When Animals Are Cheated Out Of Forever Homes

Just read the article, I Rejected The Perfect Pet Adoption Family For The Wrong Reasons, and found it to be a great read, and had some comments.

I do agree that most animal rescue people really care about animals, but I think that a lot of them have lost site of what’s in the best interest for the animal and are too tied up in unnecessary procedure, though I’m sure not intentionally. But it is hurting animals chances of receiving forever homes.

Before we start this story that I’m going to tell, back in the early 1980s, in most of the country, it was not a general concept to spay or neuter your animals, even though Bob Barker had been saying it for years.  I was an avid watcher of The Price is Right, but what small girl doesn’t want to nuzzle kittens.  I’m not saying it was right or wrong, but at the time, the mentality of most people is that it was OK for their animals to have babies, there was never any thought of future implications, of over population or strays.  Not even the vets saw any other way except that animals have babies and you can have your animal fixed when it’s three or four, after it’s had babies.

Needless to say, we sometimes wound up with cats having kittens.  We never purposefully set out to breed cats (although my mother did try that road, once, but the cats weren’t interested), no, it would just be something that happened.  When we would realize, we’d just know that our plan of action was free kittens to good homes when the kittens were old enough.  Also, whoever’s cat was having the kittens, that person would be in charge of accepting or denying possible inquiries.

Cash Mittens

When I was four, a black and white tabby cat found us and claimed us as her humans.  My mother named her boots.  My mother also had to rescue Boot’s kittens from a culvert pipe.  A retirement home was going up next to us and the workers didn’t know there were kittens and well, things would have gotten sad.  But the kittens were rescued and the workers were glad that they didn’t inadvertently kill any kittens that day and I fell in love with one of them.  A kitten, not a construction worker.

She chose me as her human, we bonded and Cash Mittens was the very first kitten that had ever claimed me in my young life.  She was awesome.  Sweet, but also bad ass.  She was tiny and feisty and didn’t take guff from anyone, cat or human.  She, of course, had a litter of kittens before we had her spayed.  Free, but a donation to help the kitty mom get spayed.
Cash Mittens was with me for six years.  I was actually an excellent human mommy.  My mom was really good with cats.  She taught us to respect them and how to handle and take care of them from a very early age.  She also taught me how to be a kitty mid-wife.  Some of our cats wanted nothing to do with anyone when they were delivering, some however, did not want to be left alone.  She taught me it’s OK if the cat cries or switches positions or moves around.  She taught me when the cat wanted comforting; paw holding or petting and where and where not to touch her during delivery (shoulders are OK, belly is not).  Some cats delivered and immediately began cleaning their kittens’ faces, which is what is supposed to happen.  Others did not.  If the cat did not clean the kittens’ faces they would die, so I was taught that a warm, damp cloth should be used to gently clean the face when the mother refused.  I was taught not to handle the kittens too much, except in cases where the mother refused to feed a certain kitten, then we would have to bottle feed it to keep it alive.

I won’t lie, it was actually really delightful helping to mid-wife to mother cats and have kittens in the house.  After delivery, a large box with clean sheets was put into my parents’ walk-in closet.  A nice, safe, quiet home for mother and babies.  But it was also lovely that our large, brown, super sweet male Siamese cat Nuttmegg absolutely ADORED baby kittens.  Generally male cats do not even like kittens, much less adore them (generally the males will try to kill and eat the babies because they are a threat.  Don’t judge.).  He would always go in the closet and kitten sit.  All mothers need time off from their babies and cats are no exception.  Some will hardly leave, because their kittens will be alone.  Others will hardly be around except to nurse them and perhaps gets some sleep.  It depends on the cat.  But all of the mother cats were exceptionally grateful to Nuttmegg.  His arrival meant they could leave the box, the kittens, and the closet behind for much-needed me time.

