Guest Post: A 21-Year-Old Cat is Found!

She was 21-years-old and lost!

Sage became part of the family when Megan was just three. They literally grew up together. She was there to see Megan walk out the door for the first day of kindergarten, when Megan came home from her first date and when Megan headed out into the adult world.

Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

Then the unthinkable happened. Seven months ago, Sage was lost during a move.

Nearly 21-years-old, she had the thin appearance of a very old cat in declining health. Megan looked for her, but she had literally vanished.

Losing a loved one is hard, and the hardest part about losing Sage was not knowing what happened, so Megan concluded that a coyote had snatched her while she was lost in the woods. It was hard to think about, but one can’t begin to heal from a loss until one acknowledges it. Believing her to be gone forever was less painful than dealing with the unknown.

Sage’s family thought she was gone, but the opposite was true. Last May, 14-year-old Daynika found the emaciated tortoiseshell and took her home knowing that her mom would have some ideas on how to help her.

There were allergies in the family, so Daynika couldn’t keep her, but her mom asked her friend Shannen to foster her. In the meantime, Daynika posted flyers, checked for a microchip and listed her on the local Lost Cat Facebook page.

Because Sage was only four pounds, Daynika posted her as a found kitten. How could an adult cat be so tiny? Sadly, Megan didn’t see the flyers. In addition, because she believed Sage to be gone forever, she wasn’t looking on Facebook for her.

Enter the next person in Sage’s tale. A Community Cats Coalition volunteer named Lisa saw the post about the emaciated kitten and offered to help. Dehydrated and underweight, Sage received her fluids and told Shannen to contact her if she needed anything else.

After caring for Sage for a month and not finding her home, Shannen took Sage to a local no-kill shelter. under the assumption Sage would be safe there. But the shelter called Shannen to say that Sage was going to be put to sleep if a foster home wasn’t found by the next day.

Lisa and Sage, Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Lisa and Sage, Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

Shannen didn’t realize that a shelter can be considered no-kill if healthy, adoptable cats aren’t euthanized. While Sage looked to be a kitten with her small frame, the shelter recognized that she was an old cat. Old cats, sick cats, shy cats, and scared cats are considered unadoptable in many shelters. Sage’s time was up.

Shannen contacted Lisa, who felt sick upon hearing the news. After only a few minutes of thought, Lisa changed her schedule to pick up Sage and, once again, the elderly cat was safe.

But Sage had obvious health issues, so Lisa took her to the vet. $550 later, it was determined that Sage was a very old cat with hearing loss, arthritis, hyperthyroidism, and Irritable Bowel Disorder.

Some people would have quit at this point, but instead the volunteer took her home and set up a spare bedroom with a heated bed, nutritious food, and toys. Daily medications, special food, Vitamin B12 shots and lots of love changed Sage. She jumped from four pounds to seven pounds.

Sage did not like the other cats in the Lisa’s home. Wanting something better than a spare-bedroom existence for her, Lisa posted her for adoption. Months passed and nobody wanted her.

Megan and Sage, Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Megan and Sage, Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

Then the miracle. Megan, the girl Sage grew up with, was ready to get another cat. She wanted to rescue an old cat in honor of Sage, the cat she had lost. Looking on Craigslist, she saw a post for a senior cat and clicked it open. Maybe she would adopt this cat. But wait, this cat looked like her Sage! Could it be? She pulled out childhood photos and matched every patch of orange and black and tan. It was her! She quickly contacted Lisa and sent photos. As Lisa matched the markings and heard the story of when and where she was hopeful that Megan was the owner. When Megan came to visit and Sage recognized her immediately, it was obvious that this was her cat.

We love the miracle of Sage’s story and are so thankful for those who helped her on her journey home. For Dr. Gawley who provided wonderful vet care. And for Lisa who literally saved Sage’s life, fostered her for over six months, and continued to post on Craigslist long after others would have given up.

For everyone out there who has lost a cat, don’t give up. Miracles happen and they do come home. Welcome home Sage!

Reprinted with permission from Nancy Wahl, Community Cats Coalition. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced. Copyright January 5, 2016.

The mission of Community Cats Coalition, located in the Pacific Northwest, is to enhance the lives of community cats by promoting spay and neuter and providing training and mentorship in Trap-Neuter-Return. Education is their number one goal and to that end it publishes a variety of posts on Facebook related to community cats. A Best of Facebook can be found at the CCC website.

Guest Post: A Lost Blind Cat is Found!

She’s blind and she’s lost outside. Is there hope?

Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

Buggie is a beautiful little ticked tabby cat who slowly lost her vision, and a year ago had to have both eyes removed for a chronic eye condition. She lives with her mom and dad, the dogs, and a bottle baby she helped raise in a very small home. Like most blind cats, she has adapted well to her environment and knows

Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

her surroundings but, obviously, she does not go outside.

So it was with a sense of horror that Bruce and Karen realized she somehow slipped outside without them knowing it! Buggie is very social with her humans, loves her baby Ebony, and the family dogs, but now she was outside in total foreign territory.

What would YOU do? Obviously, Bruce and Karen looked for her, called for her, searched the immediate area. They went on to post her story on the Lost Cats of Snohomish County site and ask for help. They got advice and followed so many tips: Put out items that smell like home, traps with stinky food, cat litter, talk to neighbors, post/pass out flyers, place a baby monitor outside to watch the area and be able to talk from inside!

A week passed; the next step was hiring a pet detective. Because money was tight they had to sell personal items first. Happily, before that step was taken, Buggie came home!

What was the trick that worked? Karen credits the idea given to her of recording the crying sounds of the kitten she loves with bringing Buggie home. “I know that’s what brought Buggie home,” Karen said. “She HATES it when Ebony cries!” By recording that cry and having it play outside, in the area with all the familiar smells and other sounds, Buggie was drawn back to her home.

But no one trick can be counted on to work. It’s perseverance and the willingness to keep trying that brought Buggie home. Our thanks to Karen and Bruce for not giving up!

Please remember, if you’ve a lost cat, take action immediately. Get a trap asap because that is your best chance of a fast recovery. (There are traps available for loan from many shelters and rescues. The majority do NOT charge a fee, but will simply ask for a refundable deposit) Talk to ALL the people in the neighborhood. Make a flyer and take door to door, because handing out flyersis much more effective than posting on a pole–but do that too! The most critical part is don’t give up.

Welcome home, Buggie! You made our day.

Reprinted with permission from Nancy Wahl, Community Cats Coalition. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced. Copyright March 11, 2015.

The mission of Community Cats Coalition, located in the Pacific Northwest, is to enhance the lives of community cats by promoting spay and neuter and providing training and mentorship in Trap-Neuter-Return. Education is their number one goal and to that end it publishes a variety of posts on Facebook related to community cats. A Best of Facebook can be found at the CCC website.

Guest Post: Why Your Lost Cat Might not be at the Shelter

Stacy lost her cat last summer. An indoor-outdoor boy, he simply vanished. He wasn’t at the local shelter, and there wasn’t any evidence that he’d been hit by a car or taken by a predator. She had no idea what to do or how to find him.

Less than 2% of cats entering U.S. shelters are reunited with their owners. Yet for many people, shelter searches become the main focus of their search. They devote so much time to checking shelters, that they leave little time for search methods that are more likely to bring their cat home. The advice to check shelters is popular because it works well with dogs. Dogs are more visible and generally easier to catch. People tend to believe a free-roaming dog is lost and intervene to help. A free-roaming cat is more likely to be viewed as a stray. Even when identified as a possibly lost, the cat is likely to require a trap or extended time earning its trust before it can be placed in a carrier for transport.

What becomes of these lost cats and why don’t they end up at the shelters?

People who find lost cats are often reluctant to take them to shelters. One study reported in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that fewer than 8% of found pets were surrendered to a local animal agency when found. The most common reason stated by the finders was that they were afraid the cat would be euthanized. In many parts of the country, this is true. Some of these lost cats become free-roaming cats. They feed at feral colonies, on back porches, and behind restaurants and businesses. Others are adopted or re-homed by their finders. Some do eventually end up at a shelter, but this is a minority and often occurs after the owner has stopped looking for them.

Let’s work on changing people’s mindset on stray cats. If you find a cat, it might be someone’s lost pet and YOU are their best chance for getting back home.

  • Take the cat to a local vet or rescue to be scanned for a microchip. You may need to borrow a trap to catch him. Lost cats can be shy and difficult to catch.
  • Post the cat as found at the shelter. Include a photo and contact info. Many shelters have online places to post found cats as well. If possible, foster the cat while searching for his owner. This will buy the cat MORE time to be reunited with his owner because many shelters place cats for adoption after a three-day hold.
  • Post flyers around the neighborhood and at local vet clinics and rescues.
  • Ask your neighbors if they recognize the cat.
  • Post the cat as found on Craigslist, Facebook, and other social media sites. Newspapers usually offer free posting for found cats.
Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

One day, Stacy had the surprise of her life. After being gone for seven months, her big black cat waltzed in the door as if nothing had happened. And he wasn’t just a big black cat, he was a bigger black cat. Fat and warm and looking quite happy. Turns out, he wasn’t at the shelter, but at a neighbor’s home all this time. She sent out this jubilant reunion photo to her Facebook group.

