Our newest foster kitty is a six-month-old white short-haired kitty named Sunshine. She came from a home where her mom and another female cat are now raising fresh litters of kittens. The family is very poor, and they were not able to purchase cat food for the past few days, so they'd been feeding Sunshine and the rest fish sticks* up until today.
The family had agreed to give up the kittens so they could be fostered, altered, and rehomed, but they don't want to give up their adult momma cats because they are their beloved pets. The solution we are trying to come up with is to have me or someone else foster the moms and kittens until the babies are weaned, then get the moms spayed and returned to their family, along with some education and access to resources in case of future crises. The purpose of fostering them is to keep the moms confined so that they don't get pregnant again, and to make sure everybody is safe and fed for that time period.
Someone in a livejournal community had commented that they didn't understand why the rescue would get the momma cats at Sunshine's former home spayed, then return them to that situation afterwards. I gave her a very long answer, and thought I would share it here.
The goal is to try to find solutions that are agreeable to the family. Otherwise, if their animals are simply taken away, they'll just go and pick up a "free kitten" elsewhere and start the cycle all over again.
Ptera's mom and dad were in a similar home. She and her sisters were removed for fostering (by me--they were my first fosters, and I kept two of them, haha), and L, the coordinator dealing with that neighborhood's poverty-level families with cats, got the parents spayed and neutered so that the family wouldn't end up having more kittens. They received some education and advice, and now they have two loving feline companions that aren't going to increase the unwanted kitten population any more. They also now have access to resources if things get tough again.
The rescue also has a low-cost spay/neuter program for people to get their cats fixed even if they don't have a lot of money. Those who are on public assistance of some kind (medicaid, welfare, food stamps, social security) can get theirs done for free if they provide us with proof of their being on programs or low income. The cost is covered through the rescue by donations and grants. For $70, they get a spay/neuter, a rabies shot, a flea treatment, and a vet exam (where the doc can find other problems that need addressing and make them aware of it). For another $4, they can get the cat wormed. Again, low income families can get it done for free; we do a maximum of four free procedures each clinic, out of a total of 25 cats done that day--and the clinics are done every Sunday. It's a great program.
Even though the situations are not ideal for the animals, we have to acknowledge the reality that people are going to make the decision to acquire the pets anyway, and so we come up with realistic solutions, whether it's getting the animals spayed or neutered, removing kittens for fostering and rehoming, or helping them to budget for food and medical care, or find resources like food banks that carry pet foods.
I'll be very honest and say that, if I were in their situation, I would not want to live a catless life. When you're already down and out, the comfort an animal companion can bring is invaluable. The elderly are especially helped by their feline companions, but I also believe that it's valuable for children to be able to grow up with animal companionship, and it's rewarding to be able to give them that opportunity when they wouldn't otherwise have it.
Now, because I know you want to see them, here are some photos of Sunshine, some of them with her near-twin Ptera!
n my lap:
Getting sniffed by Ptera:
Ptera: This better not be my replacement!
* Yes, fish sticks may be pricier than cheap cat food, but you can't buy cat food with food stamps.