Confessions Of A Cat Rescuer #7 - Answering the Almost-Never-Asked Question
I Confess: Sooner or later, every cat rescuer comes to realize that the majority of the people in this country either do not understand about cat rescue or do not care.
I have dealt with both kinds of people in my rescue work. There are those who just do not believe that cats need to be rescued. They are totally oblivious to the plight of cats, and when you try to tell them that millions of cats die every year in animal shelters, they simply do not believe you. Yes, they may smile and nod their heads as you tell them the grim facts, but in the end all they really believe is that you are some kind of radical, left-wing, anti-government activist, or a hoarder, or a mental case.
Then there are those people who have no hearts at all. Their solution to the plight of cats is found in a container of anti-freeze or at the end of a gun. I’ve had quite a few people “share” these solutions with me. As angry as it makes me, I never lash out at them because I fear that if I do they just might go find some helpless cat to practice their “solutions” on. All I can really do is pray for them and the cats who cross their path.
Somewhere between the mindless and the heartless are those people who recognize and admire what I do, or are curious about what I do, or seek out my knowledge of cats, or are desperate for my help. I’ve have spent many hours explaining who I am and what I do, helping people with cat behavior issues, and aiding those who need to give up their cats or have them put to sleep because the cat is suffering and will not get better.
Over the years, I have found that most rescue work begins with a question and ends with an answer. Sadly, the most-often-asked question that any rescuer hears is, “Can you take this cat?” I would get this question sometimes as much as five or six times a day when I had my adoption center. People would bring their cats or kittens before they ever even asked, hoping that one look into those beautiful needy fuzzy faces would bring a resounding YES! Even now, I get postings from the internet of hundreds of cats who need homes and rescuers begging for people to take these cats before they die in an animal shelter’s gas chamber or euthanasia room. All of them asking the same question: Can you take this cat?
Now, for those of you who may not know it, there is no cat rescuer alive who ever wants to say no to the most-often-asked question. We want to rescue as many cats as we can, but sadly we are limited in what we can do. Rescue requires resources. We have to have adequate space, food, water, and litter boxes. We have to pay for vaccinations, vet care, prescriptions, spay or neuter, cat food and litter. We have to be able to adopt out the cats we have before we can take more in, otherwise disease can set in and kill every cat we have. All this takes time and money, and most rescuers have the time, but not the money or the space to save more cats.
It hurts us to say No. It hurts us because we know that, by turning away a cat or kitten, we may be placing it on a path to the local dump or the local kill shelter. I can still remember vividly four little wide-eyed kittens looking out at me from a carrier. I had to say no. I simply could not take in any more cats. It was a reasonable, responsible decision. But to this day, I can’t help but wonder what happened to those four innocent kittens, and if my reasonable, responsible decision resulted in their deaths.
People are really amazing. They cannot understand why we have to say No. People think that cat rescuers are either wealthy, or supported by a network of people who contribute to the rescue operation. People think that we are a public service, and that we should be able to take any cat any time we are asked to do so, especially if it is their cat.
Let me clear these misconceptions up now: Most cat rescuers have big hearts, but they don’t have much else. We pay for almost all of our rescue work out of our own pockets. We are not wealthy, and finding supporters is about as easy as finding a needle in a haystack. We are not a public service; we live to rescue cats, not relieve people of their responsibility to their pets. We simply believe that the life of a cat is worth our time, effort, and resources to save.
We save as many as we can, but we cannot save them all. As I said before, any responsible rescuer knows that he or she can only house so many cats in a given area, otherwise the cats begin to get stressed and to get sick. Plus, there is only so much money, time and resources to go around. Most rescuers dream of having a rescue that is fully funded with people lined up to help. We long for the day when our vet bill is not in the thousands of dollars, or when we won’t have to spend our last dollar to buy cat food, or when we won’t have to beg for help to get a sick cat to the vet and have to watch it die because there is no money for medical care. We long for that time, but we know that it will never come because most people in this country either do not understand about cat rescue or they do not care.
Here is the bottom line: Cat Rescuers have to say no to the most-often-asked question and then struggle to keep the cats they can save alive and healthy because of the almost-never-asked question.
What is the almost-never-asked question? It is the one question that most people never ask of a rescuer, but it is the one question that rescuers long to hear. The almost-never-asked question can turn our NO to YES! The almost-never-asked question can make it possible for more cats to be saved, to get the food, shelter, and medical attention they need. The almost-never-asked question can keep more cats from going to the death chambers of the local animal shelter. The almost-never-asked question can make the difference between life and death.
The almost-never-asked question is simply this: “What can I do to help?”
Do you know why I say that most people in this country either do not understand about cat rescue or do not care? It is because out of the hundreds of people I have encountered in the last eight years that I have been a rescuer, maybe only about 50 ever cared enough to help. They gave money. They fostered cats. They paid our vet for medical care. They brought by food, litter boxes, cat toys, blankets, and other supplies. They donated goods to our thrift store. They helped us keep going for a little while longer. I’m not talking about people who bought from our store, for they got something of value for their donation. I’m talking about people who gave just because they wanted to help. Only about 50, out of hundreds of people, ever asked, “How can I help?”
Is it any wonder that every day in this country, another rescuer stops rescuing because he or she cannot afford to go on? Is it any wonder that some four million animals die in this country every year? Here’s what I don’t understand: Many people give money to the local humane society or animal shelter. They give large sums of money to the big humane organizations. But they either do not know or do not care that money they give to these organizations is actually spent to kill animals! The money they give also goes to pay big salaries, pensions, and benefits. Had they given the money to a real rescuer, all the money would have been used to save lives! All of it!
If all the money given to the big humane organizations (who do not pass it back to local groups to save animals) were to suddenly be diverted to local no-kill rescue groups, we could save nearly every animal in this country! But because most rescuers are small-time operations, or spend so much time rescuing animals that they don’t have time to fund-raise, these rescuers who are actually saving lives get passed over, and more animals die as a result.
So, what is my point here? Because most people never asked the almost-never-asked question, real rescuers have to beg and sacrifice to save animals, and more animals die because no one is offering to help.
Now, what I really want to know is: are you willing to ask the almost-never-asked question? Are you willing to help? I have thirty cats under my care who need food, litter, and other resources. I have a vet bill that is nearly $3000, and if one of my cats gets sick, I will have to have cash up front to pay for the treatment. I need to get this bill paid so my cats can get the care they need. Just once I would like to not have to put off paying my bills so my cats can eat or get medical care. Are you willing to help?
If you are willing to help, I have set up a simple way for you to do so. At the bottom of this article is a link that will take you to my WePay Donation Store. You can become a virtual rescuer partner with us and help us help cats. And if we ever collect more than we need, you can be assured that I have a list of good rescuers to whom I will send the support to help them save cats as well.
Remember that I said that most rescue work begins with a question and ends with an answer. How you answer the almost-never-asked question will determine how many lives I can save. I pray that your answer will be YES! And that through your help, I will never have to say No to the needs of any cat.
God Bless You!
Please Help Us Help Cats!
- The Virtual Cat Rescue Store | WePay
Here is a simple way to help me help cats. Become a virtual cat rescuer by shopping The Virtual Cat Rescue Store. All donations go to help me help cats. You can donate as little as $1. Please help me help cats by donating today! Thank You!