NOTE: If you decide to leave the cat at a shelter, please ask to be notified if the cat is unadoptable or will be euthanized. It is kinder to fix the cat and release it in his home territory than to leave it to be euthanized at a shelter. Shy and feral cats often have people who feed and care about them, but they may not think to look at a shelter.

Reprinted with permission from Nancy Wahl, Community Cats Coalition. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced. Copyright February 6, 2016.

The mission of Community Cats Coalition, located in the Pacific Northwest, is to enhance the lives of community cats by promoting spay and neuter and providing training and mentorship in Trap-Neuter-Return. Education is their number one goal and to that end it publishes a variety of posts on Facebook related to community cats. A Best of Facebook can be found at the CCC website.

Guest Post: Why Lost Cats are Rarely Found at Shelters

The American Humane Association estimates that over 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen each year and that a whopping 1 in 3 pets will be lost at some point in their lives. Nobody knows how many of those end up at shelters, but the ASPCA statistics show that of the 3.4 million cats brought into public shelters each year, 1.4 are euthanized and only about 2% are reunited with their owners. The reunification rates for dogs are much higher at 25 – 30% . How can we use this information to get more cats home?

Why is it so low for cats?

  • When cats are lost in an unfamiliar area, they hunker down and hide in silence. A cat who comes to his name inside the house, will typically not respond outside. This is a survival instinct; they’re scared and don’t want to attract predators to their location. Cats that hide don’t get taken to shelters because nobody knows where they are.
  • Cats are far less likely to allow a stranger to approach them and take them to safety. It can take days, weeks or even months to coax a lost or stray cat into allowing handling. Some end up needing to be trapped. By the time cats like this end up at a shelter, their owners have often stopped looking.
  • Cats are less likely than their canine counterparts to sport a collar with identification. Without visible identification, they are less likely to be identified as a lost cat with a potential owner.

How do cat owners reduce chances of shelter recovery?

  • Not microchipping: Home Again Microchips reports that Less than 25% of cats are microchipped. Of those micro chipped cats, only 58% have been registered in a microchip database with owner contact information.
  • Only checking the shelter just a few times: Owners often check the local shelters right after their cat goes missing, but rarely do they continue checking for the weeks or months needed. Lost cat behaviors make it more likely for the cat to end up at a shelter long after it went missing.
  • Checking the wrong shelter: Cats can end up at a shelter that is different from the one checked by their owner. Owners need to check and post their cat as missing at all local shelters.
  • Having unrealistic assumptions: If the shelters have been notified, owners assume that the shelter will notify them if a similar cat comes in. That may happen if the cat is unique looking or if the cat is brought in soon after the report, but few shelters are going to call every time a black cat or tabby or tuxedo comes in. There are simply too many.
  • Giving up: Grief avoidance leads some owners to just give up and go on with their life. Psychologically, it is easier for owners to conclude that their cat is dead, but it doesn’t help the cat when they show up the shelter months later and nobody is looking for them.

How do finders of cats reduce shelter recovery?

Desensitization: Free roaming cats are all around us, and so a new cat in the neighborhood may not be identified as lost. For some, stray cats are just part of the landscape and their presence isn’t noticed unless the population gets too high or they become a nuisance.

Stray cat mentality: Finders fail to notify all local shelters when they see an unfamiliar cat because they assume it’s not owned. About a third of the owned cats in the United States were obtained as strays, and in many cases the finders made no effort to notify shelters or scan for a chip.

Rehoming too fast: Finders assume that an owner will be found in a day or two if the cat has a home. When this doesn’t happen, the cat may be given away or posted for adoption on Craigslist or other social media sites. The reality is that it can often take weeks or even months to find an cat’s owner.

Shelter phobia: People who find cats often state that they are afraid that the cat will be killed if they take it to a shelter. While this is true in many areas, most shelters allow finders to post animals online on the shelter site or maintain a “found cat” book or poster board in the shelter. Posting the cat as found and then fostering the cat greatly increases the chance of it being reunited with his owner.

How do shelters reduce owner recovery?

Limited resources = limited holding time: Most shelters will hold strays for 3 days or more, but after that the cat is put up for adoption. Given the limited space, most shelters lack the resources to hold them longer.

Shelter staff training: Shelters workers may lack the time or technical skill to post found cats online. There is no central registry for lost cats or found cats, and so it is difficult to train staff to use the ever-changing social media, neighborhood groups, or classified sites that are popular in a certain area.

