Tom Campbell of Lancaster has a problem that has no good solution, only a bad outcome and a not-quite-as-bad outcome.
Campbell, editor and publisher of WNYLaborToday.com, an online labor union newspaper, and host of its online show, Western New York Labor News, needs to find a home for his two 11-year-old cats, Hobbs, an orange striped male, and Little Girl, a long-haired black, tan and brown Maine Coon.
He loves his cats and is adamant that he will not turn them over to a rescue group or a shelter, most of which are packed with cats and kittens and see few people interested in adopting older cats. But Campbell said that his fiancee’s allergies have become so severe that she has moved out of the home they have shared for almost seven years.
After various medical treatments and a consistent worsening of her symptoms, Campbell said, she told him, “The issue is my health now.”
“I lose either way here,” said Campbell, who has spread the word far and wide about his cats and has found no takers. “These cats are like my kids, and I love them. The only way I can move forward is if I have put them in a good, loving home where I know they are going to be taken care of.”
Before making the painful decision, Campbell invested $800 in a vacuum cleaner and added a new furnace filter and air ionizer. Since his fiancee’s health crisis last fall, Campbell has thrown himself into the quest for a home for the cats, whom he describes as loving, happy and healthy. He has told his story several times on his Facebook page, where he has more than 4,000 friends. He had more than 500 four-color posters printed in a union shop. Almost all of them have been posted or handed out, yet nobody has stepped forward to adopt the cats.
In fact, many people have had a negative reaction to Campbell’s decision; the idea of resettling two older cats doesn’t sit well with many animal lovers. People commenting on Campbell’s Facebook post have advised him to keep the cats and get rid of his fiancee. Last weekend, he got into an online argument with a woman from California about the issue.Campbell’s search may be tougher than he could imagine. The SPCA Serving Erie County and its off-site adoption locations have about 100 cats, and the agency has about 700 cats and kittens in foster care or on the waiting list for people who want to turn in cats.
Before the SPCA started its waiting list three years ago, the huge supply and relatively small demand for cats meant a death sentence for many, said Gina Browning, the SPCA’s director of public relations.
“On a typical summer day in the early 1990s, 60 to 70 cats and kittens were surrendered,” she said. “If two were adopted that day, there was room for two of the ones that were turned in. We had cages lined up all over, cats all over, waiting to be euthanized.”
For the past three years, people who want to surrender a cat they own have to put their name on the waiting list. The wait time right now for those cats to be accepted at the agency is three months.
When people are told that they can’t just bring their cat in and drop it off, Browning said, “They are livid; they are furious. We explain to them that this is a life-saving measure.”
In their shock and anger, some people tell the SPCA staffers that they will just open the door and let the cat go. But, Browning said, “When we call the people back weeks later to check on the situation, I don’t know if they ever say that they opened the door and let the cat out.”
After putting the owner’s name on the waiting list, Browning said the SPCA staffer tries to determine if there is any other way to assist the owner. “If the problem is that the cat needs to be spayed or neutered, we build the cat into our spay-neuter schedule,” she said.
At Ten Lives Club, founder and president Marie Edwards says that agency also is inundated with about 450 cats and kittens.
Edwards said the agency’s focus is stray and homeless cats, although people call about surrendering their pets. “It really aggravates me when I get a call from somebody that has a personal pet. I grit my teeth,” she said. “I got a call last week from a lady who has a 10-year-old cat that she wants to get rid of. We tell these people the sad truth.” In a cage in a shelter, surrounded by strangers, older cats become stressed and depressed, refuse to eat and soon fall prey to upper respiratory infections.
“These cats don’t make it in the shelter,” said Edwards. “I have told at least 500 people: You give us your 10- or 11-year-old cats and they will just give up on life. They have lost everything, nobody loves them anymore, and they don’t want to live. We try to save them, and if we can’t, we feel awful.”
Campbell, who can be contacted at Campbell@localnet.com, is willing to help out with veterinary care costs for his cats. If nobody comes forward, “I don’t even want to think about that,” Campbell said. “Not euthanasia, are you kidding me? I am just hoping there is someone out there who would be interested in adopting two wonderful animals. They have been such a joy to me.”