The following is an excerpt from the Petfinder Blog • by Susan Greene, Petfinder outreach team
Almost every summer, Carol goes out on the porch of her remote rural home and discovers an unfamiliar feline face. Another cat or kitten has been thoughtlessly abandoned during the night.
Carol is a senior citizen, and all of her own cats are fixed. Her income is fixed as well, and she has no money for vet visits for new cats.
Yet the abandonment continues.
I volunteer with a feral-cat trap/neuter/return group in addition to my job with Petfinder. We helped neuter Carol’s outdoor cats in 2002 (all of them were offspring of cats abandoned on her property), so luckily we are there to help when new cats appear in her life. When my phone rang this Sunday, the news was particularly bad: Two female cats and three tiny kittens (pictured) had been left at Carol’s door.
Abandonment of domestic animals is illegal. In New York State it is punishable by up to a $1,000 fine or a year in prison. However, it’s hard to catch someone who merely slows down and tosses a cat alongside a country road or leaves a box of kittens at a campground.
If you wander outside one day with your morning coffee and are greeted by the forlorn mews of an abandoned cat or kittens, you might be tempted to hope they will just “go away.” However, ignoring them will only make the situation worse. A dumped pregnant cat may shortly have kittens beneath your porch. Healthy kittens, abandoned without their mother, will soon starve or become ill or injured.
While you absolutely did not cause the problem, it has become yours, much like a storm that drops a tree in your yard. It’s unexpected and even may cost money to resolve, but nonetheless, there it is, and it’s not going to go away!
Make sure the cat or kitten has food, water, and shelter.
If you can bring her into your home, keep her away from your own pets until you are certain she is healthy.
Call your local animal shelter or humane agency for guidance
To find shelters and adoption groups in your area, use Petfinder’ s animal welfare group search tool. They may be able to take your foundling and find her a new home. Be sure to give a donation if they do. However, if they are unable to accept the cat, or if you prefer to care for her yourself, ask the shelter or rescue group these questions:
- Do they have advice on caring for very young kittens?
- Do they have a bulletin board where you can post a flyer for your foundling to help find her a home?
- Are they aware of other organizations that might be able to help you?
- Are there low-cost spay/neuter services available locally if you need them?
List the cat in your local “found” lists
If the cat stays in your care, be sure your local shelter places her on their “found” list. Perhaps she was not abandoned. She may be someone’s beloved pet who wandered away or accidentally hitched a ride in the back of a truck. Speak with your neighbors and post flyers. In searching for a possible owner, you may even find someone interested in adopting the cat.
You can also post her to the “found pets” section — and, if no one steps forward to claim her, to the “pets for adoption” section, of the Petfinder classifieds.
Report abandoned pets to your local law enforcement agency.
Make sure to make a statement in writing. Even if police are unable to locate the abandoner, the incident may find its way into the local news police blotter.
Try to find the abandoned cat a home
The Petfinder library has an excellent article on finding a home for a pet. Please be certain, before you let a cat or kitten leave your care, that the pet is either spay/neutered or is going to a home committed to spay/neuter.
One summer I was walking by our local grocery and noted a woman on the sidewalk with a box of “free kittens.” I went to speak to her, planning to explain why this was not the best way to find a home for cats. However, she admitted she previously had dumped kittens at local farms — thinking they wanted them — until she read in the newspaper that it was illegal!
While handing kittens out to strangers on the street isn’t the safest way to adopt them out, it was definitely an improvement over abandonment, and it did get her into the public eye. We could offer her resources to get her own cat fixed and take the kittens to get them into foster homes, thus ending the cycle of kittens and more kittens at her home.
Many of us can appreciate the reciprocally healthy, perhaps even somewhat symbiotic, relationships that can exist between pet cats and their lovingly appreciative human hosts, especially when the host lives with physical and/or mental ailments. Whenever I observe anxiety in the facial expression of my aging mother, I can also witness how that stress suddenly drains and is replaced with joyful adoration upon her cat entering the room. “Hi, sweetheart,” she’ll say. Countless other seniors with a cat also experience its emotional benefits. Of course, the cat’s qualities, especially an un-humanly innocence, makes losing that pet someday such a heartbreaking experience.
Perhaps cats have a beneficial effect on the human psyche that most people still cannot fathom thus appreciate. That unawareness may help explain why it was reported a few years ago that Surrey, British Columbia, had an estimated 36,000 feral cats, very many of which suffer severe malnourishment, debilitating injury and/or infection (I’ve seen many shocking, heart-wrenching images). And why the municipal government, as well as aware yet uncaring residents, did little or nothing to help with the local non-profit TNR program.
Yesterday I contacted Surrey Community Cat Foundation and was informed that, if anything, their “numbers would have increased, not decreased, in the last 5 years.”
I was also informed that the problems continuing for feral cats and strays in Surrey, B.C. are:
• The increase in population and the lack of interest by more residents in caring for strays..
• Lack of affordable pet friending housing causing cat owners to leave their pet behind and outdoor.
• Tear-down of older homes where there was feeding done by the resident or the neighbourhood.
• New construction and lack of places for ferals and strays to go.
• Lack of City participation in reducing the suffering of all the cats (ferals and strays) by providing funding for a City veterinary hospital including low or no fees for low income spay/neuter.
• Increase in residential housing and condos with developer fees not being put toward the care of misplaced feral and stray cats on the land.
• Lack of cooperation with City services that are unable or do not want to care for stray cats that are not tame.
• No place to house trapped feral cats.
• Barn locations must be checked out and meet high criteria for the care of the animal. Colonies cannot be maintained without a resident caretaker and a food supply.