Making a Difference

So often in our feral cat rescue (Marin Friends of Ferals) it feels like we’re barely making a dent in controlling breeding. You think rabbits and mice are prolific baby-makers? Well, unaltered felines are like polygamists with 5 kids per wife, or maybe the Duggar family (19 Kids and Counting). They have no Off switch.

The Duggar’s

But the difference with cats is that they can’t control their mating and subsequent reproducing. No, I’m afraid this one’s on us. People refuse to spay and neuter pets for many reasons: they believe it will make the animal lazy and fat (false); some are simply against birth control; others just can’t be bothered. You name it, I’ve heard it.

NOT a result of being sterilized

But here’s the thing – I see on a daily basis what those beliefs produce and it’s often heartbreaking. One unaltered female might have 3 to 4 litters a year. That could mean 20 kittens, all born next to the woodpile in your backyard. When we ignore their predicament, it only gets worse. Life is not an easy ride for ferals left to fend for themselves.kittens in wood pileWithout human contact, kittens fear people, so they may not be adoptable. That’s why time is not our friend here. We only have 2 to 3 months to reach them before they become feral, never to have the cushy life of loved domestics.   tick tockSo that brings me to Ebony and Harmony. Normally, trapping kittens is  simple. But these two black beauties took us days to catch. We were stumped as to how they evaded the trap until we finally caught them. Turns out both were essentially blind.

Ebony and Harmony

Ebony and Harmony

When our vet diagnosed the 8-week-old kittens with Small Eye Syndrome, we learned their vision ended mere inches from their noses.  Our nonprofit raised funds for surgery, but still, their eyesight only minimally improved.

E & H now had 2 strikes against them: they’re black cats (normally the last to be adopted in shelters) and they remained special-needs felines. Oh joy.We placed E & H on numerous adoption sites but after months with no nibbles, we contacted Gwen Cooper, author of Homer’s Odyssey. Gwen has a Facebook page dedicated to her late blind cat, Homer, and she allowed us to reach out to Homer’s fans. Within 4 hours we had over 500 messages! My phone pinged every few seconds.

Anyway, we discovered there’s tons of folks who love black fur and don’t mind that E & H have sight-impaired, unusually small eyes. We considered many potential adopters but ultimately chose a couple in Southern California.

Now for the next step…how do we get them to their new home?

Linda, my coworker, and I prepared to take the 20-hour round-trip drive when Carol, one of our volunteers, offered her and her hubby’s plane for the transport. Can you believe that? Carol and Jerry are also volunteers with Wings of Rescue. Jerry happened to be flying south last Sunday and agreed to deliver the cats. I knew then that it was meant to be. (Timing is everything!) Once we chose their guardians, it all just flowed. How rare is that?

Months of fostering, showing the cats at adoption events and reaching out to numerous rescue groups finally paid off; E & H were going home.

Waiting to board the plane

Retrieving the pair from their foster mom, I met Jerry at our small local airport Sunday afternoon. Rachel, our photographer, chronicled it all.

Jerry and I loading the cats

Jerry and I load the cats

Taking off

Preparing for take off

As the cats began their journey home, texts, phone calls and emails flew back and forth between all who had formed an emotional attachment to them. I have to admit, I had goose bumps watching the plane fly away. (What can I say, I’m a sap.)

So long, Ebony and Harmony

So long Ebony and Harmony

That night we received a photo from the duo’s new family. The cats lie snuggled together on their mom’s lap like that was exactly where they belonged. Now don’t get me wrong; I know it’s only 2 cats, so it hardly makes a dent, right? In the end, does it really matter? Allow me to answer that:

Yes, it does. It matters to Ebony and Harmony.

So all in all, I believe last Sunday was just about purrfect. Or, as I like to say in feline rescue, it was a good day at the office.

“Saving one won’t change the world but it will change the world for the one you save.”

Home at Last

Home at Last


Writer’s note: Since I just adopted my latest foster, a black cat, I thought I’d post this column from March, 2014 in his honor. I’ll tell you about him next week…

26 thoughts on “Making a Difference

  1. What an awesome post, Janet Mae, totally heart-warming . . . your beautiful story helps me understand your passion and truly, your mission. I always say that our world is a better place because of you, not only for cats and dogs, but particularly for your family and your friends . . . we are so blessed to have you, guiding us home . . . I will carry this story in my head and in my heart! And, we don’t always get the happy ending we hope for, but for Ebony and Harmony, YES!!!

    • Thank you Joan! I’m not entirely deserving of your kind words because I also do this for selfish reasons….it makes me feel good when I can help ease the suffering or neglect of innocent beings, so my involvement is not totally altruistic!

      • But, Janet, the “makes you feel good” is part of altruism and why we all do volunteer work or work in helping professions….it should no longer be something you apologize about

    • Not at all, I appreciate you sharing it. The more that know we’re here to help, the more cats we can reach. Yes, Forgotten Felines is a great organization with a nice group of gals running it. We’re fortunate in our area to have so many rescues.

  2. It is not often that I have tears in my eyes on a beautiful Sunday morning but your post evoked just such a response from me, Janet (although I have to admit when I saw the picture of the Duggar’s my finger almost automatically pressed delete—enough of those people already, in more ways than one!)
    My tears were happy tears in that E & H finally found a beautiful and loving family and then sad tears for all of those unfortunate kitties never to be held, never to have decent shelter, never to be able to count on a meal and never to experience the love and devotion of a human companion. Heaven will be very crowded with your ‘greeters’ waiting for you at the Pearly Gates, Janet.

    • That’s the best Sunday morning compliment I’ve ever gotten! Hey, we all do what we can – you have your lucky brood and I know you and your husband do your part for ferals. It’s the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. As challenging and emotionally wrenching as it can be, it’s all worth it when that kitten goes to its new family or the starving, unaltered feral is sterilized and put in a maintained, well-fed colony. Warms the heart….

  3. I’m a teary mess right now. What a joy to be part of such an amazing group of people! (not just crazy cat ladies either). Yes it does make a difference. It allows us to continue the journey, with much anticipation and foot work. I am so proud, touched and again, a weepy mess. Thank you everyone for each stepping stone these fluffy babies were allowed to make. It took a village, an optimistic approach and follow up. I watched Janet get call after call when she explained what miracle was about to happen. Thank you again. My heart melts.

  4. Janet, you forgot to mention how you put out a call to all of us MFF supporters and we recommended different ways to lure the kitties into the trap. Eh hem, the KFC? 🙂 I was thrilled to be a distant part of their rescue and I am overjoyed that you were able to have Gwen Cooper help with locating their forever home. I loved reading her book about Homer, and I’m so glad that she started this movement to help special needs kitties. It’s better than awesome!

    • There was so much to write about with these kits that I had to narrow it down since I’m so wordy already! But yes, the Kentucky Fried Chicken is a great way to catch difficult cats. It always does the trick…

  5. I too am a teary mess reading this. My preK class helped raise funds for E&H’s medical care. I hope that when I share this with them tomorrow I will be able to control the sobs of joy for our feline friends. I know the children will be so excited to see the journey E&H took to get to southern CA. Thanks for blogging this. Thanks for all you do.

  6. Celia, Linda told me about what your class did for the cats. That was really special, thanks so much. I think it will make them feel good to know they had a part in helping the cats reach their final destination.

  7. It’s so interesting how potential adopters react to black and disabled cats. My mother and I volunteered for our local humane society for about 5 years until I went to college away from home. It’s always so heart warming when the right person comes in. One time we had three blind kittens and we had a man drive four hours on Valentine’s Day morning to get them for his wife. Sometimes its just nice to know that there are “good” people out there! 🙂

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