“The turn over here is pretty high.” One Best Friends caregiver confides. “I think people come here and find out that they don’t love animals as much as they think they do.”
The majority of the work here is cleaning. Poop scooping, litter box disinfecting, mopping, sweeping, dishes, laundry…an endless list of chores required to maintain hygiene and the physical needs of the animals.
In the “Incontinental Suite”, women wash the bottoms of cats who can’t attend to themselves. Little cats with neurological disorders, whose feet splay and tumble like toddlers on roller-skates, squirt streams of urine across freshly laundered bedding and newly scrubbed walls and floors. The fabrics are scooped up and deposited on the hilltop of soiled linens next to the continuously running washing machine.
Volunteers, many of them in their early teens, traipse through the buildings lavishing the cats with affection while the staff scurries to keep their charges clean, fed and appropriately medicated.
There are plenty of politics and stresses between staff members, human resources and other management. Like asking a large group of people from vastly different backgrounds , education and experience to parent a child by consensus, the low-level discord is inevitable. “The thing to remember is that Best Friends is a corporation.” One caregiver reminds me.
For all the challenges of working for a large corporation, there are benefits (health insurance for one!) “I had my own cat rescue for 10 years, as well as working a secretarial job. I LOVE it here. I get to spend all my time with the cats. I don’t have to fundraise, worry about money, or feel dread about what messages I’m going to find on my answering machine when I get home. I just get to take care of the cats all day.” Explains another caregiver who has been a Best Friends for over two years.
“I have never had less money, or a smaller place to live—but I’ve also never been happier.” Another employee beams as she unpacks hundreds of cans of cat food, stacking them on a shelf.
(This is Toshiba, the infamous paper towel shredder. One caregiver told me that even when the paper towels are carefully concealed in a bucket, staff have been know to arrive in the morning to find his entire suite covered in shredded paper towels. Toshiba will greet them sweetly as though he has no idea what has gone on here, but the fact that his fur is covered in paper towel fibers and scraps gives him away every time.)
Preview of Coming Attractions
Over the next several months, I will be traveling across the country in search of cat stories, visiting innovative cat rescues and shelters, interviewing eccentric cat lovers, leading vets and behaviorists and so much more. To view my travel schedule and learn more about my Cat Behaviorist business, please visit http://www.thecatbehaviorist.com/ . If I will be in your area and you feel you have some interesting cat stories to share, please don't hesistate to contact me via my website.