Tales From Cat Rescue: Putting the “Someone” in “Someone Do Something”
It’s 6am on a January morning, I’m digging my car out from under a good two inches of thick, stubborn ice. Appointments at our local low cost spay neuter clinic are sometimes backed up for months, so when I was offered one the day before to get in all three female cats I needed to spay (two unrelated kittens and the mother of one of the kittens), I jumped on it. I didn’t literally jump that morning, more like slid across my parking lot and tried not to bust my shit as I skated across the sheet of ice on the pavement.
I’m not a morning person. In fact, I hate the fucking morning. And, while we’re on the subject, I’m not really a super responsible person either. I pay my bills late and sometimes press snooze too many times and have missed my own appointments because I completely forget if I don’t set half a dozen calendar reminders. But when it comes to the rescue cats, rain or shine, sweltering 100 degree Virginia heat or freezing New York City chill, I do what I have to do for them.
I read an article earlier today on a site called Positively — which appears to be owned by that English dog trainer lady who used to be on TV — called “Somebody Do Something” — The Armchair Dog Rescuer.
All of us in rescue hear this on an almost daily basis. SOMEONE DO SOMETHING. As if we’re all just standing around doing nothing until some random person on the Internet calls us to action with prayers to St Francis, their finger hovering over the share button as they scream SOMEONE DO SOMETHING. Well gee, I wasn’t planning on doing anything today besides running cats to the spay neuter clinic, scooping shit, medicating a sick cat, and trying to socialize my hissy kitten. But now that you asked — in all caps, no less — let me drop everything and go do something! THANK YOU for your hard work, what would people like me do without people like you telling us to do something?!
I’m someone. I work full-time, I try to have a life outside of cat rescue, and some days, the last thing I want to do on my day off is pack up cats who hate the car and shlep them across town to an adoption event. And yet, I manage to do something.
I’m pretty lucky in that I have the space and the means to support several fosters at a time, if it does get a little crowded in this apartment of mine. Yeah, I live in an apartment. A one bedroom, technically, though it’s actually a loft so one of my fosters — who has been here two years — gets the whole upstairs and everyone else just takes up my couch and every free space with their sprawling cat trees and beds and toys they refuse to pick up because, you know, they’re cats and they don’t do that shit.
I wish I could tell you rescue is constantly rewarding. It isn’t.
Until you’ve had to change your phone number because a hoarder is harassing you, or sat petting the head of a cat you hardly knew but tried to help as the vet euthanized him, or picked off fleas one by one from a malnourished kitten dumped on a doorstep, you don’t really understand just how exhausting all of it is. Not to mention the fact that there’s a lot of shit involved. Actual shit. Giardia shit, coccidia shit, and even the nasty kitten shit bingo a litter of mine won last summer: the toxoplasmosis, coccidia, runny shit combo. Trust me, no one should be subjected to that.
The Positively article suggests that those who feel compelled to cry SOMEONE DO SOMETHING find a way to be that someone. It doesn’t mean stuffing your apartment full of cats or cleaning up hoarding situations or sterilizing your bathroom three times a day because the parasite-infested kittens pulled out their poop cannons and trashed the joint. What it does mean is doing what you can do and — more importantly — not yelling at the people already doing something to do more.
There is nothing more frustrating than being told we aren’t doing enough by someone who isn’t doing anything but yelling at us. On this topic, here are a few more unhelpful things you shouldn’t say:
- Where are the rescues? Funny you’d ask that, we’re probably bottle feeding kittens or at an adoption event or syringe-feeding the shelter pull that has calici and will die of fatty liver if we don’t get some food into her. Trust us, we are aware cats die in shelters every single day. And as much as we’d like to save them all, that is just impossible. Sometimes, we have to make the difficult decision to rescue one cat and leave another or even several behind, knowing they will be killed at the shelter. Do you think that’s an easy decision to make? I’m here to tell you, it isn’t.
- Why has no one stepped up for this baby? Well, most of the rescues are full. An isolation space in my apartment for a sick shelter cat is a blessing, but I don’t always have one because there’s probably already a sick cat in there. Since I can’t exactly start stuffing cats in my closet or keeping them in my trunk, I’m limited by space. Many rescues are limited by financial constraints as well. We hope most of our pulls get over their shelter colds with a little supportive care but sometimes, they need to be hospitalized. Sometimes they have other issues, like broken bones or nasty eye infections. Until we find the magic cat that shits 24k gold turds, we have to come up with the money to treat them. That’s tough when you’re paying out of pocket or running a small non-profit. If “stepping up” were all the cat needed, they’d all be saved. But they need space, and food, and medicine, and sometimes a lot of medicine, and they probably need to be fixed, and combo tested, and microchipped. None of that is free.
- Someone help this baby! Again, who are you if not a someone? All the other someones are loaded up, and we could really use a hand someone-ing all these cats. As exhausting as all this work can be — which, again, we don’t get paid for and often do on top of our “real” jobs — there is nothing more rewarding than knowing YOU saved that life, YOU nursed him back to health, YOU got him fixed and vetted and found a wonderful family to adopt him.
- I would take him but I __________ [already have X number of cats], [live a continent away], [am allergic] Thank you so much for your kind yet useless offer. I’m sure the cat would love to know you’d take him in an alternate universe where you aren’t full up on cats or 3,000 miles away. I would take a family of wombats into my apartment if it made sense but I don’t go around saying that because the last thing I need is a bunch of wombats. It is assumed that most people would take a cat IF [insert condition here] but saying that doesn’t help this cat at this moment. What’s the saying, if wishes were fishes…? Stop wishing and start fishing. Or just shut the fuck up.
Do you genuinely want to help? Donate. Make cat beds out of scrap fabric. Help transport. Set appointments. Help process adoption applications. Organize a fundraiser.
But please, for the love of Bastet, stop telling “someone” to do something. Someone is doing it. Someone is really tired. Someone has just $20 in the bank because they spent $1500 at the emergency vet to get a cat better. Someone nearly got in an accident this morning driving through the ice to get the cats to the spay neuter clinic. Someone has an apartment full of cats. Someone is heartbroken to know so many of them die at the shelter or end up dumped by their crappy owners for stupid reasons.
Someone is begging you, just stop. If someone can do it, so can you.