Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

About six months ago, in September of 2008, I took on two cats to foster for someone in alcohol/drug rehab. To be honest, I didn't want to do it. Why? Because I just sensed the woman was a flake and this would not end up well.

But the cats, then living in an abandoned apartment with a cat box that looked (and smelled) like the county landfill, needed help. So I made her a deal.

For $80.00/month, I would keep her cats only if she agreed to pay for the proper food to get the 21 and 17 lb. cats down to a healthy weight. The $80.00 was for that food and the cost of litter for the two. Those of you that know boarding costs understand that this is about what a vet charges for three days for one cat. In reality, it probably doesn't cover the costs, but close.

She agreed (after begging me to take them) to do it my way, and paid for September. I received October as planned. November not so great, but eventually paid. Nothing in December or January, and today I received from her, via a letter, permission to adopt out the cats as she had lost her job and could no longer pay for them.

This would be a cinch for me were it not for the fact that these really ARE nice cats. But then there is the problem with how she handled them.

Kahn came in weighing 21 lbs., extremely clinically obese. He weighs 15.5 lbs. now, and needs to get down to at least 11 or so pounds then we reassess. Off to the vet this Friday (with Kizo, below) for weight assessment.

Kizo came in at 17 lbs., clinically obese, and is now down to 13 lbs. Looks to me like 1-2 more lbs. should do it. He is a big boned cat.

So now, the very position I wanted to avoid obviates itself.

Tell me what you think.

This is all about the cats. Right now, and perhaps in the future, especially given the economy, these cats could not go back to her even IF she were not in a halfway house. She would have to be stable enough and living somewhere she could have the cats. Strike one.

She spends the days with her boyfriend who hates cats. She is not looking for work. Strike two.

She allowed the cats to become extremely obese which says to me that her ability to take care of the cats is, well, not great. This along with the condition I found the cats in. Strike three.

In her defense: She is trying to clean herself up. It is not easy. Jobs are hard to find, and not getting any easier to find. She may not have realized that obesity in cats can kill them (many become diabetic), though she got my lecture and sure as heck knows it now. The cats are nice, thus she must have done something right!

If I hold them for her, they could be here for near ever. And if she eventually moves in with the boyfriend, he will never accept them.

My feeling (for the cats' sake) is to rehome them.

So tell me, how do YOU vote on this?

Hold them for her, or adopt them to appropriate-to-the-cat approved homes prior to which we:

1. Require an application.
2. If a cat appears to be a match to the applicant, we check personal references, vet references and do a home visit (actually, the home visit says a great deal). We require every member of the family be at the home visit to see how people deal with the cat/dog. Very telling. There is also a rather private list of rescuers that have a DNA (do not adopt) list from experiences from failed adopters etc.
3. If home and vet references, and home visit fly, we require they sign a contract which assures the dog/cat is returned to us regardless of when or why for the life of the animal. This is a safety net for the animal and the human.
4. Prior to release, each dog/cat is spayed/neutered, vaccinated as appropriate (we NEVER over-vaccinate... a real tic of mine), checked for internal parasites and treated if necessary, microchipped (we remain the first holder of the chip with the adopter as second, we pay all registration fees and we physically register so we know it is done), treated for fleas/ear mites as routine (Advantage multi), fully vetted (anything wrong is righted, from teeth to coat, and anything else found through blood, urine labs and examination and they don't leave until they are perfect), and on the day of exit, receive another thorough exam--what we call an "exit exam"). If a cat, each goes with a hard shell plastic carrier with a metal gate appropriate to the cat's adult size. If a dog, and a dog requiring crating for house training or other purposes, we require the crate be in place. Re require all to have ID when released and WE put it on their collars. All cats/dogs must be at proper weight before leaving. All dogs must have some basic obedience skills, and with some dogs, we require and will pay for classes in obedience (when they successfully graduate) by reimbursing a portion of the cost if they use one of our recommended list of trainers (each highly scrutinized... no shoddy, wanking trainers, rather certified trainers we check and which are approved by a local degreed behaviorist).
5. ALL veterinary paperwork--literally all the notes, all the bills, all the certifications, go with the dog/cat except any AKC or TECA registrations (we never release these, and for good reason).
6. An entire packet of information on health, nutrition and other useful information and links to appropriate sites goes with the dog/cat in a notebook which also contains all the dog/cat records. We also send a recommended list of veterinarians that are certified in western, eastern, and homeopathic medicine.

So you see, we put a lot of work into this for a good reason. We want to make good choices for the people and the animal. It is very, very expensive in some cases and we are always in the red. While we may make $50.00 on one animal, we might spend $1,000.00 on another. Adoption fees never cover costs at the end of the year. Never. Never ever, ever!

So, what do YOU think?

Hold for her indefinitely or find the cats a good home?

My heart and head say the latter.