for the love of cats
Educating the public on the importance of spaying and neutering is one solution in the fight against overpopulation and homelessness that cat lovers and advocates support. Due to the fact that most rescue shelters are full to capacity with slow turnover rates, cats denied entry, are often surrendered to kill shelters. On a continuous basis, throughout the nation, abandoned, stray and feral cats are destroyed. Some would argue that euthanasia is an effective means of animal control. Others would argue that there are more humane ways to address the problem. A major contributing factor leading to the destruction of cats may be a pet owner's lack of money.
Examining the issue from a potential cat owner’s perspective, let’s consider the obvious reasons. Many of the cats I have seen in shelters are not of the pedigreed sort. Most are domestic short-haired tabbies. Many of the cats housed in shelters, that are not strays, may have been surrendered by owners for several legitimate reasons: the cat is not litter box trained or a family member has developed an allergic reaction to the cat, being among the most common reasons. And these are resolvable issues. But, what about cases where cat owners become sick, lose their jobs, are suddenly homeless and incapable of caring for a cat let alone paying their medical bills? There may be unanticipated life-altering events for humans that impact the lives of their pets. For some pet owners, veterinary care is very expensive. An exam can cost as much as a week’s worth of groceries or a whole month’s rent making costly cat care difficult for a family struggling to make ends meet on a shoestring budget.
Granted, I've witnessed many veterinarians donating their time to helping animals, and as doctors, they are entitled to being compensated for their education, expertise and time as would any professional service provider. Not to mention the investment in their education, their overhead expenses which include the monetary obligation to their staff. That being said, veterinarians should collectively persuade potential pet owners to rescue cats, by not denying treatment because of an inability to pay,especially since it seems hard enough to get someone willing to adopt a cat in the first place. It seems very elitist that only folks with deep pockets are entitled to properly caring for their furry friends over those facing financial hardship.
In my own experience, cancer had ravaged my cat Pinkie’s body by the time he was finally diagnosed with lymphoma. I had taken him several times to a veterinarian for exams, including blood work, and after tests showed inconclusive results, Pinkie was referred to a specialist. Finally an abdominal ultrasound and chest x-ray was performed. After I had already paid an exorbitant amount of money in an effort to save Pinkie’s life, I was informed that I had to pay another fee for the medication. This was right after I received the bad news. It made me realize the extent to which pet owners are taken advantage of by some veterinarians in trying to save their cat's life. Pinkie died within the week, the expensive medication was barely used. I wish I could return it so another cat could benefit without cost, since it's a medication used to treat a lot of feline diseases.
I currently have four shelter cats that I rescued. Many shelters, operating under limited funding, only spay and neuter, vaccinate, and try to rid the cat of fleas so they'll be attractive to adopters.
Moreover, you won't know if your recently adopted shelter pet has a serious illness until it is thoroughly examined by a veterinarian. A big problem with shelter cats is that many of them are products of in-breeding. As such, if cats from the same litter are genetically predisposed to certain diseases, their offspring will be at greater risk for that disease. That risk is doubled if they mate with members of the same family.
Eight years ago, I adopted a large, orange, laid-back cat, called Brutus, from a kill shelter. I had him examined by a veterinarian the following day because when I got him home he hid and wouldn’t eat or use the litter box for the entire day. However, even though he wasn’t urinating, he would constantly quench his thirst by dipping his paw into his water dish and drink the liquid from his paw instead of the bowl.
From Brutus’s exam results I learned he had advanced kidney disease in both kidneys. Dialysis was recommended along with medication and the possibility of a transplant. Even though I didn't have the money to this, I was willing to go on a payment plan. Without warning, Brutus went into shock shortly afterwards, complete with mucus oozing out of his mouth and nose as I raced him to the animal hospital, but it was too late. Now, Clyde, another cat of mine, abandoned by a neighbor, has stomatitis which requires surgery that will cost a minimum of $1,000. So far, I have spent hundreds of dollars in exams and medicine on this cat, which could have been avoided if this neighbor had sought medical treatment early. This is why spaying and neutering of cats is so important. This includes feral cats which can be trapped and re-released to their habitat.*
Simply thinking about such sad occurrences does not necessarily bring about effective outcomes. A corresponding plan of action is needed. Becoming a member of a cat rescue group and donating to its cause might ease your conscience, but how much of every dollar you donate actually goes towards helping the cats versus subsidizing the program’s administrative costs? Do your due diligence by researching watchdog ratings for cat charities or requesting the organizations’ annual report. With so many charitable cat organizations, which one should you fund? There are no easy answers for resolving this dilemma. But beginning with your community shelter might be a good place to start.
We all have opinions but what is needed is action and active participation. Even if your time is limited (like most of us), making a personal pledge to volunteer once a month at a local cat shelter can help you gain valuable insights and make a positive difference in a cat’s life.
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*The SBU Cat Network consists of a small group of volunteer students, staff, and faculty, and has the resources to take in or help with feral cats on or off campus: http://www.facebook.com/SBUCat?sk=wall&filter=2