Starlight Pet Talk

A Day in the Life of a Cat in Rescue

February 20, 2024 Amy Castro, MA, CSP Season 2 Episode 6
A Day in the Life of a Cat in Rescue
Starlight Pet Talk
More Info
Starlight Pet Talk
A Day in the Life of a Cat in Rescue
Feb 20, 2024 Season 2 Episode 6
Amy Castro, MA, CSP

Join Amy Castro, founder of Starlight Outreach and Rescue, as she takes you behind the scenes of the journey of cats in rescue shelters, from intake to adoption. Gain insight into their lives in foster homes, hear heartwarming stories of resilience, and explore the process of preparing them for adoption.

Key Points:

- Learn about the lives of fostered cats and how their behaviors are assessed for adoption.
- Hear inspiring stories like Astro's as cats transition to loving homes.
- Explore the process of preparing cats for adoption, including crafting compelling profiles.
- Stay tuned after the outro music for the announcement of our recent contest winner!

Join us in celebrating the transformations at Starlight Outreach and Rescue and get inspired to make a difference in animal welfare. Share this episode with your friends and spread some extra love to pets in need.

Send us a Text Message.

Support the Show.

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Join Amy Castro, founder of Starlight Outreach and Rescue, as she takes you behind the scenes of the journey of cats in rescue shelters, from intake to adoption. Gain insight into their lives in foster homes, hear heartwarming stories of resilience, and explore the process of preparing them for adoption.

Key Points:

- Learn about the lives of fostered cats and how their behaviors are assessed for adoption.
- Hear inspiring stories like Astro's as cats transition to loving homes.
- Explore the process of preparing cats for adoption, including crafting compelling profiles.
- Stay tuned after the outro music for the announcement of our recent contest winner!

Join us in celebrating the transformations at Starlight Outreach and Rescue and get inspired to make a difference in animal welfare. Share this episode with your friends and spread some extra love to pets in need.

Send us a Text Message.

Support the Show.

Support the show: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/starlightpettalk

LISTEN & FOLLOW!
▷ Official Site: https://www.starlighpettalk.com

▶ Facebook: / starlightoutreachandrescue

▶ YouTube: -https://bit.ly/starlightsubscribe

▶ TikTok: / starlightou...

Amy Castro:

Have you ever wondered what life is like for a cat in an animal rescue? I mean, how do they end up there? Where are they coming from? What happens to them every single day until they find themselves adopted? If you want to learn about that, then stay tuned, because that's just what we're talking about today on Starlight Pet Talk. If you follow the Starlight Pet Talk Facebook page, you know we've been running a little campaign to show some love to our followers. It was very simple All you had to do was to like and follow our Starlight Pet Talk page and the page for Starlight Outreach and Rescue and by doing that you are automatically entered to win a free Starlight t-shirt and we have the name of that lucky winner and we're going to announce it at the end of this episode. So make sure you listen to the very end. You're listening to Starlight Pet Talk, a podcast for pet parents who want the best pet care advice from cat experts, dog trainers, veterinarians and other top pet professionals who will help you live your very best life with your pets. We also share inspiring rescue and adoption stories from people who've taken their love of pets to the next level by getting involved in animal welfare.

Amy Castro:

My name is Amy Castro, and I'm the founder and president of Starlight Outreach and Rescue and a columnist for Pet Age Magazine. I've rescued thousands of animals and helped people just like you find the right pet for their family. My mission is to help pet parents learn all the ways that they can care for, live with and even have fun with their pets so they can live their very best lives and their pets can too. Welcome to Starlight Pet Talk. I'm your host, amy Castro, and today we're talking all about cats and what life is like for them in an animal rescue. I'm gonna go solo for this episode because, number one, I'm trying to really shorten the episodes. I have to be honest, some of the episodes have gotten quite long. I'd love to hear what you all think as the listeners, if you prefer the longer format, where they're getting close to an hour, or if you'd rather us stay down closer to 30 minutes. It's all about you and how you like to learn and how you like to get your information. So be sure to reach out to us and let us know. But either way, when I'm going solo, even though I like to talk a lot, it usually is a little bit shorter than doing an interview and I do have experience not only with Starlight Outreach and Rescue and how cats live in our rescue, but also experience in shelter life for pets, having been a former animal shelter volunteer coordinator for about 10 years. And I do have a lot of good relationships with other people in cat rescue, so I can give a little bit of insight into what life might be like in different rescues. But that actually is a key point to make right up front is that every rescue is a little bit different. Their philosophies are different as to how animals should live. Their intake processes you know how they, how they bring animals in and what they bring in is going to be a little bit different. So I'll try to point that out along the way. So let's start off so.

