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On rescuing cats…

Or any other critter, for that matter.

I’ve been having some discussions recently about it with other people who also “do” rescue, either like I do it, by snagging cats who come to our doors and attempting to find them places to go, or by fostering and volunteering for organized rescue groups. There’s some points of common experience among us, and in questions we get asked by people, so I thought I would do Andrea’s Rules of Rescue just for the hell of it.

1) It’s hard. Sometimes, you will fail. Fosters get sick and die in your care, you fail to trap that last kitten, you have a foster that you cannot place and who does not fit in with your existing household, so you can’t offer the critter refuge. Your confidence will be shaken, your heart will get shattered. You have to be able to forgive yourself.

2) You can’t save them all. This is also a sub-point of #1 up there. You just can’t, and you have to know what your limits are in order to be fair to the critters who are already in your care. Fosters take time and money and effort, things which your pets also require, and since most of us are not independently wealthy, resources are limited. You only have so much time and money and energy you can pour into a rescue before you start short-changing the critters you already have at home, which is not fair to them in the least. You must know your limits, emotional and financial. If taking in a foster means you can’t provide for the critters already there, if it’s going to mean your dog misses needed vet care…don’t. You have an obligation to the beasts who depend on you.

3) You have to be able to let go. Every kitten and every puppy is adorable as hell, seriously. Every cat and every dog is charming. You will fall in love with every single one of your fosters at least a little bit, but since time and money are limited, every animal you keep is one less spot for a foster. Sometimes it’s hard to trust that you’re sending this critter to a good home; maybe they don’t do things exactly how you would. Whatever. Your home has limited spots where you can give adequate care, and there is always going to be another critter who needs you, so if you have a home for that foster where it will be loved, fed, and given good care, even if that family does the care differently than you would, send the critter on with your blessings.

4) It is easier to place kittens and puppies than cats and dogs. It is sad and mercenary, but you have a pretty narrow window of maximum cuteness in which finding a home will be much easier. For instance, I was pretty damn optimistic about placing Juniper. He’s little, he’s adorable, he loves his stuffymouse and he purrs a lot. He has a home lined up. Noodlehead, who is currently in quarantine in my bathroom, has a slightly bleaker outlook: she is a mildly cranky adult cat that is a very common, domestic breed according to my cat breeds list. Realistically she may never be placed, although I’ll try once I know her FIV/FeLV status. Luckily there is a place for her here, although keeping her may mean I have to cut down on rescue. But still: place ’em while they’re little.

5) The good: people will surprise you with their compassion and generosity. You will succeed in saving critters and finding them good and loving forever homes. Sometimes these good and loving homes will even drop you a note from time to time and you will get to see the tiny kitten you placed become a 25 pound muscly and good-natured monstrosity of a cat. Take heart from these victories, these little lives snatched back from the jaws of death.

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