I’m sort of getting off track.  I’m really great with cats, even from a very young age is my point.  Cash Mittens was a feral kitten.  As with any child, you do your utmost best to keep them happy, healthy, and safe, but sadly sometimes life just happens.  She was an indoor cat, but on occasion would get out.  She would prowl the woods behind our house, and actually have an excellent time & come home when she felt like coming home which was about 4 – 6 days after her escape.  I would go every day down the drive of the retirement home to a spot in the woods with a clearing.  I would leave food for her and talk with her, in case she was in ear shot.  When she decided to return, she’d be out in our yard when I went to go take her food, we’d meet each other on the way, or she would come to me once I made it to that spot.  It’s just that one time, she never came back.  Ever.  And I was devastated.  I still miss her.  I still miss any of the cats that were ever a part of our family, whether they chose me to be their particular human or not.

Tiger Lilly

So, we’ll fast forward a few years after losing Cash Mittens and my parents said if I wanted, that they would help me find a kitten.  I still missed Cash Mittens, but I did want a kitten.  We drove to the country, because an older woman had free kittens.  She was an old and sassy, but nice country lady and she had brennel/tiger kittens.  She took me out to the screened in porch to see the kittens and none of the kittens were interested in me.  I understand clues, if kittens aren’t interested, then you are NOT supposed to be their human.  But one kitten pushed her siblings down and pounced her way up to me.  She looked at me, meowed this terrible alley cat meow and climbed up me.  There was no going back now, this kitten had claimed me.  She also happened to be the old ladies favourite.  I can see why, they were a lot a like; kind of like my own paternal grandmother.

I named her Tiger Lilly.  She was the skankiest, most bad ass street cat of all time.  She was so awesome, words don’t really do her justice.  I intended her to be an indoor cat and she basically told me to fuck off.  I’m not kidding, she was hard-core.  She turned out to be a large tom boy girl cat, who loved nothing better than ruling her outdoor domain and killing all the birds, lizards, and mice and squirrels and bunnies.  I really hate that cats kill cute little things, but you can’t fault the cat, it’s in their nature.  She’d await my departure for school and maow something awful and puff up with pride showing me that she’d slaughtered a cute bunny and saved the choicest part (it’s body with guts oozing out) just for me.  When this is the case, there is NO option other than to say, “Good girl!  You’re such and excellent huntress!”  To scold and degrade her is just cruel.  Luckily my dad would bury my “dinner” for me.  I do feel bad for all the wee woodland creatures, but if you fight nature, you will lose.

Anyways, she also had kittens, one litter.  Then, there was a terrible accident.  I went outside and Tiger Lilly was catterwalling in pain in the bushes.  She had been struck by a car and her left arm was limp at her side.  We rushed her to the vet and their solution was to just kill her.  I may have been twelve, but I wanted options.  Was there anything that could be done, tell me everything.  Actually yes.  Her leg couldn’t be fixed, but it could be amputated and because of her young age (not yet two), there would be little to no complications with the surgery or anesthesia and little to no complications with her living a full life.  Fuck you, Mr. Vet.  Which is what I would have said, had I cursed at that age.  What I did say is that he was definitely NOT killing my cat.

And she was fine.  It did not take her long at all to recouperate from surgery in my bedroom, and really she was just bored and didn’t want to be confined to the house for that time.  She quickly learned to use her right leg sort of putting it in towards the middle of her torso to steady herself.  She had absolutely no problems jumping, running, or hunting.  In fact, when she was indoors she was such a normal, active, young cat that she’d run around and even up on the furniture like she still had all four legs.  She was still just as fast, just as active, and just as deadly to all those poor woodland creatures.  She was even more hard-core than she was before and I still loved her just as much, leg or no leg.

She enjoyed a really great life.  Plenty of food, water, love, outdoor time, prey, snoozing in the sunshine; all the things that made HER feel fulfilled & happy.  But in her thirteenth year, there was a dog attack.  It was the weekend and no vets were open, and we didn’t have emergency vets.  She was alive, but she’d either had a seizure or heart attack.  I stayed awake with her all through the night and did anything and everything I could to keep her comfortable and tell her I loved her, but she passed away the next day.  The only consoling factor is that even without witnessing the dog attack, I KNOW for a fact that my thirteen year old, bad ass, three-legged cat, fought the fuck out of that dog.  That’s how she rolled.  She would be proud of herself knowing that she went out with her boots on.  I was still devastated to lose her and I still miss her dearly, but it is a little comforting to know that she led the life that made HER happy and that she went out in a way that SHE would have approved of.  I’m not kidding when I say she was that type of cat.