Amy Castro:

Cats will come to rescue in a couple of different ways. There are what are referred to as owner surrenders. So it's an owner. I mean it's pretty self-explanatory, right? An owner can't keep their pet anymore for whatever reason and we won't go down that rabbit hole and they seek a rescue to take that cat on rather than putting that animal in a shelter. Obviously, we also most rescues are going to take in stray animals off the street. So if you find a cat in your yard, you find a cat with some kittens in your garage. A rescue is, you know, is definitely a place where you could seek out some help. We also get outreach directly from other shelters and other rescues. Whether it's because they are over capacity and need to make room for more pets or the animal has a medical issue. That rescues might have the budget for that, a shelter might not. And those are just some of the ways, but probably the most common ways, that a cat might end up in an animal rescue program.

Amy Castro:

Like I mentioned, every rescue is a little bit different as to what animals they will take in and what animals that they need to say we can't take that in, and it varies. Sometimes it's a matter of space. For example, for us at Starlight Outreach and Rescue, we are for the most part a foster based rescue. Yes, I am recording this episode from the Starlight Outreach and Rescue Ranch and we do have a cat room. I'll get into that a little bit more. We also have an isolation building which is right outside my window here, and so there is a little more capacity here at the ranch than there might be in an average person's home, but other rescues do have those types of facilities as well as foster homes, and basically in a foster home that's going to be an individual person's home, just like your house, and cats or kittens or both might stay there for the duration of their time in rescue. So space is definitely a major factor when it comes to what animals we can take in.

Amy Castro:

There are some animal rescues that will take in anything you know, any kind of cat, any level of health or injury. Some focus more on senior cats and so they'll take in those and refer people that find younger cats to other places, or someone that's trying to own or surrender a younger cat to other places. Some focus heavily on medical need and not necessarily other types of healthy pets, and so it's a little bit different. Sometimes it has to do with the rescues, expertise or there's. You know it could tie back to space and it could just tie back to their philosophy as to what is our mission, what are we trying to help. So, speaking for Starlight Outreach and Rescue, when we first started, I'll be perfectly honest we would take anything and everything, and we, for the most part, try to do that as well. But what we have learned, and you. As you can imagine, a medical case is going to be with us longer than a healthy cat, a cat with ringworm, for example.

Amy Castro:

So right outside my window in our isolation building right now, there is a mother cat who came in with a teenage kitten and five of her own tiny, tiny like newborn kittens. The person who found them was asking help. We said we would take them in. They drove them here to the rescue ranch as soon as Kelsey so Kelsey's my daughter, she's the one that does a lot of the intake work as soon as she took the cats out of the car, she could see that the teenage kitten had a very suspicious spot on its leg and it turned out to be a ringworm. Well, ringworm is something that is going to take weeks to clear up and although the mom and the kittens did not show signs of ringworm, they've already been exposed. They've been living together, they've been licking each other and inevitably you know unless you get super, super lucky and that mom and kittens has a tremendously good immune system mom and kittens are going to sprout with ringworm. So now you're talking about something that could take a couple of months to get them cleared up and ready to be adopted, on top of the fact that obviously teeny, tiny kittens, they can't be adopted out right away anyway. So, lo and behold, of course everybody ended up with Ringworm.

Amy Castro:

Luckily we do have this isolation facility so we can keep just those cats out there until they are cleared up. Then they can go to GenPop with the other cats, or the kittens at that point will probably be old enough to be directly adopted. So we're super lucky that we have that facility. But not every rescue has that facility, so they might not be able to take in a cat that has a Ringworm because most people like yourself maybe you don't want a cat with Ringworm in your house because it is contagious. So intake is going to vary depending upon the rescue, their facilities, their manpower or people power, I should say and what their philosophies are.

Amy Castro:

So for us, a cat comes in, one of the things that we have learned through trial and error is to do certain types of testing and assessment before we even bring the animal in the door, and most rescues if they're good rescues will immediately do some medical care, medical testing, vaccination, things like that when the cat gets in. And the challenge with cats as opposed to dogs, and not to say that some dogs can't be scared when they come in, because a lot of them are. But cats hate change and cats oftentimes will present as being very feral. They're hissing, they're swatting, they're scratching, they're biting and they may truly be feral like almost borderline wild cats because they've not had human contact. But other cats might just be frightened. So there are times where we might delay some of that process, isolate that animal until it has had a little cool off period and then do some of the testing. But if we can, we basically will try to do testing and vaccination before we even bring them into any of our buildings in order to basically keep everybody safe and to know what we're basically getting into with those animals. So if you've heard about Parvo virus for dogs, panleukopenia is pretty much the cat version. It is highly contagious. It can be very deadly, especially to small kittens that haven't been vaccinated and don't have good immune systems. So we want to make sure that we don't bring something like that into our facility and expose everybody to that when cats come into rescue.

Amy Castro:

Different again, different rescues have different philosophies. Some will automatically, even if the animal looks healthy, will put that animal in an isolation facility, whether it is a cage in a certain room in somebody's home or maybe they've separated out a bedroom and the cat will spend its time in there. It allows the cat to kind of decompress. But it also allows people to assess how that cat is doing physically and mentally. And that could be, you know, that could be the case, even if they have had, you know, veterinary assessment at that point. You know, just like people and just like dogs, cats have different personalities. So a cat that is more outgoing is more go with the flow kind of cat. That cat might quickly be able to be moved into a population with other cats.

