Meet Rocky and Balboa, the two brothers in question. My photos of them are a little blurry because the light was dim, but this is just how they are, Rocky is busy and ready to go and do something, Balboa is chill and just wants to stay put.
Through December I followed a post on Nextdoor about two kittens who were living outdoors and needed a home. It turned out the “kittens” were really “cattens”, near a year old, but their caretaker had known them since they were kittens and they still seemed like kittens to her. She had taken them in months ago, but her two children seemed to have an allergic reaction to them. She wanted to keep them and decided to give them a place on her porch, and there they’ve stayed since then, two brother cats happy with their home.
When the first really cold weather and snow came, however, she was concerned for them and posted about them looking for someone to adopt or foster them, just so they’d be indoors and out of the cold. Many people, including me, suggested rescues and shelters, ways to care for them indoors for the winter, and another rescue took insulated cat shelters over to her. Some people were interested in adopting but didn’t follow through. When I saw others from rescues offer space when they had it, I messaged them so we could all work together. One of the delicate balances of working this way is that we all need to be very careful with people who adopt cats, and hope they’d sincerely want these two cats. Christmas was approaching and they might be interested in Christmas kittens, but not thinking of the long-term of owning cats. The last thing we’d want is for them to be abandoned somehow, and this does happen as we find when we have the chance to trace abandoned cats around our neighborhood who come to our feeding stations.
Just before Christmas we had more cold weather, and colder weather with snow was forecast and their caretaker asked again. I messaged Margo to let her know I was following this and if there was anything we could do for them I’d take care of it. A few days later she mentioned that Beaver County Humane Society would eventually have space for them if they were socialized enough to be adopted. I’ve surrendered cats to them in the past, and also helped others do the same, like Blue and a certain Fluffy Orange Kitty.
I went over with a carrier for her to use for them so they could get used to it, and some foods and treats and catnip toys that might help lure them in if they were reluctant; she had mentioned the one brother was timid and kind of scared of people. When I got there I saw one cat in a big box who immediately came out to greet me and was very entertaining, but no sign of the other cat.
I could see he was not a kitten but between 10 and 12 months old, and had a neat set of fuzzy dice under the tail. The porch had everything cats could want: cat tree, cat scratchers, lots of food and water, beds, and the porch itself was a solid concrete with brick sides and a big roof. They could live well there, and apparently had been nearly all year. I could see that this cat was very healthy and a good weight, soft fur, clear eyes, very social, and presumed the timid brother was the same. They had been well cared for and loved.
Then came the wait until they could be surrendered, but several of us continued looking for a foster or an adopter. Just before the snowstorm arrived on Christmas Eve, someone from another neighborhood offered to foster them. She had a basement room and though she had four cats and three dogs she just couldn’t see the two cats living out in the weather that was to come. I messaged her about the offer from BCHS and asked if she’d mind holding them for a while knowing that would be available. She said that would be fine. Her basement was a finished living area, and they were already comfortable. The other brother was a gray tabby who was actually very cuddly and affectionate. I was especially happy to hear that because if he had been too timid he would need time for socialization and BCHS might not be able to take him. I guessed he was just a little scared outside but felt more secure indoors.
Margo messaged over the weekend that BCHS could take them on Monday, so yesterday I went to the foster’s house to get them. They were lazing on the couch when I got there, and were completely fine with me coming in. Rocky got up before I could get a photo of them together because he had things to do, and Balboa stayed on the couch, relaxed. We played with them and I got photos, and she told me how sweet they were. She let her three dogs into the room and the two were fine, then one of her cats came in and they were fine with that too, and they’d been fine with the grandchildren as well. They sound about as ready for adoption as any two cats will ever be! And it was very nice to meet the woman who offered to foster them, and her rescued cats and dogs.
I drove them out to BCHS and told them all about the two and handed them over; I had forgotten the process was different to with COVID and I didn’t get to go into the shelter with them. I’m glad I got some photos at their foster’s house! They’ll be neutered and vaccinated and microchipped and will be up for adoption soon, and we hope they’ll be adopted together.
Helping cats this way
Rescue isn’t always dramatic and involving traps and late night runs to a veterinarian. Sometimes it’s everyone pitching in to do what they can, and little by little it’s taken care of. One person questioned on the post that several people had offered help and yet the cats were still where they were. I answered that in part to let people know that we were working for them but a good bit of it happens in private messages behind the scenes because it involved private information like addresses and phone numbers, and that the process often takes time.
“For those of you who are wondering why the cats are still with [their caretaker], she has responded to offers of help and several of us are helping her provide food and shelter and working on foster/adoption possibilities. Anyone who has actually offered to take them has not responded back to her yet. They are actually ‘in line’ to get into two shelters and three rescues when room opens up. That happens when other cats are adopted.
“If there was room in any shelter or rescue, they would be fostered there right now, but there is not. And when I say there is not, that means that everyone is at their safe limit for caring for the animals in their shelter or foster home, some people fostering a dozen or more who have already come in. For instance, I have 10 cats here and I don’t have room for one more to safely enter my home without risk of interacting with my other cats. When these two come into foster, they need to be completely quarantined from all other cats until they have seen a veterinarian and had all their initial vaccines to prevent the possibility of spreading contagious diseases. The best we can do sometimes is to help them shelter in place.
“These two kittens are at least 10 months old and have a good layer of body fat, and appear completely healthy. With the shelters provided and the food, and on a very sheltered porch, they will be safe. Many feral cats are also living outdoors in this weather, and have weathered many winters with the care of their caretakers.
“These are not the only cats waiting for their chance at a foster home. All of us in rescue are doing our best, as we do every winter at this time.
So get to know the shelters and rescues in your area. Get to know where they are, who they are and their policies, and send along a donation now and then, maybe even volunteer. And when cats come along like Rocky and Balboa you’ll be able to offer some real help to people who ask, and to cats in need.
Help HCMT, Pittsburgh C.A.T. and the Beaver County Humane Society!
If not for HCMT and Pittsburgh C.A.T. and their relationship with BCHS, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get these two in this quickly. And if not for BCHS, they would be indoors but waiting, and they would need to be neutered and vaccinated during that time, which would cost someone some money. If you can, send a donation along to one of these three for supporting rescuers like me in helping cats along from the outdoors to the indoors.
Homeless Cat Management Team: www.homelesscat.org
Pittsburgh C.A.T.: facebook.com/pittsburghcat
Beaver County Humane Society: www.beavercountyhumanesociety.org
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters Tuesday: Rescue Stories Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork Thursday: New Merchandise Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!