Thursday, February 12, 2009
here kitty, kitty
It's no secret that I love cats, having a "flock" of them of my own -- who somehow or other found my home and made it their own.
So I thought I would share this heart-warming story from the Associated Press for your enjoyment.
Oh, and the photo featured today is of Keegan, a cat up for adoption through Stray Cat Blues, a local cat rescue that can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-631-1851.
Or check out their web page at straycatblues.org.
Then perhaps you, too, can foster cats. Or, better yet, adopt several!
BLUE ISLAND, Ill. (AP) — Oddly, the cat woman’s reputation started with a dog.
An ornery purebred Scottish terrier, to be exact.
Tammy Gray had been volunteering at Peoples Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Tinley Park for just a few months when she learned shelter staffers wanted to put an 8-week old dog to sleep because they believed it was too mean to be adopted.
“They said he was loco,” recalled Gray, a Blue Island resident.
“I told them I used to have a Rottweiler so I could probably handle him,” she said.
Gray, 50, took the dog home and he quickly bonded with her two other dogs. Outside the confines of the shelter, the canine seemed fine. Gray also discovered that the animal had a broken tail.
“He’d come from a puppy store and someone probably closed the cage on his tail,” she speculated. “That’s why he was so mean - he was in pain.”
Within days, Gray deemed her new pet Oliver a keeper.
That was 2½ years and 110 cats ago.
Since that day in May of 2006, Gray’s home has become a veritable way station for injured cats and newborn kittens who need extra love and care until they’re capable of being adopted.
She averages about 14 kittens at a time, all of them needing round-the-clock attention. The babies need to be bottle- or syringe-fed every few hours. They need to be bathed. And, in some cases, they need to be stimulated to urinate because some don’t know how yet, Gray said.
“You have to be with them all the time,” she said. “I’ve brought them along to Fourth of July events, birthday parties and funerals.”
She’s known as that crazy cat lady to family and friends, she said. Even feral cats in the neighborhood hang out near Gray’s home. She’s had five of those neutered so she could allow them access to her porch.
PAWS pays for the foster animals’ food. Gray gets logistical help from her husband Bill. And all of the animals receive an extra dose of TLC when Gray’s grandchildren come to visit.
Gray has kept a log of all the animals she tends to, placing hearts next to the names of the cats who were especially dear to her and a cross beside the four who succumbed to fading kitten syndrome, a mysterious condition that causes kittens to simply stop eating.
Gray returns the cats to the shelter when they’re ready to be adopted. Some, she realizes, will have a harder time than others in that endeavor.
For example, three-legged Violet survived an encounter with a car engine but would likely have a difficult time finding a permanent home.
“I ended up adopting her,” Gray said.
Despite her 24-7 on-call commitment, Gray says the hardest part of fostering animals comes when she has to give them back.
“I cry a lot of times because they think I’m their mom and they look at me like, ‘Why are putting me in this cage? Why are you leaving me?’ “
But most of the cats get adopted within days of their return to the shelter.
Besides, Gray knows she can’t keep all of them. As it is, she already has six permanent cats, three dogs and four parrots - all in addition to the foster felines.
Why does she do it?
For one, she can. She has training enabling her to administer medical care. More importantly, cats simply hold a special place in her heart.
“My mother never let me have a pet when I was a child,” she offers. “There’s just something about cats — their independence — that I love.”