Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Best Kind of Ending

It's always a happy ending at a shelter when an animal finds their forever home, but the best endings are when lost animals are reunited with their owners. We had just that happen with a very sweet cat that we called Renni. This is her story.*

Many years ago a man named Stacy was out with his dog, Bailey, when all of a sudden something ran up Stacy's leg, climbed up his back, and clung on for dear life with very sharp claws. Stacy ran home, having no idea what was on his back. It wasn't until he took his coat off that he realized it was a cat! Although this new kitty initially didn't like Bailey, they did become very good friends and Momma, as the cat came to be known, would sleep between Bailey's legs.

Sadly, in August of 2011, Stacy had to put Bailey down. Since Momma and Bailey were very bonded by that time, she took it quite hard. Several days later she disappeared and was found on a deck just a street away during a bad storm. Momma was hungry and thirsty, and was brought to HART as a stray. Stacy tried to find Momma and was very distressed, as she was a very important part of his life. But...he just knew she wasn't dead.

At the shelter, the stray cat was named Renni, and as part of a routine surrender she received medical care, was tested for rabies and distemper, and received vaccinations. She had been spayed and obviously had been well cared for and loved.

Renni was not thrilled to be in the shelter and was quite stressed. Margaret Bussa, a HART volunteer, felt drawn to the little girl and started to spend time with her. Renni lived in the hallway where there were fewer cats. She could look out the back door and sit in the sun. Margaret would spend time with Renni, brushing her and holding her. They developed a fondness for each other. Other volunteers also fell in love with the little black girl with the attitude and very interesting meow. (I was one of them!)

In July of this year, Stacy's roommates, Sarah and Hannah, began volunteering at HART. They noticed Renni's similarity in looks and actions to Momma. A couple of weeks later, after hearing Renni meow and seeing the surrender date and location from Renni's file, they realized Renni had to be Momma. Stacy was called, and he immediately came to the shelter.

When Stacy arrived, Renni was in the hall sleeping. Several HART volunteers were anxiously waiting on the outcome of this meeting. Stacy saw this black kitty, sat down on the floor, and called "Momma." Much to everyone's amazement, Renni immediately ran to Stacy, bounded into his arms, wrapped her front legs around his neck, began kneading, giving love bites and purring. Justin like Momma had found Stacy years before on a dark, rainy night in Freeport! Momma knew her name and definitely knew her man!

Stacy kept repeating, "Oh Momma, I knew you were alive and that I would find you." Momma was hugging Stacy and rubbing up against him. There was NO doubt that these two were old friends. Stacy had tears of joy running down his face. There was not a dry eye in the building as these two were reunited after almost a year. As Carmen Girard, a volunteer and Board member who witnessed the reunion says, "You had to be there to appreciate the love and devotion the two of them had for each other."

After Momma's joyful reunion, she returned to her loving home, now to be an indoor cat. Momma is so happy to be home where she definitely rules the household! Stacy says "I am so grateful that HART is a no-kill shelter because if Momma had gone to another shelter, she most likely wouldn't have survived. I'm also thankful for the great medical care she received and wish I could repay them somehow."

I was not at the shelter the day that Renni was reunited with Stacy, but I had gotten to know her during her stay at HART and she was definitely a special cat. It makes me very happy that she was able to go home with someone that she shared such a special bond with.

* This story is excerpted from HART's annual donation appeal letter.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Pretty Little Charlene, Part Deux

Back in October I made this post about my foster cat, Charlene. She has been at my house for more than a year now, and although I still can't pet her, lots of progress has been made!

At the time of my last update, Charlene was sleeping on the opposite side of the couch from me, and I caught her once sleeping on the bed while I was still in it. She would sniff my hand if I extended it out to her, but I couldn't come any closer. She would follow me around the house so that she was in the same room as me, but still kept her distance. She attacked my feet a couple of times to get me out of bed, and she would steal socks and underwear.

So, what progress has she made?

Charlene has moved from the opposite side of the couch to sleeping as close to me as she can get without actually touching me. I can sit on the couch when she's on it without her running away, and I've even sat in front of her on it without her running away. When she's on the back of the couch next to me, I can put my face right next to her and she'll sniff me, without running away.

She routinely sleeps on my bed with me in it, and has even allowed me to get into bed while she was sleeping on it without running away. She happily joins my other cats on the weekend in rousing me out of bed for feedings. She comes up to me and sniffs my face while I'm laying in bed.

