administer, trips to and from veterinarians for medical care for the fosters, fundraising events, etc.

I would like to be clear, I am not complaining. I love getting to care for kitties while they are waiting for their forever homes. Sometimes it is stressful when the babies are sick, or won’t eat, but I love the animals. I treat them and love them like I do The Furry Bambinos.

* * *

Our rescue group’s activities are centered around the care of the animals (cats, kittens, dogs, and puppies) that we foster in our own homes. Our rescue group does not have a shelter, so space is limited by the number of animals our foster homes can safely hold. Unfortunately, our rescue group has to turn away many animals because our foster homes are full. (For example, my husband and I have six foster kittens in a 9′ by 10′ bedroom right now. Down from seven foster kittens, as one was adopted a few weeks ago.)

Our rescue group’s activities include feeding the animals in our care – and if you ever have had kittens, you know kittens grow quickly, and eat A LOT. We have coined the term “Hoover and Oreck Phase” to describe kittens between the ages of 4 months to a year. (Hoover and Oreck are brands of carpet vacuum cleaners.)

Imagine feeding six hungry kittens. They go through a lot of canned and dry food. I am a regular at PetSmart, which is where our rescue group is fortunate enough to have cage space in their adoption center. In addition, I can make tax exempt purchases at PetSmart for the pet food because our group is classified as a non-profit, and because we have filed the appropriate paperwork at a few local PetSmart stores.  The way our rescue group works is that I purchase the food, and then turn in the receipts for reimbursement.

So I make a point of patronizing PetSmart, for my own purchases, in addition to those I make for the animal rescue group. Say what you want about big box stores, and wanting to support local stores. I support local stores too. But I shop at PetSmart first, and then if they don’t have something I need, then I look elsewhere.

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Our rescue group’s activities also include getting all animals spayed or neutered before being adopted. NO EXCEPTIONS. We do not want to contribute to the problem of adorable, lovable, adoptable animals for whom there are no homes.

Unfortunately, there is a bias toward people wanting to adopt YOUNG AND CUTE rather than OLDER AND BIGGER. So that is why we, and many other rescue groups, spay or neuter kittens once they hit 2 pounds. For a healthy kitten, that occurs at about 2 months of age. I am often asked “Why do you spay/neuter them so young?” Then I have to explain the whole YOUNG AND CUTE dilemma.

In the past, our rescue group would adopt out prior to being spayed or neutered, and provide a voucher for free spay/neuter.  People weren’t using the vouchers.  So our rescue stopped that practice, and now requires that all animals are spayed or neutered prior to adoption.

I just want to cry sometimes, because there are plenty of adorable 5 month, 6 month, etc. kittens who need homes. For full-grown cats, the situation is even worse. But people have asked me at adoption events (I kid you not) “Don’t you have any SMALLER ones?” And they are referring to 6 month old kittens as TOO BIG.

* * *

Our rescue group’s activities include providing all animals with age appropriate vaccinations prior to adoption.   Plus, they receive treatment for fleas, worms, and any other medical care they need while in our care.  All of these veterinary needs are not free.  This is where most of our rescue group’s expenses are.  If you have ever taken a pet to a veterinarian, you know that charges can add up quickly, even for routine well-visit care.

* * *

Our rescue group’s activities also include TNR – Trap, Neuter, Return.  This is for feral cats and kittens. Personally, I think the term feral has been overused – when we mean “feral”, we mean “absolutely not adoptable, too wild, and too unhappy to be around humans”.  Our group has received some grant support for these surgeries.

Presently, my husband and I have two feral kittens who will be returned to their colony.  They were simply past the point of socializing into a house cat.  We got them when they were about 12 weeks old, with the hopes of “socializing”.  From what I understand, kittens need to be held by humans by the time they are about 6 weeks old, or the socialization road is a long uphill battle.

We named one of the ferals “Hidey” because she has spent most of the time in the foster room hiding.  She has “that look” of total abject terror every time we make eye contact with her.  We cannot pet her at all.  She runs away when we get “too near” her, including when we place a food dish in front of her.  She is clearly unhappy here.

* * *

When I was at our rescue group’s annual adoption event in May, I had two sick kittens with me (Niecy and Trish).  Not so much to show for adoption, but to have with me because they were sick and needed constant care.  While I was sitting on the concrete floor of the cat pavilion, and trying to bottle feed one of the kittens, a woman walked up to me and asked some questions – the usual – how old (about 4 weeks), breed (moggie/mutt kitten), adoption fee ($75 for one, $100 for two).  And then:

“What’s so special about THAT kitten that it costs $75?”

I did not answer out loud.  But I thought to myself, “You aren’t special enough for this kitten”.

