Finding forever homes: Part 3
Published on August 3, 2011
The complicated nine lives of toms and tabbies
By Heather Killen
Willie is shy at first but loves to be petted, especially just under her ears. In very quick time, someone that spends time with her will have a truly loving companion. Willie is a very loveable kitty but needs a home with no other animals.
The best way to help tabbies and toms is to practice what is preached about the birds and the bees.
Sue Skipton, of Adoptable Rescued Cats (ARC), says she has always loved helping animals and about four years ago began working with Team TNR to help humanely address the growing problem of feral cat colonies in the county.
Team TNR is a group of volunteers that traps, neuters, and returns feral cats to colonies where they live out their natural lives.
There is no SPCA or municipal animal shelter in Annapolis County. Often when people’s life circumstances change, they can’t take their pet into the new situation. If someone can’t care for an animal, it’s hard to find a shelter that will take it.
Often cats are then abandoned, or stray into the wild. These cats congregate around a food source, such as a wharf, and if they reproduce, two stray unfixed cats quickly become a couple of dozen feral ones. Often when females are trapped, they already have a litter of kittens and until these kittens are spayed and neutered, the feral population continues to grow.
From this work, Skipton started her own cat shelter (ARC) about two years ago. Whenever possible Skipton catches the kittens and works with them until they can find homes. She also takes grown cats that aren’t suitable for shelters.
Skipton said she hears a lot of sad stories when seniors move into long-term care facilities and are unable to find placements for their beloved pets. Volunteers from groups such as the Companion Animal Protection Society fosters cats and dogs that are picked up by the animal control officer, but are unable to accept animals that are surrendered by their owners.
Atlantic Small Dog Rescue will accept dogs that are surrendered by their owners, but don’t typically work with cats. Skipton accepts these adult cats and also works with the feral kittens, trying to ensure they are healthy and happy until they find their forever homes.
At ARC the adoption fees range from $50 for an adult cat and $125 for a kitten.
Cats Pick Owners
Over the past two years she estimates that she’s helped and homed about 400 cats. All of her animals come with a return spring, she says. While she does get a few not-so-happy returns, her system mostly works with return customers looking for another kitty.
“If you take home kitty and it doesn’t work out, you can bring her back,” she said. “People’s circumstances can change and I don’t want to see anyone dumped.”
The best way to home a cat is to allow it to pick its owner, she says. She’s seen cats walk up to their people and signal with a determined paw and when that happens it’s usually a match made in heaven, she says.
However between her work with Team TNR and ARC, she’s seen a lot of animals that have just been dumped, she says. In an average month she gets hundreds of animal welfare calls and estimates that for every two cats she hears about, there are 12 more she doesn’t hear about.
Spay and Neuter
In one weekend she said she rescued five mothers and 15 kittens. The way Skipton sees it, more needs to be done to promote spay and neuter programs. While some counties offer special rates for low-income pet owners, she says in her opinion these well-meaning programs are targeting the wrong people.
“A low-income family with a pet can’t afford kittens and will set money aside to have the animal fixed,” she said. “Middle and upper income people don’t always. I’ve picked up at least one tattooed Siamese cat and brought it in the TNR program because it was a stray unfixed cat.”
For more information on, or how to support Adoptable Rescued Cats (ARC), or Team TNR call Sue Skipton at 902-665-3232, or email Sue firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is a real delight to see Sue's work featured as part of this series. Without having either a website or a facebook presence, she quietly carries on with rescuing cats.
This morning, the river was still running fast and high. Happily, it will only be a matter of days until it drops down enough for safe wading and water fun.
Wouldn't it be lovely if it worked that quickly for the river of cats? Until that day, it is a very good thing to hear some hard home truths quoted in the mainstream media.
The article raises a very valid point about spay neuter. Offering a bit of low income assistance is as useful as wishing the water away. It overlooks a basic bit of logic ... which is of course that the only way to stop the river of cats is to turn off the tap.
It is poor logic to say that assistance should be limited to low income. Paychecks are like objects in the mirror .. appearing larger than they are. Child support / alimony / needing uninsured meds or treatments / having a collision with only plpd coverage are only a few of the unanticipated wrinkles that can whittle the net down to the bone.
Denial isn't just a river in Egypt Why do municipalities not want to talk about spay neuter? Fund spay neuter? Implement permanent programs?
Do they not understand the math? That unaltered cats have a mind boggling multiplication table?
Because cats do not vote! Ergo it is up to the people who care about cats to speak up!
If everyone who owned a cat called their municipal councillor and / or their MLA, I can guarantee you we would start seeing more meaningful spay neuter support.
What time is it? It is always time to remember that the way ahead for the animals will only be paved by strong voter feedback!
The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity. George Bernard Shaw