Airing My Guilt and Seeking Advice

How do they find me?  It’s my turn to ask the age-old question that many an animal rescuer has asked. How do they find me!?   This past weekend I was picking up my boyfriend from a friend’s house when a sweet little kitten, about 5 or 6 months old appeared out of the darkness mewing at me. After a minute or so of coaxing on my part, she let me touch her and instantly started rubbing on my arms, rolling on her back and just being overall adorable. She (at least I think she is a she, it was dark and I had to judge by the light of my cell phone) also had a friend who was sprawled on the sidewalk but retreated a bit when I got close.

After determining, from the human friend, that these cats were strays, I of course resolved to take this little girl in, get her fixed and find her a home. So I went home to get my cat catching supplies. I went back, the sweet little gray tabby who approached me for lovin’ was gone, but there were at least three other cats in her place. I wasn’t prepared for three or four cats, so I had to leave and recoup.  This was all on Saturday. Since my original encounter with the filthy but lovable gray tabby baby who was looking for love, several roadblocks have sprung up which have prevented me from taking immediate action on these cats.

1. Housing/recovery space: I don’t have room to recover multiple cats. Last time, when I had the 6 cats, I kept them in my garage. I will have to plan just right and hope the weather cooperates if I am going to keep any cat in my garage during the summer. It is just too deadly hot in there. Recovery space is made all the more complicated by fleas! As I mentioned the little gray tabby was filthy. I think I could feel live fleas on her, and when I got home I realized my hand was black from flea dirt. If even one of them has live fleas I don’t have any place good to keep them in the summer. My basement, the recovery space I use in winter and summer, would be a lovely breeding ground for fleas, all the right conditions.

2. Location: These cats were not in my neighborhood and not in the city.  I have only ever trapped cats in my neighborhood before. I am a little nervous about going around to strangers houses, leaving notes explaining about the cats and then actually setting up shop on their street trying to catch these cats. So this one is probably more in my mind than anything, but still, something that makes me nervous, which will in turn impact my mannerisms and thus how I come off to the neighbors so, a valid concern. I also am afraid of how people in the neighborhood will respond. There is always the valid concern that someone will call animal control either before or after the cats are trapped, refuse to let me return anyone who is feral, etc.

3. Shelter space: I know at least one girl is  friendly and adoptable. I don’t know about anyone else. With all the shelters so full right now, the problem of placing even just one cat is something I dread facing. I have the added pressure of a time limit at home from my mom. She has granted permission to take the cat in but I can’t keep her “long” whatever that means.  Since one is friendly I have to assume the other ones are at least somewhat friendly, which leads to the possibility of socializing and potentially trying to adopt directly to a home…)  I realize I am probably complicating things with my forethought but these are all valid concerns that do have to be planned for.

4. Money:  So we come to the not so little issue of money. The issue everyone seems to have, lack of money. For me it has been six months of unemployment, three bills and some medical expenses. Money is tighter than it has ever been. I cannot afford my own bills, and can hardly afford to care for my own cats.  I cannot reasonably spend hundreds (surgery, chip, times at least four; plus combos on friendlies) on anything. Hell, anything over $20 nearly sends me into a panic attack these days. Of course I plan on asking the neighbors in this community to donate what they can to care for the cats that most likely one of them abandoned outside. But my exceptions are not very high on getting any assistance. I talked with the lady who runs the local TNR group, and they too are hurting for cash and cannot lend any assistance right now.

5. Scheduling:  School starts soon. I am taking three classes, working part-time and have an officer position in a school organization. Between hours I am required to be someplace (class, work), commuting and homework I am going to have very little time or energy left for anything else. I also asked the local TNR group if they had any volunteers they could spare, and, as expected, I was told no.

I know it looks like I stacked the deck against trapping the cats but it was certainly not my intention. I feel horrible guilt about leaving those babies out there, and I have thought about them every day since I found them.  I have made some wonderful excuses for not helping the cats, and it feels like I am going against everything I believe in and everything I preach.How many times have I counseled people about the need for individuals to trap cats on their own, about shelters and rescue groups inability to assist with every situation? How many times have I told people to go to low-cost clinics to make the cost more affordable? How many times have I heard and seen people turn away?  I can’t be one of those people. I know that in a matter of months, if not weeks, those babies will be having babies of their own, making the problem worse, bringing more unwanted babies into the mix.  How easy it would be to just turn away and let someone else solve the problem. But I cannot be just like every other person who turns their back and makes it “someone else’s problem.”

So I am stuck, I HAVE to do something, the guilt and sense of obligation is driving me crazy (I can feel my blood pressure creep up every time I think of them; alternatively, I also get horrible depressed); yet, I cannot, right now, do anything–I cannot short change my own cats medical conditions for the care of cats who are not my responsibility.  I suppose that is the crux of the argument though.  The second that little gray kitten walked over to me and let me touch her, I made her my responsibility. Wrongly or rightly I took her well-being upon myself.

I have been debating this dillema over in my head for days. Repeating the same arguments over and over again in a constantly repetative circle, never finding any new points for either side. I don’t care about myself at this point, my mental well-being is gone one way or another. Either I am wracked with quilt for not doing anything, or I become overwhelmed and overburdened by helping them. It’s a no win for my mental health. But I just need to do right by my cats, the ones in my house and yard, who I am already responsible for and the ones out there in the world who need someone to take responsibility for them.   And so I come back to the age-old question, how do they always find me?


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