Saturday, 8 September 2012

Purrs, Paws and Baby Elephants

Waking up feeling hungover when you haven't had a drop to drink betrays what a long and tiring week we've had. But I suspect I'm not the only one who feels this way, aside from the staff, there's an army of foster carers out there currently cursing me for hoodwinking them and landing them with even more furries to mop up after this week.

We have foster homes doubled up, and kittens running riot: pooping and trashing their way into their human carers hearts. One foster mum (and staff member) commented on her Facebook page that 'we've had the worst week this year' for demands to take in unwanted and abandoned cats and kittens, and it's probably true.

On Thursday, in just 30 minutes, we took  4 calls in a row that amounted to 12 cats in need of refuge. For the first time ever unwanted cat calls has exceeded the number of calls we get enquiring about the RSPCA vets (we get mistaken for them all the time).

Just when we think it can't get any worse, it does. The national RSPCA has put a stop on collecting locally abandoned animals unless there is somewhere to take them to. This is because branch's like ours have simply run out of space. One such call this week was from a local vets who had just had 3 x 6 week old kittens brought to them.

A gentleman out on his bicycle spotted 3 abandoned kittens in a wooded area. He cycled them to the vets who in turn called to have them collected. With the national RSPCA being unable to help, and knowing their fate hung in the balance, we set off to collect them.The kittens played in our office for a while until one of the staff pointed out to me that I seemed remarkably unconcerned that we had nowhere for them to go. When asked why I wasn't worried about this I just shrugged. The truth was I'd just given up on worrying and opted for the defeated, roll over and give up approach.

Woody and his friends rescued from a wooded area.
In the end I resulted to my usual arm-twisting charm offensive, despite earlier in the morning promising the unlucky target that I would never ask her to look after a total of 7 kittens again. That evening I delivered the 3 kittens adding to the existing 4.

Caring for kittens is no easy task. With  kittens under 5 weeks there can be round the clock feeding and  toilet stimulating/cleaning up. With kittens from 4-5 weeks there is typically poo on the go all the time, which means your house smells of poo, all the time. There are also the poorly kittens, like little Fry, who needs his bottom washing twice a day. And then there are the kittens that won't poop in the litter tray and leave 'gifts' around the house - typically on carpeted areas or up skirting boards.
Kitty 'Small Fry' isn't developing and is half the size of his siblings and unable to clean himself.

Kittens make for a madhouse too (just click on the link to see!). Their wild and wonderful playful antics both amuse and bemuse the onlooker but they also ruin your furniture, trash your nick-nacks and leave your legs scarred from being used as climbing posts!

Young kittens, like Pablo, are weighed regularly to make sure they are developing well.

It takes a really special person to look after multiples of kittens, and we are so lucky to have no shortage of such wonderful carers. I don't doubt many of them would say they love doing it but I know it also tests your patience to the max and looses you friends from having such a stinky home. And then of course there's all the sleepless nights from purrs, paws and baby elephant sounding antics! And let's not forget the 3am game of pounce they like to play on your feet when they poke out the end of the duvet.

But I also know that there is not a single foster mum that would dream of giving up their treasured role. They basque in the beauty of their furbabies and marvel at their magnificent personalities. While all the while I am incredibly grateful to them for all their hard work and for helping us get through the worst summer ever for cat and kitten abandonments.

Hermes having a rare break from pestering for attention.

The worry now is that we've got 30+ kittens all reaching weaning age and an empty cupboard of kitten food. Once these babies start munching they get through food like you wouldn't believe (hence the amount of pooping they do).Not only that but some are proving to be poorly, like Hermes above, who on Monday will start investigations and treatment at the vets. That means more work for the foster mum and more money for us to find.

Pippa and her brother Pepper have gone to share the foster home of Poppy and her 5 kittens.

Of course it stands to reason that the more animals you help, the more there are poorly ones and the vet bills increase. But our monthly vet bill has increased, for a second month running, by £2k. A ridiculous amount. We have just one major fundraiser left for the year and we're hoping it will really bring in the money through ticket sales, sponsorship and auction/raffle on the night - but we can't do it without your help.

We have also launched on our first ever rabbit photo competition for Rabbit Awareness Week. Whilst it isn't going to be a money maker we are hoping it will bring some much needed joy. I'm so relieved I'm not judging the categories because I'm such a sucker for a rabbit. (I guess that's why there's 7 sharing my house!)

But whether it be rabbits, kittens, cats, dogs, guinea pigs - we love them all but we've got more than enough now, thank you.

Baby rabbits born in transit to us on Tuesday. 3 adult and 7 babies admitted from a multi animal household.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Take That

We have had the most fantastic week for reserves and adoptions and hopefully we'll see, in time, a number of bunnies bond with owned ones and finally move to their forever home. We've done well with black cat adoptions too, and hard to home cats. All -in-all we should be on a high but somehow elation is far from the surface.