* * *

Once people know that you volunteer for an animal rescue group, you get asked all sorts of questions.  Like questions about their pet’s health.  I don’t mind commiserating with friends about our pets and their medical concerns.  What I do mind is questions from anyone who thinks that my advice can replace that of a veterinarian.  I always refer people to their own veterinarian.

I and others in the rescue group get all sorts of calls and emails from people who have / know of / found an animal that needs a home.  In addition, I get all kinds of requests from people who need help “rehoming” their pet.  (This is the euphemism used when people want to get rid of their pet.)  Some of the stories are truly heartbreaking.  One person I knew was getting divorced, and had to move herself and her young children in with a family member who is allergic to cats.  Unfortunately, our group was full at the time, and I had to refer her elsewhere.

* * *

So this long preamble brings me to my main point here.

A family we know came across a stray YOUNG AND TINY kitten several months ago. They originally did not want to keep him, but the kids and the parents had fun with him while he was YOUNG AND TINY, so they decided to make him a family pet.  I had originally offered to help with placement through our rescue group, but the family decided to keep him.

Now this kitten is about 6 months old, and needs medical attention, so the family PUT HIM IN THEIR GARAGE because they don’t want him to get fleas in their house. And because he had out of litter box experiences while the family was away for THREE WEEKS.  The kitten was cared for by a neighbor during their absence.

And then the family called us – to ask if there was some way we could get him into our animal rescue foster system. The problem is, our group is full. The waiting list is closed because it is so long. The family was already told this, that there is “no room at the inn”, but called us hoping that we could pull some strings, now that they have decided that they don’t want the kitten any more.

Mind you, this is not a financial issue. Their kids go to private schools, the family vacations in Europe. This is a “we are bored with our previously cute little kitten now that he is getting bigger and needs medical care” issue.

So my husband took a deep breath, and said he would call them back after speaking with me.

My advice was to take the kitten to a vet. This kitten has not been seen by a vet EVER. Needless to say, he has not been neutered. Or gotten any shots. Or given flea treatments, or worming medications.  Or anything else he might need.

My husband called the family back and relayed the advice about taking the kitten to a vet. The family is “considering” taking the kitten to a vet, or to the local cat surrender shelter.

The family asked if they could borrow a cat carrier from us.

My husband advised purchasing an inexpensive cardboard carrier from PetSmart.

* * *

By the way, we are taking OUR CAT TO THE VET THIS AFTERNOON because he had out of litter box episodes all yesterday afternoon.

Because he deserves to be diagnosed and treated when he is sick.

Because we have chosen to make Padre a part of our family.

Forever.

Suffice it to say, Padre is not in the garage.

</RANT ENDS HERE>

Back to your regularly scheduled blog.

Comments on Why We Call them “Forever Homes” Leave a Comment

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 3:00 pm

Poor kitty I hope he finds a forever home.

Just curious why your group waits until two months to spay and neuter, my vet does it at six weeks?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 3:04 pm

Fuzzy Tales @ 3:04 pm #

(((Hugs)))

Rant away, it’s deserved.

What’s not deserved is the treatment, or lack thereof, that so many non-humans get from humans. Sometimes I wish I believed in h*ll, then I could hope that people like this rotted there for eternity.

Lots of Light (and purrs) to this cat, who definitely needs rescuing–somehow and some way–and to Padre too.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 3:32 pm
Tuesday, September 7, 2010 3:33 pm

Millie @ 3:33 pm #

I speak for both Millie and I when I say, “You Rock” and “Rant away! You have cause.” Millie was feral, hit by a car and left for dead. A kind person rescued her, where she received appropriate medical care and was spayed. After her recuperation, I gave her a “forever home.” I’ve had her four years and although she lets me pet her, I still can’t pick her up. I love her dearly, but “forever” means just that. No matter what she does, or how sick she gets, or how badly scarred I might be from convincing her to get into the cat carrier for her regular vet visits, she is mine, and that responsibility is total.

Hugs to you and your husband, pets & scritches to all the big and little cats in your very loving home.

Lynne & Millie

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 4:03 pm

Excellent post! Now, my first disclaimer – my last 4 cats were young kittens. One was 4 weeks old and had been found and left at our vets – I had no plans to get a kitten but just fell in love. Barney was abandoned there – again, not really a plan to get one but I am a sucker. After Floyd passed away I did decided to go with kittens again because adding them to our family was easiest (in my mind it would still be that way even without Floyd, our newbie ambassador). But only if they had them at the vets that needed a good home – I didn’t plan to search them out – and it did happen that our vet nurses’s daughter took in a pregnant cat who had 6 kittens, and they did need homes. I would think that a 6 month old kitten would have been fine by the way – I just happened into very young ones (4 weeks, 5 weeks and then 8 weeks). An adult would have been tough – the few times that the older cats have seen adults outside didn’t go well at all. If I could have a separate place that could just be a house for cats – that would be like a place in the yard that I could give them a good home and visit a ton without upsetting the current residents I would do just that – age wouldn’t matter.