While Tiger Lilly was still alive, my parents’ had a cat named Seraphina.  She was going to have kittens and I helped with her delivery.  She was a pretty princess cat, and apparently was such a lady that you could not curse in her presence because it upset her delicate sensitivities.  You think I’m kidding.  We owned a coffee-house in our basement.  Of course we allowed our cats down there during business hours.  She would be sleeping on the back of the sofa and if someone on the sofa or next to it said either “Fuck” or “Goddamn” she would wake up and harshly chatter at them and then go back to sleep.  Our cats have all been gloriously weird.

Anyways, being a delicate pretty princess, she was not going to have her kittens in a cardboard box, no matter how deluxe you made it.  She was going to have her kittens on top of my parents’ bed, on top of the satin comforter.  We tried to have her lay on a sheet on top of that comforter and she would angrily chatter at us, get up and move off of the sheet.  We gave up as the constant sheet fight was causing her duress during delivery.  She was also too much of a princess to clean her kittens’ faces, but it turns out we didn’t have to either.  The father of her kittens, Lapis, was not like a normal male cat.  He wanted to be beside Seraphina during the delivery and he did not want us cleaning HIS kittens.  He cleaned them himself, very gently but purposefully.  He even ate her placenta, which she refused to do, but is something cats do.  Cats are big into secrecy, if you did not know.  They like to remain hidden from predators, and will always hide and dispose of any evidence linking to the fact that they were there.  If, as a cat, you birth the placenta and just leave it, you and your kittens will be found and eaten.  Living in a household, however, we would have been glad to just dispose of that for her, but Lapis insisted.

Bao-Bao

I happened to fall in love with one of the kittens.  I was sixteen.  The kittens were grey and super fluffy and this one was a rather chubby kitten, who happened to try to waddle-walk as young kittens do, but would just roll around.  I named her roly-poly.  She later hissed at me for bringing up that terribly embarrassing moment from her baby time.  I officially named her Bao-Bao.  It was a boys nickname, in Chinese, meaning precious baby from an Amy Tan novel.  It took me forever to name her, but that sound she liked and so Bao-Bao it was.  She was a fluffy princess cat, with a bit of a rebellious side.  She, however, did not have kittens as we just stopped allowing that with Seraphina.

She was kind of bad.  She was an indoor cat… who would happen to escape.  And while she did enjoy hunting, the safety of our cats was too jeopardized at that point in time.  Our street had become very busy and several of our cats, and neighbour cats, in a very, very short period, met their demise on that road… or in our yard because some asshole swerved purposely into it just to hit our cats.  So, being outdoors was out of the question, with the exception of Tiger Lilly who was so intelligent you couldn’t pay her to cross into that part of our yard and who would have killed all of us in our sleep had we denied her the outdoor realm.  Also a few strays who we fed and loved and who took up short residences in our grass and bushes until they decided to push on.

like adorable Tomás; a stray whose trust I gained by cutting off a tie tag for lettuce from around his neck.

But back to Bao-Bao.  She just recently passed away, in February of 2014.  She lived sixteen years, just a few months shy of seventeen.  She lived long enough for me to relay the news that they named a Giant Panda after her.  We celebrated.  She lived a good long life.  It wasn’t always perfect what with her wanting to go out and party in her teenage years, and me saying no, but we got along well, and that was only a small portion of her long life.  She was a great cat.  She simply got old and then just passed away one day of old age.  She was sassy and defiant, sweet and poised until the very end.  I also was with her when she took her last breath, just like Tiger Lilly.  And of course I miss her and still love her.  It, like all the others, feels weird that she and her presence aren’t here, but I am better for having known her.

