We have entered kitten season and with that comes trying to find foster families and homes. Luckily, the local county and private shelters do a great job with helping us out but there are still kittens that we need to find placements for. I am sure you all know what happens when placements are needed! Staff members troll around the building telling everyone, “If you don’t take these kittens we are going to have to euthanize them!” Which we all know won’t happen because one of us will melt at the sight of the little balls of fur and immediately snatch them up.
I lose my ability to think when I am with an animal in need. Immediately my heart does all of the thinking. I do not think about the strain on my finances, the emotional toll or the time that will disappear by taking in another animal. All that I see are those sweet eyes begging for love and affection.
In the past two weeks, I have been approached by several staff members about several different kittens that needed a place to go. If any of you have read my blog "Addicted to Caregiving" you know how much of a softie I am. I did not take a single kitten and we were able to find placements for them elsewhere relatively easy. It caused me great pain and feelings of guilt to say no. I started doing some deep thinking and I realized that I needed to stop rescuing and fostering, at least for now.
I have 13 cats, 1 dog, and 1 tortoise. I am very used to living with a lot of animals but even I know that I have quite the handful. Some of my cats are getting very old and require more attention and medical care. I also have a megacolon cat, a hyperthyroid hospice cat (recent rescue, Lydia Deetz), and a dog with a neurological issue (just started a medication trial, Banzai).
There are so many feelings that accompany my decision to put a halt on rescuing more animals. The most difficult is the feeling of guilt. I am the person who takes the beat up strays, the kitten with the prolapsed colon, the megacolon kitten, and the elderly. I was the last chance for all of the cats in my house. If I had not taken them all of them would have been euthanized. Knowing that there will be a day in the very near future where I will be asked to or driven to take another last chance animal brought me to the realization that I had to put my decision in writing.
I wrote an email to the entire medical staff requesting that they no longer ask me to take any kittens or other animals. Not only did I put the kibosh on any future requests from the staff but I also made myself accountable to them. If I even think of taking an animal home I will remember that email that I sent and it will make me stop and think.
I made a promise to each and every animal that I have rescued. That promise was to give them love, attention, the best medical care, food, and a warm home. To be able to provide for them I do need to dedicate myself and my finances to their care. The more animals I take in spreads my time and finances thinner. The amount of money I spend every year is easily a down payment on a house, a trip across Europe, or a semester in grad school. All three of those things are things I have been wanting for years and have not been able to do because I have always put the animals first and I am okay with that. I have not visited my family on the East Coast much because it is too difficult for me to get away and leave the animals. I do think that I have arrived at a time in my life where I need to find a balance between the needs of the animals and what I want in life.
It is very easy to get lost when you are addicted to caregiving. Your heart becomes so wrapped up in the needs of others that your needs are often lost. A few weeks ago there was a senior dog in the hospital that was in limbo with where she was going to live. I bonded very quickly with the dog and was determined that I was going to be her forever home after the legal issues surrounding her case were resolved. It took having a conversation in the ICU Potty Yard with a CVT who I greatly admire and respect, to realize that I have lost myself somewhere along the way. I was putting the animals before myself in every aspect of my life.
I have realized that I am not responsible for every animal on the planet. I cannot make a difference for every animal that I come across but I can make a difference in the lives of the animals that are already in my life. I have stopped feeling guilty taking a walk without my dog. I finally flew home to see my family in New Jersey that I have not seen in several years. My debt is starting to shrink so maybe next year I will finally get my dream trip to Europe. I am not in grad school but I am taking one class this semester. I didn’t give up anything. I just realized that I need to focus on what I already have, and by doing so, I have made the lives of my animals and myself richer.
Truman Capote (AKA stray kitten w/ prolapsed colon) with Xander and Gidget in the background