Unless you have been living with your head in the cat litter for several years, you have probably heard the term ?Crazy Cat Lady? once or twice in your life. Perhaps, you have even been called a ?Crazy Cat Lady? when someone saw you feed a stray cat or two, or grab a flashlight in the pouring rain and rescue a kitten caught in a storm drain.
In an article in Psychiatric Times, Allison Cardona- the chief hoarding investigator for Manhattan?s ASPCA is called to the home of an animal hoarder. Her job is difficult. She has to convince a hoarder to spay and neuter as many animals in his home as possible and then allow her to put the animals up for adoption.
Responsible cat rescuers are a far cry from being crazy cat ladies. Crazy cat ladies are animal hoarders. Women or men, who take in cats, but they do not spay, neuter or vet the animals. Thus, two cats become six, six cats quickly become ten, and so unchecked, the cats keep breeding and the number of cats keeps multiplying.
Responsible rescuers are careful not to add to the problem of over-population. Spaying and neutering of all cats under their care becomes top priority.
In a crazy cat lady?s house, a typical scene could be piles of junk in the hallways and rooms, overflowing litter pans. The stench of so many untended animals along with the smell of decomposing animals (also quite common) is unbelievably rank. There is no honor here, only sadness, sickness and death.
In a responsible cat rescuer?s home, you will find well-cared for animals, scooped and cleaned litter pans and no strong, unpleasant odors.
Ill-informed people often throw the phrase, ?Crazy Cat Lady? around with little regard to what the term really means. Here are some ways you can avoid being called a ?Crazy Cat Lady,? these tips offered by responsible rescuers:
Louise Holton, founder of Alley Cat Rescue in Maryland:
? Rescue responsibly. Know and set your limits financially. If you can?t spay and neuter the animals under your care. You aren?t doing that animal any favors.
? Raise money effectively for your cause. When you work with cats who society has abandoned, the work can keep you in the poor house. ?You are not asking for money for you.? It is for the cats, to afford them the level of care they deserve and need.
? All rescuers should network with each other. Be there to support one another and take over when the load becomes too heavy. The internet is a great way to start a network. ?I would love to see a Nationwide network team of rescuers formed, covering every state.?
Has Louise ever been called a crazy cat lady? ?Only by a few uninformed people, who have no knowledge of the amount of work stray and feral cats require.? Louise says. She never over-extends herself, even though she realizes the need of hundreds of callers coming into their helpline will not be answered. ?There are only so many foster homes and vet clinics (where we board cats) to go around.?
Pet author, Dusty Rainbolt ( Cat Wrangling Made Easy) offers her thoughts:
? Learn to say ?NO! You can?t save them all, even if you want to. Keep a list of resources near your phone. Cat Behaviorists, Shelters, low-cost spay and neuter clinics.
? Don?t accept the guilt-trip someone is handing you as they try and pass off a cat or kittens into your care. It?s not your fault the cat is being abandoned.
? Establish a good relationship with a vet
? NEVER name the foster kittens. ?Naming them allows you to get more involved with the kittens,? Dusty explains. ?Leave it to the permanent family to name the kitties. Numbering them, or calling them by color enables you to keep your distance. Once you name them, you are sunk.?
? Work with rescue groups in your area. Establish communication with other cat people in the area. Where one can?t take a rescue, perhaps another can.
Across the world in Australia, an authorized RSPCA foster parent Tania Waterhouse suggests the following tips:
? Keep on top of litter box patrol. When you live in a multi-cat home, you need one pan for every cat. That?s a lot of scooping for you. So keep the litter pans clean at all times. Don?t let the smell rule your home.
? Don?t be a hermit. Don?t get caught up in the cats? needs and forget your own. Take time to be with friends, go shopping (not just for cat food!) Read a book, go for a walk. Just get away from the responsibility for small stretches at a time.
? Know your limit. Know when to say ?NO!? It?s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when the need is great. If you have to say to yourself ?What?s one more cat?? You are headed for trouble.
Cat hoarding and cat rescuing are miles apart in definition. ?The media loves to pay attention to the cat hoarders.? Louise says. It then makes anyone who is legit and really rescuing look as though they are cat hoarders. There is a definite distinction. ?
If you want to rescue that stray in the backyard, your rescue attempt should not stop with just feeding the ?poor starving kitty.? Trapping, neutering and releasing or re-homing cats takes you out of the realm of crazy cat lady and puts you into a responsible rescue situation. If you are unsure how to trap-neuter-and release,use the Internet. The Web has hundreds of resource sites to help you.
Rescuing is a serious business. Those who misunderstand your intentions may label you crazy, but the healthy, well-fed happy cats under your care know better.