Sunday, January 22, 2012

On Desi and Ayla

Last week a friend-supporter-adopter contacted me about cats and kittens that had suddenly shown up under her porch. She suspects abandonment. I also suspect another victim of the "just don't feed them and they'll go away" very "helpful" advise that anti-cat people dole out. Cat under your porch? Fix the hole and don't feed her. Problem solved! Except now someone else has the heartache and expense of fixing the new problem created nearby.

So I gave her a trap (or two? I need to do a better job of keeping track of my equipment). Friday she came over with the buff kitten. Well, she thought she had just the buff kitten. When I pulled back the cover, she had TWO felines. The buff kitten, and a grayish female who seemed friendly. The trap had had covers on it when it was set, so she had put a second cover over it to protect the occupant, and hadn't see Cat Number Two.

I held to my rules and said the friendly cat had to go to a local shelter, because she could be a lost pet, but I would keep the kitten, whom I named Archimedes. Since we've already had an Archie, he'll probably be Desi for short.

She came over with the second kitten last evening. That kitten was howling his head off under the cover--and had way too much lung power to be a wee thing. When I pulled back the cover, we had another adult cat.  She was just so young and emaciated she looked like a kitten.

This is where it gets sad.

She had taken the other cat to the shelter, and a staff member came out and told her the cat was "evil" because she was scared and fractious.

Evil. Seriously? You know what? It's time for YOU to go. It's bad enough when we, as shelter workers, get frustrated, tired, and burned out, and don't treat our charges with the respect and care they deserve. Good people who burnout know they are burning out, and in their minds they are angry at the "system" and angry with themselves. When they lash out a the animal, they know it is misdirected anger. But when you begin blaming the animal, someone has gone over the edge.

Part of the job of working in a shelter is dealing with animals who need help to become adoptable, or respectfully caring for animals who may indeed never be adoptable. No fault, however, lies with the animal.

So could I send this woman back to the shelter with this very friendly lost cat? No, I could not. So little rail-thin Alya is here.

I am a big supporter of shelters. I really despise the "haters" attitude some people in the no-kill movement throw at shelters. But they are right when they say that people who hurt the mission of the shelter need to be let go (or need to be helped if helping is possible--immediately). If someone who worked under me said an animal in their care was evil, I'd be ordering lunch for two in my office and having a sit-down about what is going on in that person's job and that person's life. If they were an otherwise good worker, I would look for an educational opportunity for them--something upbeat rather than tedious, and I would be looking closely to see immediate improvement. I would be taking a good hard look around me at the conditions my staff are working under. Were staff negative because the policies of the shelter were poor (good humans being destroyed under bad conditions?). Or was the shelter becoming poorer because of poor staff?

At any rate, with Ayla, it was more important to thank my friend for saving this cat, than cause her more stress by having to walk into the shelter with another cat--especially a loud one. She has been there for me in the past, so we need to be there for her.  So Ayla is here, and we'll do a big poster/craigslist/shelter notification to see if she has an owner who is looking for her.

My friend came with a friend of her own when she delivered Ayla last night. It was cold and miserable downstairs (where new cats should go), so I brought Ayla upstairs and put all the "liberty" cats back in their rooms and runs so they could not go nose-to-nose with her before she is FeLV/FIV tested.

Desi was able to go immediately in for an FeLV/FIV test when I took Tommy in for his dental recheck, and I didn't get a call back, so that means he is negative. So I'll start working with him hard, to tame him up. He meows, so that's a good sign.

Suggestions for helping staff who are burned out (or letting them go) are welcome in the comments. However, please no "shelter bashing." Burn out is a problem in all shelters, whether or not they label themselves as no-kill.


  1. Wow, that's so sad. I just can't imagine anyone saying that about an animal. How scary it must be for cats and dogs to end up at such an unfamiliar place. I'll just say I hope that the shelter worker had an incredibly bad day, or had gone through something traumatic earlier, because it makes me so, so sad that anyone would just label an animal as evil.