Methods of Cattery Dispersal
The passing of a cattery owner can be a particularly difficult time for families and friends, because in the midst of loss and mourning, they must suddenly deal with responsibility for many little lives. Most family members are unprepared for such responsibility and at a loss as to how to handle their loved one's beloved pets. In desperation, they may resort to rescue or a shelter to deal with that responsibility. Such would have been the fate of the Azima cats, had Barbara not prepared for her cats in her absence.
Because the death of a cat fancier creates this sort of problem for the family, dispersal of the cattery must be done physically first. The cats must be moved to safe places where they can be cared for, before any work can be done regarding the correct matching of cats with their registration paperwork or pedigrees. Barbara's sisters talked to Sue frequently and did state that, had Barbara been less prepared, they would have sent her cats to a local shelter. They were relieved that this was not going to be necessary, and thanked Sue for handling this responsibility, as well as helping with the removal of non-valuable personal effects from Barb's residence.
Again, in cattery dispersal situations, removing the cats and ensuring their welfare ALWAYS comes first, and paperwork concerns follow after. Once the cats are moved to new residences, the registration paperwork must be obtained, and proper and accurate identification of the cats can begin. In the Azima case, Barb had already told us the location of those records and that identification would be intuitive.
One very favorable factor in the dispersal of Azima cattery was that Barbara's home did not immediately become the property of someone else. Sue and Kit had the security of being able to keep many of Barbara's cats in her home for a time and looked after by Angela Manookian, while they made preparations to move them to their new homes. This made the dispersal of the cattery a carefully planned event instead of the usual emergency seen in such cases. The last cats departed from Barbara's house in late December.
In similar cases involving other catteries in the past, Kit has been able to identify many of the cats with proper paperwork, but has never had a case where ALL of the cats could be identified. In such cases, one ends up with papers that don't match cats, and cats that don't match papers. She remembers one case which involved searching the home, finding registration slips in dresser drawers, in cardboard boxes full of personal items, in envelopes stacked on top of the kitchen cupboards, and the like. In those days, DNA testing was not available, and un-matched cats were simply placed as pets with no papers.
The evening before Barb died, she drifted into sleep, and Sue called to tell Kit that she would probably not awaken again. During this conversation, one of the first things Kit brought up regarding identification of the cats was that DNA testing would probably be required to identify Barb's cats and match them to their paperwork. Sue replied, "Of course we can do DNA testing! -- It won't cost more than a few thousand dollars will it?" This question made Kit laugh for a few minutes, in spite of our sadness at the passing of our friend. Kit was surprised when, later, she discovered how organized Barbara had been with her record-keeping and that DNA testing ended up being unnecessary. Having previously made arrangements, Kit instructed Sue to call Janet Boothe at CFA central office to inform her what was happening and to make sure the proper protocol was followed with regards to the custody of the cats and their papers.
While en route to the hospital on Barbara's last day, Sue did call Janet Boothe, and they discussed the situation and requirements anticipated for CFA documentation of Barb's cats.
For Kit, it was refreshing to deal with Azima cattery, which had very organized storage systems for registration slips, blue slips, pedigrees, and a computer full of labeled photos of the cats and kittens in question, often matched by file name or description with pedigrees. Kit and Sue considered it extremely fortunate that, with one exception, there were no two kittens alike in the house. Kittens of the same color were opposing sexes, and kittens of the same sex were different in color or pattern!
An MWSnap file taken from Barb's computer, showing the pedigrees
she created (including kittens born near her death date) with the dates of creation.
Kit drove from Ohio to Barb's house in New Ringgold, Pennsylvania on Friday, November 28th, the day after Thanksgiving, to meet Sue for the first time and wade through Barb's paperwork, matching it to cats and setting forth step-by-step instructions for Sue to register several of the kittens.
Sunday, Nov. 30, on her way home from Barb's house, Kit picked up "Blue Boy" (see Azahn's pages) from the Thiems' house and made arrangements for Bright Angel to be shipped to Anne Farley, her original owner. Azahn was later delivered to Chris Thomas. (With a horrendous ice storm, Kit's normal 6-hour return trip turned into 12!)
However, one should always expect surprises! During the first couple of weeks after Barb's passing Sue traveled to back and forth between her home and Barb's to remove cats and begin the task of organizing the physical paperwork from the cattery, familiarizing herself with the computer records as well as helping Barb's family with access to financial records, and the painful task of informing Barb's personal friends and clients of her passing. However, in approximately the third week, Sue arrived at Barb's home to discover the computer had been taken by a nephew, who needed access to financial records. As a result, the correct and unquestionable identification of a few kittens was not able to be guaranteed until much later, when Sue regained access to the computer - in March - for this purpose. (Kit and Sue want to thank Lisa James for her patience in this regard!)
As often happens in the cat fancy, certain breeders speculated about the dispersal of Azima cattery. Like most cat fanciers of long standing, Barbara had her share of friends and detractors, and rumors began to fly, escalating to cause a heated e-mail list discussion on New Year's Eve. Kit and Sue were much too busy at this time with all the tasks required for the cats and other of Barbara's affairs, to write a narrative like this one, explaining how identifications were done. And don't forget that we were also dealing with our loss.
One detractor actually had the nerve to suggest that the cats were valuable, and that Sue was remiss in selling the cats and not giving the funds collected to the sisters! This rumor most angered Kit, because the sisters stated they were originally going to send the cats to an animal shelter! In fact, in the first couple of days after Barb died the sisters refused Sue's offer to sell what cats she could and give them the money. Sue has not personally charged anything of the breeders who received cats from Azima cattery after Barb's death. Instead, each of these breeders has promised to make a generous donation to ataxia research at some time in the future!
Now that the urgency of the dispersal of the cats is resolved, we are able to explain some of the details for those who were merely - and honestly - concerned or curious. In the links below, each cat that survived Barbara has its own page. Click on a name to view that page, where we will give some of the details about how that cat was identified and matched with its papers.