It has been a month since we last talked. The kittens started pouring in shortly thereafter. One minute we were worrying about adopting out our teenagers and adults, the next it was raining kittens. Now we are worrying about adopting out teenagers, adults AND finding room for all the kittens.
In case it is in not clear, most animal welfare organisations are not employers, who pay lavish salaries, provide fancy vehicles, and generous fringe benefits, to “staff” that are always ready to rush out to the rescue, when needed. We are volunteers, with full time employment and our own families, and we all do what we can. The level of involvement differs from person to person. Everyone does their bit, plays a role, and helps to keep the wheels of an organisation turning.
My opinions on rescue, has been shaped since 2010, and in general, opinions about how, where and when to rescue, all differ. In fact, I am happy to agree, to disagree. It will not help to get angry or frustrated when your call to someone, or tag on Facebook, to come to the rescue of some unfortunate pet, does not produce the expected outcome. Everyone has their own methodology, resources and process.
With this blog, I am hoping to give you a bit of insight in the rescue process and the volunteers involved. This is from my own perspective.
It is not always practical to rush out to a rescue situation, at a moment’s notice. The expectation from the public that you will do so, or are obliged to do so, will not move a volunteer into action, any quicker than what he/she is able to commit too. If you phone a shelter for help, and they say they are full, then that is literally it. They cannot take anymore rescues. The same with foster home based organisations. No places available, means, no places available.
Organisations such as Animal Anti Cruelty League and the SPCA, will however always help out. They do try their best for the rescues, and do good work. Do not judge any organisation, unless you have walked a mile in their shoes, volunteered or donated to their cause.
When you contact someone, or an organisation, for help, you must be prepared to accept some responsibility yourself. You might be given advice or pointers on how to keep the rescue safe, or contain the rescue situation, and now you need to step up. At the very least, you may be asked to transport the rescue to a safe place, as directed.
One of the most frustrating rescue situations must be the one of the abandoned, lost, or feral cat/kittens. When you get yourself together and arrive on the “scene” of the rescue, only to find the cats have disappeared, or has been removed, or some kittens has been removed and some kittens have been left behind. Where on earth do you now start searching? The well- meaning reporter is long gone, gave only part of the information, nowhere to be found or unable to help.
If at last, you manage to get the full story, went back home, drove out again, called for reinforcements and manage to catch your kitty, many hours may have passed. By now, you no longer feel the cold, the tiredness, the hunger. The adrenaline is pumping and you have your rescue kitty! Sometimes the rescue process may take days, or even weeks, to complete.
The first priority now, is to assess the health and needs of the kitty. They are fed, warmed up, dewormed and treated for fleas. Capetonians Against Animal Abuse will test all cats and kittens, old enough, for feline aids and feline leukaemia as soon as possible. These two diseases are both devastating on a cats’ health, and will be discussed in the future. Sterilsation follow as soon as possible.
To be able to do all of the above, an organisation raises funds like crazy. Vet bills need to get paid. Fuel, airtime, food, medical supplies, and other infrastructure, all cost money. No one will ever complain though and helping the kitty is always a priority, resources permitting. Read more about volunteering and donating in my previous Blogs.
To summarise briefly: You found/saw a cat/cats. You phoned a friend/asked the audience. You are requested to secure the cat, keep it safe for a day or two, help to transport the cat to the rescue organsation. At worst, to stay with the cat, to keep eye on it so it does not disappear. To keep it safe, you only need a dedicated space, such as a bathroom, or any other available room. A box, blanket/towel, food and water dishes, as well as a litter box… and you can use garden sand. A local supermarket could provide some food and kitty litter.
One Golden Rule: Do NOT feed MILK. Not to a kitten or adult. Cats are lactose intolerant. Rather give water. One idea is to soak a clean cloth with bottled/ boiled water (that has been cooled down), drip carefully into kitten’s mouth, or let them suckle on the cloth, if they are able too, until you can get them to professional help. Syringe feeding is risky, if you do not know what you are doing. The kitten can easily get water in the lungs. They can drown or get pneumonia and die.
Click here for information on kitten rescue.
If an adult kitty shows up on your doorstep, do not delay in notifying some of the Pets Lost and Found groups on social media, neighbourhood whatsapp groups, and notifying your local vets. Put some food and water down and try and provide some shelter. If a local organisation cannot assist, borrow a carrier, or ask help to trap kitty, and take kitty to the AACL or SPCA. It is the right thing to do. Wandering around, cold, hungry, and homeless, is not what they asked for.
A female kitty, arriving on your door step with a very round tummy, is likely pregnant. If you wait, she will have those kittens on your door step. For 6 weeks they are cute, and then suddenly reality hits home, or you need to go on holiday, and need someone to take care of your reality. By now, you know what I am going to say. Your choice not to seek assistance in the first place. There for, as the responsible adult in this story, you need to step up and take responsibility. Again, you may not have everything done for you by the rescue organisation, but do help them, to help you, help the kitty.
Cape Town Lost and Found Pets, have this very useful article. Resources mostly in the Cape Town area, but similar resources exist in other areas as well.
Click here: for some advise on what to do, if you find a lost pet.
In conclusion, if you find an animal in need, trust that you know to do the right thing. Rescuers are normal people, who learned some stuff along the way. They do not have limitless resources to help everyone. It starts with you, at home. Sterilise your pets. Keep them safe and look after their medical needs. If you find yourself in a position one day, that you can no longer care for them, do the right thing.