Scully

There is also Scully.  She was a starving, abandoned kitten outside of our house, who of course we rescued.  She was rescued in 2004, while both Tiger Lilly and Bao-Bao were still alive.  Her name is Scully because she was an X-Files junkie as a kitten.  She will be eleven this October, and I’m happy to report that she is just fine.  Her and Bao-Bao never had a litter of kittens, as I said Seraphina, Bao-Bao’s mom was the last.

There happen to be a lot of cats and kittens who are abandoned around our house.  We are not the type to let them starve to death.  Nor do we wish to take them to a kill shelter.  We also understand the difference between abandoned and alone vs feral kitten with family.  We did have a feral cat family in the neighbourhood, complete with kittens.  Of course we would never “rescue” those kittens.  They have a cat family!

I realize this post is very long, but I have a lot to say on the subject of cats, but it does tie into the article.

First, with Cash Mittens and Tiger Lilly’s kittens, I was the one in charge of saying yes or no to people coming by for free kittens.  My decisions didn’t have a lot of criteria, but I also took my job very seriously in finding happy, safe forever homes for them.  To me it only mattered how you treated the kittens and the situation in general, as to whether you would be taking a kitten home or not.

I didn’t care if the kitten would be indoor, outdoor, or both.  I didn’t care if you had children or other pets.  I didn’t care if you were going to have it spayed or neutered or not.  I didn’t care if you had a lot of money or not (whether stated or just through appearance).  I also didn’t care how far you’d driven to get to my house.

I feel that I was choosy, and quite choosy in fact, but in all of the right ways.  My cat was my responsibility, and as an extension of that, so were the kittens.  I had helped birth them, to help take care of them in their early weeks.  I think that helped me to care about the kittens’ future well-being and do what was best for them, not what I perceived to be best for them.

The judgement process was easy.  If the cat has just unequivocally chosen you as your human, it’s a done deal.  That kitten instinctively knows better than I do.  If it wants you, then it wants you.  And I noticed that these people were the type that genuinely wanted a kitten, and would do their best to give it a terrific home.

I turned away a lot of people.  The reasons were varied, but none of these people gave a fuck about the kittens or their welfare and would not have given the kitten a happy or safe home.

01.  Guy detests cats, is actually disgusted at being in close proximity to cats and kittens, doesn’t want to touch one, sneers at them, only wants one because his girlfriend likes cats and he wants them to stay together.  NOPE.

02.  Creepy person touching the kittens inappropriately.  It is one thing to be a good parent, to monitor your cat or new kitten if it starts acting out of character.  Like your cat has trouble using the litter pan, to check in the litter pan or under its tail just to see if things are fine or if there is cause for concern.  This is acceptable. (although not technically relevant as this shouldn’t happen when trying to adopt a kitten that isn’t yours).  It is also one thing to take a kitten and lift its tale to sex them, as in determine the sex by site, to see if it’s a boy or a girl.  This is also acceptable.  There is no need to purposefully put your hands down there and not think anything is wrong with it when told otherwise.  NOPE.

03.  Not realizing or caring that kittens are tiny and quite delicate.  To squeeze or poke or pull or prod, in a non playful way that makes the kitten cry out in pain and you think it’s funny and see nothing wrong with your actions when told you are hurting the kitten, even from a 30-something year old woman (my mother)?  NOPE.

04.  For small children to violently grab kittens or squeeze their necks, pull their tails or try to twirl them around, the parents see and don’t care.  NOPE.

05.  Any scolding, berating, or discipline.  Yes, I believe in training a cat, as much as it will allow being trained, but if you don’t understand nature and gentle guidance then you do not need a kitten.  It wasn’t a case of the person playing with the kitten and it frolicked over to swing on the curtains and they calmly said, “No, kitten you shouldn’t do that.”  They didn’t bite the person and there was a firm but calm “No.”  I had people abusively berate kittens for wandering off and stop play with that human.  Or how tiny kittens learn to kill their prey, they kick it with their back feet.  Tiny kittens do NOT hurt, not even children if they “kill” their prey (your hand) in this way.  I had people slap or hit kittens for this and say they won’t tolerate a cat that does that.  NOPE.

