Basically there are two directions to take with your group's rescue
efforts, shelters and/or individuals.
If you have NO rescue or shelter experience at all, we suggest that you spend at least a year volunteering for a local shelter. This volunteer work should not just include simple tasks - helping out in all facets of the shelter (foster care, dealing with mothers/kittens, sick cats, etc.) will help you truly understand what this business entails. This is a very
complicated, difficult and stressful vocation to be in and anyone who wants to take it on should have a wide background
in sheltering experience or they risk failure.
with shelters has many advantages over and above the obvious rewards of
helping to re-home purebred cats. It is an excellent public relations
opportunity. Some of the activities you may want to start with include providing
expertise in identifying purebred cats, designating donations to the
shelter for care of specific purebred cats, providing help to shelter
personnel in grooming cats in preparation for adoption, and many other
similar activities. Working with your local shelters will afford you the
advantage of acquiring accurate data on the numbers of purebred cats in
your area that are being relinquished to shelters. In addition, you will
be building an invaluable and positive relationship with your local
shelters in preparation for beginning your own rescue.
Re-homing cats from individuals presents a minefield of problems that can quickly overwhelm the best of rescue groups. Always keep in mind that your group exists as a safety net and do not feel guilty for turning a relinquished cat down. The worst that is likely to happen is that the owner will take the cat to a shelter and the rescue group will get it anyway. Of
course there is always the exception, and when a true emergency situation occurs the welfare of the cats must always come first. If your rescue has the resources to accept owner turn-ins without leaving shelter cats at risk, then charging a small "relinquishment fee" is one option to encourage owners to accept responsibility for their pet. It is also helpful to arrange an appointment for intake
1-2 weeks later - this technique can help use assess how much of an emergency the situation is and whether the owner is willing to consider other options.
You will have to decide which breeds the rescue will tackle. That's an individual decision but depends on a lot of factors. We do NOT recommend a "newbie" take on general purebred cat rescue, because it it takes experience not to become quickly overwhelmed. We suggest focusing on one common breed, like Siamese, or the breed with which you have the most expertise to star
with. Then, if the
leadership and resources are there, gradually take in other breeds.
You will need to have guidelines as to what cats qualify for your rescue. Having a written list of well thought-out guidelines
is one of the most important steps in well-organized rescue program,
keeping in mind that they are simply guidelines. Policies and procedures are a work in progress. The one constant in
rescue is that there are no set rules and exceptions will always occur.
There will be many occasions when your team will have to make a difficult
judgment call on what is best for the cat and your organization.
Determining whether a cat is a purebred is sometimes difficult. Some circumstances will require the rescuer to make a close judgment call, determining
whether, for instance, the cat in that cage really is or is not a
particular breed (rarely are papers relinquished with the cat). If you
have established a good relationship with the shelter,
you may encourage them to retain whatever documentation is available that
establishes the authenticity of the cat's genetic background. Generally,
any genuine doubt should be resolved in the cat's favor.
Your rescue should not start rescuing a breed until you are expert in the identification, care, and any
special needs of that particular breed.
You will also have to decide whether you will accept "mixes", i.e. appears to have several significant characteristics of a breed but which lacks the combination of features, colors, and/or conformation that are
expected in that breed. Keep in mind that the major registries have some significant variance in the breed standards, and that commercial and back yard breeders may also use very poor quality representatives of the breed and produce pets that deviate significantly from the
Health is the most important criteria of them all, unless you have unlimited resources. One very ill cat can totally drain the funds you have set aside to rescue numerous cats. A good rule of thumb is the cat is a
candidate for your program if the cat is only slightly ill with something that can be easily treated with a week of antibiotics.
If you have to deal with a major illness that would take weeks of treatment, major surgery, or extensive and expensive medical
attention, you may have a difficult decision to make as to whether or not to accept the cat in your program.
your goal is to place these cats in loving homes, not to become a way
station for critically ill cats, thus draining your resources and reducing
your ability to help others. It's important to keep in mind that there is no way any of us can save them all. Reality imposes limitations. With that in mind, however, you may also want to explore some of the emergency resources available like "Itsy's Fund" and IMOM.org, to help with such bills. There are also resources out there for FIV positive cats you may want to explore working with and referring to as FIV positive cats are
more difficult to place.
Temperament is a serious
factor when dealing with rescue cats. Quite often a cat will be
stressed in the shelter environment and may simply be reacting
defensively, but later be a total love in the foster home after a short period of time. If there is any chance that the cat, with a little time and
patience, can be socialized, it certainly is worth the effort to give it a
try. On the other hand, if the cat is totally unmanageable and aggressive with a history of biting,
we would recommend not taking the cat into your program. More than likely than not the cat will be returned to you. Also there is the possibility
of the cat hurting someone, which could have legal ramifications and liability issues.
Once your volunteer has determined that the cat qualifies for rescue,
here are some suggested easy steps to follow.
Fill out the shelter's rescue contract, asking for one copy to take with you.
Take the cat to the veterinarian for health
inspection. Have the cat tested for FeLV and FIV if not already done by the shelter. Have the veterinarian complete
Health Inspection Form. All whole cats and kittens must be altered as soon as possible;
absolutely no intact cats should be adopted out. If the cat turns out to be so ill that it needs to be euthanized, the shelter may offer to take the cat back and euthanize the cat. If not, mail a report of euthanization, stating reason, to
Take the cat and all your forms to your
foster facility and
Leave a copy of all forms with the whoever is fostering the cat; they will need to give one
copy to the new owners. Always keep another set for your rescue programs
Once the cat has been cleared health-wise and assessed at your foster home, inform your Rescue Coordinator that the cat is now available for adoption so they can advertise the new purebred rescue cat now available.
You will find a Petfinder.com
page for your rescue will be very helpful. You may also find it
helpful to advertise cats
on our message board. You can also advertise your cats on breed, breed rescue, and cat-related lists online
and on facebook. It is helpful if you have a digital camera - "a picture is worth a thousand words" does apply!