Cat Rescue: Friends to Felines
As a caring owner, you know the joy of sharing your life and your home with a beloved pet. Some special individuals have made it their mission to help animals other than their own find love, companionship, and a home they can call their own. We’ll visit with a few feline “angels” and a couple of cats that were fortunate enough to come under their wing.
For the 6 years they knew him, Pagoda never had a home. Every day, he would go to a couple’s backyard in Idaho for food. When they moved, the couple couldn’t abandon him. The shy, easily scared cat would starve without the daily meals they provided. Since they didn’t know anyone willing to adopt the animal they’d grown to love, they took Pagoda to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, where daily meals are never in doubt and a new home is hopefully in his future. Located in Kanab, Utah, Best Friends is the largest facility of its type in the world. On any given day, there are more than 1,800 animals on site. Some are easily adoptable, many have special needs, and a few will never leave because of health or social issues. No matter the situation, every animal at the sanctuary has a home for life, and each one has an endless supply of hope.
SPECIAL FRIENDS, NOT SPECIAL NEEDS
“Every animal is adoptable to the right person,” says Lezlie Sage, cat adoption coordinator. “Each year, we take in between 350 and 500 cats, depending on how many we adopted the year before. We then find new homes for at least 75%, often more.”
To make their felines feel comfortable until those homes are found, Best Friends created Cat World, an eight building environment providing for a cat’s every possible need—from feral animals to those with new kittens.
Best Friends also offers “Benton’s House,” named after a physically disabled alley cat with personality plus. The building named after him provides assistance to cats with physical disabilities who need a little extra help getting around.
“At any given time, we have approximately 650 cats,” estimates Judah Battista, clinic manager, and co-manager of Cat World. “About 150 are highly placeable. It’s more challenging to find an appropriate home for the rest, but not impossible.”
KITTY IN THE CLASSROOM
Cat rescuers don’t just come in the form of big groups like Best Friends. Individuals can make a difference, too. Take Donna Francis, who volunteered with the Texas Branch of the SPCA and spent several years as a foster parent for cats looking for a permanent home. “I would foster mom cats and kittens, up to four kittens at a time,” Francis says, estimating that approximately 40 to 50 cats once in her care have found new homes.
One kitten she couldn’t give away she calls Lucky. He was born in her parent’s barn with just one eye and a cleft palate. He hasn’t let that stop him from helping others with special needs of their own. Until his retirement last year, he was a regular visitor to the classroom in Whitewright, Texas, where Francis teaches hearing-impaired children. He became their motivation to reach beyond their hearing impairment.
“Lucky was a great inspirational tool,” explains Francis. One day, a student went home and described Lucky in detail saying, “He only has one eye, but that’s OK, Daddy. He’s different, just like me.”
THE POWER OF THOUSANDS
Since the mid-1990s, those wanting to rescue an animal have found encouragement in a new location—the World Wide Web.
Petfinder.com brings thousands of shelters across the United States and Canada together, uniting animals needing love with those who want to love them. At any given time, approximately 150,000 animals are listed in its directory, including more than 70,000 cats. “The site is a virtual shelter,” says Jared Saul of Tucson, Arizona, who developed the site with his wife Betsy, in 1995. “It allows you to sit down with your family and visit hundreds of shelters, get to know the pets, and not have to drive all around to do it.” The site is actively supported by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
NEVER TOO OLD TO PLAY
With a little love, compassion, and understanding, almost any animal can become a loving member of the right family. At Best Friends, Lezlie Sage remembers one cat that found a home last year.
“There was a cat named Cassie that came to us when she was about 14 or 15 years old. To make her situation more complex, she was blind. It was a shock for this cat to adapt to an extraordinary situation. One day, a woman from Twin Falls, Idaho, saw Cassie’s story on our Web site. We went through all the interviews and, after 3 years spent at the sanctuary, Cassie had a new home.”
Cassie’s story doesn’t end there however. “A few months ago, we received some pictures of Cassie, showing her playing and frolicking outdoors, with supervision,” Sage recalls. “It’s amazing how well she gets around, even with no sight. It’s an emotional story. This cat, probably about 120 years old in human years, with no eyesight, was leaping into the unknown.”
It is the same type of leap made by those who find love with a rescued cat. A leap made on faith, but answered with unquestioning love.
SPECIAL NEEDS, DIFFERENT BREEDS
If you are looking for a new pet, there are thousands across the country ready to give you immediate and unquestioning love and companionship. The most daunting question is where to find the animal that is right for you.
The easiest location to visit is your local shelter. In most cases, it will always have animals available for adoption. The shelter is also a good starting point if you are looking to rescue a certain type of animal. Local animal shelters and humane societies may have information about groups that can assist you in locating specific breeds or qualities.
You can also use technology to find the perfect pet. PetFinder.com links thousands of shelters and rescue organizations across the country. You can easily narrow the search for a specific type of pet based on location and breed. And, sometimes the low-tech method is best. Check your local newspapers to see what animals are available for adoption.
Animals of all breeds and all needs are available for adoption if you know where to look. You can find a kitten or an adult. You can even find a pregnant cat if you are looking to start a family of pets all at once. No matter what option you choose, or what type of pet you are looking for, you are guaranteed to find one to fit your needs.