FEAR is a strong motivator. Stronger than anything else, in my opinion. Panic is a result of FEAR… and can lead to disaster, because when panic shuts out reason, we simply act. Panic, tempered with compassion, birthed Odd Cat Out Sanctuary (OCO), as I had been given a mere two weeks to find a home for seventy (70) cats, unadoptable cats… cats I took in as fosters from private parties, and for other rescues and/or shelters who had already tried to adopt them out and failed… cats who would have been put down in county shelters if I had surrendered them, which my big, soft, compassionate heart forbade me to do. So I jumped at the kind offer to use another rescuer’s barn to house them. I thought it would be a temporary fix. It was not. Odd cats have now lived in that barn for over seven (7) years. Unfortunately, this was not a wise decision.
Why was using a barn, a beautiful, historic wooden Dutch-style barn, not a good decision? Primarily because it’s just that, a barn—no heat or air-conditioning, no indoor running water, no bathroom… and wood, lots of dry, old, porous wood, which is impossible to sanitize. The space really is beautiful with its big windows and wide open floor plan, ship-lap floors, and cathedral ceilings. The cats can romp and play up in the open rafters, down on the 1500 square feet of floor, or lay in the sun that pours in the windows and across the porch. There is plenty of room for 150 cats at a time. However, in the summer months it gets way too hot inside because the barn sits in an open field where the sun mercilessly beats down on the roof and walls. The winter months are harsh too, even more so, as the interior volume of the space totals 37,500 square feet overall when you add in the 25-foot high ceiling. It is impossible to heat so much open space, especially when the electrical system will only allow us to use two radiant space heaters—one of which we have to remember to unplug when we need to vacuum so we don’t blow the circuit. Temperature fluctuations play havoc with cat’s immune systems, resulting in stress, and stress causes illness. Toss in the issue of germs being a constant because of the porous surfaces and what we have is OCO cats getting sick, too often. And, because a good many of our cats came to us with compromised immune systems (FIV+), when they get sick they can die. The ferals would typically suffer through their colds since we could not net them and get a Convenia injection administered, as it is almost impossible to medicate ferals locked into cages without getting bitten or torn up. Caring for sick animals is no fun, for them or me, so I and my cohorts came to the conclusion the best thing to do for our ‘odd’ cats was to move them into homes and/or climate-controlled facilities.
Don’t get me wrong! Odd Cat Out has been a life-saver for over 500 cats since our inception. This is a good thing, as those cats came from hopeless situations—old cats from homes where their caregivers had died and left no heir willing and able to take in the cats… FIV+ cats… unsocial and shy cats… cats with behavioral issues (peeing and/or marking inappropriately, biting). All of these situations would probably have resulted in an early death for the cats! You see, most shelters don’t take in cats older than 5-years of age, as they take way longer to get adopted than young cats and kittens. FIV+ cats are typically put down by shelters, though now a few have educated themselves so they understand these cats can live with non-positive cats without ever sharing the disease, and that they are usually super loving beasts, so they are offering them for adoption. Unsocial (feral) cats are almost always killed at intake, especially when they have been brought into a shelter in a trap. There are some shelters, like Multnomah County, who do have a Community Cat Program now though, whereby they network these animals out for adoption as barn cats to farmers, wineries, and other rural businesses. Unfortunately, biters and those who inappropriately pee or mark indoors typically wind up being destroyed, usually after they have been tested for infections without result, then adopted out a couple times and been returned to the shelter because they failed to behave. These are all ‘odd’ cats, OCO cats, cats who still have years of life left in them and ask no more than a soft bed, food and water, room to play, a sunny spot in a window or on a screened in porch, and mostly, someone to be kind to them for the remainder of their lives.
Odd Cat Out Sanctuary provided all of that for every cat, and more—a grain-free diet, treats, toys, catnip, pest control, and veterinary care, lots of veterinary care, including dentals, to the tune of $5K a month. And yet, in spite of our best efforts, we lost 160 cats over the years to an assortment of ailments, including: kidney failure, liver failure, stroke, heart failure, brain tumors, cancer, FIP, and anemia. Death is a part of life, and hospice is a regular part of the care we provide at OCO. And, no, it never gets any easier to have to decide when a cat should be euthanized, be it a feral or your best buddy.
The good news is, OCO, mostly through our partnerships with other rescue groups—Felines First (Beaverton), Second Chance Companions (Vancouver), PAWS Animal Shelter (West Linn), adopted out over 200 ‘odd’ cats! We also transferred a dozen to our sister sanctuary, Cat Alliance Team Sanctuary (CATS) in Sherwood, as they are better able to provide for the shy and frailer ones in their large, washable-surfaced, and climate-controlled facility.
Through the good times and the bad, over the entire life span of the sanctuary I have never lost my FEAR. The panic subsided, but the FEAR has remained. Fear of failure primarily, as failing would mean putting the cats at risk… all of my lovely ‘odd’ cats who had nowhere else to go. And then it came to exactly that, as expenses got out of control due to escalating veterinary bills, in spite of the spendy, nutritious diet we fed them, and I could no longer afford to provide for them almost entirely out-of-pocket. I had to close OCO and go back to work at a paying job so that I can contribute financially toward supporting my family and won’t lose my own home. Fortunately, OCO’s partners, Felines First, PAWS, and CATS, were willing to help me with the dissolution by working hard to adopt out those who could be, and transferring those who could not gradually over a period of 8-10 months. Problem is, we still need funds to maintain the level of care our cats who are now in foster homes are used to.
So please, if you can, help me provide financially for the remaining ‘odd’ cats by donating via our PayPal link or making contributions directly to the Odd Cat Out Sanctuary account at Crossroads Veterinary Hospital (503-625-4404). Thing is, we get a substantial charity discount on our canned cat food from Mud Bay, so donating cash via PayPal will buy us more food than ordering it online. CostCo gift cards will help too, as that is where we buy our laundry supplies (white vinegar and laundry soap), as well as paper towels, gloves, paper bowls, and trash bags.
One more very important way you can help is to Share the cat bios and pictures online. By offering up my cats I am taking a leap of faith, meaning I am tamping down my FEAR with the belief that other compassionate people are out there and will step forward to provide them new homes where they will be able to live out the remainder of their lives comfortably and in good health.
~ Keni Cyr-Rumble Founder and Director, Odd Cat Out Sanctuary