Mews & Views

Mews & Views -- A blog for cat lovers everywhere with a focus on the low-income pet cats of northern and central New Mexico.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Zimmer Foundation is now the Zimmer Feline Foundation

Just in case you haven’t noticed -- over the past few months we’ve been using a slightly different name for our foundation – Zimmer Feline Foundation.  It’s a subtle change but one that more depicts who we are and what we do.  And – it also is the last step in transitioning from a Michigan corporation (where we worked with cats from 2000-2009 to a New Mexico corporation where we’ve been working with cats since 2010. 
We no longer use Cat Spay of Santa Fe for our spay-neuter program either.  When we first moved to New Mexico we “assumed” we would limit our work to Santa Fe County – but soon understood the need for free-and-local cat spay/neuter for low-income pets here is great – and extends far beyond the boundaries of Santa Fe County.    So – with the help of 27 private and non-profit veterinary clinics – we now locally service north and central New Mexico including most of Bernalillo, Catron, Colfax, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Socorro, Taos, Torrance and Valencia counties – and will add more counties as we find vet clinics to service them.

The Zimmer Feline Foundation vouchers are totally free to qualified applicants – individuals and households with gross incomes under $40K per year can apply for free spay/neuter vouchers – and those who receive food stamps can also apply for acute veterinary vouchers in the event of a treatable medical emergency.  The spay/neuter vouchers cover the complete cost to spay or neuter a cat – and a rabies vaccination given at time of surgery.  The acute care vouchers pay up to $300 toward the cost to treat a medical emergency such as broken bones, infections and fight wounds.

Our spay/neuter focus is expressly on the 15% of pet cats who are not routinely fixed when they are adopted –those in low-income homes who find the cost of sterilization even at low-cost clinics a burden that is easily put off.  Our experience (10 years working with both pet and feral cat caregivers in Michigan and 4 years working with pet caregivers in New Mexico), finds these unfixed pet cats are the root source of most of the feral colonies formed each year and most of the cats and kittens delivered to animal control shelters and often euthanized.

We no longer provide spay/neuter vouchers for feral cats (ie, cats you cannot handle) because we rely on our Participants making (and keeping) pre-arranged veterinary appointments so that the clinics we work with are not faced with last-minute cancellations because the feral cat didn’t show (or couldn’t be trapped) the morning of the appointment.

But – we can now selectively provide financial assistance to cat groups who work in situations our vouchers wouldn’t normally cover – outside our service area or special situations or events – provided the cat caregivers are not charged any co-pay and the project is well-defined and furthers our mission.

Many adoption and TNR (trap-neuter-return) programs are active in New Mexico to deal with the problem caused by leaving this 15% of pet cats intact – and we support and applaud their efforts.  But – we’ve come to the conclusion that the cat population cannot stabilize unless and until that 15% of unfixed pet cats is significantly reduced – and in our opinion that can happen only when cat sterilization services are free and local for all cats – that is our program focus.  To date we’ve helped 2,800 New Mexico caregivers sterilize – and keep – 5,200 cats.  

If you know anyone in our service area that could use our help, please ask them to call – applications are taken over the phone and vouchers are mailed within a day or two of approval.     Keeping a cat in its original homes is well worth it!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Onyx Passes Away at 19 Years

With a heavy heart we said goodbye to Onyx on Tuesday – almost exactly 11 years after we accepted him into our Older Cats for Older People Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Onyx was a transfer from the local animal control shelter who knew little about him other than he appeared to be at least 8 years old making him “too old” for their adoption program. 
His past was a blank because he was turned in as a homeless stray cat, yet he could equally have been someone’s indoor-outdoor pet.  Unlike most cats, Onyx had zero fear of people and so while playing outdoors, would have approached any stranger passing by -- and that friendliness may have cost him his original home.  All too often people who see cats outdoors assume the worst – that the cat has been abandoned by its guardian and/or gotten lost and will “die on the streets” -- where in reality they have a home and a caregiver nearby.  They needlessly uproot the cats and take them to a shelter where they are as likely killed as re-homed.
Moving to our cage-free older cat sanctuary turned out to be a boon for Onyx – as he thoroughly enjoyed the companionship of both people and other cats.  Of the 70+ cats we took in, he was one of only 3 that immediately settled in to group living.  He loved other cats and would spend hours snuggling and grooming them – yet every now and then he’d attack a cat without notice or provocation.  And – if it had not been for a pesky problem he had with nipping people, he could have been adopted out several times over in spite of his advanced age.    Visitors were fascinated by his extroversion and his willingness to jump up on their laps even though he didn't know them.  Caring for Onyx over the last 11 years wasn't always easy -- but it was always fascinating.  His incredible openness and curiosity made him a cat bar none.

Losing a cat is often like losing a family member.  It gives you a sudden feeling of helplessness that you couldn't do something to intervene.    Yet – as we've learned so often in caring for the cats in our Older Cat Program death is unstoppable and – in a strange way – often kind.  Onyx had been dying for a long time – you could almost see him fading away as his weight steadily dropped from 17 pounds 18 months ago to just under 5 pounds on Tuesday.  Over that time he was examined by 5 different veterinarians with no definitive diagnosis as to the cause of the weight loss.   Sure he was old and was hyperthyroid and had chronic kidney disease – but there was no "smoking gun" as to what was going on with him.    Yet as much as we saw him physically erode, mentally he stayed alert up until Monday afternoon when he became very tired and we knew it was time to say goodbye – to let him sleep in peace forever – and hopefully to get to the Rainbow Bridge to reconnect with all his old TLC friends that passed before him.