Amy Castro:

But if you've listened to some of our other podcast episodes, you know that in general cats they put up with each other, they tolerate each other. There are instances I'm sure there's people listening right now that say my cats love each other. I got a brother and sister when they were little, or I got two sisters when they were little and they were great, and that's probably the case. But oftentimes cats don't appreciate the company of other cats and so you can imagine from the cat's perspective if you just got pulled up off the street, caught in a trap, because generally I didn't mention that point but generally strays if they're not very approachable and able to be picked up. Oftentimes they get caught in a trap, which is a obviously very shocking, startling experience for the cat and they're probably pretty darn stressed out by the time that they get here. So having someplace where they can quietly decompress without being overwhelmed by a bunch of other cats is a great way to go, and that's kind of what we will do here, especially if they're fearful If we don't have the space, our cat room.

Amy Castro:

So what we basically did was convert our two car garage into our cat room. We have some stainless steel cages out there and I know that there's a lot of rescues that don't believe in cages and don't use cages and we kind of feel like number one. It's a way to. In a situation where, let's say, you did test and the cat came up negative for everything, but the cat comes down with an upper respiratory infection, then the odds of that spreading when animals are caged are going to be a little bit lower. You know, it's still, they're breathing the same air, but it's going to be a little bit lower, especially the way that we have our cages set up. Then if they're all just running around in a room together.

Amy Castro:

But you know there's benefits and disadvantages of, obviously you know, cage living versus free roaming in a home, which is a little bit, a little bit different of course. So, like I said, different rescues will take different approaches. I mean ours ends up basically being a hybrid approach. We've got the cages, we can use them as needed. Some cats prefer to stay up in their high perch of their cage and just kind of observe the other cats running around. Other cats hate being in the cage and we just kind of have them free roaming out in the cat room. So hybrid tends to work pretty well for us. But again, different philosophies, different facilities available for different groups.

Amy Castro:

Most of the time when people are fostering cats in homes, you know, if a cat is lucky enough to go directly or soon after intake to go to a foster home, the idea would be for that cat to be acclimated to the home but then get as much free roam as possible, assuming the other resident pets allow it, so that it allows the foster person to really assess how does this cat do in a home? How does this cat get along roaming around in the living room? Does the cat scratch furniture? Does it dislike dogs, dislike other cats, dislike children? Or do they love all of the above or just some of the above? So really being able to have a small number of cats, or maybe one cat at a time, in a foster home gives the rescue a better opportunity to assess what that animal is really like.

Amy Castro:

As you can imagine, in my garage right now because I'm kind of a figurehead, I don't do a lot of the work around here. I mean, that's probably not really true, but if you ask me the names of the cats that are in my garage right now, I have no idea who's out there. I know a few of them. I know Waylon is out there and that's about it, but the people that volunteer and come out here could tell you exactly who's out there and what they're like, and so that's one thing that I would say is a huge advantage of rescues over shelters, over most shelters, I should say. Let me put a caveat to that is that when you've got a good presence of Volunteers, when you have animals in individual foster homes, you have the opportunity to get to know those animals, so that when adopters like yesterday I got an application person was looking for a really cuddly cat. Can you point us in the direction of some cats that you have that are super cuddly? Now, I didn't know off the top of my head, but I know that Joanne, who volunteers are very frequently knows, I know that Kelsey knows, and so I'm able to go to these volunteers and fosters and say, hey, who in our system is super cuddly, that would really enjoy being held a lot and sitting in people's laps. And so I got the name of three cats so I can go back to that potential adopter and say, hey, these are the cats you should try to look at. So it's a definite advantage.

Amy Castro:

And again, different shelters are different, but most of the time in your average city or county shelter Staff either let's be perfectly honest Some of them just don't care enough to get to know the pets. The one that I worked at, people didn't really care too too much about Getting to know the pets. Some people did, but it was not emphasized. So leadership certainly didn't encourage spending time like that. And so you know, any interest a person might have in Giving a little extra attention to the cats, getting to know them a little bit better, was usually pretty, pretty quickly squashed.

Amy Castro:

However, there are many other shelters that are out there that are very forward-thinking and understand the benefits of getting to know the animals and giving them human interaction time, and their lives might be quite similar to what it's like to live in a rescue. So that just kind of is a little bit of a plug to say get to know your local shelters and how their animals are treated and cared for and ask a lot of questions about what they know about the pets and what the pets Daily life is like, because that's going to tell you, if you're an adopter, how much decompression time that animal might need when it comes home to your house, especially if it's never been in a real house before. So lots of different types of housing options and you know, in many instances in rescues Most cats are living in an environment where they are in a in a home type environment. So they're going to live like they're going to live when they get adopted and they're super, super lucky to be able to do that. You know cats and dogs obviously have different behaviors and different temperaments and so one of the things that cats will experience when they come in to rescue is Opportunities to again interact with different types of people, other types of animals To get a feel for how tolerant they are for those types of things and situations and that will help us ensure that that animal, when it goes to a home, is a good fit for that family and vice versa, or for that Individual. You know, there's some cats that I know for a fact here, like Waylon. I keep bringing Waylon up. He's the pet of the week. Waylon would probably be good in just about any home. He loves being cuddled, he doesn't mind being picked up by kids. He is a really nice combination of being cuddly and sweet and loving, but also super playful. So if somebody loves, you know, throwing the ball or playing with a feather toy or whatever it might be, waylon's your guy.