Cat assessment in stressful environments: Most shelters are not equipped to assess or hold scared or feral cats. Shelters are often noisy and stressful places for cats. Since lost cats often take on feral behaviors in order to survive, they may be misidentified as feral and either killed or inappropriately placed as barn cats.

What can we do to improve these numbers? Educate!

  • People need to notify all local shelters as soon as a cat is lost or found. For many people, the shelter is the only place they will think to look. Language or technical barriers may prevent them from using online sites for pet recovery. Help the shelters find the owners by letting them know when you have lost or found a cat.
  • In metropolitan areas, it can be difficult to determine which shelter takes animals from which area. Take time to educate yourself on the jurisdiction of all local shelters. Then make this information accessible to all. Post it online and share it among all your local rescue and lost and found pet groups. People won’t find their cat if they go to the wrong shelter.
  • Many cat lovers want to help, but don’t have the ability to get out and do the physical work of searching for a cat. Seek volunteers to check shelter listings online and pair them with lost and found pet listings online.
  • Encourage your shelter and tech-friendly cat lovers to help with shelter intake listings and posting. The timely online posting of lost and found cats will get more cats home.
  • Spread the word on microchipping. Find low-cost microchipping opportunities in your community and make sure low-income pet owners know how to access this resource. Every cat microchipped will help raise the shelter reunification rate.
  • Volunteer at your local shelter. Most are tax-payer funded and they can accomplish more with your help. Be the solution instead of the critic because THAT is what helps the cats.
  • Two years later, the rescuer gets a call: “I’m so sorry. We’re moving across country and cannot take Bitsy, and I remembered you said you’d always take her back.” The problem was a prolonged road trip, too hard on a cat who would be confined to a carrier for most of six weeks. The rescuer offered to not only foster for the 6 weeks, but to PAY THE AIRFARE to reunite Bitsy with her family, but her family said, “It’s just not going to work, but it just kills us to give her up.”

Reprinted with permission from Nancy Wahl, Community Cats Coalition. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced. Copyright March 20, 2016.

The mission of Community Cats Coalition, located in the Pacific Northwest, is to enhance the lives of community cats by promoting spay and neuter and providing training and mentorship in Trap-Neuter-Return. Education is their number one goal and to that end it publishes a variety of posts on Facebook related to community cats. A Best of Facebook can be found at the CCC website.

Guest Post: When You Surrender A Cat

A beautiful young cat with some Siamese in her lineage, light blue eyes, and unique patterning, Bitsy was a “desirable” kitten to adopt. Trapped in a colony of 30 cats, she was tiny and immediately tame. She was spayed, put up for adoption, and went to a wonderful home.

Two years later, the rescuer gets a call: “I’m so sorry. We’re moving across country and cannot take Bitsy, and I remembered you said you’d always take her back.” The problem was a prolonged road trip, too hard on a cat who would be confined to a carrier for most of six weeks. The rescuer offered to not only foster for the 6 weeks, but to PAY THE AIRFARE to reunite Bitsy with her family, but her family said, “It’s just not going to work, but it just kills us to give her up.”

In recent years, the majority of responsible shelters and rescues have adopted a policy of a return guarantee: “If anything in your life forces you to give up your cat, we’ll always take her back”. This happened because too many times owners couldn’t keep their cats, and so the cats were either simply abandoned, left at “kill” shelters, or handed over to strangers with no assurance there would be a home for that cat to land in.

The whole goal is to make sure the cats we rescue are truly rescued, not simply treated like merchandise to discard when it’s no longer new. But have we made it TOO easy? One potential adopter was overheard to say, “I’m moving in a year, but it’s okay. They’ll take them back if you can’t keep them”. NO!  This wasn’t the point of the guarantee. The return is only meant to be a safety net, not a convenience tool for the adopter.

How do shelters and rescues help foster responsible pet ownership in rescue, while ensuring a good outcome for the cats? In spite of stories like this, we’ll continue to advocate for “return guarantees” because in the end what matters is the cat. There are some times when an owner is desperate and has tried other avenues and the return is appropriate.

Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

But a change in attitude in any society is a slow process, and it depends on all of us. Let’s all work to promote responsible pet ownership by educating our communities. Help people understand that when one adopts, one is making a lifetime commitment. This should not be a casual, spur of the moment “oh isn’t she cute, I’ll take that one” decision.

