It has been a whirlwind of emotions since taking #GeorgeTheCat in for his annual check up. What began as a routine wellness exam (that we could barely afford) and a rabies vaccination (because we live on Vancouver Island and raccoons, rats, and bats are a thing) ended up being a financial crisis.
For anyone who doesn’t know, George the Cat was abandoned at the house we eventually purchased in the south end of Nanaimo in November 2017. When we took over possession, there was garbage, clothing, used needles, human feces, rat droppings, and much more in both the house and the garage where George had been sleeping.
Olivia and I spent all our free time hauling out industrial sized bins of debris, old appliances, flooring, a toilet that had rotted through the floor, and tents from squatters set up in the backyard. The modest money we had set aside for renovations was depleted within the first 30 days.
We began feeding George, then known only to us as The Cat, before we put an offer in on the house. He was left behind by the previous owners and had no food or clean water. We immediately purchased cat food that we kept in the car and went back daily to feed the cat. I honestly think he’s part of the reason we took the house.
After getting possession of the house October 31, 2017, we began the deconstruction. The Cat would come to the front and sniff whatever we were hauling out but never came close enough for a pet or a conversation. Until three week’s in, when we were sitting outside having a lunch break, he let Olivia pet him. Of course I was jealous, who wouldn’t be? This adorable chunky cat.
It took us a full year to get him to trust us enough to come indoors. Once we could, we took him to get flea medication and get a check up. That was last year. We discovered that he needed a broken tooth removed and deep dental clean. That bill cost 1700 total start to finish. At the time we figured that The Cat, who a neighbour advised us was named George and had been in the neighbourhood for at least 11 years, deserved to live a happy life and die of old age after being abandoned.
Flash forward to last week when our friendly neighbourhood vet advised us that a second tooth on the same side of George’s upper jaw was causing him pain, my heart felt like it was in my stomach. I have been off of work for over a year due to mental illness and had only begun a seasonal part-time job in effort to test my ability to go back to work. Olivia works a seasonal job that sees annual layoffs around December. There was no way we could afford another large veterinary bill.
We had a hard conversation that if we couldn’t come up with the money, we were going to have to surrender George the Cat to the SPCA in effort to get him the help he needed. George is now 14 years old. He’s bonded with Lottie, the kitten we adopted in August, and is indoors 95% of the time. He has lived at this house his entire life. George went from running and hiding under the bed at every noise, to actually playing and cuddling with us and his sister Lottie.
The last thing we wanted to do was break up our family. We feared that George would die of heartbreak or stress if he couldn’t remain home with us, but we also knew there was absolutely no way to pay for his care. I had $1.51 in my account at the time, and Olivia had $150. Our credit cards are locked in a drawer while we pay them off. I’m making student loan payments to the tune of $400/month on top of regular life expenses. We use the food bank bi-weekly and when we do need new clothes, we shop exclusively at thrift stores. There was absolutely no wiggle room.
I felt weird about it, but knew I needed to try something. So I started a Facebook fundraiser for the cost of the procedure and George’s most recent vet bill. In less than 72 hours, from just eight donors, we had the entire bill fully funded. George the Cat gets to stay with his family. His surgery is booked for November 28th. As long as there are no complications, we have enough to cover the bill. I even put a down payment with half of the raised amount.
If you would like to contribute to the cost of aftercare, or keep up with George’s recovery, I’ll be posting updates to the fundraiser page here.
We are nowhere near finished the house, but it is comfortably liveable and safe for the cats. We are all warm, dry, and fed.