The rescue group I volunteer with recently took in a litter of puppies, and five of them came down with a deadly virus called Parvo. This is the same virus that Ziggy had when I first brought him home. Parvovirus takes five to ten days to show symptoms after being infected, so dogs often acquire this in shelters and then carry it into a foster home with them. To make matters worse, shortly after the five puppies were treated (at a cost of over $3000!), we took in more puppies and they also came down with the virus. The newest pups were taken in to a different foster home, so it was not spread from the first puppies, and they came in from a different shelter, so there was no way to know that they had also been exposed. But four more puppies became sick, and the vet bills are going up and up.
Rescuing animals isn't cheap, and small groups like ours rely solely on the donations of individuals, so we're all doing whatever we can to help raise the funds to pay for the parvo puppies' vet bills. We have a fund raiser garage sale coming up, and we're also raffling off a quilt. These vet bills were on my mind when I received an e-mail from another rescuer.
She told me about a lady who had been doing everything she could to care for some stray and feral cats near her home. The lady had paid to have them all spayed or neutered, and had rescued many of the kittens and gotten them into foster homes until they could be adopted. She had two kittens left and was willing to make a large donation to anyone who would help with them. The problem was the kittens were both around seven months old, and they were fearful of people. They would need a lot of work before they could be placed for adoption. I thought about how much work it would take, and then I thought about our vet bills, and then I thought about those kittens that might end up living outside if no one would help them, and then I thought about the lady who had gone to so much trouble and expense to save them. And then I said yes, we would take them. So now this lady has not only helped to save these two kittens, she's also helping to save several puppies with parvo! And as for the two kittens, well, they're slowly adjusting to life in a home. One of the kittens has gone to another foster home to live with an expert in cat socialization. The other kitten is currently with me, although another very experienced cat foster mom has offered to take him, so I'm not sure how long he'll be here. But I've sort of fallen in love with him, so hopefully it will be for awhile. I named him Bandit, and he finally purred for me for the first time today!
Socializing semi-feral cats is a multi-step process. The first step was to separate them - check. Next, I added some Feliway to help them feel calm - check. Next step, teach them to be comfortable around me by bribing them with canned food and treats - check. Also, pet other cats around them so they see that i'm not so scary - check. I'm not sure if that really helps or not, but it doesn't hurt! Next, hold them and pet them and teach them that human attention is a good thing. This is the step we've been working on. Bandit is comfortable with me in the room, and he's okay with me holding and petting him (once I catch him), but he doesn't like it when I approach him. I am keeping him in a "cat playpen" when I can't be with him, but spend some time each evening letting him run around and he's finally comfortable enough to let me take pictures while he explores the room. The more time I spend with Bandit, the more I love him. I don't have a lot of experience with taming cats, but it seems that it's not that different than taming a feral Bichon. Already Bandit leans into my hand when I pet him, and I'm pretty sure that the whole bribery with canned food is starting to really pay off, because he seems to look forward to my visits instead of trying to hide. Hopefully it won't be long before he becomes comfortable around people and gets to have his own home and his own family.