You’re now family to this cat, and family should not be abandoned. When adopting, everyone should be thinking ahead “if something happens to me, who will take care of my cat?” If you’re anticipating big changes in your life, wait! If you’re having marital problems, DON’T bring home a cute kitten to take your mind off your troubles!

Cats aren’t disposable commodities; they’re living creatures with feelings. To lose their home and their family is traumatic. Cats do grieve, and it’s heartbreaking to watch. Think ahead, and please, work to protect the life you brought home.

Bitsy will be okay. She’s sad now, confused and scared, but she’s safe. She’ll be given time to adjust, and care will be taken to find a home that suits her personality. Hopefully, this time it’ll truly be forever.

Reprinted with permission from Nancy Wahl, Community Cats Coalition. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced. Copyright April 6, 2015.

The mission of Community Cats Coalition, located in the Pacific Northwest, is to enhance the lives of community cats by promoting spay and neuter and providing training and mentorship in Trap-Neuter-Return. Education is their number one goal and to that end it publishes a variety of posts on Facebook related to community cats. A Best of Facebook can be found at the CCC website.

Guest Post: Cats and Babies

We in rescue are always astonished when people return a cat who has been part of their family “because we’re having a baby”.

What? You’re expanding your family by eliminating part of your family? You’re bringing a new little human into the world, where you will be responsible for teaching that child how to be a responsible, loving, caring human being, but you’re starting by discarding a member of the family?

Yes, there ARE times in everyone’s life when a change has to happen, and there are times when after much heartache a decision is reached to find a new home for a beloved pet. The astonishment on our part is how easily some people take on the responsibility of caring for a new life–their kitten or cat–and how easily they discard it when challenges arise. Our advice to is to not adopt a pet, unless you’re willing to fulfill the commitment to giving him a true life with you.

Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

Happily, we also have many wonderful stories of new parents welcoming their human kitten into the world and sharing the love with the feline ones. We just received a picture update on grandson #2, and how Norm the cat is doing with him. Since Norm loves grandson #1, he’s already quite prepared for life with baby.

The biggest reason for success with any new baby/cat combo is making sure you give your cat the same amount of love and attention after baby is born as you did before. When the cat doesn’t feel displaced, you’re unlikely to have problems.

And as the baby grows, teaching him the proper respect for other lives (no pulling the tails, no teething on their ears, etc.) not only helps you maintain a happy household, it helps our whole world. You’re instilling wonderful values into the child who will one day grow up to be a vital member of society. Respect, compassion, responsibility, trust are among the many things a child will learn by having a pet and are the most valuable things you can ever give a child.

Our thanks to all the parents who DO keep their pets when the baby is born. Your child is the one we want to have our rescue babies!

Reprinted with permission from Nancy Wahl, Community Cats Coalition. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced. Copyright November 15, 2015.

The mission of Community Cats Coalition, located in the Pacific Northwest, is to enhance the lives of community cats by promoting spay and neuter and providing training and mentorship in Trap-Neuter-Return. Education is their number one goal and to that end it publishes a variety of posts on Facebook related to community cats. A Best of Facebook can be found at the CCC website.

Guest Post: Moving with a Cat

Our cat didn’t want to move with us, so we are going to let him stay.

Basil was a well-loved cat that grew up with kids and was completely unfazed by any chaos around him. Ten years old, his family had recently purchased a larger house in a nearby town. They planned to take him with them, but on moving day this confident kitty lost his nerve after seeing the contents of his home carried away by noisy strangers. Basil bolted under the house and wouldn’t come out. His owner knocked on the neighbor’s door before driving away and explained, “Our cat didn’t want to move with us, so we decided to let him stay.” Shocked, the neighbors put food out for him and he eventually came out. But his owners never returned and the new home-owners didn’t want a cat. Basil was taken to a no-kill shelter and adopted out.

Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

John had a similar experience, though his neighbors worked harder to get him. He thought his neighbors had moved, but a week later he noticed their cat “Duthie” sitting on a shed. Did they leave him behind? He put food out for the hungry cat and called the realtor who confirmed that they had moved. “But their cat is still here—sitting on a shed in the yard. Call them!” The realtor called and then relayed the message back to John. Yes, they knew the cat was there, but they couldn’t catch him when they left. They would return for him later.

A week later, they did return and attempted to catch him, but Duthie was not about to be captured. They gave up and left. John couldn’t catch the spooked cat either, so he called a rescue who gave them a trapper’s number. As luck would have it, the night she came to trap, the new owners were moving in and they had a dog.

