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Norwich Bulletin - 2/5/2006

The Next Ten Years

For the last decade I can remember countless meals missed, sleepless nights caring for sick and injured cats, tears shed for the needless loss of so many kitty lives that we could not save, and 300 successful adoptions a year. But time takes its toll on even the most dedicated volunteers and that’s why there are big changes this year at Helping Paws.

Three of my most dedicated foster homes have had some serious life changes in 2005 and they are unable to continue to take in the number of homeless cats they have in the past years. My own household has had to cut back in the numbers we accept, because my husband now has his own business and our work load has increased ten fold, leaving it hard to take care of a lot of fosters as well as my own group of kitties. So we have had to revamp how we can continue to help our New London County homeless and forgotten feline friends.

We have never accepted owner surrendered pets, and that, of course, will not change, but we have implemented a new program in which we will help people who want to rescue a friendly stray as long as they are willing to be the “foster” of the cat. Helping Paws will provide a voucher for the mobile spay and neuter van, T.E.A.M. and that will allow the rescuer to have the cat altered and receive its Rabies and Distemper shot.

The rescuer would be expected to put out the $6 or $7 extra for what would be a much needed flea treatment, giving the kitty the needed medical treatment to make it easier to find him a home. Helping Paws is limited to providing this care through T.E.A.M. as it is our most economical means to spay and neuter a large number of cats every year at a much reduced rate. We cannot pay veterinarian bills.

Of course, if the rescuer is financially able to take the cat to their own vet and do the initial medical work, that is always a plus. After the vet work is completed, we will list the cat on our website and help place the cat from the rescuer’s home. But the main change to remember before you call for our help is that we will not be able to physically take the cat.

If there is a feral cat who needs our help, as long as the person calling is willing to continue to care for the cat once his medical work is done, we will also provide a voucher from T.E.A.M. and suggestions on how to provide for the cat out of doors. We have some great volunteers who care for our colonies and they have great hints on outdoor houses, water and feeding suggestions. We will, of course, continue to provide care for the feral cat colonies, and vouchers to the wonderful people who take care of these colonies. They are our best chance for stopping the overflow of unwanted cats and kittens all through our state.

In the last ten years, Helping Paws has learned that every cat who comes into our care costs us between $200 and $400 to provide medical care before they can be put into a foster home for adoption. We have also found that the average adopter balks at paying a $75 adoption fee to help defray these costs, even though they would have had to do the vet work themselves. So, we have been forced to recognize the reality of our financial situation and the majority of cats that we are physically taking into our care at this time, are cats from the Newington Humane Society that have been caged for six months or longer and need help finding a new home. Helping Paws feels that their new relationship with this organization will benefit both the cats and the people adopting them.

While we still have a foster home that is willing to take a friendly, pregnant stray, it will be on a first come first serve basis, as we will only be taking one or two at a time throughout the year. While we truly wish that we had unlimited funds to care for every cat we hear about, the truth is, we don’t and we have had to make some heavy hearted decisions about the future of our rescue efforts.

We are still here to help financially where we can, with advertisements, suggestions, behavioral management techniques and in many other ways – but we are now merely part of a team effort.

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