Amy Castro:

We had another cat that was here for a long time, jelly bean, who came into our rescue and she was so sedate in the cages that we figured okay, we need to. You know she wouldn't even come out of the cage if we open the cage for her to come out. Even if it was by herself, she would not come out. She just sat there. We obviously had her checked out by a vet because I for a while there I kind of thought something must be wrong with her like she's sick and that's why she doesn't want to do anything. So we did all kinds of testing, all kinds of physical examinations. Nothing wrong with her, she's just a jelly bean. She just wants to sit there and hang out, and so Moving her to a foster home helped us see a little more of her personality. But even then, moving into a house, she just kind of hangs out. She's not particularly playful, she's not particularly active, she just wants to sit and be, and so that kind of a cat is a great fit for a family that has a quiet lifestyle, or maybe an older person that doesn't want to deal with kitten mischief, and so it's. You know, having these animals live in environment where we can observe their likes and dislikes and their patterns Really helps us find a better fit for them.

Amy Castro:

When it comes to adoption and actually jelly bean was here for quite a while, but she was recently adopted, actually by one of our volunteers sometimes that happens. Sometimes when people foster, they get that cat home in their life and the cat becomes, and this is obviously really nice for the cat. The cat becomes so acclimated and becomes part of the family that when it comes time to say okay, so we think so-and-so is ready to be adopted. Let's get them on the market and then they can't even think about bearing to have that cat move and move on, and you know, I'm sure the cat is perfectly happy in that instance because they've gotten used to being in a place and now they get to stay there.

Amy Castro:

A little sidebar note for fostering and what we refer to as foster failing Sometimes, which makes it seem a little bit negative. But one of the challenges that I have with fostering, you know, as opposed to if I kept all the animals here at the rescue ranch, you know their life is better in foster. At the same time, because people do get Attached to them, it can become oftentimes hard for them to give the animal up. When the time comes to give it up and get it adopted, which you would say to yourself, you know who cares, let them keep the cat. Well, what we find is and you can check with other rescues, but I have checked and I know it's kind of the case is that Oftentimes when somebody foster fails and keeps the cat, if they do that once or twice, they're kind of done with the cat thing. They've already got their own two cats, they've got their hands full with their life and those animals and so you lose them as a foster, and the way that I look at fostering and rescue in general is that the cat should be here. You know the day in the life of the cat.

Amy Castro:

Hopefully the time in the rescue is as short as we can possibly make it, as long as we're doing it safely and effectively for the animal and making sure it's healthy and making sure we've got a good adopter. We don't want to rush any of that process, but Our goal is not to have Cats that stay here in foster for weeks, months, years. Our goal is to get them into their home so they can settle in and stay there long term. So if you're a foster and you foster fail or you have a hard time giving up your pet, then you become a bottleneck in the process and so we can't bring in more cats. If your house is full of the cats and you can't give them up or you quit as a foster now I don't have another foster, so keep that in mind if you're ever contemplating fostering. So behavior is definitely a big issue. Now.

Amy Castro:

One of the things I want to bring up related to behavior and life in rescue for cats is that cats, like I said, they don't like change, and so sometimes you'll get a cat that is happy, go lucky, is immediately, you know, coming right up to you and purring and rubbing on your legs and wants to be picked up and is making biscuits, and that's great. But oftentimes you get cats that are hissing at you, they're spitting at you, they're puffed up and in shelters, for example. Too many times those animals get labeled as feral and oftentimes are euthanized within three days because they're, you know, a feral cat is perceived to be a wild cat and not going to be tamable. For us, what we find is that we do get cats that are either just scared and they just need a few days to cool off and then they're fine, so we give them that cool off time.

Amy Castro:

Other times we get cats that are feral and then it's a matter of and this actually ties to not only assessing their behavior and adoptability, but it also can tie to intake, because if you get a feral, his, he spit, he kitten was, say, the kittens, 10 weeks old, and I've we've had this happen and you know, it's actually kind of funny and kind of cute when you get these little box kittens that come in. They're like and they're spitting and isn't at you and you're like you are, you're about as big as a baseball. I don't think you're going to do too much damage, although don't be fooled, because they do have teeth or when they have teeth they will use them. But usually those can be turned or converted with a good, you know, a good handling process and just getting them used to being handled. So I've seen some kittens that have come in hissing and spitting and wanting to bite my fingers off and within 4872 hours they're all love. The older the kitten, the older the cat, the longer that process can take and we find and other rescues might be a little bit different. Those cats could take months or even years to turn into what we would perceive to be a regular, old, more outgoing house cat and sometimes they never change. You know, sometimes they're always going to be skittish and not particularly interested in being Petted or played with, or they might be best in a house where it's one person and that person's got a very quiet lifestyle and eventually that cat will come out, just as an example.

