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Norwich Bulletin - 10/3/2004

It's Been A Long Time

Please forgive me. I'm so tired. For the last nine years I have spent everyday, including weekends and holidays, faced with foster cats and strangers in my home, and stranger's problems. I have been awakened on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 7 a.m. by people demanding I come and get the stray or feral (or even their own pet), and get angry at me when I tell them no.

I have had countless dinners and family functions interrupted by rescue emergencies, some very serious, some false. I have had people call and demand that I bring their child a kitten on Christmas morning and then get angry when I explain that I too, deserve to have Christmas with my family and perhaps they should have gotten their kitten earlier.

It's time people stepped up to the plate and took care of their own pets and pet's problems and followed through with their own rescue missions. Helping Paws is willing to lend a hand (or paw) but we will not be accepting any new cats until after the first of the year.

For the next four months we are going to concentrate on getting every cat in our care, young or old, a home for Christmas. We must take care of the cats we have already committed to, as well as take a much needed break. Every one of my dedicated volunteers is feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. If we do not take this break, we take the chance of losing Helping Paws. And none of us are willing to do that.

Most important, it is time we stopped being the easy out for people. I am not exaggerating when I say Helping Paws volunteers get approximately 100 calls a week with people who have cat problems. 80% do not want us to help them solve the problem themselves; they simply want us to take the cat, spend our organization's money to update all medical work, spend the time solving the behavior problem and then find the cat a new home. There is never an offer of financial aid - only rude comments when we explain that our organization is small and can only take a handful of bona fide rescues.

Now, the other 20% is the reason we continue our work and will be the beneficiaries of our help for the next four months. People who are willing to put the effort into changing their own pet's behavior so they can keep their pet - these are the people that I will work with on behavior, free of charge.

People who rescue strays and need help with the initial medical costs for spaying, fleas, and vaccinations can call us; Helping Paws is now fundraising to buy a quantity of vouchers from TEAM and provide them to people who are willing to keep the stray, either as an outdoor cat or foster the cat themselves while we advertise the cat on our website. This is going to be the majority of what we do until next year. It is also the direction that we have to take in order to survive. There are too many cats and not enough homes or foster homes.

There are so many Good Samaratans who take the first step when they see a kitty in distress. They will feed the cat, perhaps get some vet care done - but they stop short of committing to the entire rescue, which includes either a long term commitment to the stray or fostering the cat until it finds its forever home.

The hardest part, of course, is when the cat is feral as there is no chance of the cat finding another place to live and no organization that has anywhere to put an unadoptable cat. There are no farms or barns looking for feral cats - they have plenty of their own cats. There are no sanctuaries that exist in Connecticut that have room to take any ferals.

So the Good Samaratan who starts the rescue, must be aware that they are the cats only chance for survival. The cat will need a warm "cat house" for the winter, fresh water and food. The cat should be trapped and taken to TEAM (the mobile spay and neuter van) to be altered, treated for fleas and earmites, receive a distemper and rabies shot.

The cat will need care and chances are, there will be no reward of a purring cat on your lap in the evenings. The feral will appreciate you as much as it can - but many never bring themselves to allow a human hand to touch them. You will be doing a good deed with very small rewards. Helping Paws will be willing to help you do this, but we will not take the cat. Because of all the hazards of an outside life, ferals have a very short life span (one to three years).

So if you are willing to help the cat in your care, or the cat in your yard, feel free to give us a call (but try to call after 9 am and before 10 pm please) and we will attempt to give whatever aid we can short of taking the cat or committing to hundreds of dollars in medical expenses. But please don't ask me to take the cat. Please forgive me, but I'm so tired.

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