At this time of the year animal shelters, rescues and rescuers are most concerned with the overabundance of kittens and unspayed mother cats who’ve turned up under every porch. It takes time to negotiate a rescue—determining the age of the kittens, if the mother is friendly or distrustful, or outright feral, if trapping is needed, if a foster home can be found for them, medical needs, bottle feeding.
With all this work rescuing litters multiple times each day not so much time is available for cats like Kennedy at the other end of the spectrum, adult or senior cats who also need to be rescued, and often with some chronic illness or end-of-life condition. These older cats aren’t as cute as kittens, or pretty as mama cats, in fact they are frequently disfigured by their illness or condition and can be so weak they can barely lift their heads. They don’t inspire heroic efforts and regularly go unnoticed in shelters; in fact, they are most often classed as “unadoptable” because of their age and condition and never make it to the adoption floor.
And yet, these are also the cats who really know what they’re missing when they are homeless. It’s commonly apparent by their behavior that they have had a home, likely a long-term home. Too often when an older person dies or needs to move from their home into a higher lever of care their cats aren’t given a chance at adoption but are put outside and shoved off. These cats are rarely young, usually unaccustomed to life outdoors. Among the rescuers I regularly associate with locally I heard of a dozen such cases last year alone, and a few where a realtor was selling a house or people bought a house where the cats expected to go inside and assumed they had actually lived there; in one case the new owners found out they had.
We’ve all seen frantic pleas to look for an elderly or ill cat that’s obviously wandered off, possibly because no one thought the cat had the strength for it and left a door open or didn’t watch going in or out, and the cat could never find its way back—it happened to me with Stanley, though I found him, but I know how easy it is to underestimate an elderly cat. But the cruelest treatment is of the cats with chronic or end-of-life illnesses who are put out, basically, to die. Kennedy, for instance has not been outdoors too long because his fur is thick and glossy and a deep rich black, and his paw pads are in good shape, yet that cataract would have been around longer than it appears he has been outside, and who knows about the mass in his chest?
And to remember Lakota and Emeraude from last year, part of the complication in finding a home for them was their age—taking them to just about any shelter, even one that has aggressive outreach and adoption policies and a good percentage of successful adoptions, would have been a death sentence.
I talked to a mother and son in his teens who would be first time pet owners at the pet fair yesterday. They were considering a cat because of their irregular schedules, but were under the impression that they needed to get a kitten for it to “bond” to them and be a lap cat, which is what everyone wants. But I had the chance to explain to them that a cat will bond with you at any age if it’s given the right conditions, and the best way to find out if a cat is a lap cat is to adopt an adult that may have spent time in a foster home where the foster family can tell you all about the cat. Most people think kittens just grow up, but while they don’t need as much training for as long as puppies, they still need guidance and discipline. And with an irregular schedule, adopting two cats who can keep each other company is best for the cats and for you because we all like someone of our own species, and two cats together keeping each other company get in less trouble than one who is lonely. And adopting a couple of adults, even older adults, would give them two cats who were really ready to just settle in. They were surprised, but they accepted the idea. I hope they do go out and adopt a couple of adult cats.
Of course, it does take a little extra knowledge and skill to take on an elderly cat or one with an illness that needs treatment, and that’s one of the reasons I’m glad to do my part with these older cats. But all of them still need rescue, care and a home, even when we are teeming with kittens.
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Update on Kennedy
By Wednesday Kennedy was doing really well—no seizures since 5:30 Tuesday afternoon (and that was the last one to date). and he was sleeping much more comfortably. He was sleeping curled and on the bath mat for the first time since he’d been here, but then he got right up. He’s much more coordinated. His right side is his weak side, but he’s standing pretty well upright on that side. (The three red dots are melted candle wax that stained the floor.)
Then he started toward the door, talking!
As the week wore on, his right side gained strength equal to his left. He is still stiff and wobbly when he first stands up, but doesn’t have a weaker side now.
I put a baby gate at the bathroom door so I could leave the door open for air circulation. He’s not happy at being stuck in there. My cats sit across the landing and stare at him and he stares back and they hiss a little, but as long as they don’t come face to face it’s okay, I’m there watching since it’s right outside my studio door, but eventually I had to put a piece of cardboard in there sine they were coming nose to nose.
He went to the vet for blood tests on Wednesday. He was a very good boy, had blood taken and was weighed—he gained just about a pound, now weighs 8.4 lb. I think, over 8 lb. anyway. I let them know about his seizures and intake and output. His blood tests came back pretty normal, not indicating any particular infection or condition, which is good, but still puzzling.
Below, he can’t figure out what I’m doing in the tub getting all wet!
The more he fills his belly the happier he is. He seemed to have turned a corner with the seizures as he got nourishment and hydration so it’s likely they were caused by dehydration. I get the feeling he’s pretty happy to be alive. Now that he’s in his right mind, he uses the litterbox like a perfect gentleman. Underneath all that, he’s a really nice cat.
I was a little concerned because Thursday he seemed lethargic compared to how he’d been before, and he wasn’t eating, I was concerned it was a setback. But he did eat a little and just rested. His eyes are looking good, and the cataracted one isn’t quite as swollen as it was. He’s also not drooling as he was, and tends to keep his food in his mouth so I don’t have to wipe his chin all the time.
