HENRICO, Va. – Tabitha is a five-pound cat that a local rescue group said was found starving and in need of urgent care on the University of Richmond campus, after the students who owned her finished up their semester and left her behind.
“They took her outside [of student housing] and opened up the carrier and let her go,” said Cara Salman, a board member with the Henrico Humane Society.
According to the rescue group, who responded to the 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 said. “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 stayed for days.
Salman, the current foster, syringe-fed her for a week.
Tabitha wasn’t even supposed to be 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 said, 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 added. “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 received from an overseas student in town for college. The student had no intention of taking the pet home, but said, “I will be here for three years.”
It’s a double-whammy for the abandoned animals also, mostly cats, because this time of year is puppy and kitten season.
Most people looking to adopt will more likely be swayed the precious face of a young pet. Many older cats and dogs won’t 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 said they usually ask the person who made the call if they can foster.
CONSIDER FOSTERING NOT ADOPTING
The solution to ending this 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 said.
The benefits are mutual. Cash-strapped college students will enjoy that rescue groups pay for 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 said. “It’s a win/win for everyone.”
“We cover the costs for food, veterinary care and supplies,” she added. “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 between 50-100 applications from students a year. Salman said 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 said.
While Tabitha has many fans on social media, she is still looking for the perfect forever home. That’s one likely without other animals.
She is a Maine Coone mix, but unlike most, she will remain small.
Salman said that Tabitha loves to snuggle, be held, and be brushed. She adores people and kids.
“She’s affectionate and chatty, and will happily chirp along to any conversation,” her profile reads online.
Apply for her here.
If you would like to help foster animals, you can find opportunities here.