Moving day is a high risk time for cats. To them, the unexplained change in routine and removal of their furniture “territory” must seem like a natural disaster. Add a few moving-day helpers and a stressed out family and it is no wonder kitty goes into survival mode. Duthie lucked out because the new home-owners let John and the rescuer set a humane trap in their yard and he was soon trapped. Off to the rescuer’s house he went and a few days later his family came to bring him home. Duthie was happy to be back with his family and best kitty pal.

Why are stories like this so common? It is true that some people simply get tired of pets and leave them out of convenience. But I believe that many cats are abandoned not because they aren’t wanted, but because their owner doesn’t know how to prepare a cat for a move. The cat is spooked by the move and hides or is too terrified to be captured and the owner doesn’t know what to do. For rescuers who adopt out cats or kittens, asking good questions before adoption and providing information on moving with cats can help.

First, let’s bust the myth that cats like their home better than their family. Cats hide during moves because they are scared, not because they don’t want to move with their family. And they will be even more terrified when their family moves away without them!

Before the move

  • Get the cat used to the carrier. Put a soft blanket in it. During the weeks before the move, feed them or put treats in the carrier.
  • Cats like boxes, so start collecting boxes weeks before the move and let them play in them and get used to them being there. It won’t be as scary when you start packing and moving them if they are just part of the scenery and they’ve seen them before moving day.
  • Maintain a normal feeding schedule and minimize other changes to their daily routines.
  • Plan where your cat will be on moving day.
  • Talk to your vet before moving day about medications that may make the move less stressful.

Moving day

  • Make sure the cat is contained BEFORE the movers come. Zip-tie the carrier and make sure everyone knows that it can’t be opened until the cat is secured inside the new house.
  • If you want to move the cats first, set up one room in the new house with litter box, bedding, toys and cat trees from their old home. Make sure it is a room that won’t be accessible to movers so it won’t be accidentally opened. If possible, lock it!
  • If you are going to move the cats last, set up a quiet bathroom and get them used to spending time in there by feeding them in that location in the weeks before the move. Make sure the room is secure so movers won’t open it. Put a bright sign on the door. “Cats: Do Not Open!”

Adjusting to the new home

  • Start your cat off in one quiet room. Some cats are confident and ready to explore from day one, but it is best to give it a few days before giving them full run of the house so you can unpack and cat proof the house. A Feliway plug in or spray may ease the transition.
  • Try to maintain the same schedule of feeding and play time.
  • Be extra careful of doors and windows the first few weeks. Many cats are lost when they get outside before they know their new home.

Reprinted with permission from Nancy Wahl, Community Cats Coalition. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced. Copyright May 1, 2016.

The mission of Community Cats Coalition, located in the Pacific Northwest, is to enhance the lives of community cats by promoting spay and neuter and providing training and mentorship in Trap-Neuter-Return. Education is their number one goal and to that end it publishes a variety of posts on Facebook related to community cats. A Best of Facebook can be found at the CCC website.

Guest Post: When a cat is found, but no owners are

Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

Two months ago, Carissa noticed an emaciated cat sneaking food and water from her back porch. She could tell by the lack of reaction from her cats and dog that this waif had been here before. If she had been eating here a while, how thin HAD she been? Sometimes it is hard to see evidence of starvation in a fluffy cat, but this visitor was missing much of her hair on her hind quarters making every backbone show.

Carissa’s friend Del, posted her on a lost cat Facebook site and several cat lovers jumped in to help. One of those cat lovers was Melissa. Often times, the one thing that prevents a rescue from being possible is the absence of a foster home. It is easy to commit a few hours to trapping a cat and solutions for vet care can be found, but where do you put a rescued cat? Who will house and feed and love the cat while a permanent placement is found? Melissa stepped up to the plate and offered to foster her.

A few hours later, Jenny brought out a humane trap to catch her because she was too skittish for Carissa to touch or get in a carrier. Hunger made her go in the trap almost immediately and when Jenny picked it up, it was so light, she could hardly believe there was a cat inside. Lifting the towels, she could see there definitely was a cat inside, just a tiny slip of a cat who had obviously gone without food for a long time. She drove her to another CCC volunteer’s home where she was scanned for a microchip, vaccinated and treated for parasites.

Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition
Photo provided by Community Cat Coalition

From there she went to Melissa’s home where she was given the time to get healthy and her owner was given the time to find her. But weeks passed and nobody called on her “Cat Found” posts and “Nala” didn’t show up in any lost cat posts. Finally, there was a call. Jon had lost his tortoiseshell from a distance away, but drove down anyway hoping it was his missing kitty “Ivy.” This beautiful tortoiseshell was not his Ivy, but he said he might want to give Nala a home. He went home to think about it. And a couple of weeks later, Nala went to live with Jon. We think she looks pretty satisfied in her new home!

