So excited, I just can’t hide it!

November 25th, 2008 by crazycatlady

November 25th, 2008

Cue the 80s synthesized music, because I feel like dancin’!

The Senior and Special Needs Shelter (SSNS - because everything important and cool needs to have an abbreviation) project is officially underway! If you’ve visited the SOS homepage recently, you’ll know that “one of our volunteers” is turning the 2nd floor of her house into a shelter for special cats who have a hard time getting adopted. Well, you probably guessed it - that volunteer is me! I have a special soft spot in my heart for those kitties who find themselves homeless in their illness or old age.

Many people are afraid to adopt them because they: 1) worry about the expense of caring for an ill or elderly pet, 2) don’t want to get attached to a pet who might not live for very long, or 3) don’t feel they can take on the time and energy commitment an ill or elderly pet might require. So, when our rescue takes them in, they end up lingering in the “system” for a long time. Sometimes they end up being moved from foster home to foster home because the fostering system isn’t really designed to be so long-term, and all this being shuffled around can cause anxiety and insecurity in a cat. While they remain in one of our foster homes, that’s one less space for another cat in need of rescue as well.

So why not just euthanize them if they’re old and/or sick? Because many of these cats are capable of having full, quality lives in spite of age or illness - so euthanizing them would be for convenience only, which is something SOS and I don’t believe in doing. Thus, the SSNS idea was hatched!

My husband and I don’t have children yet, and we live in a home with more space than just the two of us can possibly use. Our entire 2nd floor was sitting empty. So what better place for the SSNS? The only problem is that the 2nd floor is entirely carpeted - not ideal for cats who are prone to “accidents”. We’d also like to make some modifications like steps/ramps leading up to window perches and furniture for the cats who can no longer jump or climb. And these changes will require money - not a lot, but more than my husband and I can afford to spare on our own at the moment. The first step of the project then, is collecting funds to help make this cage-free shelter as comfortable and clean and cheerful as any cat could want! This may very well be the last home for some of these cats, after all - we don’t want them to spend their final days institutionalized or warehoused.

I say the project is underway because the first funds were collected today, and many of the necessary supplies such as litter boxes, beds, cat furniture, dishes etc. have been gathered. We have a way to go yet, but taking the first step feels great!

As usual in rescue though, the cart is before the horse. Or, I should say, the cats are before the shelter! The SSNS already has its first residents - four special girls I’d like to introduce to you to help you understand why giving these cats a place to feel loved and secure is so important to me.

The first resident to come to us was Ellie. Ellie is a younger cat, although her actual age is unknown because she was found as a stray. We thought she was a kitten at first because she’s tiny, but her teeth tell a different story and place her at at least four or five years old. She’s a beautiful little blue-gray cat with long, silky fur and big golden eyes. Unfortunately, Ellie suffered a serious head injury before she came to us, which knocked out the teeth on one side of her mouth and left her with brain damage. Maybe she was hit by a car, or kicked by a mean person, who knows? She suffers severe seizures and requires daily medication to keep them under control. She also has a neurologic tic that causes her to scratch her head, just on one side, but to the point that it bleeds and needs to be cleaned and medicated daily to prevent infection. In spite of all this, you will never meet a cat who is happier and more full of life than Ellie! She plays like a kitten still, even chases her own tail. She loves to sit in the window and watch the birds and squirrels, but above all else she loves to snuggle on your chest with her head tucked under your chin.

Next to join us was Leema, an elderly cat of about 15-17 whose former owners were elderly themselves and no longer able to care for her. She’s also tiny, weighing in at about 4 pounds, and she has very striking tuxedo markings. Leema is remarkably healthy for her age and very talkative and friendly, but has been overlooked for adoption for the past year that she’s been with us. She really seems to enjoy the quiet life she has here at the SSNS, sleeping in the sun patches on the floor and occasionally even playing with Ellie when the mood strikes her.

The next residents joined us as a pair, as that’s how they’ve lived their whole lives - together. Crissy and Bessie are elderly girls of 12 & 14 or so, and their owner passed away, leaving them in the care of her nephew. Unfortunately, his wife turned out to be allergic to them, so he couldn’t keep them and they found themselves in need of somewhere to go to avoid euthanasia. Crissy, a brown tabby, has some arthritis and has trouble keeping weight on, and is prone to diarrhea when stressed. Bessie is marked like a black and white cow, and seems to suffer some pain from arthritis at times as well (if you pick her up the wrong way - otherwise she seems just fine). Both girls, although they move a little slowly, will purr and purr if you pay attention to them and LOVE to eat!

