Why We Call them “Forever Homes”
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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”.
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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.
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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.
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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.
Suffice it to say, Padre is not in the garage.
</RANT ENDS HERE>
Back to your regularly scheduled blog.