For some people the best way to honor the memory of a loved cat, is to allow another to fill that void. And nothing fills that void better than a cat who needs you. If you’ve lost a beloved cat, think of all the lessons that cat taught you about love and joy and friendship and pass that legacy on to a new kitty. When you are ready, there is one out there waiting just for you.

Reprinted with permission from Nancy Wahl, Community Cats Coalition. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced. Copyright August 28, 2015.

The mission of Community Cats Coalition, located in the Pacific Northwest, is to enhance the lives of community cats by promoting spay and neuter and providing training and mentorship in Trap-Neuter-Return. Education is their number one goal and to that end it publishes a variety of posts on Facebook related to community cats. A Best of Facebook can be found at the CCC website.

Adventures in Fostering: The Adoption Process

People seem to have a love/hate relationship with pet shelters and rescues, and volunteers at shelters and rescues seem to have a love/hate relationship with adopters. Adopters complain that rescues are too strict and say that next time they’ll just adopt from a humane society. Shelter/rescue volunteers complain that people don’t understand that adoption takes time and that even finding homes for kittens is hard.

Although I respect no-kill shelters and animal rescues, I must admit that until this winter my sympathies have lain with potential pet adopters. I wondered along with them why having an unfenced yard could mean an automatic refusal for an application. More than once I also nodded my head when someone contended that waiting lists would be shorter if no-kill shelters and animal rescues would only relax their rules. But then my husband and I found ourselves in the position of finding a home for a rescued kitten. The entire adoption process—from spreading the word to asking the right questions to creating a contract—proved much harder than we anticipated. Suddenly the expression “walk a mile in my shoes” became crystal clear.

The Advertisment

I’ve long encouraged the use of social media to those trying to find homes for homeless pets. I’ve even helped a few people design ads. For that reason, my husband and I thought getting the word out about our foster kitten would be easy. We were wrong.

Prior to Onyx being ready for adoption, I shared her story here in a series of articles. I wrote about Onyx being brought to CHS as a tiny emaciated feral kitten, how my husband and I began foster her, and how we treated her for parasitic infection and nursed her back to health. None of these articles resulted in any inquiries. I told myself to be patient. The articles were just meant as teasers.

The first week in January, we sat down to promote Onyx’s availability. We tried a version that would tug at the reader’s emotions but nixed that idea, because there’ve been so many stories told this way that people have started to grow immune to them. We tried a glowing version that made Onyx sound too good to be true. Yet we knew if we were completely upfront and said that Onyx was skittish and would need patience, people might not give her the chance she deserved. After an hour, we’d written and erased one paragraph multiple times. We tried writing copy individually too, but found we needed each other for the ideas to flow. Finally, we decided to make a list of Onyx’s qualities, both good and bad, and then we wrote short examples of those qualities. Even then, it was another hour before we were satisfied.

Although we shared our promo with only our Facebook friends, we still expected to get lots of inquiries. After all, Onyx was an adorable kitten, and who doesn’t love kittens? But no inquires came. Oh, lots of people LIKED and LOVED our posts. A few even commented on them. But no one showed any interest in even meeting Onyx. We didn’t lose heart. Eventually, people started to tag friends and share our post. One person asked for an application and another came to visit Onyx. Then interest waned and died. Andy and I talked about whether we should share her application at online pet adoption sites, but the idea of sorting through applications from strangers overwhelmed us. Instead we began to figure out how we were going to integrate a fifth pet into our home.

Publicizing a homeless animal through a private adoption is no doubt more complicated than it would be for an established non-profit organization. The latter will have a wider audience, a better sense of how to reach that audience, and awareness of safe places to advertise. Yet the reality is that the supply of homeless animals is high and the demand is low. Rehoming a pet is a challenge for both individuals and organizations.

The Application

If someone did eventually show serious interest in Onyx, we would need to be able to give them an application, so writing one was our next task. At this point, Onyx had been living with us for six weeks. Andy had syringe-fed her the first week. We had taken her multiple times to the veterinarian to diagnose and treat her parasitic infection. More than once, we had worried that we would lose her. Now that she was thriving, we would rather keep her than just give her to anyone. For that reason, we wanted to ask exactly the right questions, and so we looked to the adoption applications of local shelters and rescues for inspiration.

Our first set of questions determined whether a person could own and afford a cat. Although pet owners can be resourceful—hiding pets from landlords who don’t allow them and getting by despite limited finances—statistically two of the top reasons for relinquishment are living in a place that doesn’t allow pets and not being afford the cost of a pet. We wanted to set our “bat girl” up for maximize success. For that reason, we began our application with questions about housing and finances. Did the applicant own or rent? Did their lease allow pets? How would they handle a $500 vet bill?