Amy Castro:

So we had a cat came in. His name was Astro and actually I think I pulled him from the animal control where I volunteered, because they were wanting to use the nice him because he was aggressive and he wasn't really aggressive. He made a lot of noise but he would still even if he was hissing at you, you could still pet him, but he really just was very, very, very shy. So we brought him into rescue. He was here for months and months and months, really really shy. And so I bring this up because when a rescue takes in an animal like that, there comes a point with where they might have to say Is this the best use of our resources to continue to work with this cat and have this cat taking up a spot when we've got limited spots, or should we do something else with this cat now? Rescues, don't you thin ice cats like that, but we might. I mean, I've got right now and we live here on a rescue ranch of seven acres.

Amy Castro:

There are seven cats that are barn cats and there were two that just kind of wandered up and moved in and the rest of them were cats that for the life of us without, I mean, I had these cats literally living. Talk about day in a life, about my life, a day in a life. They are living in a crate on my dining room table so that they're getting constant interaction and noise. You know, not noise like screaming and hollering, but the sounds of being in a regular home. And they came in as a couple of them came in as kittens and we just could not. I mean, to the day that we turned them into barn cats I still had to put on safety gloves to pick them up. So some just don't changed. That's just their nature, that's the way they are. They're not going to convert to being a house cat. Now. Could I have waited years to possibly find somebody to take that on as an indoor pet? We've tried that and we've done that. But there's only so much space for me to hold them until that comes about.

Amy Castro:

So because we do have rodents out here, we have taken a couple of those cats and converted them to barn cats, and so we spay and neuter them, we vaccinate them. They live in the barn. They get two meals a day. They're actually way too fat, so they're probably not eating a whole lot of mice at this point, but they're well cared for. But they're living the outdoor life which there are dangers in that as well, but they also have a lot of freedom and a lot of fun in their environment. So there's trade-offs as far as how they're living their lives outside in that format. And then what we do with the barn cats is that they stay our barn cats and if we do get a call, for example, the veterinarian that sees our horses, she was interested in getting some barn cats for her cats, so we could catch those cats and then transfer them to her. And there's a process that they have to acclimate, just like they'd have to acclimate inside a home, acclimate to a new barn, because we don't want them immediately running away and having something happen to them. So we do adopt out barn cats on occasion, but obviously our preference is for them to be in doors and not face the dangers in the outdoors. All of that to basically say that there are a variety of types of cats. Some of them are harder to place than others from a personality standpoint, and by having them in rescue we get that opportunity to assess them and then determine what is this cat's path going to be from the time it gets here to the time it ends up in its final location, whether that's at a barn as a barn cat here, a barn cat somewhere else or hopefully adopted and living in a family home.

Amy Castro:

So one of the things that makes rescue life a little bit different for cats than shelter life oftentimes that has to do with medical care. So when a cat is living at a rescue, pretty much all of the medical care that would be provided if it was living in a private home is going to be provided. So it's going to get its vaccines. If it gets sick it's going to get medication. If it comes in injured it's going to get treatment or surgery or whatever it might be. Unfortunately, in shelters for a cat that ends up living in a shelter, many shelters don't have medical funds to care for animals, so some do, some don't. But it can be as extreme as, looking at one end of the spectrum, that an injured cat comes in and because it's injured it gets held for three days just to make sure it doesn't have an owner and it may not receive medical treatment at all during those three days and then it will be euthanized. To the other end of the extreme, where the shelter or the city or the county does believe in providing that medical care and it could be up to a dollar limit, or it could be unlimited if they've got, let's say, a volunteer group that supports them and pays for those things. But so it's quite a wide spectrum of medical care that's going to be provided.

Amy Castro:

That also makes a good point whether you're adopting, if you are going to be adopting, whether you're adopt from a rescue or a shelter. To clarify, ask them two questions what medical care treatment, vaccinations, whatever terminology you want to use has the cat already received, and what else will the cat receive as part of my adoption fee? Because if we get in a small kitten and we turn it around and adopt it quickly, it's not going to be spayed or neutered if it's too young. But we do cover that as the rescue and so we arrange that for you after the fact. Some shelters do that and some shelters don't. So it's important that you understand the current physical and medical status of that animal and then also what's going to be provided after the fact. What is your adoption fee going toward? So, as you can see, it can be quite a difference between a shelter animal that hasn't been vaccinated and oftentimes being exposed in a shelter to medical issues and other diseases, versus in a rescue that provides all of that up front so that the animal has that safety cushion or that medical cushion, not only from prevention but also from treatment of certain issues.

