HENRICO, VIRGINIA. – Tabitha is a five-pound cat who a local rescue group said was found starving and in need of some urgent care on the University of Richmond campus, after the students who owned her finished up their semester and consequently left her behind.
“They took her outside [of student housing] and opened up the carrier and let her go,” stated Cara Salman, a board member with the Henrico Humane Society.
According to the rescue group, who responded to the phone call about Tabitha, this isn’t just a problem exclusive to the Henrico-based university — or any local college – it’s a national problem.
“Tabitha was in horrible condition,” Salman stated. “She ate two cans of cat food immediately.”
Not only was she starving, she was ill from her weeks outdoors and had to be taken to an emergency veterinarian hospital, where she needed to stay for days.
Salman, the current foster, syringe-fed Tabitha for a week.
Tabitha wasn’t even supposed to be there on campus to begin with, confirmed UR, who has a no-pets policy in place that is shared by many colleges.
“I will be honest, a lot of it is not forward thinking,” Salman stated, when asked why college kids specifically leave behind their pets.
“They love the idea of a pet, having companionship, but for most of them they didn’t realize what the commitment was,” she went on to say. “They find themselves in finals, under a time constraint, and they let them go without thinking of the repercussions.”
Salman shared a story about an application she once received from an overseas student in town for college. The student had no intention of taking the pet back home, but said, “I will be here for three years.”
It’s a double-whammy for the abandoned animals involved, mostly cats, because this time of year is puppy and kitten season.
Most people looking to adopt will more than likely be swayed the precious face of a young pet. Many older cats and dogs won’t even get adopted, and shelter resources are tapped because of the influx of kittens and puppies.
With limited resources, things can be so dire this time of year that Salman went on to explain they usually ask the person who made the call if they can foster.
CONSIDER FOSTERING NOT ADOPTING
The solution to ending this terrible cycle, Salman has found, is to suggest to college students that they foster an animal instead of adopting one.
“Whenever I get an application from a student, I say ‘here is why it is probably not a good idea to adopt’; 95% of them wind up fostering, 99% of those come back and thank me,” she stated.
The benefits should be mutual. Cash-strapped college students will enjoy that rescue groups pay for just about everything – food and veterinary care.
“They are saving a life, and they get the love and companionship of an animal, without the long-term commitment,” Salman stated. “It’s a win/win for everyone.”
“We cover the costs for food, veterinary care and supplies,” she went on to explain. “Students don’t have to worry about being able to take the animal with them when they leave for the summer or graduate…”.
Henrico Humane Society receives somewhere between 50-100 applications from students a year. Salman stated college students comprise of 20% of care givers for their organization, and they only hope to see that number increase.
“We cover the costs for food, veterinary care and supplies,” she stated.
While Tabitha now has many fans on social media, she is still looking for the perfect forever home. That’s one that probably doesn’t have any other pets.
She is a Maine Coon mix, but unlike most, she will not grow large.
Salman stated that Tabitha loves to snuggle, be held, and be brushed. She also adores people and kids.
“She’s affectionate and chatty, and will happily chirp along to any conversation,” her profile states online.
Apply for her here.