Fabulous Felines Year End Letter 2011
Writing our end of year letter to the Fabulous Felines community is one of the more pleasant responsibilities of an organization’s director. It offers an opportunity to step back from the daily demands of our work and to reflect on the animals we have helped, the generosity of our supporters, and the ways our little rescue has grown. This is particularly true in 2011, which has been notable in so many ways. We have continued to work with community cats, to care for the cats in our foster care, and to help the animals and people who come our way. We have expanded our presence on the web, adding a mobile application, starting a semi-regular newsletter, and expanding the content on our web site. We also enjoyed our best fundraising year ever, thanks to your extraordinary generosity.
What has not changed is the joy of working with these remarkable animals. We have experienced the joy of saving animals who would have been lost on the streets, and of helping people to keep their cats in their homes. We have also known the sorrow of losing cats we have helped for many years. We have even been a part of one cat’s remarkable journey that took her from a home, to the city shelter, to a new home, to the streets, and back to her original home – all in the course of ten years. All this has reminded us that in helping these animals, we are privileged to be a part of their life journeys – journeys as full, complex, and rich as our own.
Two losses have particularly affected us. Apollo was one of the first cats we worked with in the feral colony we support, he was the namesake for "Project Apollo," and he lived in the colony for five years until being run-over last spring. Because of the wild nature of these animals and the limitations of our own resources, caring for them in their colonies by providing food, shelter, and medical care is our only practical option. Still, the loss of these beautiful animals has reminded us of the hard lives street cats endure, and the importance of addressing the problem of homeless cats at its source: by working to promote spaying, responsible pet ownership, and helping people to keep their cats in their homes.
The other tragic loss was Hal, a big, gentle tomcat that came to us from a hard life on the streets. Surviving on his own had left him FIV positive and with a cauliflower ear. In spite of all he had endured, he was one of the gentlest animals in our care and a favorite of all our volunteers. In late 2011, he began to suffer from blockages of the urinary track. With the support of donations from the Fabulous Felines community, we took him to the veterinarian for treatment, which ultimately led to surgery. It was during surgery that the veterinarian discovered the cause of Hal’s problem was a cancer that had spread through his body. The disease was so advanced that there was not enough healthy tissue to allow treatment, and we had no choice but to let go of our big, brave boy. Although we could not help him, Hal’s great and gentle spirit reminded us once again of the importance of our commitment to provide medical treatment to the cats in our care, and our policy of never euthanizing an animal simply because of the cost of treatment.
On a happier note are the cats we have saved. Marey and Mack came to us through the kind of sad story we face all too often. They were adopted as kittens by a family who neglected to spay and neuter them, allowed them to have kittens, and ultimately decided they were too much of a burden to keep. These beautiful, friendly animals are still with us, looking for a home. Vilnius is an old friend of the Fabulous Felines community. A friendly cat, Vilnius became a therapy cat. We took him to visit memory-loss patients at a nearby retirement home. After bringing joy to so many unfortunate people, Vilnius was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a serious, progressive condition. Although not curable, Vilnius can still live a long life with proper care. He has retired as a therapy cat, and lives in our foster facility.
Perhaps the most remarkable story we can share is that of Sophie. Sophie came to us when her elderly owner passed away, and the family wanted to find a new home for her. This started a strange series of events that began with finding a new place for her, only to discover that a family member had callously thrown her onto the streets. Through a collaboration of several groups and the city, we found Sophie again, and eventually discovered that she had been lost from another home ten years previously, and the City reunited her with her original owner. The full story is on our web site, and contains more twists and turns than we can list in this letter.
There are so many lessons to be learned from Sophie’s story. It is critical, not just for the elderly, but for all cat owners to set up trusts or other provisions for their animals should they be unable to care for their companions. It also underscores the importance of microchipping your animals, and checking for microchips if you should find a stray. It also reminds us of the strange, remarkable life journeys of the animals that are simply labeled as “strays.” If you can find it in your heart to participate in these rich lives, either by providing foster care or an adoptive home, please contact us. The animals in our care range from friendly, affectionate animals that would easily fit into a home, to those who need a special foster to bring out the love and trust that they are capable of giving.
In addition to these rescue efforts and our small foster system, we have continued with our work with feral cats. We have called this effort “Project Apollo,” after the remarkable cat of that name, and it focuses on advancing the interests of free-roaming, or community cats. As we mentioned earlier in this letter, the sheer number of free-roaming cats in our community makes it impossible to place all of them in sanctuaries. This makes colony management and TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) an important effort for community cats. These cats are the descendants of abandoned cats, who were never fixed. Sometimes they are the descendants of owned cats, whose guardians let them out but never take the responsibility to spay and neuter them. The best action for community cats is to spay and neuter them, get them shots and other medical treatment they may need, and return them to the place they call home. They will need caregivers, food, fresh water, shelter, and veterinary care as needed.
This year several wonderful people in the Project Apollo neighborhood have taken on more responsibility for helping the cats in the feral colony. These kind folks help look out for the cats and assure their basic needs are met. Fabulous Felines continues to provide food, and we have purchased more insulated houses to shelter the colony cats in the winter. We also continue to TNR cats that are new to the neighborhood, and, if any of the colony cats appear ill, we or other colleagues from the rescue community try to trap them and get them veterinary care. In addition to co-ordinating with the great folks who are interested in helping the cats, we also try to mitigate situations where some neighbors may have problems with these animals.
While this effort improves the lives of the cats, it isn't as comfortable or safe as living indoors, (although, they have as much chance as cats left outside by their owners). The worst hazard for them is carelessness and uncaring drivers who go too fast for the area and show no compassion. Sadly we lost three of our feline friends this year to cars - Apollo, after whom the project is named, beautiful April, a long-haired tri-color and vivacious Solara, a long-haired orange and white kitty. We hope that busy drivers will show compassion for animals that may be in the street.
2011 was a very busy year in terms of managing our rescue, and supporting our growing community of friends, volunteers, and donors. Our web site remains the main focus of communication with the community, and is a place where we document the journeys of the cats we have helped. If you haven’t visited it, go to http://fabulousfelines.org, and please let us know what you think.
In addition, we have started working with mobile computing. This is a new effort, and will be changing as we learn now, but if you would like to see our site and load our mobile app on your smart phone, go to our mobile url, or scan the QR code. You can also get started by texting the keyword “felines” to 72727, or by downloading and sharing our mobile flyer. We are still working on our mobile site so if you should have problems, please be patient, and if possible contact us with problems or suggestions.
We also started the Fabulous Times newsletter (this is the second entry). One of the projects we are undertaking for the new year is a series of newsletter articles on what it would take to make Albuquerque a truly no-kill city. We know this is an ambitious goal, but we also believe that ambitious, seemingly impossible goals can be achieved by a determined group of people, and that the first steps are to start the conversation. If you are already on our mailing list, we hope you will continue to subscribe, and if you are not, that you will subscribe using the links at the end of this letter. Also, in keeping with good web policy, there is an unsubscribe link at the end of this letter (although we hope you will not use it, and may even forward this newsletter to your friends).
Before ending, we would like to thank all of you for making this work possible. 2011 was our most successful fundraising year in our history. Because we are an all-volunteer organization, nearly all of your donations go directly to help animals, with less than 5% of our budget going to business and fundraising costs. However, our costs continue to rise, and we hope you will consider helping us either by donating directly, by bringing cat food to our continuing food drive at VCA Montgomery, or by volunteering with our organization. Also, February and Valentines day are approaching, and with them comes our Wild Love fundraiser – look for information on Wild Love soon!
Thank you all, and we hope that 2012 brings you all the blessings you deserve,