The power of community

Looking for a home in NYCThe past two days of my life have been a blur of stress, hope, and phone calls to random strangers. On Thursday night, I unwisely clicked on a Twitter link that took me to the Pets on Death Row page on Facebook. PoDR posts pictures and bios of cats who are scheduled to be put down at NYC Animal Care & Control. Some of them are sick with colds or other minor illnesses. Others are scared and stressed and are considered unadoptable.

Meet Kitty. She’s a pretty 6 year old calico who was surrendered by her family due to allergies. (Not relevant, but this seriously pisses me off — if you adopt an animal, you commit yourself to working around whatever issues come up, exactly like choosing to have a child.) She was labeled as having behavioral problems, though her former family described her as incredibly sweet, loving, and cuddly. She is absolutely scared out of her mind in this picture.

Kitty looks a lot like my first cat Naomi, who was my best friend throughout my teens and into my twenties. It wasn’t rational, but when I saw her photo, I knew I had to try my best to save her.  (This is another example of how we don’t necessarily choose the things we care about. Sometimes they choose us.)

It turns out that I know more people than I thought. I reached out to high school, college, and internet friends and pumped each friend for yet more NYC connections. I got up at 5 to call, email, and harangue no kill rescues in New York. I messaged experienced pet rescuers on FB. I finally got through to the friend of a friend of a friend who could possibly take Kitty and was able to get her reprieve extended, and then a rescue organization named Anjellicle Cats stepped in and put in a pull. As of this morning, Kitty is safe, and my stomach is slowly untying itself from the knots it’s been in.

I’m not a team type of person. I don’t particularly play well with others. I do not voluntarily reach out to anyone, and certainly I never expected to be asking for major favors from friends of friends of friends. But if I learned one thing through this experience (other than to not click on links to death row animals who are on the other side of the country), it was that a group of caring, determined people with a common goal can make more of a difference than I could alone. We saved just the life of one cat who didn’t deserve to die, but who knows what else we could do?

Today, I’m thinking this over with regard to the environmental problems we face. But mostly, I feel grateful this morning that one small calico cat is still in this world. May she make the most of her second chance.


23 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Sparrow on 04/30/2011 at 12:30

    This was a hard post to read because we gave up a cat due to allergy. It was given to neighbors, though, not to a shelter. My brother was allergic to cats but everybody (including him) just ignored the allergy because we all (including him) loved cats so much.

    But when he fell sick with leukemia, the allergy became a very big deal. What was just a minor annoyance before became a serious health hazard and we had to let Jeopardy Cat out of our lives.

    Three years later, after my brother had died, mom took me to pick out a new cat. I named her Chirky (a strange name, sure. But she made this charming little “chirrrk” sound and that’s what I named her after.) I had Chirky for thirteen years and she was a good cat, even though she went a bit senile towards the end and didn’t want to let anyone near her.

    I don’t have cats now. I’m allergic to them, too, though like my brother before he fell ill, it’s a mere annoyance. I don’t have space enough for a cat now and there’s something about cats that’s now linked up with thoughts of leukemia and sickbeds in my mind because of those early experiences.

    I do still love cats, of course, so reading that you had rescued that beautiful calico warmed my heart. Thank you, on behalf of kitties everywhere.


    • Hi Sparrow,
      I’m so sorry to hear about your brother. I didn’t mean to imply that there weren’t any legitimate reasons for giving up a pet, but a whole lot of people 1) don’t try to work around issues associated with their pet, and/or 2) haven’t educated themselves on the fact that any shelter that does not explicitly advertise itself as no kill probably has an indecent kill rate. A lot of the time, people aren’t even actually allergic to the animal; it’s something else in their environment, but they don’t bother to run tests. I take my animal friendships seriously and wish everyone else did, too.

      I am feeling even more grateful than usual that the shelter that picked up Brie didn’t put down a blind, unfriendly cat immediately. She’s sprawled on the couch next to me, snoring.


  2. Don’t even know where to start on this one. I have known people who have had their cats put down simply because they wanted to do more traveling and the cat was an inconvenience. I can’t wrap my brain around it. Suffice it to say, I’m not friends with them anymore.

