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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Free Kittens...Free Older Kittens...Free Cats...Free Pregnant Cats?!

I took my kids to a festival held annually by a local town.  The kids are able to enjoy the rides.  Local crafters often have booths exhibiting their crafts.  There are various food booths to enjoy.  It is a grand event for a small town.  By coincidence, when I found an empty seat at a picnic table so we could eat, the family sharing that table belonged to my veterinary assistant, Jill.

We went to the petting zoo together to see some of the cutest animals.  There were baby goats smaller than my dog...okay my dog is very overweight, but she was still a very tiny goat.  They had donkeys, ponies, piglets, llamas, many animals that kids don't get to see very often if they don't live on a farm.

Then our eyes caught it.  A sign in the corner above a wire cage "Free Kittens. Parent must be present."  I give them credit for requiring parental consent.  I wonder how often a child is given a kitten or puppy free only to have Mom and Dad say, "Hell no!" 

As I look at the sign I cannot help but want to scream "SPAY AND NEUTER YOUR DAMN CATS!" at the top of my lungs! 

But I didn't. 

There were small children reaching into the cage, picking up the kittens and holding them.  There was a little bowl with dry food, and another one with water.  There was no solid cage bottom so they were on the grass huddled in a corner of the cage.  There were three orange tabby males, and one black male. 

One little girl put one of the kittens directly into the water bowl and started laughing.  Her mother, holding another kitten, was standing next to her and didn't say anything until her Grandmother yelled "pull that kitten out of there!" quite loudly and with passion!  I liked her!
Jill and I were just standing there looking at each other, then looking at the sign, looking at the kittens, then looking at each other.  It was a strange and silent cycle but it spoke volumes. 

We are overwhelmed with kittens and adult cats at the clinic.  Adoptions are SOOO slow right now, even for the smallest kittens.  But how can we just leave these four kittens there? Once you have laid your eyes upon them, it is so hard to say no.

We walk over, hesitantly, closer to the cage.  Jill pulls one of the kittens out of the cage, and it was obvious this kitten had an upper respiratory tract infection.  At that moment, the question mark disappeared.  We knew what we were going to do.  There was very little verbal communication between us.  We were just on the same page.

We walked out of the petting zoo in search of a box.  A lady in a food booth said, "My husband was saving it for something, but if it's for the kittens, you can have it."  Jill went into the petting zoo, and asked if she could have all four kittens.  A simple nod from the lady in the booth, and the deal was done.

Because of the heat, we had to get the kittens back to the clinic.  Carrying them around or leaving them in a car in this heat just was not an option.  Jill had her kids, and I had mine and the kids REALLY wanted to go on the rides!  We both turned and looked at her husband. 

He popped the kittens under his arm and off he went.  He transported the kittens to the clinic, put them in a cage, gave them canned food, dry food, litter, fresh water, and a blankie.  He texted us, "They were hungry."

I am still angry with myself for not taking a photo of the actual sign and cage! I am a blogger, I should think ahead, but I didn't. When I decided to write this blog, I searched online for a photo of a free kittens sign, and this one caught my eyes. 

This photo speaks volumes of what is going on right now, in every shelter and in every "free kitten" farmyard.  Even the cutest of little kittens are growing up without finding a home.  They sit there, and age before our eyes. 

In our rescue, Porthos and Athos have literally grown up in the clinic.  We also have the 6 kittens we took in and discussed in another blog entitled Six Degrees of a Rescue Nation.  That is ten kittens, plus one more kitten that does not have a blog tale, also for adoption.  That brings the total to 13 homeless kittens, without even a nibble of interest from a loving family. They are safe, but they are growing. Just the other day, a client asked about our adoptable kittens.  Jill handed her Porthos, and the client said, "No, it has to be tiny". 

Our kittens are completely vetted for their age, including vaccines, deworm, deflea, spay/neuter, leukemia and FIV test, microchip and registration, and any other medical care they need, and we are adopting them out for $25!  But people often see free kitten signs on their neighbor's farm and bring them into their household without knowing if they have any diseases that can be spread to their other pets or family members.

That night I went in to check on the kittens.  I had to give them more canned food.  They were hungry.  But what stunned me is that they were hissing and spitting and cowering from me.  They were feral, yet trapped in a cage with kids grabbing at them.  They did not bite or severely scratch anyone, but they must have been scared to death!  Over the next 48 hours, they realized we were their food-givers...we were safe... and they are complete lovers now...and still in need of loving homes.

If you want to add to your family, do it wisely.  There are two options:

1. Adopt from your local animal shelter!  This is the best and usually the most economically sound option.  Make it a cat rather than a kitten, and you get a big "WHOOP WHOOP" from me!
2. Bring your free kitten to your veterinarian immediately for Felv/FIV testing and an exam before introducing it to your family.

If you cannot permanently add another cat to your household, foster one for your local shelter or rescue.  They often pay for medical care, and you just have to provide the food and litter.  Even if you can care for that cat for a few months, it may open a cage to another cat that needs to be rescued.  You have just helped save a life!  (The same holds true for fostering a dog)

To those of you who have "Free Kittens" signs posted in your yard...


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Kat Wolfdancer said...

Thank you so much for this Blog post! I have 16 cats now. I came to this state with 5 cats -all spayed and neutered- 2 of my Grammy's very elderly cats, and three ferals I had rescued as wee small tinies whom I bottle fed (and spayed and neutered) Then I found Puddles starving -literally- in my orchard. And while I was unable to catch her and get her spayed before the coyotes got her, I DID manage to trap her three litters and have THEM all spay/neutered and vetted. Then came Mimi -a pregnant non-feral dumpee- and her three kittens. The last is Velcro, yet another cared-for dumpee, who has yet to be neutered, but he's quite young yet (I figure only 2 & a half months old yet) Merp is spayed and an outside kitty who sleeps in the motorhome at night for protection. That leaves one wily ol' Tom who has thus far eluded the live trap.

14 cats inside, and 2 outside cats. I had so many promises of homes, but surprisingly, nary a one was interested in the kittens when they discovered that my demands included spay/neutering.

WHY??? If you love your sweet kitties, why in the hell's half acre of demented thinking don't we teach our people to value their lives by spaying & neutering?

hmmm /vent off. But thanks again for this thought provoking Blog post. Adding your link to my Blog now.


*Amber* said...

You're a freakin' rock star!! I wanted to cheer when I read that you took those poor kitties. I have never had a cat (or kitten) but after helping test and vaccinate kittens to ready them for surgery at the shelter, the six that didn't have a cage or foster home (i.e. went to the euth room) came to my house instead for fostering. :)

Here's a question: do you believe in FIV/FLV testing 8 week old (or younger) kittens? There's an ongoing debate in the rescue world about the liklihood of (especially FIV positive kittens) testing negative once they are older. Should kittens that test positive be put down? Does your answer differ based on a home vs shelter environment? (Sorry, I know you probably don't have time to entertain my questions, but I'd love to get a vet's opinion - maybe a blog about it?)

Anonymous said...

hate to be this person but if the shelters didnt charge so much theyd find homes faster. here they charge $95-$150 for a cat or kitten thats fixed and has shots. we have a clinic here that can fix and give them shots and wormings and flea meds for $60. i agree 100% about the fixing, though