I’m coming up on a year anniversary blogging for ChicagoNow and I have a confession to make – I am a crazy cat lady.
You didn’t know that?
If you know me personally, your response would be – duh. Just ask my little brother, he gifts me with a gazillion posts a week about cats on my personal Facebook page.
But if you read my blog, just based on the topics alone, you’d never know that. There’s a lot about puppy mills, general rescue, more puppy mills and then a few cat posts thrown in for good measure.
That is not by design.
I've been covering the pet scene on various publications for a few years. I start out each year with a resolution to write much more about cats but then other issues get in the way – pit bull awareness, hoarders, and lots and lots of puppy mills. So the cats get pushed aside…which is kind of funny because there is usually one draped across the keyboard making writing a challenge.
I should take this as a sign. I really should.
This past year in the greater Chicago area there was good news and bad news for cats. First of all, Chicago’s three oldest no-kill organizations (all cat-focused) – Tree House Humane Society, Harmony House and Felines & Canines – have all had great years. Harmony House was in their first full year in a new shelter and Felines (with the new addition of Canines) opened a newly remodeled shelter as well. That meant bigger adoption numbers for both of them.
Then, there is Tree House. This year, Tree House adopted out 778 cats through their in-house program, blowing away their previous record. That doesn’t include all the cats helped through their TNR rescue partners and other groups. Tree House is breaking ground this year on a brand new state-of-the-art shelter, which will be even better news for cats in Chicago (yea) and the ‘burbs.
Groups like CARF, St Sophia’s Forgotten Felines, Lulu’s Locker and many, many more stepped up and helped a lot of cats. There are so many rescues, shelters and TNR groups involved in the effort…its hard to list them all.
At Chicago Animal Care and Control, a volunteer run group – the Cat Transfer team – helped network out a record number of cats slated for euthanasia. Nationally, 7 in 10 cats that end up in open admission shelters are euthanized…so these numbers are great news for cats in Chicago.
However, it’s not all been good.
If you’re connected to Chicago’s cat community, you’ll know that we’re in the midst of a crisis. A small rescue organization – Purrs from the Heart – pulled around 1,200 cats from CACC in a six-month period.
Reportedly over 500 cats –some very sick to start with – died. Hundreds are unaccounted for as rescue groups are working to unravel the mystery of what happened with this rescue. I did a post about the situation a few weeks ago.
The Purrs from the Heart story is heartbreaking and frustrating and an ongoing investigation. But from the bad, here’s the good – a tremendous network of people have joined forces to try to account for the lost and missing. They’ve cross posted and spent cold days and nights out trapping cats and done their best to investigate where they can.
In many places, the cats would be gone. The cats would be forgotten. In many places, communities wouldn’t pull together like this. In animal rescue, there are a lot of egos and there is infighting and it does hurt the cause. In this case, groups of all sizes have joined forces to go to bat for the cats.
In a perfect rescue world, we’d be able to use these efforts in a better way. But, in this rescue world, we’re doing what the cat people do everyday of the year – going to bat for America’s favorite, but most abandoned pet.
I don’t think a day goes by when it’s not a crisis day for cats in general. Way too many cats are dumped every. Single. Day. Cats are dumped in the street by their families because they've moved. Senior kitties are left at animal control because they're old. Cat after cat is left behind for many stupid reasons.
So, as I move yet another cat off the keyboard to finish this post – here’s my challenge to my fellow crazy cat ladies (and cat guys) – we need to find a different voice to get our message out. We need to find a way to channel our inner Grumpy Cat and learn from the widely popular Internet cats to educate and reach more people.
We need to find a way to cross that fine line between crazy cat lady and passionate advocate. We need to share the stories about cat rescue – good and bad – like Pit bull nation does for their breed. We need to put the spin on happy endings from sad beginnings like the puppy mill rescue crowd does so well. We need to not be afraid to speak up to find a new voice to help the cats.
It’s not easy. I know that. As a PR person, I pitch to Chicago’s media – cute cat stories are fine but the true stories that need to be told are a harder sell. People don't care about cats - at least that's the line I hear over and over again.
We know that isn't true because millions of cats are cherished pets in people's homes. That is why we need to keep plugging away and keep pushing the envelop and get the media to see the stories – good and bad that make up for our community. I know, it’s exhausting with all that is already on our plate…but it can be done.
For this blog, it's my goal to focus more on cat issues. One of the reasons I do get so sidetracked is when something happens with dog groups - from puppy mill advocates to pit bulls to many other issues - I get bombarded with requests for help.
I would not only like to hear more from Chicago’s cat advocates this year – I’d like to see all of us sharing and reposting and sharing again when important messages are out there…whether it’s from me or someone else. In these days of social media, sharing, liking, commenting and calling to keep the media involved does work (it's all about page views folks). If Grumpy Cat can create a sensation, we can do it, we certainly can.
In this dog-eat-dog world of animal rescue, sharing is currency and posting saves lives. If we all work on this together, we can truly make an even bigger difference and officially make this the year of the cat.
Now, I’m off the soap box and off to the kitchen. As every crazy cat lady knows, the cat food cans don’t open on their own and the felines are getting restless.
And, to start us off on the right track on this bitter cold snow day, I'd like to share this creative video from Wake County SPCA. (It makes me want to add a couple more cats to the fold.)
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