Adult Persians are just as deserving of the security and love provided by a permanent home as their kitten counterparts. Here are some of the benefits of an option you may have yet to consider: adopting a cat from a breed rescue group.
About Rescue Groups
Persian rescue groups are dedicated to saving the lives of cats that would otherwise be euthanized in shelters by placing them in lovable foster homes until they’re adopted out. “The object of the game is to save as many lives as we can,” says Renee Starita of The Forgotten — Persian Rescue & Friends based in Marysville, Ohio, and serving Central and Eastern Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Rescue groups give medical care to cats that need it, and provide information on caring for Persians to potential and new owners, and organize adoption events so potential owners can meet cats in need of homes. Rescue groups run entirely on donations; volunteers; a love for the breed; and the kindness, dedication and time put forth by volunteers.
Rescue groups work with city and county animal shelters and humane societies to take in the Persians that haven’t yet been adopted and work to find homes for them. “I’ve almost never turned down a shelter cat,” says Michelle Brown of Purebred Cat Rescue of St. Louis in St. Louis, Missouri. “If I don’t have room, I make room; otherwise, they will get put to sleep.” Other times, rescues receive calls from owners who need to surrender their Persians, either because they’ve had a change in life circumstances (widowed, entering a nursing home) or because they just can’t keep up with the required grooming duties. “I believe the main reason owners surrender their cats is because they didn’t realize the huge responsibility it is to groom a Persian, when they bought that cute, cuddly kitten,” Brown says. “So many cats come to us matted to the skin and have to be shaved all the way down. Some people just didn’t realize what they were getting themselves into. You must groom a Persian every day, or it eventually turns into a horrendous mess.”
Starita has any owner wishing to surrender his or her Persian to fill out a “cat resume,” which includes information about the cat’s health and personality; its likes and dislikes; whether or not it gets along with other cats dogs or kids; whether it has any behavioral issues; how the cat was acquired (adopted from a shelter or other rescue group, purchased from a breeder); and “anything else that will help us understand that particular cat so we can match it with the appropriate home,” she says.
Some Persians have special needs, such as a medical condition or a behavioral issue, that prevent it from being adopted right away. In those cases, many rescue groups will spend the necessary time treating, rehabilitating or training the cat until it is ready for a new home. “I had a veterinarian call me once because his clients brought in their Persian, Marco Polo, who was hit by a car, and they didn’t want to pay the bill to treat and save him,” Starita begins. “The vet administered the appropriate care in the first few critical hours until he was ready for me to take him in.” She successfully rehabilitated Marco Polo after eight months, and he now is living happily with a new family. “I like doing those things especially — taking in the cats that need rehabilitation,” Starita continues. “Sometimes it takes over a year, but that’s okay; we save them.”
Starting the Adoption Process
A rescue group’s primary objective when placing Persians into new homes is to match each individual cat with the appropriate owner or family, based on the cat’s personality and needs, as well as the owner’s or family’s desires and environment. For example, not all cats get along with other cats or dogs. Rescue workers spend a significant amount of time with each cat, gaining an understanding of its personality in order to create the best placement. “Does the adopter want a cuddle bug or an independent soul?” Brown asks. “Because if someone wants an independent Persian and gets a cuddle bug, inevitably that person will say the cat is too needy,” she says.
Dru Milligan of Dallas Fort-Worth Purebred Rescue in Irving, Texas, shares a similar story. “Princess generated a lot of interest over the web because she was so beautiful,” she says. “One lady came in to look at her but ended up with two other cats. She wanted a cat she could carry around like a baby, and Princess wouldn’t have stood for that, but the lady ended up with two cuddly Persians that were perfect for her. They even let her dress them up in clothes!” (See “Rescue Success!” on page XX for Princess’ full story.)
If you’re interested in adopting a Persian in need, you can start by filling out an online application on your local rescue group’s website, if available, or you can search by breed on www.petfinder.com.
“First and foremost when I’m trying to place a Persian, I stress that it’s a labor-intensive breed,” Milligan says. “Yes, Persians are sweet, but it’s my responsibility to make sure potential owners know what’s involved in caring for this breed.” A Persian’s fluffy coats require a lot of time and effort to maintain. A few of the questions you can expect to answer on an adoption application, as well as during the initial phone interview include:
• What do you know about Persians? Have you ever owned one before? As previously mentioned, the Persian is a labor-intensive breed, mainly due to their long coats.
• Where do you intend to keep the cat? Milligan rejects applicants who intend to let the cat outside because this increases their risk for disease, injury and even death.
• Was your last cat declawed? All members of the Persian Cat Breed Rescue organization adhere to a policy against declawing. “We see declawing as cruel and painful,” Brown explains.
• Under which circumstances would you give up a cat? “For some reason, I’ve had a lot of owners surrender their Persians because they were moving,” Milligan says. “I don’t know about you, but I’ve always taken my animals with me!” All rescue groups will take any of their cats back at any time for any reason, but they try to avoid the situation and intend to place their cats in stable, permanent homes. Likewise, “once someone adopts a cat from our group, we are always available to answer questions and give advice,” Milligan says.
Open Your Heart
Another way you can open up your heart and your home is by applying to be a foster parent, which is the No.1 way you can help your local rescue group. (For more, see “How You Can Help” on page xx.) In fact, “I don’t know of any rescue group that is not looking for foster parents,” Milligan notes. Your job as a foster parent is to provide a loving, comfortable home for a Persian until it is placed permanently. Not surprisingly, the screening process for foster parents is just as stringent as it is for potential owners, and includes an extensive phone interview, veterinarian and groomer references, as well as an in-home visit. After all, “we’d never want to place a cat in a situation where it’s not taken care of properly,” says Brown, who has personally evaluated the homes of all of her rescues’ foster care providers. Although foster parents sometimes end up adopting the Persian they’ve been caring for, Milligan believes that “you can help the most number of cats by letting one go. This is very hard for a lot of people because they get attached.” And with those sweet, expressive eyes, how could you blame them?
Another thing to keep in mind is that, “when you foster, the cat still belongs to the rescue group,” Starita explains. Therefore, if the cat needs medication or surgery, it’s the rescue group makes decisions regarding treatment and also selects the vet and animal hospital. Most rescue groups, supported by donations and generous veterinarians who are willing to discount services, will also pay for these treatments; the burden of expense doesn’t fall to the foster parent.
“My favorite rescue story is about a 15-year-old Persian named Buddy who had been passed from owner to owner and then finally dumped at a vet’s office,” Brown recalls. “The owner wanted to put him to sleep because he had diarrhea and was ‘too much trouble.’ I brought Buddy home with me and made him my little friend.” The diarrhea that was supposedly constant and “too much trouble” for Buddy’s original owner dwindled down to just the occasional accident in Brown’s care.
Rescue groups are committed to giving Persians second chances: at life, love and happiness. You can provide this chance by opening up your heart and your home to a Persian in need. You won’t be disappointed. Brown wasn’t. “I just felt that Buddy deserved a good ending to his life. As rescuers, we sometimes take animals we know we may never place, but can’t bear to have their life end with no love at the end in cold vet office or shelter — I guess we’re just soft-hearted creatures.”