Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Bella and Phoebe: Our Adopted Cats

Adopted Cats. Ginger cats sleeping
Now this isn't going to be a post where I boast about how cute my cats are and all the Youtube-worthy antics they get up to (although I can't promise there won't be a teeny bit of that), but more a post about the adoption process itself and what my family and I learnt, and are still learning, along the way.

Past Experience and Reasons for Adopting
(sorry for the poor quality picture)
Adopted Cats. Ginger cats sleeping
Three years ago we were going through the same joyful experience of bringing a new pet into the family, and that pet was Ron. My Mum loves ginger cats, and for her birthday my Dad decided we should surprise her with a ginger kitten. We scoured the internet, and found one for sale on just down the road from us.  He was advertised as old enough to be separated from his mum, neutered, de-wormed, flea treated and up-to-date with his injections, for £40. So we went to get him. What we were met with when we got there couldn't be further from what was advertised. 

We could smell the cigarette smoke from the garden gate. The glass in the front door had been smashed in and boarded up with cardboard, and a Staffie was going bonkers inside. We knocked on the door, and a man took the £40 from my Dad's hand and thrust Ron into his arms and closed the door. Ron was tiny. Too young to be away from his mother. He was also crawling with fleas and reeked of cigarette smoke. I know what you're thinking. We should have turned away the minute we got to the front gate, or given the kitten back. But to this day I firmly believe we rescued that cat, and no animal lover would have the heart to put an animal back into that situation. 

I wrapped Ron up inside my coat and held him until we got home. Long story short, after surprising Mum with the kitten, we took him to the vets and got him everything he needed. After that, well, he never really stopped growing. He was more like a dog than anything, playing fetch and having mad running sprees around the house and chasing tin-foil balls. We all doted on him, and like to think we gave him an amazing two years that made up for him being born into such a hell-hole. 

Adopted Ginger Cat
Two years. Was that it? Unfortunately yes.  He disappeared for a few days, and came back emaciated, struggling to carry his own weight, dribbling, losing control of his bladder and labored breathing. It was a traumatic process in which the vets wanted an extortionate amount of money to keep him overnight on a drip and do tests even though he was already in so much pain and most-likely wouldn't make it through the tests, let alone the night. After discussing our options with the vet, we decided the kindest thing to do was to put him to sleep. 

 Shrouded in guilt and what-ifs, it took us a good few months to get over Ron not being around. We did get some closure though. A few months later I saw an article in the local newspaper about how someone had poisoned 10 cats with anti-freeze in my area, and the woman being interviewed was actually someone I worked with. After reading the article and speaking to her about the symptoms of her cat, it was clear the same thing had happened to Ron. It was so sad to know he died at the hands of something so sick and sadistic, but it was a relief to know what it was, and that nothing we could have done would have saved him. 

Why am I telling you all this? 
Well firstly, as grateful as I am to have had Ron in my life, and to have rescued him in the beginning, the way in which Ron came into our lives was as a result of someone lying online. Someone constantly breeding cats to make money, only to bring them up in appalling conditions and completely disregard the welfare of the animal. I want to spread the word that when it comes to advertisements for animals online, you can't always trust what you read and to some people, the money means more to them than the actual animal. It's a trade that I don't think will be stopped any time soon. After my experience and further research, I don't agree with it as a way of getting an animal, but I know that there is supply and demand, and therefore it will continue. 

Secondly, there were many times in the year between Ron's death and getting our new cats that we were tempted to get another one. But we felt it was really important to assess whether our desire for a new pet was because we wanted to replace Ron, or because we were ready to move on. This may sound melodramatic, but the way in which you treat your new cat will depend on what frame of mind you're in when you get it. We didn't want to get another pet with expectations for it to be just like Ron, or for it to fill that hole. That wouldn't be fair on the animal. 

About Adoption
Cats Protection Website
When we were ready, we decided we would adopt. I guess we'd been put off buying from breeders. I know there are some genuine, honest breeders out there who care about their animals, but you'd be shocked to see how many cats out there actually need homes. Rehoming centers are actually having to turn cats away because they're so full, and they have more cats coming than going. 

This is also a process that requires a lot of thought and research, It's not just about finding a cat that you like the look of and going to get it. You need to know for definite what it is you want, and what you can actually give the cat. For example, a few may have medical conditions and need frequent medication or trips to the vets, whilst others may have a nervous disposition, which would require you to be very patient and put what you want from the cat to one side. There were plenty of cats that were stunning and caught our eye, even a pair of Bengals, but when we read they needed a family with experience in the breed or special care, we knew that our family situation wouldn't allow us to give the cats everything they needed. 

The Adoption Process
Adopted Ginger Cats
We looked on a variety of sites, from Woodgreen Animal Center to Cats Protection. Eventually we came across a Mother and Daughter pair. Their owners had fallen ill and were simply in need of a loving home willing to provide lots of fuss. 

After sending an email to the Cats Protection expressing our interest in the cats, we got an email back arranging a time for someone from the charity to come and do a home assessment, in which they make sure your house is suitable for cats (not near any main roads, a decent sized garden etc) and that you're suitable owners for the cats. The lady was lovely, and shared out love for ginger cats, so we shared pictures of our cats and swapped stories for a while. 

The cats are actually held in foster homes, which gives you the opportunity to go and meet the cats in a neutral environment and see if you get along and bond. This is where both parties get to decide what happens next, and the fosterer keeps an eye on things to see how the cats respond. Our cats had been in foster care for a month before we got them. My parents went to see them and apparently there was a lot of purring and belly rubs, so they brought them home straight away. 

Adopted Cats in Their New Home
Adopted Ginger Cats
The adoption process doesn't end when you bring the cats home. There's a lot to bare in mind. When we bought the girls home, Bella (the mum) was very excitable and affectionate, rubbing against everyone's legs and meowing for a fuss, whilst Phoebe (the daughter) spent most of her first day hidden under the sofa, or trying to hide in any nook and cranny. 

The next day, the tables turned. Bella was very skittish whilst Phoebe came out of her shell. We haven't even had them for two weeks yet, but what I've learnt so far is that every day is different. There is no consistency in their temperament or their mood at first. They're still settling in to a completely new environment and discovering new things. So even if the cats aren't described as nervous or skittish on the adoption site, prepare for that to be the case in the first few weeks. You'll need to put your expectations and wants aside and focus on what they need, but they'll soon settle down. As you can see from the picture above, Bella's starting to make herself at home. 

Prepare for a few minor hiccups, for example, Phoebe will climb anywhere and everywhere. She's extremely curious. Bella on the other hand likes to eat every house plant in sight. Whilst the plants in our house aren't poisonous to cats, they can get a bit of a dodgy stomach for a day or two, so we've now got some cat grass and cat nip toys to keep her occupied. 

Adopted Ginger Cats
So if you are thinking of getting a cat, please consider adoption. Re-homing centers do have kittens if that's what you're looking for, but they do get snapped up very quickly. The amount of cats that need homes is forever growing, and after researching adoption and looking on these sites for a good few months, some of them have been there for quite some time. While it may be better than where they came from, a lot of the cats do not enjoy being in the centers and never really settle. So for us, it's so rewarding to not only take two cats away from that situation, but actually give them a life they can enjoy. 

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