She follows me closely all around the house, and even though she still won't let me pet her, she gets close enough that I can sneak touches. She immediately runs off, but she comes right back too. She has gotten to be quite chatty, although her voice is very quiet. It is the most adorable thing I've ever seen/heard.

Charlene is very much a cat's cat - she loves to rub against my other cats, and bathe them. She would sleep with them if they let her. She would definitely be very happy in a house with other loving cats.

If you're interested in Charlene, please fill out an adoption application and contact HART.

Charlene is the cat closest to the camera

Also, if you haven't yet seen it, HART has a live video camera up in one of the rooms! It's really cool to watch the cats do their own thing, and it has night vision so you can see the glowing eyes at night. The username/password to log into the video is hart.

Sampson, my little buddy

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Call To Arms

Shelters are again experiencing too many animals and not enough adopters. At HART, there are about 130 cats at the shelter, around 50 kittens in foster care, and close to 20 adult cats in foster care. Overall, HART is caring for over 200 cats right now. Unfortunately this is too many. Adoptions and donations are down, but vet bills are high. HART is facing having to, once again, close its doors to taking any more animals until the population reduces.


All our lovely cats need their forever home. If you are interested in adopting a cat, please check out our kitties on the website HARTofME or come by during open house on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Just as we need adopters, we need donations! Any donation you can make will help greatly. I've got an easy to use donation link right on this blog!

I'm not going to let you go without seeing cats of course. HART has a brand new camera setup in one of the rooms so you can see the cats, live! It even has night vision so you can see the activity at night. Please click here to view the camera. The login is hart (username) hart (password.) Please note: the Opera browser is not compatible. I've also heard reports that the video does not refresh automatically on iPads.

Please, enjoy seeing the kitties, make a donation if you can, spread the word, and help get our kitties adopted!

I maintain this blog independently of HART. My views and opinions expressed here are my own; I do not speak for the shelter.

If any kind viewer knows how I can embed the live video, I would love to hear from you.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Kittens Are So Stinkin' Cute!

One of the best things about being a volunteer at HART is that you get to play with incredibly cute cats and kittens. Today was one of those super adorable days.

If you've never been to HART (which is probably most people reading this) we have cats running around loose everywhere. There is a storage/laundry room off the lobby that several senior kitties call their home. (The lobby and the storage/laundry room that is.) These cats usually are on medications, but they're not all seniors. One such kitty is Sampson, a 6-7mo. old kitten who has been having bowel issues, URI, and I'm not even sure what else. He is so adorable, and is totally my snuggle buddy on Saturdays.

(These were taken in 5/19/2012. Sampson was not feeling well, and not impressed with having his picture taken.)

Sampson and I had our usual playtime, until he was completely tuckered out, but then, a new playmate arrived! Tiny little Fancy didn't get adopted during today's tabling event, so she came to hang out at the shelter until her foster mom was ready to go home. Sampson was delighted to have another kitten to play with, but Fancy wanted nothing to do with him. Instead, she kept running into the storage/laundry room where the much bigger, older cats were hanging out. They would try to sniff her, and she would puff up like a miniture halloween cat. It was so cute.

What does this do?

One of the older cats in particular took an immediate shine to her. His name is Lucky, a 16 yr old black cat. The first time she ran into the storage/laundry room, he jumped down from his nap on the shelf and went over and sniffed her. She sniffed back, did her halloween cat impression, and ran off out of the room. Lucky followed after her. He followed her all around the lobby, and into the conference room. What made it wicked adorable though, was if he lost sight of her, he would start crying like a mother cat would! At one point he was in the storage/laundry room crying for her, and she ran into the room, gave a little mew, he instantly stopped crying and then ran over to her. It was almost more cute than I could handle!

Fancy was full of energy and all over the place. Sampson never stopped trying to play with her though.

Eventually Fancy stopped to eat some food, clean herself, and then take a little nap, so I attempted to snap some pictures. Enjoy the cute, and ignore the blurriness.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

June is National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month

It's been a while since I posted (shame on me!) so here are a couple of things to be aware of:

  • June is National Adopt a Shelter Cat month! I'm not sure who decides these things, but I'll go with it. Shelters all across the country are having promotions to celebrate, and HART is no different.

  • There is a low cost Spay/Neuter clinic for low-income households that has opened at Freeport Outlet.