For now, until we make the necessary changes, the SSNS is at capacity. As the changes are made though, we expect to be able to help more cats like these four - and we can’t wait! Check back for updates on our progress - I’ll keep you posted!

Until next time,

This crazy cat lady

Hello, World

November 23rd, 2008 by crazycatlady

November 23, 2008

Where to begin? As great minds have oft opined, the beginning is usually the best place.

I’m Jen. I’m happily married, work full-time, no kids yet but I have a great family and some really awesome friends. My house is clean, my yard is tidy and I bathe daily. These details are important because I am also known to many as “the cat lady” - and most people seem to have some misconceptions about what a real cat lady is. I’m only crazy in the zany, eccentric sort of way - not destined (yet anyway!) for a padded cell. And I am a bit crazy in my love for cats, in that most people just don’t “get” the connection I have with them.

However - and this is a BIG however - I am NOT that lady with 100 cats in her tiny trailer, living in filth out of some misguided sense that I’m helping these creatures. In the rescue community we call those people (there are men too, not just women!) “collectors” - and it’s been proven to result from a true, documented mental illness. While they mean well, people who “collect” cats (or dogs, or any living creature) are not rescuers. They get in over their heads and can’t care for themselves properly, let alone the vast number of animals they’ve become responsible for.  This is not the kind of crazy cat lady I am.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me tell you who I AM.

I have always been an animal lover, and have always had a special connection with cats. I was 10 years younger than my youngest older sibling, so it was almost like being an only child as I grew up. I didn’t have siblings close enough to my age to be playmates, so I found my first friends in our family cat and dog and horses (and even a baby duck we rescued once!) I talked to them, never wondering if they could understand me. It didn’t matter if they understood my words - they understood my love for them and forgave me for dressing them up in doll clothes occasionally.

I rescued my first cat when I was about 3 years old. Playing in a neighbor’s yard, I heard a kitten crying up in a tree. He was so far up you couldn’t see him, but you could hear his pitiful cries clearly enough. I kept telling my mom that there was a kitten stuck in the tree, but she told me it was baby birds crying. I insisted she was wrong, and when my older brother got home from school, I talked him into climbing up the tree to find out. I fell in love for the first time when he came down with a tiny black ball of fur tucked into his shirt.

The little black kitten, christened Dufus because of his clumsy kitten antics, became my best friend. He slept in my bed and put up with me even when I insulted the innate feline dignity he later developed by putting him in a stroller with my dolls or carrying him around like a doll himself half the day. I cried and cried when we left him at the vet to be neutered, not understanding that he would be coming back and that it was best for him. Even though we never had him declawed, he never scratched me intentionally, never bit me - he was living proof that children and cats can live together in total harmony.

Dufus was not my last rescue by any means. Even as a kid, I tried to find homes for the kittens born in the barn where we boarded our horses, or for the strays found hanging around our house. I kicked a neighbor for kicking a stray cat and got myself in trouble, but couldn’t have cared less - I knew even as a child that you didn’t do things like that to an animal. I was fortunate that my parents and family raised me to love and respect animals - and as I grew up and realized that not all people felt the same way, I became more and more determined to change that in any way I could.

As an adult, I got a job working in an animal hospital, where I’ve been working for 8 years now. Because of my particular attraction to cats, I began rescuing cats. I realized that many cats found themselves homeless and unwanted because people simply didn’t understand them - so I began studying anything I could find about feline behavior so that I could help people to understand why their cat was doing something they didn’t like and correct it rather than getting rid of the cat. I learned that cats are quite trainable, just as dogs are - it’s simply that they require different methods of training than a dog does (because they aren’t just little dogs!)

For the past several years, I’ve been working with a local rescue called Save Our Strays(SOS). I foster cats in my home, update their website, coordinate their foster homes and generally try to help out in any way I can. I believe in their mission - to reduce the pet overpopulation problem through humane trapping, neutering and releasing of feral/stray cats, and to find homes for as many adoptable cats as we can. I also strongly believe in education - which is why I’m starting this blog.

Here I plan to talk about the happenings within SOS, upcoming events etc. I also plan to describe my work as a foster and volunteer with SOS so the general animal lover knows what they too could do for homeless animals - because the rescue community needs all the help it can get! And maybe most importantly, I plan to discuss trap-neuter-return programs (TNR) to encourage more people to get out there and help conquer overpopulation and feline behavior issues to help more cats live harmoniously in their loving homes.

Signing off for now with purrs and head butts for all,

This crazy cat lady