Friday he was sleeping in a very relaxed curled position on the bathmat, the first time ever. He’s been lying on the floor, but he seems to just lie down wherever he is, and he hadn’t really seemed very comfortable. It could have been just weakness, or it could have been a bowel or respiration issue. The fact he chose a soft spot and is curled, with his head turned upside down, is such a good sign. The way a cat sleeps is an indicator of how they feel, so it’s always good to observe sleeping habits in this way. If they are uncomfortable, they don’t relax and sleep deeply, and this can really wear on a cat’s immunity and recovery if they are ill.
He has his face tucked up against his leg–a cat with any respiratory issues wouldn’t do this. It’s a great sign!
I had to wave the can of food around his head to make him wake up–he was so comfortable I almost didn’t want to. But he got up and ate really well.
I heard a little bit of a cough sort of sound now and then increasing from Thursday to Saturday, but I haven’t heard it at all today. He had begun sleeping in his litter box overnight too, and that can often be a sign of renal failure or abdominal discomfort because the litter is quite comfortable, conforming to your shape. But I put a box lid in the corner where the litter box had been and put the box in the tub, and he went right into the box lid under the sink and slept there all day.
I heard a noise in the bathroom and found him on top of the carrier in the tub looking at his litter box, trying to figure out what to do. It’s a little difficult to fit everything, keep the box away from his food and water, and still have a place to walk, but he seems pleased with the arrangement and has used the litter box where it is next to the tub. He slept on the tile by the door for a bit, and I slipped the fleece bed into the box. He’s back in the box now, comfortably curled.
. . . . . . .
How you can help the cats and the rescuers
These rescuers go far out of their way to get cats to safety and we all work hard to keep them healthy and find them loving forever homes through the Animal Rescue League, FosterCat, Frankie’s Friends and on our own. Obviously it takes money to do this and many rescuers pay out of their own pockets for food and veterinary care. Here are two ways you can contribute directly to helping these cats.
Our Amazon Wish List
Rescuer Margo set up this Amazon Wish List
We may have dozens of kittens in over a dozen foster homes, many of them being treated for serious infections, but we also have adults like Kennedy who need critical care. The season has only just begun. Part of the mission with TNR is to not return the kittens and any friendly cats—once we’ve rescued them we socialize them and put them up for adoption through the ARL Foster Finder program or through FosterCat or Frankie’s Friends.
Many rescuers pay out of pocket for veterinary care and food but the costs of raising even the average litter of four healthy kittens is more than many people have, and many rescues have greater needs, like the kittens in this story. If you can help with just one purchase from the kitten wish list on Amazon.com you’d make some kittens and a rescuer very happy.
Tee Shirts Show Your Support of Spaying and Neutering Your Pets
Rescuer Tarra designed this shirt and set up the sales page.
Help us raise money to spay and neuter homeless cats and control the population!!
Homeless Cat Management Team needs your help! Without donations, we simply cannot provide low-cost/free spay and neuter clinics to homeless cats in Pittsburgh and the surrounding 9 counties at the rate in which we need them to help control the cat population.
You have until the end of June to buy a shirt and support Homeless Cat Management Team. www.booster.com/
A few weeks ago I transported two cats from the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society to my house after they’d been fixed through the shelter’s TNR program. Tarra picked them up from me to hold overnight until release to their outdoor home. We noticed the pale orange cat was drooling, and overnight she noticed he wasn’t eating anything. She took him to the clinic where he was examined and found to have a fever and a mass in his throat. It was removed, not cancerous, and Martin himself has recovered fine and is quite friendly and handsome—and not going back outside. So who wants to give a nice big orange cat named Martin a good home?
And if you’d just rather buy a gift card or make a donation, I have a reward for you, below—follow the instructions to make a donation to HCMT or Frankie’s Friends and I’ll send you a gift certificate to my shop.
Can’t adopt? Foster! Can’t foster? Donate or volunteer.
There are so many ways you can help cats who need homes and care. You may not have room to adopt another cat, but can foster a cat or kitten for a few weeks. If not that, you can volunteer at a shelter or with a rescue, or donate. You do this because you love your cat, and by doing so you help all cats. No matter which of these actions you take, you help to save a life, and make life better for all cats.
- Adopt one of the cats I’ve posted here, or from any shelter or rescue near you, or from Petfinder, to open up a space for another cat to be rescued and fostered.
- Offer to foster cats or kittens for a shelter or rescue near you.
- Volunteer at a shelter or rescue.
- Find a group of volunteers who work with homeless cats and help them with their efforts.
- Donate to a shelter or rescue near you.
If you can foster kittens or adults cats to help prepare them for a forever home, please run to your nearest shelter and find a cat who needs you! Anyone can help with this effort at any level, even if all you do is donate to a shelter or rescue so they can help to pay for the food or medications needed for their foster, or the spay/neuter/veterinary care during a clinic.
Read more Essays on The Creative Cat
and also read more stories in my weekly Rescue Stories series.
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Best Cat Blog: www.TheCreativeCat.net
- Petties 2014
Read more about the Petties in this post.
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