    The number of unwanted pets who are destroyed every day is beyond heartbreaking. I mean, all I have to do is look out my back door to see the magnitude of the problem. Kudos to you for saving this one little girl.


    • Hi Eco Cat Lady,
      That’s just appalling. The people who surrendered Kitty were at least extremely upset. I don’t think they fully realized that the shelter puts down so many cats. Apparently the NYC ACC is especially notorious for its high kill rates, but I know the same thing goes on in my town, too. I have no patience with people who will not spay or neuter their animals. There just aren’t enough homes for all the wonderful and deserving animals that end up in shelters.

      Just to be clear, I didn’t singlehandedly rescue Kitty. At most, I indirectly extended her reprieve, and a rescue jumped in right in time. We learned later that my friend wouldn’t have been able to pick her up anyway — the ACC decides on a case by case issue if animals with so-called temper problems are even eligible for adoption, and Kitty wasn’t.


  3. Yup… basically around here, if you take a cat to a shelter, it has a grand total of 5 days before it’s destroyed. There are a handfull of small “no kill” shelters, but they are always full. It makes me sad (and angry) beyond words.

    On that note, I’m gonna go snuggle with my Princess Kitty – one baby saved from the needle.


    • Kitty was at the shelter for two days before they scheduled her to be put down. She never had a chance — she wasn’t even up for adoption. I understand that shelters need to prioritize their resources for animals that are adoptable right off the bat, but it’s so sad and so sucky for the animals that would be wonderful companions with patience and kindness.


    • Our shelter doesn’t even give 5 days, they can and do euth on the spot.


      • As a rescue, I never have a cat euthed unless the vet tells me there is absolutely no other option. Because of that, the rescues fill up to capacity quickly.
        I wish there was a way to stop this madness. 😦


  4. Congratulations for saving this lovely kitty 🙂
    Like you, I just cannot comprehend how people can abandon their pets…but unfortunately, it’s a reality.


    • Hi Cristina,
      Kitty’s looking for a permanent home now, if you know anyone who’d be interested. Personally, I don’t think people who are irresponsible with their animals should be allowed to have kids. Commitment is commitment, regardless of species or genetic relationship.


  5. Posted by Ginny on 05/02/2011 at 07:59

    Thank you for all you did to help save Kitty.


    • Thanks, Ginny. I’m actually thinking about being an emergency foster this kitten season for a rescue that’s actually in my area. Unfortunately, I’m just too far away to be that useful to the cats that show up on the Pets on Death Row page.


  6. You are a wonderful person to give kitty a second chance. How lucky you are to have found each other.


  7. Wow, just wow. Don’t know that I could stomach a link like that. I have thought about volunteering at a local animal shelter (a kill shelter, unfortunately) but can’t imagine the heartache and panic I would feel trying to save every last animal from being put down.

    Just a few years ago I moved to VA with my one cat, Kevin, a rescue. Now, I have five cats–all strays abandoned by out neighbor. (Okay not technically strays, but at one point they each nearly died of neglect). Most days, I can imagine feeling too overwhelmed by the scope of animals scheduled to be put down and am not sure how to help. Donating money to rescue organizations and saving these five felines is about all I can do right now.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel as though cats seem to have a lower national profile than dogs. At least it seems that way here in southwest Virginia. Dogs are more valuable and less expendable as evidenced by the efforts I’ve seen around holidays to supply local shelters and vet offices with supplies–90% are for dogs. Of course, many dogs around here end up chained to the same spot on a lawn for years–a tragic legacy that is no better than a pound.

    Anyway, thanks for the post. And for saving this one sweet cat. The cat gods will surely reward you. 🙂



    • Hi Jen,
      Go you! I rent, so I am limited in number to one. Hubby has objected to the sweet diabetic 9 year old at the rescue where I volunteer but has not categorically put his foot down to another cat if we move. If we do get another, I think I’ll go straight to my local kill shelter and ask to see the animals that are about to be put down.

      I’m not involved with dog rescues in my area, but it certainly seems like there are lots of cat lovers near me. I wonder if the ratio of cats to dogs (or at least the relative importance placed on each) differs regionally. That would be interesting to find out!