Now, about a month after the latest kittens came in someone was peeing outside the box (on my bed!) – couldn’t tell who til I got it on video, but it was Lola. Tried to use some calming stuff thinking it was stress (she is known to be an angry pee-er, even peeing on me when I tried to take her downstairs after our new floors were put in – she didn’t want to go). Ok, that didn’t work, so off to the vets – she was chubby but the picture of health, so it was stress (she hadn’t done it with the first two newbies because of Floyd being there – I am 100% convinced of that). So do we try and “rehome” her or put her in the garage – no, that is not even something that would come to my mind. We do have her in her own “room” – my office, which is nice, comfy, and has one of her favorite spots to hang out even before the peeing. She is allowed to come out when we are home if she wants to (usually she is not interested), she gets everything the others do (food, water, litter, toys, beds, etc), even to the point where if they get a treat she gets one too, on her own separate little plate. I spend a lot of time with her, and even am thinking I will try to spend the night in there sometimes (she has a couch – the part of our old couch that she loved to sit on). I would NEVER consider getting rid of her, never ever (and of course I couldn’t do that to the kittens either because they are my babies as much as she is). To me cats aren’t property, they are family. And so she is the lucky one and gets her own room – I think the others are jealous a bit to be honest, because she has a great window view. And honestly I haven’t seen her this happy since Floyd passed away last year.

The people in your story are awful – there needs to be a list somewhere that they go on so they are never allowed to have an animal again. Same with the woman who asked why a cat was worth $75. I would gladly give up any special things for me to help out my cats and other cats too. These people don’t deserve the love of these animals, and these animals sure as heck deserve better lives than those people could/are giving. I just don’t understand people who act that way, I really don’t. It makes me so angry. Which is why this is a long, rambling comment I guess. My point is that there are some people who just shouldn’t be allowed to have pets – and you seem to have met a lot of them, and it sucks that they even exist in my opinion.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 4:18 pm

Oh, I wanted to add – we did get Floyd neutered but didn’t use the voucher from the shelter so they could keep that money for something else (I assume that they have to pay something when the voucher is redeemed or maybe they get a certain number – honeslty I don’t know how it works)- but did send them the info that he had been neutered so they knew about it. But I just paid the whole thing out of pocket because it wasn’t anywhere near as expensive as I expected it to be. Maybe some people who were getting the vouchers from your shelter were doing that and just not telling you they did the surgery. I have to hope that is the case.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 10:51 pm

A few Good Cats @ 10:51 pm #

As long as the humans (using that term in its broadest possible sense) who don’t Get It when it comes to animals, as long as they are on the outside looking in, we can tolerate their ignorance. When they come into the possession of an animal, things do not often end well.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 1:09 am

Momo @ 1:09 am #

Rant away! We think you are doing great work and some humans do not deserve pets. They are selfish and thoughtless with no trace of compassion. There is something missing in their character.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 3:31 pm

My Mommeh volunteered for about 3 years at a cat rescue shelter, and she saw all too often people adopting the little kittens and then returning them a year later when they were older and “not as cute.” The shelter also did neutering at about 2# and spaying at 3# using surgical glue rather than sutures so the female kittens could be adopted right away without needed follow up for removing the sutures.

The great thing about older cats and kittens is you know the temperament and personality already! When we adopted Harley he was 6 months old. I still do not understand why he lived at the shelter for 6 months with no one wanting to adopt him!

My Mommeh said the saddest thing was seeing the adult cats that people would “surrender” sitting in their cages, scared and confused, wondering when they will get to go back home.

Saturday, September 11, 2010 8:18 pm

Poppy Q @ 8:18 pm #

Oh my gosh, we totally agree with you about all these crazy people and their attitudes to their cats. When I adopted Poppy Q, it was like adopting a baby, one that relies on you for love, food and attention and I would no more lock her in the garage than I would a toddler.

Mum feels bad that when she was a girl, the family cat was left outside at night. Where we live has mild winters and there was a garage with boxes with blankets in it for the cat, but mum feels guilty now as she knows how much I like to snuggle next to her knees at night , especially in the winter.

Maybe the changes will take a generation or two to set in? That people feel differently about their pets now than maybe forty years ago, and that in 40 years time there will be improvements? Mum sure hopes so.

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