You can imagine that I have a lot of stories, tales of all the situations/people/places/cats that I encounter. It is not easy to distill the stories down into something that can be communicated in a few paragraphs but I want to tell one or two here.
Today we received a call from a woman who, as many are, was very guarded in what she would say at first. Wanted to know just what would happen to the cats. What did we do, if we came to help what was going to happen? After some questions, the story came out. They had been feeding cats for, had quite a few ferals and one, who they were pretty sure was only 7 months old, had given birth yesterday. What was a concern was that the cat still was walking like she was still pregnant, something may have been sticking out of her rear end and her abdomen seemed lumpy. These clues could go in many directions – she might not have been done giving birth (can take the course of 24 hours for some cats), she might not have been able to expel the afterbirth completely, she might have mastitis (infection in mammary glands could cause lumpiness). I assured the woman that the only way we would know anything or be able to plan the care of this cat was to see for ourselves. A bit more talking and she asked me to talk to her husband. Again, he wanted to know what was going to happen to their cats if we came because they had a neighbor that did not like the cats. I said we could talk to her and he said absolutely not, that for now, the neighbor was unsure as to just who was feeding and he wanted to keep it that way. What about county? County does not have the people or time to go looking for problems so the only inquiry would result from a complaint, I told him. He started to tell me how they had screwed up, not calling us sooner. I interrupted him and told him that looking at the past would do no one any good, that we would be working on the cats and moving forward and that was all that mattered. As we talked, I learned that there were 12 – 15 cats and several litters of kittens already born and several more pregnant cats. Already knowing how much they cared about the cats, I explained that we do spay/abort as there are already too many cats here, already born. He said he completely understood and was thankful. The cats all have names, they know who has had kittens, which will be a big help to us! He had tears in his voice as we said goodbye. So, the current plan is to try to get there tomorrow, figure out the status of the new mom, sort out who belongs to which kittens hopefully and who needs to go in for s/n immediately.
Ten days ago, we received a call from a woman who said she needed help getting the cats taken care of, she got our number from the woman she knows at Osco. Could we come help. Next day, a call from the same woman, she did not remember our 15 minute conversation. Two days later, call from the same woman, still not remembering the previous two conversations. She was already on our “roster” of plans for the coming week, her confusion made her more of priority. We had four of her cats before she started saying the cats could not come back. At the same time, her son who lives with her, said that we could do what we do, but he didn’t want them back so he would shoot them if we returned them. We held off, I contacted the CSO, aldermen, city manager, chief of police, a sergeant later, the cats have been returned, the woman has been instructed to stop feeding and the son has been talked to. The area of this colony is literally awash in cats, they can go elsewhere for food = relocating would not be the solution, more cats would show up, the only option is no food at this house. In the course of this, turns out that the woman has called a trapper, not once but twice over the last ten years, to haul a dozen cats at a time away to be killed. She feeds, cannot handle the result and then does away with them. She clearly has dementia and the family unit is dysfunctional. We are very lucky to have the cooperation of this police department.
These two stories are such a stark contrast, but show the wide range of people and situations we deal with, the best we can.
I just touched on spay/abort in the tale above. Its been on my mind for some time that I needed to talk about it and it really is time, even if there might be negative reaction to it.
If we are to overcome cat overpopulation and euthanasia, we do not have the luxury of allowing every litter to be born. The only way we can look at it is to realize that kittens and cats that are alive and aware are being euthanized because there are just too many. There will never be enough homes for the volume of kittens that could be allowed to be born. There will never be enough shelter space for that volume and suffering will occur. Not deliberate cruelty, but the unyielding wait for a home for a large portion of their lives, day in and day out. Better to euthanize those that are not aware, have not been born and will not suffer. It is a heavy burden, one that we do not choose, but see no other way.
It is almost impossible to calculate with any certainty when a due date is in a cat. Ones that do not look pregnant at all have delivered six kittens overnight and ones that appear about to give birth wait another four weeks. Impossible.
If we waited for every litter to be born, then waited for the kittens to be five weeks old before sending the feral moms to be spayed, we would be inflicting more stress on the cats and reducing the chance of ever being successful in our goals. Every cat should have a home and be healthy and well-cared for. Until then, we neuter every cat we come in contact with.