  8. Posted by Kathleen on 05/04/2011 at 12:43

    Jen, thank you so much for this story. As someone who “liked” PODR several months ago and someone who has been involved ever since, we so appreciate that you’re spreading the word. We have people from Europe, Asia — all over the globe — who log in every night to Facebook to start sharing and donating. Since they are so far away, they can’t foster or adopt, but I always say that you never know when a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend is looking for that special cat and because you decided to share, he found the cat and the cat’s life was saved. I saw some comments here about not being able to deal with the list every night. I used to block all of the links to these types of pages — including PODR — and then I realized that if I blocked them and pretended that it wasn’t happening then I wasn’t helping. The more people who help, the more animals are saved. Doesn’t matter whether you live a block from one of the city shelters or 10,000 miles from them — every person on this earth can help these cats. Share, donate, foster and adopt. Do what you can to save a life. Thanks again!! Kathleen


    • Hi Kathleen,
      I stopped receiving updates on FB for PoDR, but I keep checking in every now and then. I would absolutely jump back on if there were a local or at least California based version, but those two days…they were really stressful for me, and I don’t think I could do that to myself every day. I’m looking into being more involved with local cat rescues, though — I know I can do a lot more for those kitties!


      • Posted by Sparrow on 05/04/2011 at 14:45

        Local cat rescues can definitely use your help! All shelters are understaffed. I used to clean cat boxes for the local shelter before they moved me to dog walking and socializing and there are tons of us who want to work with the dogs but almost no one helps the cats. I’m with the dogs because I relate better to dogs and am good at training them and keeping them socialized, but I feel really guilty that I’m not still in the other room cleaning cat boxes.


  9. Posted by Melanie Neer on 05/06/2011 at 18:04

    Hi Jenny
    Cats like “Kitty” tug at my heart every day. I’m one of those crossposters over at FB, and not only crosspost the urgent cats on the PODR page, but cats from various kill shelters nationwide. A lot of people don’t even realize that many of the kill shelters especially in the southern states are killed via gas chambers. I see the photos of those cats and hope for the best that many are saved, but the horrid reality is that many aren’t. Also I can’t believe the excuses people give for giving up their pets, especially the older seniors–allergies (as in Kitty’s case), “new baby”, moving, NO TIME. I was tracking one cat, named “Peanut” in one kill shelter…a 19 year old cat dumped by his owner due to the no time excuse. Say what? One has a cat for 19 years and all of a sudden the person has no time? Unfortunately Peanut’s fate wasn’t a positive one and he wasn’t rescued and killed.
    I wish I could do more than merely crosspost, such as foster and/or adopt, but I’m limited to only two cats, but I hope for the best that perhaps my crossposting helps a few of those urgent death row cats.
    I’m over at FB under my real name of Melanie Neer…I’m wondering if by chance if you’re already a friend of mine over there


  10. Posted by Angie on 05/06/2011 at 21:28

    Thank you for saving Kitty, when I saw her on PODR she reminded me so much of my Cleo who just died March 26th at the age of 17-1/2yrs old. I can’t tell you how much I cried for this cat that I had never met but only saw in a picture. Believe me if I didn’t live in Chicago I would have taken her in a heartbeat. While some of my FB friends are probably tired of seeing my nightly posts about these precious furbabies I don’t care because every one of these cats deserve to live, no matter how young or old they are. So I will continue to post nightly knowing the posts and prayers may touch the heart of 1 angel that will step forward and save a life of a much deserving furbaby. Please continue to let us know how Kitty is doing in her new home and thank you again from the bottom of my heart for saving her we need many more angels like you and even more public awareness about these kill shelters and TNR to reduce the many unwanted cats.


  11. Posted by Françoise on 05/07/2011 at 02:07

    When i saw PODR last september, i decided to share even if i was not sure it could be efficient.8 months later when i look at the several hundreds kitties who were rescued i say yes sharing and networking SAVE LIVES


    • Posted by Françoise on 05/07/2011 at 02:10

      I’m not american but there is no difference between a american and french cat, a life is a life…


  12. Sad story with a happy ending, though this is quite rare. I can’t stress it enough: spay/neuter your cats and dogs, people! How often do shelters have to turn away sick animals because they’re already full of healthy ones? People adopt the little ones first while the mature pets are left behind, and the sick ones don’t even get a fair chance. It breaks my heart.


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