Happy Tails: Sasha

Cats like Sasha are the reason so many people gladly invest themselves in feline rescue, foster and adoption even though it can sometimes break your heart. When it’s rewarding – when beautiful, gentle, social cats like Sasha find loving forever homes – everything else is worth it.

Sasha was found wandering a west-end Toronto street last October by a good Samaritan who turned the black-and-white beauty over to a neighbour, a colony caretaker with Annex Cat Rescue. She eventually landed with foster mom Brianna Gare in mid-November.

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“She was about five months-old at that time,” Gare recalls, “and she was the most social and trusting cat I’d ever met. I tried to separate my cats to let everyone get adjusted but within the first hour, she was out with my cats getting acquainted.

“Within the first 15 minutes of having her home I trimmed her nails and we snuggled for a nap,” Gare laughs. Though Sasha was diagnosed with feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR) – feline herpes, first apparent via a watery eye – Gare says the episode proved no big deal.

“It was a wonderful learning experience for me,” she says. “Most cats, especially rescues, have or are carriers of feline herpes virus and only a few will have symptoms or flare ups.”

Meantime, Heidi Ritscher and husband David Smith were mourning the loss of long-time companion, Figgy.

“We have what we call a ‘three-cat policy’ in our house – we like having three cats,” Ritscher explains. “When Figgy died, we were devastated. He was a rescue, born literally on my sister’s doorstep, and he had a wonderful 15 years with us before he got sick and we had to let him go last November. We took some time to heal, to reflect on all the good times we had together.

“I started gently looking for another cat last December and came across Annex Cat Rescue. There was Sasha in all her glory – just beautiful. Brianna and her boyfriend Laszlo did an amazing job marketing her; Sasha had her own video on YouTube. And we were sold.”

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Indeed, Gare insists that “making a video and giving a visual of your foster cat’s personality is very helpful in getting them adopted to the right home.” It sure worked for Ritscher and Smith; Sasha became the proverbial third musketeer alongside seven-year-old Polson and nine-year-old Cleo, also rescues.

These days, the frisky trio are often bunched together by the window watching squirrels scampering about outside. As Ritscher tells it, integrating a newcomer into a household with other cats is “just a matter of patience and understanding.

“Most cats adapt pretty quickly, and within the first day Sasha was walking around the house. After about a week they were all comfortable and playing together. Plus there are little things you can do to help – pet one and then pet the other to exchange scents or engage them with a common toy.”

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Both Gare and Ritscher confess to being thoroughly smitten with Sasha, so much so they keep in touch. And while she is a huge advocate of adoption for rescues, Ritscher cautions it’s not a commitment to be taken lightly.

“You must be prepared to meet your pet’s many needs: medical, emotional, food, vet bills and so on. And life can be long.  One of our cats lived to be 21-years-old. You also have to prepare for the unexpected.

“Because they are rescues, you don’t know their history and there may be problems that aren’t immediately obvious. You have to go into things with an open heart – and at times, an open wallet – because that’s the commitment you’re making.

“But the love you get back is well worth any little upsets that happen from time to time. If it were up to me,” Ritscher laughs, “I’d have seven cats. I just love them so much.”

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