The Life Of A Cat Rescuer - Blog 02/28/23



It all started when my dad passed away. I had a lot of unresolved feelings about his passing, and there was a huge void in my life that needed filling. I needed to do something meaningful, that would help me to get through my grief. One day, I physically felt a set of paws jumping up beside me onto my bed. It wasn’t possible though, as I didn’t have a cat anymore – or was it? Toby had passed so many years prior to my dad. Whether one believes in the afterlife or not, I smiled and held onto the memory of that feeling and thanked him for visiting me in my time of need.

Not too long after that experience, I was scrolling online and saw a cat posted online at a local high kill-shelter that needed saving. She was pulled from a hoarding house full of cats, and she was very pregnant. There was a frantic amount of conversation happening on the post stating that she needed a foster home so that a rescue could step in and save her. I just jumped in and said that I would do it, never having fostered or having experience with kitten delivery before. I did, however, have experience with bottle-feeding a kitten… my beloved Toby. I also had prior experience with my other pet cats and I had plenty of experience working with a wide variety of animals in pet stores during my teen years.

Before I knew it, I was invited to join a rescue to foster this precious one. I’ll never forget the experience of finding her with a tiny newborn kitten in her birthing box, and still in labor. She had five kittens, but sadly they were deformed due to the hoarding inbreeding situation she was in. Only one ended up surviving to become a loving pet to a veterinarian that took care of her special needs. It was both a heart-breaking and a rewarding experience, and it opened a floodgate in me that wanted to continue fostering.

I don’t know exactly how many cats and kittens passed through the doors of my home, but there were hundreds. I ended up being the volunteer that would continuously bring cats and kittens to my local area pet stores, including setting up for and participating in numerous adoption events. I was sent to people’s homes to pick up unwanted pets that were listed on the internet, and to a handful of cat hoarding houses. I personally reached out to many myself, especially those that were desperate or pets that were being listed as free giveaways. We didn’t want them to fall into the wrong hands and sadly become free bait for snake foods or dog fights.

It was a lot of work, but it felt beyond rewarding to help all of those kitties find their loving (and hopefully) forever homes. Not only was I heavily involved in rescue, but I also had a family with a husband and two young boys, and a full time office job. It is extremely easy to get burned out while working in rescue and dealing with the heavy feelings and trauma involved, but with having my family depending on me and all my other responsibilities, it was only a matter if time before I crashed and burned - hard. It wasn’t a choice I got to make for myself as the universe made it for me.

On New Year’s Eve 2016, our family home caught fire. We were not home at the time, but thank God that all of the foster cats and our own pets were okay. Our smart home smoke alarm saved them and our house - we would have lost them all. It was a day my family and I will never forget for the rest of our lives. We managed to gather all of the foster cats in carriers and delivered them safely to the arms of other amazing foster homes that the rescues scrambled to secure due to the circumstances. Our home was no longer inhabitable, and we needed to evacuate to a hotel. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without a dear family friend that stepped up in a galaxy-sized proportion and offered to foster our pets until we got back on track. I still think back to that day and don’t have enough words of gratitude and love for that friend. You know who you are – and you will forever be someone that I treasure in my heart. You cannot possibly know how much that act of kindness meant to our family, and we will be forever grateful to you and your family for everything you’ve done. You are an angel in every sense of the word.

After a couple of months of living in a hotel, our house was finally ready for us to move back in. We slowly began the overwhelming task of unpacking everything that was returned after it was sent out for smoke cleaning. We were beyond excited to welcome our fur babies back home, and I took a much-needed break from cat rescue to solely concentrate on getting our lives to back to a sense of normalcy.

Fast-forward to the autumn of 2021, our family moved to our new home in the country. We began noticing that there were cats running loose outside, there one day and gone the next. We are in a very rural location without many neighbors, so it became apparent that these poor souls were likely being dumped in the wilderness to fend for themselves. We hear coyotes at night, lots of them. It’s heartbreaking to know that people abandon their pets like this, especially when there are shelter resources and rescues that try so hard to help.

A kind neighbor came to our front door in the autumn of 2022, holding a tiny orange kitten and asking if we lost it. He said it was found alone and crying outside in some bushes. My instincts kicked in knowing the kitten was screaming in hunger and I of course offered him to take it in. I wasn’t expecting for this new little furball to stay permanently, but my son fell in love, named him “Rex”, and before we knew it he was a part of our family.

The connections that I have with my friends in rescue are so far in distance now, and I needed to do something. I decided that I couldn’t watch the constant stream of dumped cats foraging for food on our grounds and disappearing. In November of 2022, I filed the necessary government paperwork to start Rags To Riches Cat Rescue, a non-profit organization. The Rescue will bring awareness to this seriously heartbreaking issue and seek the public's assistance with donations necessary for vetting and foster care until the cats have found their loving forever homes. Humans have already failed them once and they deserve never to be unloved and adandoned again.  



Tammy DaPalma
Founder, Director, CEO

Rags To Riches Cat Rescue (Non-Profit Organization)


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