There are Way Too Many Cats

I love cats. Like seriously love cats. LOVE THEM. To the point where it’s the only thing some people know about me.

But there are too many cats in the world. There are too many cats in the shelters. Too many cats in my backyard. (I’m working on that last one.)

And definitely too. Many. Kittens.

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Kitten Dan, who we found in my backyard last fall. He’s got a great home (and a new name) now.

Don’t get me wrong. Kittens make my heart melt. They’re adorable and funny and sweet. They make a craptastic day better. The rescue organization I volunteer with, Rescue Angels of Southern Maryland, has found loving homes for dozens of kittens this summer, and we’ve got many more still looking for homes. Ask any rescue or shelter volunteer; their story will be the same.

But there are just too many kittens out there. So many, in fact, that at kill shelters, kittens are put down because there isn’t enough space for all of them. Shelters that aren’t staffed 24/7 have to put down underage kittens who need round-the-clock care and feeding. They just don’t have the staff to care for these “bottle babies,” and if a rescue group can’t take them in, they’re put down.

And we haven’t even talked about adult cats yet. Adult cat adoptions drop this time of year – and it’s already hard enough for adult cats to get adopted. (Don’t get me started on senior cats; they have the worst luck of all.)

When kill shelters get full, perfectly healthy adult cats are put down to make space for kittens, which are seen as more adoptable and desired by the public.

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My foster cats, Dickens, left, and Poe. So cute and considered adults because they’re more than a year old.

So here’s my plea this week: If you’re looking for a new feline companion, don’t forget adult cats. They’re just as cute as kittens (just look at my two foster cats, above, if you don’t believe me!), and they’re over some of those pesky kitten behaviors. A rescue group can tell you a lot about its adult cats’ personalities, likes, and dislikes. By adulthood, their personalities are set.

And adult cats are playful! We had a cat who played and ran around the house like a lunatic when he was 14. (Also, he was adorable.)

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Rory, who died three years ago at age 16. Ridiculously cute — and he was playful until he got sick. We adopted him when he was 7.

Adult cats are better able to handle the time alone while you’re at work, and they’ll get into less trouble while you’re gone. Adult cats can be calmer and more patient, which is good if you’ve got little kids who can’t resist kitty. (Be sure to mention your kids when you talk to shelter staff so they can introduce you to appropriate cats.)

And, let’s not forget: All kittens eventually become adult cats. That cute kitten phase we all love? It doesn’t last long. By six months or so, your kitten looks like a cat. A little cat, but still a cat.

Here’s my second plea: If you have a cat – or adopt one – please please please have it spayed or neutered. Kittens are adorable, but the fewer of them there are, the better.

Small Victories

My foster cat Dickens let me pick him up the other day.

On the surface, that doesn’t seem like a big deal. Many cats like to be held, and others, while they don’t appreciate it, will let you pick them up.

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Dickens only let me hold him for about two seconds, but this was a milestone for him. He’s been a foster cat in my house since the end of March. The first few nights, he hid in my closet. Sometimes, even now, he’ll run away if you walk toward him or look at him funny.

So the fact that he rubbed against my leg and let me handle him is huge. HUGE. So is his new tendency to come around looking for love while I am working at my desk. Pet his back for a few seconds, and he’ll roll over so you can rub his belly. He’s got a loud purr.

I have no training in animal behavior, and I am no expert on cats. I’ve been a rescue volunteer for almost a year now and a cat owner since my parents adopted a cat in 1988. I got the first cat of my own (Fiona!) in graduate school in 1999. I’ve learned one important lesson about cats: They need to come around on their own terms and timeline, not ours.

We’ve tried hard to be patient with Dickens. We pet him when he comes around for affection, and we’ve learned that quiet, small movements work best. Occasionally, I’ll test his comfort zone. Some days – like picking him up the other day – it works out great. Other times, he freaks out and runs away.

We give him a break and try again later. Patience.

Poor Dickens and his bonded brother Poe have been adopted out and returned twice by owners who expected them to be social and affectionate after just a day or two. They’ve come a long way since we took them in last spring. They’ll enter their forever home miles ahead of where they were.

I just hope the next person who promises to love them is patient. Their patience with these affectionate boys will be rewarded with kitty hugs and kisses.

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Dickens and his brother Poe

Want to meet Dickens and Poe? Contact Rescue Angels of Southern Maryland to learn more about them and to set up a meet and greet.

Happy Black Cat Appreciation Day!

We’re lucky enough to live with two mini panthers, and while we celebrate them every day, today’s the perfect day to show them off to the world. It’s Black Cat Appreciation Day!

Permanent resident Aine is Queen of Cats.

Black cats get a bad rap. They’re accused of causing bad luck for merely walking by you. Around Halloween, many shelters won’t adopt out black cats because they’re worried about the cats’ safety during that time of the year. For the rest of the year, the myths about black cats make them harder for shelters and rescue groups to adopt out.

