I think one of the hardest things I’ve done, next to putting down one of my fe-lions, is giving one up – even though I know it’s for the best..or at least I hope it is.

Last Thursday, as Jack sat on my front deck staring again through the glass storm door into my living room, I made the hard decision to take him to the shelter.   I carefully scruffed him and he went obligingly into the soft-sided carrier, mewing in that trusting voice cats use when they know you and love you.

When we got to the shelter, Sheri let me put him straight into their large cat room because he had already been combo tested, vaccinated, and neutered.  Well he freaked out once we unzipped the carrier.  He darted out and did a full body crash into the window, which already had one cat sitting in it.

That caused that cat to screech, which caused him to screech, which caused the other cats in the cat room to freak out and start fighting with each other.  It took several long minutes to get them all to calm down long enough for me to scruff him and put him in a holding cage at one end of the cat room.

It broke my heart to see him, wide eyed, staring and growling from that little holding cage and then to have to walk away from him. I know he felt betrayed…if cats can think that way..but he was scared.

Neither I, nor Sheri the shelter manager, nor Donna at the Hart County Humane Society will let him be put to sleep. I will bring him back here if I have to. ..even if it means he lives the rest of his life under my bed. Sheri gives a lot of unadoptable cats to local poultry farmers. They like to have cats around to keep the mice and wood rats away.

Still, my household has calmed down considerably since he left and my cats are once again enjoying their own backyard. .. and that has to be the priority, no matter how much I care for little Jack.  He wasn’t working here, he wasn’t fitting in and my cats were not accepting him. He was starved for attention and a home I couldn’t adequately give him. Living in a culvert pipe and sitting on my front porch or back deck hoping I come out and pet him or feed him, is not a life.

At some point, you have to acknowledge that you can’t save them all, and you can’t keep them all.  I realized that a long time ago. During my years volunteering for a no-kill shelter in metro Atlanta, I saw many dog and cat volunteers quickly become overwhelmed with too many fosters and pets of their own. Many couldn’t let go of their fosters.  When it gets to where no prospective home is good enough for your foster dog or cat, that’s a red flag that you’re in danger of crossing over to the hoarding side.

Others just kept bailing animals out of kill shelters because they felt sorry for them.   Their houses were destroyed, their income and savings drained and the animals had no quality of life.

I knew of at least one cat foster “rescuer” who was raided by the health department and animal control  – her townhome filled from top to bottom with cat feces and the stench of cat urine…bags of garbage everywhere and she slept on a bare mattress surround by cat droppings.  The cats she rescued were all ferals that she had trapped and were unadoptable and most were sick. They all had to be euthanized by animal control. This was a woman who was smart and had been raised in a wealthy home and inherited a fortune.   Today, she’s broke and living in a substandard trailer park on welfare.

I know of another gal who was the president of a no-kill cat rescue in Atlanta. Everyone thought the world of her. She lived in a beautiful subdivision in north metro Atlanta. When a few years ago, she had to leave town on business, she asked her new boyfriend to take care of her personal and foster cats while she was away.  What he found made the headlines…150 cats, many of them dead, others sick beyond help, others starving, living in filth and garbage stacked to the ceilings.

No one in rescue had any idea what was really going on with her. She had been in cat rescue for years.  When asked by the judge why she let those cats just die in their cages, she had no answer except to say it all got away from her and she was overwhelmed and afraid to ask for help.

There’s a fine line between rescue and hoarding.  Those are the images that come to mind each time I’m tempted to go beyond my limits.

It’s for that reason, in addition to others I listed that I had to let Jack (and Casey and the six other cats that have shown up at my door this past year) go and hope he gets a better home and a better chance at life.

The only time I take in another one to keep is if one of mine dies or the humane society needs an emergency foster home. I had two cats die this year…Suppie of old age and Baby, my orange long hair who was only about 6yrs old.  I would have left it at that had I not seen the tiny kitten at Petsmart..and she may not stay. I might end up adopting her out.

So when my broken heart walked away from Jack last Thursday, I remembered those two and other instances of so- called rescuers I’ve known over the years who did more harm than good.  I kill myself to keep a clean house and yard, to make sure my animals are not only healthy but happy – for my peace of mind and theirs…because I love them.