Prepare to be bored. Like, really bored. Spreadsheet bored.
Behind our Instagram feeds and Facebook posts, there are some surprising – but perhaps less than thrilling – gears turning to get community kitties into traps and loving forever homes. There is logistics, and scheduling, and record keeping, and budgeting, and…poop. There is so much poop. There’s poop to clean out of litter boxes, to be sure. We’re running a cat-based operation, after all. But there’s also poop on carpets, in our cars, on our clothes, in our tubs, you name it. One rescued kitten was christened Pablo Picasso because, as volunteer Ulli Eckes recalled via Facebook Messenger, “he painted [his foster’s] closet wall with 💩”.
Before I became personally involved with FAN, I knew that there was more to TNR and cat rescue than the happy adoption endings and wriggling kittens heralded on social media. I knew there was unseen toil, an endless need for funds, and way too much heartache involved the actual day to day. What many of us doing this kind of work had not anticipated was the plethora of fundamental pieces needed just to get to the toil we thought we’d be doing. The immense time and correspondence dedicated to which cats are going where at what time and who will get them there and back is one such piece. Cats are continually being found in varying states of health or injury by our team members, our rescue partners and the community at large, so every plan is in flux. We may need to find a substitute trapper because we’re caring for an aging family member. Sometimes we can’t drive to pick up a cat because our car needs repair. We might need to reschedule a vet appointment because, well, we have to be at our regular jobs.
Managing correspondence, chores and finding new ways to stretch a dollar are unsung foundations of our mission. There are texts and emails to answer about cats being trapped and what to do with them, orphaned kittens found, needing help with neutering or caring for feral colonies. We spend time with the revolving door of people arriving at our houses to borrow or return traps and other equipment. We spend time connecting with the people at whose homes and businesses we’re trapping. We surprise ourselves with the educating and advocating we’re inspired to do as individuals, even if we joined FAN to fill other roles. There are the endless loads of laundry to wash the towels, sheets and pet beds that are shed, bled, peed and pooped on (there’s that poop again). We’re constantly trolling Nextdoor and e-commerce sites for low priced or discounted food and medication.
There’s also waiting in TNR and rescue. There’s waiting at vet clinics for paperwork to be processed and the traffic you waited in on the way. There’s waiting for donations to be dropped off or for someone to arrive with cats that you’re driving out of town to a farm or sanctuary. There’s waiting for hours for a cat to go into a trap while you play Solitaire on your tablet. And when that cat wanders into the trap to eat the bait but not far enough to step on the trip plate? Wait some more.
When I joined FAN, I discovered that there is no headquarters or full-time staff with headsets plunking away to coordinate our vet appointments and crunch our numbers as with some larger organizations. We’re just a small group of passionate souls with a few Facebook Messenger threads, high mileage on our cars, and a lot of cat pics on our phones.