But  Gary Barlow is one such black cat that remains 'on the shelf' despite being the most wonderful cat you could wish to meet. He is now officially our new cattery favourite after the sad passing of newbie Archie.

Archie was abandoned by his owners about a year ago, after they separated and moved away. It is a tale we know all too well. Archie was being fed by people in the neighbourhood, including one of our cat cuddlers, and when she noticed his decline in health she got in touch and we admitted him. After a couple of rounds of tests we found Archie's kidneys were failing and he had a tumour too. Archie spent a happy week indoors receiving lots of food and attention, but sadly he had to be put to sleep. The upside is he is not going to suffer a long and lonely death on the streets, but it still stinks.

All week we've been swamped with calls from people about unwanted cats and kittens. It seems that  masses of people are experiencing life-changing experiences that are resulting in their need to 'rehome' their pets and it means that the number of animals needing to be relinquished is at an all time high. 

It's very hard, when you are on the receiving end of this bombardment of calls, to keep a perspective on the humanitarian side of things, to maintain and extend compassion toward people and their predicaments at all times. I think part of the reason for this is because of all the irresponsible pet owners who've allowed their animals to breed, repeatedly, and created the crisis of homeless animals. It in turn means that the people who are genuinely in desperate straits are unable to find help and quite rightly get angry and upset with the likes of me for seemingly failing them.

One call in particular struck me this week: a lady whose baby had been born very premature, and after weeks in hospital was allowed to come home providing all the animals in the home were rehoused (due to infection risk). Imagine being desperate to bring your child home and not being able to because no-one can offer you help. Ordinarily this would be a high priority admission for any shelter, but with absolutely nowhere to place another cat or kitten at our branch alone we could not help this poor woman, who'd been ringing around animal sanctuaries for days for help.

This really gets my goat because basically we wouldn't be in this horrendous state if everyone had their animals neutered. And getting cats neutered is not difficult, nor expensive and in fact many of us offer it for free. So why, why, are people not taking responsibility?

Last weekend was a great case in point. In just two days, Saturday and Sunday, 65 animals were collected locally by the RSPCA field staff and taken to the animal hospital for assessment. This is an enormous figure and an impossible amount to contend with. The majority were abandoned cats and kittens or injured strays. These are all preventable by getting your pets neutered and microchipped, oh and actually changing your details on the chip when you move house.

Ellie, an injured stray found in Manchester chipped to an address in London, owner could not be traced.

We not only lost Archie this week but a number of other furries too. It's so frustrating when you can't undo human harm, like with little Spud, a 12 week old kitten in an rtc and despite his foster mum's best efforts he just was too sickly to continue. What the hell was a 12 week kitten being let out for? He wasn't stray or feral, he was a well socialised, loving little guy whose suffered a needless death.

We also lost two hand-rears over the bank holiday weekend. Again, another prime example of an irresponsible owner for allowing their unneutered female outside, to get pregnant, and then abandoning the newborns rather than go to the trouble of getting their cat neutered. Not only does this action place mum at great risk of health complications, it also costs our charity a lot of time and money we don't have. Just take a look at the process that happens:

1. Member of the public calls the RSPCA 24/7 Helpline to report abandoned kittens (staffing costs to 'man' phone line)

2. Field Officer dispatched to collect kittens (staffing costs plus transportation costs)

3. Kittens taken to RSPCA Animal Hospital and are fed every two hours by nursing staff until a foster home can be found (staffing, hospital and food costs)

4. Foster carer takes on role of hand-rearing the kittens, feeding every two hours (food costs but also high emotional/physical costs)

I couldn't even begin to estimate how much that all comes to but it's a damn site more than the cost of a cat spay, which we will happily pay for! Despite my evident annoyance I am delighted to report that the remaining two are thriving, as can be seen by this video, but even more exciting is the development over the last couple of days that they are receiving additional care from a nursing mum called Cecilia.

Despite her ordeal Cecilia has been consistently friendly, good natured  and affectionate.

Cecilia is another victim of irresponsible pet ownership. She was found in someone's shed with blood everywhere and dead, deformed kittens strewn across the floor and a kitten stuck in her birth canal. An RSPCA inspector collected her, took her to the animal hospital and upon admission she had an emergency cesarean and one kitten survived. Cecilia has been doing an incredible job of caring for her baby, Lana, and has accepted these two as her own too. Humans really could learn a lot from animals, if they took the time to look and listen.

On Monday morning my first job of the day is to load up my car with pet carriers and take away as many cats as I can fit in. Things are bad. Things are really bad. I feel thoroughly miserable about it all because there seems no end in sight to the worse Summer I have ever experienced for cat and kitten abandonment.