Our next set of questions delved into the heart of what type of care a person would give Onyx. Most (if not all) no-kill shelters and rescues these days require animals to be spayed or neutered, licensed, and microchipped before being adopted. There was no reason for us to expect any less from the person who adopted Onyx. We asked about litter boxes, scratching posts, and toys. All our cats live indoors only, still have their claws, and are taken to the vet once a year. They also have several litter boxes, scratching posts, and toys. Andy and I believe that a cat should be treated as one of the family, and we wanted Onyx’s adopter to feel the same. Is it right to require applicants to share our principles? This isn’t an easy question to answer. On one hand, the demands made of an applicant shouldn’t be so strict that few pet owners can meet them. Hundreds of animals are dying in shelters, and a major way to reduce those numbers is to increase adoptions. On the other hand, the demands shouldn’t be so soft that pets are adopted out to families that will neglect or abuse them. So our goal in creating our adoption application was to find the right balance between ensuring Onyx’s happiness and finding her a home.

Our final set of questions inquired into the applicant’s current pet situation and previous pet experiences. We’ve been on the other end of adoption and so know these questions get tedious. At the same time, we saw a sense to them. If the applicant had other cats, we’d need to if the applicant had a good plan for introducing them. If the applicant had dogs, we’d need to know if they were cat-friendly. Finally, we wanted to know if the applicant had ever relinquished or euthanized a pet, and why. While there can be valid reasons for both, we wanted to ensure that the adopter placed a high value on their pets.

As private adopters, Andy and I could afford to be extremely selective about applicants. After all, we were just trying to find a home for one cat. In the same way, no-kill shelters and rescues know that if they keep an animal, this animal will receive sufficient care, get medical treatment when needed, and have a loving home. They naturally expect as much from an applicant, even if that limits the pool from whom they can pick.

The Contract

The first week in February, we had requests for an application. Now we needed to create an adoption contract. As one rescuer wrote to me in response to my questions about how to pick the right applicant, “It is not as simple as it used to be, when people had extra cats and dogs, and put up ‘Free to good home’ signs.” There’s much more known today about the proper care of cats, and so higher demands are made of potential adopters. Thanks to the internet, there’s also much more known today about the dangers that exists in the world, and so we are all much more vigilant with even our acquaintances, neighbors, and friends. For that reason, we wanted our contract to protect all parties involved—the adopter, ourselves, and Onyx.

Our first several statements were broad ones. We offered a provision of a two-week trial. By the end of that time, an applicant should have discovered if our cat is right for them. We also stipulated that “the applicant will not sell, give away, or dispose of said cat for any reason”. Is it right to restrict applicants in this way? What if for unseen circumstances the applicant is unable to keep Onyx? Should they really lose the right to decide her future? The best owners when faced with such a prospect would move heaven and earth to find a new home for their beloved pet. Sadly, there are far too many pet owners who will also crate their pet and drop them off at the nearest shelter, with little concern for its fate. For this reason, we wanted the applicant to agree that Onyx would come back to us.

The rest of our contract gave us the most pause. We’d carefully reviewed the applications and were confident that whomever we picked would adhere to our values. We had every reason to believe that Onyx’s adopter would give her the same life that we would: she’d live indoors, not be de-clawed, and have annual exams. In addition, she’d have access to several litter boxes, scratching posts, and toys. And because of our confidence, we felt torn between whether to even include these items in a contact. After much soul searching, in which we began to understand why no-kill shelters and rescues are so strict, we decided to include them. In the months of our caring for Onyx, we’d fallen in love with her. Our hearts would break if we ever learn that her life has been anything less than the best. We needed to do whatever we could to guarantee this. After all, if a few little rules scared off an applicant, that just meant there was a better home out there for Onyx.

The entire process of adoption—from spreading the word to asking the right questions to creating a contract—was a challenging and exhausting one. Should we ever need to do it again, we’ll have a better idea what to do. But to be honest we hope we never have to do this again. We’re more than happy for no-kill shelters and animal rescues to handle this responsibility. And very relieved that we successfully placed Onyx this past week in her adoptive home for a two-week trial.

Special thanks to Joining Forces and Saving Lives and to Community Cat Coalition, both of whom answered my many questions about the pet adoption process and reassured us that we were taking the right steps. Dolly’s Legacy Animal Rescue and Good Dog Rescue of Nebraska also offered advice.