I want to talk a little bit about sponsorship programs. Sponsorship programs are important to shelters because they help to provide a reliable influx of money into the shelter. While donations and adoption fees bring in more money than sponsorships do, they are unpredictable and can vary greatly from month to month. How the sponsorship money is used varies by shelter, but being able to count on a known amount coming in each month goes a long way to keeping the lights on and the animals fed.

HART, being a volunteer run shelter, uses the money it receives from the sponsorship program to pay for food, medicine, veterinary care and more for each cat sponsored. If you are interested in learning more about the sponsorship program, please contact HART.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

But Mom, I want a cat now!

Over the years I've met a lot of people who treat animal shelters like a store - they expect they can just walk in, pick out their custom pet and walk out the door with it in tow. This expectation is not from callousness, but from a lack of understanding of the adoption process. Listed below are some of the common misconceptions about adopting from a shelter*.

"I'm looking for (insert purebred cat breed here)" - Shelters occasionally get purebred cats brought in to them, but this tends to be more of an exception than a rule. Shelters are not breeders - the cats they have were trapped, rescued or surrendered to them by the community. This means the shelter cannot plan what types of cats they have, and they cannot arrange to get a particular breed of cat for you.

"I'm here to get kittens" - This is two-fold. Kittens are very popular, but shelters cannot control how many kittens they have at any given time. Many times there are more adopters than there are kittens, and often this leads to a waiting list. Kittens are also kept in foster homes, not in the shelter, so if you stop in unannounced, you are unlikely to see any kittens. If you are interested in getting kittens, it is best to submit your adoption application with the knowledge that you will likely be on a waiting list, but that the kitten adoption team will work with you to find the kittens that are right for you.

"Why do I need to fill out an application, can't I just take this cat?" - Shelters have adoption processes for several reasons, but primarily we want to make sure that you are a good home for the cat, and that the cat is a good match for your home. Unfortunately there are many people out there who are cruel to animals, and we do not want to send an animal into a home where they will be abused, or worse.

"I want to let the cat outside"** - Shelters that have indoor only policies on their adoptions do so for the welfare of the cat. Cats who are let outside have reduced life expectancies, higher medical costs, and can bring disease into your home. Living in a quiet area, or out in the woods can actually increase the odds of your cat becoming sick, or being attacked/killed by another animal.

"If you don't let me take this cat, I will just get one free elsewhere" - Although getting a cat from a neighbor, friend, family, or stranger might cost less than adopting one from a shelter initially, it can actually end up costing more. Shelter cats have been spayed/neutered, are up to date on vaccinations and are in good health. A cat that you get from someone else could potentially cost you $300 or more, depending on their health and if they are spayed/neutered. A significant portion of cats surrendered to shelters also come from people who got the cat from someone else - most commonly because the cat wasn't the right fit for their home.

Just as a personal example - when I was a kid we wanted to get a kitten. My mom knew someone with a barn cat that had kittens, and they said we could have one. We got the kitten, but our older cat would have nothing to do with her, and hissed every time the kitten was near. We had the kitten for a very short time, because as it turned out, the kitten had such a bad case of intestional worms that there was nothing the vet could do to save her.

The staff at the shelter is there to care for the cats, but also to get them adopted to the right homes. If you have questions about the adoption process, please, ask!

*This is written based on my experience at HART, I cannot speak for all shelters.
** Not all shelters have an indoor only policy.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Every January 1st, millions of people make New Year's resolutions, the most common of which include losing weight, eating healthier and getting fit. While these goals are admirable, let's not forget about kitty!

Cats need exercise just as we do, and an overweight kitty can lead to the same health risks as it can in people:

  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • cardiovascular disease
  • osteoarthritis
  • respiratory problems
  • non-allergic skin conditions
  • lower urinary tract disease
  • hepatic lipidosis
 Now, just because your kitty weighs 14 lbs or more doesn't mean he/she is overweight - some kitties are just big. How to tell if your kitty is overweight:

If you have any doubt, consult with your veterinarian.

If you have an overweight kitty, make it one of your New Year's resolutions to get kitty fit again! There is a wonderful pdf file here with tips for getting your precious kitty to lose weight. It's very basic really:

  • exercise
  • diet change
  • portion control
Let's all get in shape this New Year together :)

(Please consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your cat's diet.)