It is 5:45 AM and I should be cleaning, or writing a novel or screenplay I keep feeling myself I will write, or cleaning (did I say that already?). But instread I wake up early to make sure I have time to tend to the needs of a rambunctious bunch of kittens who have once again taken over my guest room. To be fair, the A/C vents in that room are not functioning well, so it's generally too hot for humans, so instead of renting it out to a returning veteran female free of charge like I had planned, I gave it to kittens. A veteran would have been more helpful in the cleaning department, as I always have tons of it to do with 2 dogs and cats of my own, plus Susie Q, a foster I've had for a year who had been originally raised by my dog, Stella, a 75 lb Shepherd/Rottie/Coonhound mix who gets excited whenever she gets a kitten to love and groom. But kittens are cuter than roommates...and they don't mess up my DVR recording list.
I started the Delray Kitten Cam last year, when I had temporarily left A Second Chance Puppies and Kittens Rescue because of mistreatment by the former head of the organization, but a friend of mine found some kittens and an unfriendly momma cat on her school's playground, so I needed help getting them homes. I knew the group could have a functioning cat department, even though cats and kittens at the time were costing us more to rescue than the adoption fees covered, we offered PREMIUM kittens with fantastic personalities, hand raised, usually good wth dogs, and with plenty of pictures and video to prove it, so surely we should be able to charge a slightly higher adoption fee to cover our costs. But the cat department still needed a leader, I didn't have the time and was too far away in Delray Beach to manage things up in Wellington.
The first kitten cam litter were adopted so fast and with such excitement, it's like they were celebrities. The first two went together, with a woman calling the night before the adoption event begging to make sure she could adopt the kittens for her daughter who had fallen in love with them by watching them grow up. Another girl squealed with delight when she showed up and saw that Natalie, an adorable black fluffy kitten, was actually in her presence and still available for adoption. Needless to say....I was hooked. It's hard enough finding homes for a kitten or cat, much less getting the kind of ferver and enthusiasm that I had just witnessed.
Though ASC had stopped taking in new cats at that period in 2011, I was permitted to continue to take in kittens because I was raising enough in donations to cover the extra costs of vetting the cats, and at the time I was largely paying for the food, litter, and supplies all myself. Win-win for them, and I signed up for some affiliate programs to hopefully get commissions when viewers or readers click on one of the ads on my blog (though no one does). A Second Chance had also just started to have events closer to me at Boynton Beach PETCO, run by a young woman who would later become one of my best friends, Deven. I was also permitted to try out a new pricing model, $100 for a kitten which includes spay/neuter, vaccines, microchip, blood test for Feline Leukemia and FIV which is feline AIDS, a free vet visit, and when old enough, free rabies shot. Dr Fox of Riverbridge Animal Hospital was the group's vet, faithfully helping rescues for years, but he was so far for me, and luckily the wonderful Dr Kristy Lund of Lund Animal Hospital in Boca, where I had been taking my own animals for years (along with all of my friends), agreed to start working with ASC, too, so fostering became much more convenient and could fit slightly better with my work life (social life....not so much). I was back.
The last thing the group needed was someone to really run the cat program. I had a viewer named Traci with the handle Love_My_Cats who found watching the cam melted all her stresses away with her demanding corporate job. She said she travelled too much and was too busy to foster or volunteer, but she became my Fairy Catmother, donating whenever one of the kittens on camera needed extra vet care like when little Blondie needed surgery to fix her umbilical hernia which wasn't caught when she was spayed. Later, she started to want to volunteer at the Wellington events and the wise Lisa Beadle convinced her to run the cat program. I was afraid she'd run away from the group for the same personality clashes I experienced with the former* President, Peter, but she was on his good side for long enough to really sink her teeth into project: cats.
Now the group had the dream team: Traci to run the cat program, Deven to manage the cattery at Boynton and coordinate with Dr Lund in addition to Dr Fox, a kitten cam to promote awareness, and PETCO of Wellington and Boynton with their wonderful staff who kept the kitties left in the store socialized and are so good at getting interested customers to do the next step and adopt. We were on a roll. Not only did we save the cat program, Traci keeps it on budget and organized. We adopt out 3x as many cats as we used to and treat every animal who comes into the program with a degree of urgency, to make sure we get the small ones out while they are still small, or else they get stuck in foster homes for a much longer time.
I stopped the cam for a while after a few months of unemployment as I was travelling a lot and was going to sell my house, and the time, expense and mess required to maintain the cam was too much for me. Kitten season this year hit like a ton of fluffy, scratching kitten bricks because of the extrememly mild winter. Kittens are coming from everywhere and we tell 10 people a day at least that we do not have room for their kittens or pregnant cat. Earlier this year we got some fabulous collapsible pet tents so fostering kittens actually got easier, and I thought it was about time to restart the cam, knowing what a commitment I'd be making, and despite the fact I now commute to a job 45 min away in Ft Lauderdale.
I'll do my best to update the blog, though I can't promise too much. Maybe Traci can contribute, so you might see posts from either of us about the kittens in the program. A Second Chance has its own bog, so we might move it over there.
(Footnote: Peter left the group under a dark cloud to start his own group, so ASC restructured and the remaining board members are hard working, dedicated, and professional.)