I know, I know, I never warned you guys that I was going away. And technically, I didn’t. I’ve just been that dangerous combination of busy and lazy that means I don’t do the things I don’t want to, because I can justify- barely- not doing it.
Want to know what’s kept me away from the keyboard?
This is Shadow. After a series of wacky events, she’s temporarily living with us until we can find her a home. (Speaking of that, do any of you want a cat? She spends 50% of the day under the couch, 50% in a lap, and nights in her bedroom.)
Actually, I think it’s a pretty interesting story, but it also has a fair amount of Sad. Let’s dive right in!
Three weeks ago, we had the first of our Summer Guests Series. (Two weeks of back-to-back visitors. Another reason I could justify not blogging. Not that I don’t think you guys are fabulous!) For one of their last days on the island, we went out to dinner at an open air restaurant.
To my surprise- and delight- there were two kittens running all over the restaurant, begging for food and generally being adorable. Kevin picked one up and fed it bits of chicken to great purring. Then it sat in my lap for a while, with no bribery beyond petting. I named it Kona and got a flea bite on my thumb. We left, but the idea of two kittens being loose like that nagged at Kevin so we made a plan to go back, catch them, and take them to a local shelter for care and adoption.
It took a few nights of regular visits and feeding, but with the help of AdvoCATS (a wonderful organization) we managed to trap Shadow and bring her home. Kevin was excruciatingly patient with the cagey wild kitten; my job was to chase all the other, adult feral cats away.
The day after we caught her we had another set of guests coming to stay, one of whom was mildly allergic to cats, so Shadow had to live in Kevin’s walk-in closet. It may shock you, but spending her first three days with us in a small, windowless space did not make Shadow fall madly in love with domesticity. At first she refused to come out of the carrier we had put in there for her even to eat or use the litterbox. Then, once she realized we weren’t going to eat her, she would come out, but not to see us, only to cry from roughly three in the morning until FOREVER. Then she learned how to escape the closet and hide under the bed, also crying. (Although her escapes are slightly funnier now that I can look back on the part where we learned she didn’t know what glass was.) So it was with relief that we eventually moved her into the spare room, which we set up to be as cat-friendly as possible, even adding a cat tree.
Now comes the tragic part. Avert your eyes if all you want is a story of a happy rescue kitten.
While she was still living at the restaurant, we learned that her two siblings had been trapped by the employees of the restaurant and taken to the local shelter. There they were put to sleep, ostensibly because they tested positive for both Feline AIDS and Feline Leukemia Virus (which I did not know was a thing).
I cried, and passed on this information to the AdvoCATS, who had asked me to keep them apprised of how we were doing. They were horrified and referred me to a local vet, Dr. Freed (who is also a delight and I can’t recommend highly enough). Dr. Freed came out to our apartment and tested Shadow for both illnesses. She turned up a strong, definitive negative to both. Apparently it’s highly unlikely for only some of a litter to have received the viruses, which means the shelter most likely put down two healthy kittens because they didn’t have the space or inclination to take them in. (And now you know why I’m not naming them.)
When Kevin and I had gone to the store to find supplies to try to catch the kittens, there happened to be an adoption event going on outside. By chance I stopped to chat with one of the KARES volunteers. When I told her our plan she was horrified. “Don’t take them there! They’ll kill them!” She put us in contact with AdvoCATS, and the rest is semi-recent history. I had thought they were exaggerating, but a little research showed that the shelter has a well over 50% kill rate- local advocacy and rescue groups estimate it being as high as 95% or more.
So now Kevin and I are extremely nervous foster parents. Neither of us are particularly cat people, although Shadow’s really blossomed into a sweet animal. And neither of us want her to go to a home where she risks abuse or neglect- or getting abandoned. But that’s surprisingly hard to guarantee.
Throughout this two week interlude, I felt as though we’d been thrown into the strange, seedy underbelly of cat rescue- something I hadn’t realized existed.
Dr. Freed estimates that there are 4 million feral cats on the island.
AdvoCATS holds monthly TNR clinics where their volunteers Trap feral cats, bring them in to the clinic to be Neutered (or spayed) by a volunteer vet, and then the cats are Released back into their home turf. Anyone who does this has to sign a form swearing to take care of the cats for the rest of their- the cats’- lives. At the one we went to on Tuesday they neutered, microchipped, gave penicillin, dewormed, de-flea-ed, and generally fixed up over a hundred cats. In the 11 years they’ve been doing this, they’ve fixed almost 18,000 cats. It’s a really impressive endeavor.
And that, along with a few other things, is why I haven’t been posting. But we have no more guests until October, and we seem to have found a rhythm for life with an 11 week old kitten, so you can safely hold me to my plan of weekly updates.
In the mean time, I’d love to hear any stories of successful fostering you all might have. Do you have any recommendations for how to live with a kitten? Why does she like it under the couch so much! Please let me know.
P.S. Despite my slacking, my manuscript has reached 52,234 words!