My day job takes me to one of the poorest and grittiest areas of the city, where I encounter an endless stream of stray animals. A few years ago, after decades of spending my own funds for vet care, food and supplies, I became an official tax-deductible nonprofit: Brendas Cat Rescue. Friends set up a website and Facebook page and I was off and running officially, though I rescued my first cat 57 years ago.
When I wake up in the morning, before I go to my paying job, I do my volunteer job. First the cats — feed, clean litter boxes, do meds, change bedding, wash dishes, clean up vomit. Then on to the computer — responding to dozens of emails from people asking me to rescue a stray on their street; to take a cat they no longer want, to collect the injured cat they have encountered. Next is filing — invoices, records, agreements, adoption applications.
Needs and requests never stop. I have learned to take many deep breaths while dealing with the public.
When I check my phone, I hear many desperate voices pleading for me to take their cats, or come trap cats in their yards or at their workplace. I recently had a call from someone who wanted me to come take the 25-30 cats her sister keeps in single room. Another person wanted me to take their feral colony since they are moving. One left me a message saying they wanted to adopt a kitten because they just “got rid of their old cat” and wanted a new young one.
I would like people to understand that private animal rescues exist because a person took it upon themselves to try to solve a problem. We are not supported by the city or state. I am not a public servant, and no, you cannot speak to my supervisor when I won’t take the cat you wish to surrender.
Trapping is one component of rescue, and for me, it is extremely satisfying, especially when we capture injured, pregnant, sick or suffering cats.
It has its challenges. It requires skill, strength (a trap with a cat inside can be quite heavy) and a lot of patience. Traps are expensive. Depending on how many cats are expected to be caught, we will have to plan and strategize where to take the cats for vetting and recovery, and how to transport them. Too often people trap an animal (wild or domestic) without a plan and then call wondering what to do next. That conversation needs to happen before a trap is ever set!
Trapping is usually done where there is a concentration of cats/kittens. It can be stressful and full of surprises, including dealing people who are high but nevertheless intent on helping catch the cats with their bare hands. Once I had my phone stolen out of my jacket pocket while I put an injured cat into a carrier. I am often approached by people who assume I’m in the neighborhood to buy drugs, while others think I’m an undercover cop. “She doesn’t want to buy anything,” I once overheard someone say. “She just wants cats.” Nothing, however, is as scary as gunshots.
When a cat is in a trap, it is next to impossible to determine if it is feral (unsocialized), terrified or in pain. I have to make hard decisions on whether to have a cat euthanized or if it’s worth spending time and money on, and whether our volunteers or I have the skills to nurse it based on its wounds and personality. Rescue is far from sitting around playing with kittens.
Just last week, BCR trapped several injured cats — one had a horrible tail injury; one had a terrible skin condition that had sealed his eyes shut; one was limping badly and we learned from the local dealer that the cat had been hit and dragged by a tow truck almost a month earlier. We found one trapped in a box, starved and dehydrated, and another that was bleeding from a deep gash across her back.
Taking care of cats like these is not only expensive, but intense and time-consuming. Wes had his tail amputated and his recovery will take a month. Arlo needed to be hand-fed and given subcutaneous fluids for five straight days. Maurice needed X-rays and daily soaks of his swollen and infected feet. Massy will need weekly treatments for his skin condition for at least five weeks. Magpie and Greyling are on antibiotics.
Without a physical space, we are always desperate for places to keep our rescues. Sometimes we run out of space in our homes, and we have nowhere to recover. We don’t even have our own house cats.;
I wish I had a dollar for everyone who has told me that there is a place in heaven for me. What I’d like to see before I go to my final destination is for people to be proactive when they encounter an animal in need instead of making phone calls or sending emails and hoping someone else will solve the problem. Education is the solution, along with sterilization and stricter laws for abandoning or hurting animals.
That said, my life belongs to the animals. I’ve never been happier. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
BCR is always looking for foster homes, volunteers, donations and of course, adoptions. Please visit Brendascatrescue.com for more information.
Brenda Malinics is a Weavers Way working member who writes about wildlife for the Shuttle. In addition to running Brenda’s Cat Rescue, she is also a bat advocate and rehabber.