A week ago, two different cats gave birth in my garage. I felt terrible, I had not done enough for these mothers, I had gotten to them too late and now, they had to go thru caring for these kittens for the next five weeks.
Now that these kittens are here tho, they will get the best care, we will do everything we can to keep them healthy and go on to find good homes, they are here and we will take care of them. To us, there is a clear line between not born yet and born/aware. I’m hoping that, even if you do not agree, you will understand that this is the best answer we have found for the situation we are in. To illustrate, a rough estimate would be that there have been about 100 spay/aborts so far this year. That would mean an additional 400 kittens minimum looking for foster homes and adoptive homes. The system simply cannot absorb that addition and there would be an equal number of cats that did not make it into homes and would have been euthanized.
If you follow our Facebook page, you will see that I spoke to one of the people responsible for the wording of this bill – the administrator of Macoupin County. She, Senator Andy Manar and the Department of Agriculture all worked together to create a bill that stipulates that any stray/found dog or cat must first go to animal control before going to a shelter. Even if an animal is surrendered to a shelter, that shelter must turn the animal over to animal control by the next day.
You can check on the status of the bill here.
This bill came about because a rescue organization seized a dog, claimed it was ill and not receiving the care it required and refused to return the dog despite pressure from animal control and the Department of Agriculture. Documentation of the dog’s state of health did not support their claims yet it took 23 days to get the dog back from them. This is a terrible story and there is no doubt that there are a few irresponsible, misguided people in animal rescue. The response to this incident has been much too broad, affecting all of the rescues, shelters and animal controls in the entire state of Illinois. This is a low-population area of Illinois and they do not deal with the volume that the rest of the state handles.
Update - As many of you may have heard by now, this bill has been tabled. This link points to an article that describes what happened.
Some things to consider:
- Most animal controls use rabies tag funds to support themselves, not tax dollars (limited income, not expected to increase).
- The litter of kittens found under a bush, the friendly cat that someone abandoned, the 10-year old cat from an 80 year old former volunteer who has died – NONE of these cats could be surrendered to a shelter without that shelter having to turn around and send it to County.
- County has limited space, money, people. The system in place has been working, gradually reducing the number of animals euthanized, more animals are being placed with the networking done directly with shelters, and Animal Control has been benefiting greatly.
Read the detail, contact your Illinois House Representative by phone, e-mail, Facebook and keep it up until you hear that amendments have been proposed and/or implemented. Senator Manar can also suggest amendments to this bill, even tho it has already passed. We can only give you the information, it takes each and every one of you to act on this and prevent our animal welfare in the State of Illinois from going backwards to huge numbers of animals being euthanized.
Rock and a Hard Place
It can take several days to write these letters. I started it on Friday and here it is Monday. We finally trapped a female after trying for several weeks to finish up a colony. Got her on Saturday. PAWS is typically insanely busy on Mother’s Day, so, thinking she was not too far along in her pregnancy, I didn’t really worry that we wouldn’t be able to get to PAWS until Wednesday at the earliest.
This morning I went into the garage to the sound of impatient yelling. Kittens wanting to nurse. Four black & white and white & black little guys. This is the fourth time this year and each time I have really wanted to cry. They are now in a dog crate with a litter box and food, hoping for a quiet garage to move them to, to be fostered for the next five weeks – my garage is way too hectic and can get very warm.
I called Judy to let her know we needed another spot for these guys. She had just picked up a litter of seven and had a trap set for the mom – the kittens were in a hollowed out willow tree and with the severe weather coming, it just wasn’t a good place for them. Called back a message on our voicemail – they have two litters, one of three week old's and another of six week old's.
- Foster space for the moms & babies
- Foster for the kittens when they are five+ weeks old
- 48” long wire dog crates that pop up (much more secure than post kind)
- Kitten chow
- KMR powder
What is different about this year? People are calling us, seeing the kittens and wanting to do something about it! They have an idea of who the moms are, how old the cats are, they are working harder to resolve the situation they find themselves in!
We will be moving the kittens on to shelters as soon as they are old enough or the shelters have fosters. Please help us, help them!