Amy Castro:

So I mentioned before this care and interaction that cats will get in rescue and especially those that are a little bit more shy. Usually in a rescue they're going to get a lot more one-on-one interaction to try to encourage them to get more used to human interaction, get more used to different types of people in order to make them more adaptable. Because the more adaptable an animal is and the more it is tolerant of other people and things, the more likely it is going to be to be adopted. So if you've got a kitty cat that's living in a rescue and it hates other cats, it's hissing and whatever at other cats, you may not find an adopter easily that doesn't have other cats and doesn't plan on getting other cats, or maybe the cat doesn't do well with dogs. You may not find as many people that don't already have a dog. So anytime there's limits on what the animal can do or can be exposed to, that's going to limit your pool of potential adopters. So something to keep in mind from those cats' perspective is those types of cats are going to spend a longer time in rescue than one. That's, like I said, happy, go lucky and ready to face the world and everybody and everything in it.

Amy Castro:

So let's talk about getting these cats adopted. They're spending their lives. They're hanging out in a foster home or they're hanging out in the cat room at a rescue ranch or a rescue facility, and they're getting interacted every day with volunteers. They get the chance to interact with other animals in many instances. So how do we get them adopted as quickly as possible?

Amy Castro:

Well, there's a couple of things that go into that. One is getting your picture taken, and if you've ever tried to take a picture of a cat or a dog, you know it's not. Some cats are easier than others. Some are super photogenic, some know how to pose, they know how to make it look good and others just want to play, and so the ones that want to play, it's a little bit diciere to try to get those pictures. So we do some things to try to engage and entertain them when we are going to be taking photographs.

Amy Castro:

So one of the things that I would recommend especially for those who might be listening, that are in rescue or new to rescue, is that if you do have your cats living in cages, don't expect that you're just going to be able to pull that cat out, sit it up on a cat tree and take its picture, if it. You know. If it hasn't been out since last night, then it's going to want to run around and play. So usually what we'll do and this is kind of tied into the day in the life as well, even though we have animals that do live in cages and some, you know, some are loose, some are in cages every morning, when the volunteer comes or when we go out to do our cleaning and feeding, all the cages get opened up so everybody can come out and run around and play, and they love that. They love running around burning off steam. Again, there are some cats that don't like that, and so they'll either stay up in their cage, or there's some cats that are not really all that nice to all the other cats, and so those will stay in their cages until the other cats have had a chance to burn off some steam and have some playtime while the cleaning is going on, and then, when those cats get put away, then the cats that maybe aren't so friendly with other cats will get let out so they can stretch their legs, because we don't like them to have to stay in the cage.

Amy Castro:

And even though they're living in my garage and it's not beautiful but it is clean we do have lots of things out there for them to play with. So one of the things that we try to do in rescue which may not happen as much in shelters, although again it depends on the quality of the shelter and how much they care is enrichment. So it's important to us that the cats aren't just let out to wander around a garage. So we've got cat towers, we've got cat trees, we've got automated laser toys out there that they like to play with. What else do we have out there Different handheld like feather toys and things like that that volunteers can come and play. Or if a volunteer is coming to clean, they might clean a little bit and then play a little bit, or do all the cleaning and then sit on the floor and play. But we try to give them plenty of things to do while they're out there, especially if they do need to go back into their kennels or cages whatever you want to call them at the end of the day. So they do have that ability to get all kinds of activities.

Amy Castro:

Some organizations, if they're lucky enough, will also have outdoor facilities for cats to go out into, or there are even some rescues that have fence properties that have specialized cat fencing on them so that cats can go out. We don't have that here, at least not yet, but we are currently investigating some and we do have some patio type places where we could put those out and put, you know, put cats out so they can experience the outdoors, the smells, the noises and things like that. We also make sure and one of the nice things about our cat room is that it does have windows, so we make sure that there are perches and things over by the windows so the cats can see out and see the barn cats and the birds and things like that. So we try to make that environment. Even though it's a garage, we try to make it as homey as possible and they're all climate controlled so nobody's too hot, nobody's too cold. There's air conditioning and heat out there, much to the pain of my electric bill, but it is what it is, and so they live pretty, pretty good out there. But again, the goal is for them to be there as short a period of time as possible so we can get them moving into their homes.

Amy Castro:

So back to my point about photographs. So great time to take pictures is after they've already been out running around, especially if you've really worked hard to kind of exercise them and tire them out a little bit not to the point where they're panting in their pictures, because that looks a little bit weird, but they get their pictures taken. Like I said, some people are cooperative, some people are not. We also have props and collars and clothes and hats and things like that, which some cats will tolerate, and some cats are like, yeah, I'm not wearing that. So we do have a variety of options out there for them.