Silly foster cat Poe loves to nap near someone.

All of this is totally crazy, of course, because black cats are awesome! They’re no different than any other cat, and we can tell you from experience that the black cats we know are playful, silly, sweet, and affectionate. In fact, Aine and Poe are both major snugglers!

So, on Black Cat Appreciation Day, do yourself a favor and get to know a black cat!

The Benefits of Adopting Bonded Cats

My current foster cats, Dickens and Poe, have seen a lot in their short lives. They were rescued from a busy parking lot where drug were being sold, and their siblings and other cats were being killed by cars.

These brothers have relied on each other to survive for their whole lives, through multiple foster homes and even a couple of attempts at permanent homes. Each time, they had each other to count on for comfort and play.

Dickens and Poe are a bonded pair, which means they need to be adopted together. They’re likely to be depressed and scared if separated.

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Shelters and rescue organizations have a hard time placing bonded pairs into permanent homes. Most adopters want one cat at a time – unless they’re adopting kittens. Putting two adult cats into a home together is daunting for some people.

Why Adopt Bonded Cats

But there are many good reasons to adopt a bonded pair of adult cats like Dickens and Poe.

They already get along. No careful introductions, no wondering whether your current cat will like your new cat. A bonded pair already loves each other.

Instant playmate! Young cats like Dickens and Poe – they’re a year old – are still playful and need a lot of exercise every day. Bonded pairs keep each other busy, and they’re great fun to play with together.

Easy transition. Poe and Dickens comfort each other when they are scared, which they are likely to be when they arrive at their forever home. But as they get more comfortable, they help each other know that the new situation and its people are OK and trustworthy. In our case, Poe is the more outgoing of the two. He came out of his shell first; Dickens has slowly followed.

Save two lives. Bonded pairs are harder to place, and by adopting a pair of cats, you’ll be saving two lives.

Meet My Bonded Fosters, Poe and Dickens

Poe and Dickens turned a year old in May. Poe is a chatty solid black cat. He has lots to say, and he’s not afraid to tell you about it. Dickens is a buff orange tiger with striking amber-colored eyes.

Poe is the more gregarious of the two, but when he wants to wrestle and play, he nearly always starts something with Dickens. They spend a lot of time playing and rolling around with each other. Playful Poe is also a serious lap cat, seeking out a place to relax and be pet when all that playtime is done.

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Poe got into a fight with a paper bag … and lost.

Dickens is shy and skittish, and when he gets scared, he snuggles up to Poe. In fact, when both are scared, they huddle together and help each other through it. But don’t let Dickens’ shyness fool you; when he wants a wrestling match, he looks for Poe.

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Sweet Dickens has the most beautiful eyes!

A patient owner will be rewarded with a pair of affectionate, playful cats who will love you forever. Poe shows affection with his whole body, pressing his weight into you when he rubs. Dickens is quieter, rolling over for belly rubs when you pet his ears and back.

Dickens and Poe are available for adoption through Rescue Angels of Southern Maryland. They’re currently in foster care in my home, and I would love to introduce you to them. Want to meet them? Contact Rescue Angels to set up a meeting.

Know Better, Do Better: Backyard Cats, 2016 Edition

Our journey into cat rescue began last fall when Mama Spots, Cali, Sneaky, Tiny, and Dan showed up in our backyard. Mama Spots and her babies Cali and Tiny were first, and when they weren’t snacking on the deck, Sneaky would come in for a bite. Dan was the last to arrive, showing up after we had trapped everyone else.

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Mama Spots and Cali playing the yard last fall.

We learned the hard way that feral cats don’t stand a chance when they’re surrendered. We dropped Mama Spots and Sneaky at one of the largest shelters in our area, thinking they’d have a chance as barn cats. Instead, they were transferred to the municipal shelter and killed. To say we were heartbroken is an understatement. Tiny had severe injuries to her hind legs; she was euthanized.

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Sneaky, doing what she did best: Sneaking a bite when Mama Spots was away.

Lucky Cali — now Tink — has a loving home with my parents. Dan — now Gizmo — lives with two little girls who love him fiercely.

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Dan, all snuggled in on the day we caught him.

Now, it appears that we have a small colony of community cats in our yard again. We got home from vacation last night to find two cats lounging on the sidewalk by our front door. We’ve named them Fireheart and Bluestar after characters in the “Warriors” book series. They appear to be friends.

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Bluestar, who is buds with Fireheart.

As we were unpacking, another little tiger cat ran through the side yard. And this morning, I woke up to find Ghost, who has been a resident for a few months, waiting on the deck for his breakfast.

Ghost is waiting for breakfast.

And that doesn’t even count Captain Fluffy, a friendly and occasional visitor who loves to be pet.

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Captain Fluffy, who we imagine lost his (or her) eye in some pirate adventure.

We know so much more about community cats in 2016 than we did in 2015. Time to get to know these cats, and make a plan for them. Stay tuned.