Really there are some truly horrible people out there.  They might not even mean to be horrible, they simply assume/were raised/or think this is acceptable behaviour.  It doesn’t excuse the behaviour, but I don’t think most of the people are out to be monsters.  None-the-less, they weren’t getting one of my kittens.

I was even lenient when a small child was not handling the kitten properly, but the parent gently told their child that wasn’t the way, and to gently play or pet and showed them how.  If the child actually followed their parents lead, I thought this was acceptable.  If the child laughed and continued to hit the kitten, and the parent still continued to teach the child the right way and the child didn’t try the gentler way, then that was a huge NOPE.  Nothing on the parent, but I’m sorry if your kid’s not going to listen, that kitten will be dead before you get back home.

I didn’t even care if the family looked clean and upstanding and had money to take care of the kitten, if they were cold and unfeeling they weren’t getting a kitten.  You can buy that kitten all the fancy high-priced food you want and get it all the health care it needs, but if you’re not going to give it tenderness and love and end up neglecting it, you’re not getting a kitten.

95% of the people I turned away were pissed.  Trying to reason with my mother, trying to say that kids are too stupid to know anything and that it was JUST a free kitten (a few added “stupid” before free kitten).  My mom always supported my decision, even if she didn’t understand it, like the clean, well respectable people with no love.  Clean, respectable people can take care of cats, in my mothers thinking, more so than dirty, poor people.  She has a habit of judging books by their covers.  I could get into that, but I won’t.  Anyways, while she might have let said people have a kitten, she still supported my decision, which was awesome of her.

If you’re going to treat a small girl with kittens badly, you’re not a very caring person.  So, you’re just proving my point that you don’t need a kitten.  And these are not JUST a thing you can get for free, and they are not stupid. And a few were outraged because of how far they had traveled for that stupid free kitten.  That type of attitude and you are proving you don’t care about the kitten at all.  This is a baby animal.  It’s a living creature.  It is not a thing.  It needs love and support and should be treated as a member of the family and not like a play toy that you soon grow tired of.

There were only two people I turned away that did not exhibit this type of behaviour.  They were really nice people.  They really wanted a forever cat and to give it a good and loving and safe home.  I turned them away and stayed resolute in my decision because one family couldn’t see that their child was too abusive, so did nothing to stop it and didn’t understand when my mother or I tried to say it was too rough and hurtful.  The other was a family who tried to teach their abusive child to be more gentle with the kitten, but the child was repeatedly trying to bash the kitten to death into something and would not listen.  I felt bad for the adults, their hearts were in the right places, but it would have been a miracle if those kittens had lasted a day, not to mention what hell that kitten would ultimately go through at least in its first year of life, or until that child grew up a little.

Poe; an abandoned kitten we rescued and nursed back to health. We did not take him to the shelter because he would have been killed; being deemed too un-perfect to adopt out.

Wouldn’t you rather give your free kitten to someone who actually wants a kitten and knows not to let their kids swing it around by the tail or squeeze its neck, or had enough niceties to actually care about the feelings of a little 5, 6, or 7-year-old girl giving her kittens away, instead of thinking that girl is stupid and it’s JUST a free kitten?

I think if rescuers were more innocently child-like in their decisions, the way I was; the way that I think the writer of this article rediscovered, that more pets WOULD be adopted to good, forever homes. They wouldn’t be returned, they wouldn’t be abandoned or abused. And more animals could be saved. More animals & humans would be happy.

I strongly believe that.  I also strongly believe in the article writers re-realization of the adoption process.  I don’t think that most of the rescue/adoption workers are unfeeling, I believe that they truly love animals and their jobs and truly want to find safe, happy forever homes for the animals.  But I also believe that a lot of them have lost site of how to actually go about that.

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