Amy Castro:

So getting your picture taken, whether you like it or not, whether you're photogenic or not, it's going to happen in rescue, and then the beauty of knowing their personalities is that allows you to write the description for them in the ad, for lack of a better term. So animals that are in rescues and in shelters will get posted in a variety of places. There are online sites two big, primary ones that we use are adoptapet and pet finder, and so you know it's very important that once that animal is ready to be adopted, that you get a good picture of them, that you get a sense of their personality so you can do a write up in the description and that you post those online. So it's kind of like the cat is probably like on a dating website, and so you're going to want to help them look their best by giving them the best possible description, but also the most accurate description of who they are.

Amy Castro:

And one of the things that we're very proud of not doing is not bs-ing people when it comes to those descriptions. Don't want to make an animal sound worse, you know, than they are, but at the same time you don't want to say, oh, great with kids, when you know for a fact the cat does not like kids. So I've said this before when we did our day in the life of a rescue dog. Is that please, when you are looking for a pet, read that description and believe it. We wouldn't put in there that the cat is not good with kids if we didn't already know that for a fact. So don't take up your time and take up our time filling out an adoption application or coming to visit a pet with your two and three year old, because it's not going to happen. It's not good for you, it's not going to be good for the cat, it's not going to be good for your kids when they get scratched in the face by the cat. That doesn't like kids. So that's something that you know, that we want to make sure that people. People realize so other things.

Amy Castro:

So, other than hanging out at the foster home or hanging out here at the rescue ranch with other cats, our cats do go through the process in many instances of going to adoption events. Now we try to minimize those as much as possible because, as I mentioned early on, cats don't like change. The process of gathering those cats in the garage, putting them in smaller carriers, loading them in the car with a bunch of other carriers traveling 30 minutes to an event. It's stressful on them. Some of them, you know, throw up because of motion sickness, and so we try to limit the ones you know, especially if we know somebody doesn't do well with that change and that stress. And then those cats will go and spend their day at an event. It could be at a farmer's market, although we don't do a lot of that because adult cats would not probably tolerate that very, very well but we have gone to outdoor events with smaller kittens that are very handleable, because it's a good opportunity for them to get handled by more people than just us. And I'm sorry, but if you're out there at a booth at a special event whether it's the farmer's market or a community event and you've got fluffy little kittens in a little kennel on your table, you're going to be the most popular table there and those kittens are going to get a lot of attention that day. Obviously you want to manage that and not overdo it for them, but for many kittens it's a great opportunity to get held and for you to educate people about, about cats and kittens along the way. So events definitely help with getting cats adopted and getting them seen.

Amy Castro:

Another thing that I didn't mention as far as where cats might live would be at a pet store. Many pet stores I know PetSmart does. We are affiliated with the PetSupplies Plus Go, PetSupplies Plus Friendswood Yay, many of these stores will have permanent cages in their I hate to say cages, that sounds terrible. So people don't like the word cage. I mean to me if you're closed into something and it's got bars on it, it's a cage. If you want to call it a kennel, that's great too. There are some that are nicer than others, like the ones at our PetSupplies Plus Look more like furniture and they've got little shelves in them, and so we do have kitties that will stay up there during the week overnight, and what we do is we have volunteers that will go in and make sure that they have food and water in the morning, and then another volunteer will come in in the evening and do the same thing again. So they get that care, but they get a lot of attention from people in the store. People stop over.

Amy Castro:

I've actually gone into that store on a Saturday when we do one of our bigger adoption events and people will come up and say, oh, I visit Waylon every time I come in here and he's so cute. Or they'll say, oh, what happened to so-and-so? They were in this, this cage over here, and now they're gone, they got adopted or whatever it might be. So it really, you know, it gives the community an opportunity to see the pets. It gives the pet exposure to a lot of other people and a lot of other animals too, because there's a lot of dogs going in and out of that store and so they get to see them and hear them and things like that.

Amy Castro:

At the same time, for some animals it can be stressful. So we try to assess that. If there's signs of stress, those volunteers that are coming in morning and night can let us know, and staff is also really good. The people that work in the store are good at letting us know if they feel like hey, someone's having a rough time here or someone's not adapting very well, and then we'll bring them home back to the rescue ranch or bring them back to foster and just realize that they're not one that's going to be able to be shown up there because they're not happy. At the same time, others are a bunch of hams. They're like TV stars and they get in that, they get in that kennel and they put on quite the show for the public to get themselves adopted. They're reaching out and they're waving, they're playing with their toys, and so it's another place where rescue cats or shelter cats might live.

Amy Castro:

The one thing I will say that's important to note is that you know, for us we don't leave a cat up there indefinitely, like if we have a cat that we put up there and it doesn't get adopted in a usually about two weeks is kind of our limit to leave an animal up there. If nobody's adopted it at that point, we'll switch it out for another cat so that it can come back and, you know, be here at the ranch, be loose in the cat room, because unfortunately the cages that are set up in pet stores are different in most places, but for the most part it's the cat spends most of its time in the cage. If it's not being held by somebody, there's not really a facility for them to be let out to run around and play while the cage is being cleaned. So that does you know. I don't like to have animals staying like that for long periods, so we do switch them out and bring them home. And then I would say, last but not least, as far as getting animals adopted, is that you know we? I don't know if our animals know this, if our kitties know this, but our goal is to find them, like I said, the right, fit place in some place that they're going to live happily and forever. And so we do screen potential adopters. And it's not about being judgy although, I don't know, maybe it is about being judgy it's really about identifying the person or people that we believe, given the information that we have about them is going to give this animal the very best life from now until the time that it, you know, dies of old age.

Amy Castro:

And so sometimes if we get a particularly popular cat and you know popularity in cats oftentimes it's judged by appearance, kind of like people it's sad. So you know kitties who are good looking, the Siamese kitties, kitties with blue eyes, kitties with something unusual, you know those kitties are going to be the popular kids and they're going to get asked about more and they're going to get more applications on them and they're, you know, they're going to get adopted faster. The flip side, the kitties who you know especially there's, sometimes there's kittens that just look kind of scraggly when they're little, especially if they weren't raised with moms, and they look kind of scrappy. They come, they always come into their own and you know, nine times out of 10 end up being beautiful cats. But you know, if they don't photograph well or they're a little bit scrappy or somebody. I was telling somebody the other day that I have resting I won't use the word that I used. She said don't call it resting blank face, call it resting human face. But there are some cats that have resting cat face. So when they photograph they look like they're angry or they're mean or whatever it might be, and that's they're not, it's just their photograph. So they do get judged a lot by their photos, which we all can probably relate to a little bit, you know, judged on their appearance, and so those cats might take a little bit longer to get adopted.

Amy Castro:

But we do have people go through a process. One thing that is different about our rescue compared to maybe other rescues and we've covered this and when we talked about dogs as well is that some rescues will require a home visit, so they're really going to physically go out to somebody's house and look at it or require photographs of it. We don't do that, but we will do that in instances where people will say that they want to be able to have the cat go out outdoors. You know we want to see that cat fencing, to know that if you decide to let your cat out in the backyard then it's not going to disappear and end up run over in the street. So we do our very, very best to try to find the best and safest and happiest home for our animals, because we don't want them to come back. But that said and my final point here for this episode would be one thing that I think makes us unique and other rescues do the same thing, but not all and shelters generally don't is that we have a lifetime return policy.

Amy Castro:

Our commitment to these animals and most of the time it's because we put so much time and effort and we've taken the time to get to know them and their personalities and we love them, we want the best for them Our commitment is that if at any time somebody adopts from us and can no longer keep the cat, doesn't want the cat, whatever the reason is, we will take it back. I don't care if it's in a week, I don't care if it's in a year, two years, 10 years, whatever it might be. So that's, thank goodness. Not everybody's taken us up on that, but we have had animals that have been returned. We had one return the other day because for some reason, out of the blue, two years into the relationship with the other cat, it decides to basically attack the cat on a daily basis. He obviously does not appreciate being with other cats and sometimes that happens when they come to maturity. So those types of things may not be things that we realize when they're spending their day in a life here with us at the rescue, because obviously animals, just like people, learn, grow, develop and in many instances change.

Amy Castro:

But our commitment is to take that animal back with the realization that now there might be some parameters on its adoption and we will find it a different, appropriate home. So I hope that that has given you at least a basic idea of what a day in the life of a cat in rescue is. I want to leave you with the thought that all rescues are different and from an adopter's standpoint, sometimes I'll hear from people and they'll say oh well, I don't like dealing with that rescue because they're too picky or they ask too many questions or they require this or they require that. Until you've walked in our shoes and have lived the level of commitment we have to these animals, you really can't judge what people will do to try to do what they think is the right thing for that pet. So try to give a little bit of grace there on that front and realize that every rescue you know, even if they turn you down for adoption every rescue is just trying to do the very, very best that they can do so that animals are living their very best lives for the rest of their lives. So, again, I hope that gives you an idea of what a day in a life of a rescue cat might be, and I hope you enjoyed this episode.

Amy Castro:

If you have anybody that you know that is interested in getting involved in rescue starting a rescue, volunteering at a rescue, adopting from a rescue please share this episode with them so that they know what it's like, what is needed to be able to help cats and other animals go from the streets or from bad situations or from homelessness to living their best forever lives. And thank you again for listening to another episode of Starlight Pet Talk and, if you don't do anything else this week, give your pets a big hug from us. All right, everybody, we are here at the Starlight Outreach and Rescue Ranch and we are going to spin the Wheel of Names to see who wins a Starlight Pet Talk t-shirt or a Starlight Outreach and Rescue t-shirt, if that's what they want. So let's spin the Wheel of Names and see who gets our shirt. And the winner is Michelle Howison. Congratulations, michelle.

Life in Cat Rescue Shelters
Fostering Cats to Assess Behavior
Challenges and Solutions in Cat Fostering
Rescuing and Adopting Shelter Cats
Getting Cats Ready for Adoption
Life of a Rescue Cat
Rescue Involvement and Shirt Giveaway