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Saving Siamese Online

With online auctions, chat rooms, and job boards, the Internet has become the logical leader in custom-made matches, including adoptions between some of the most dedicated cat lovers around and the distinctive breed they adore, the Siamese.

The Siamese Rescue Alliance (SRA) is comprised of three non-profit organizations in Virginia, Texas and Kansas. They have come together through a Web site featuring abandoned or unwanted Siamese that includes a searchable photo gallery with individual personality profiles and adoption information. Without the Internet, SRA Director Siri Wine says the organization's success "would have been impossible."

"It's so quick to e-mail people the agreements," she explains. "Phone calls take so long, with answering people's questions and finding out about them. With e-mail you can take care of it in the middle of the night, at 4 a.m., when there's time. Plus, being able to have pictures of the cats is a big thing. As soon as a cat walks in our door, we can take a digital picture and put them on our site."

In January 1998, Wine was looking for a Siamese cat to adopt. She assumed it would be a challenge because she wanted to rescue a homeless cat rather than going the usual route through a breeder. She didn't think it would be easy to find someone giving away a purebred cat, but was surprised to hear that the most popular breed in the U.S. is also the most abandoned. "It seemed strange that there were Siamese cats that needed rescuing," she says. The real challenge, Wine discovered, was in finding a way to get the cats to her and to others in the same situation.

A series of referrals led the Virginia resident to Charisse Powell in Kansas, where the future SRA partner was running a local rescue almost exclusively for Siamese.

In devising a way to get the cat she'd adopted to Virginia, the Chocolate Point male named Duke became the first passenger on The Meezer Express. The Meezer Express is the SRA's network of volunteers who help move cats to homes across the country in a sort of relay race fashion.

Between the three rescue centers, more than 1000 cats have found new homes in the past two years. Nearly 90 percent of adopters who have gone through the Alliance have had a Siamese before.

Most of the breed loyalty seems to stem from the cats' striking features -- crystal blue eyes, long profile, and wedge-shaped head -- and affectionate, highly communicative nature. According to the Cat Fanciers' Association's breed profile, "The Siamese voice is legendary, and they do like to talk. They are the quintessential 'people' cat, for they love to bin your lap, on your bed, at your table, in your heart!"

That's a picture of why some are drawn to the Siamese over the average house cat, but the question remains. What makes them more deserving of the SRA's help? Wine explains, "By being breed specific, we target an audience quickly and make room for other cats in shelters."

Siamese tend to be demanding pets because of their people-centered nature, a trait that contributes to their surprising presence in shelters. "They get mad and they let you know they are mad," Wine says.

She says that while 60 to 70 percent of abandoned Siamese are given up because of inappropriate urination and "spraying", "What people don't realize is that's a temporary thing that is controlled by the cat's environment."

"Siamese can have characteristics that people don't always understand," Wine explains. Confined to a shelter, she says the cats make "terrible caged candidates. They are often euthanized quickly because they don't show well."

Wine had thoughts of starting an animal rescue some day, but imagined it would be for dogs because they are most visible type of stray. But she began thinking about rescuing Siamese after coming in contact with Powell, and says her mind was made up when, "Before I had decided to do it, I had 20 people calling me saying 'I hear you are rescuing cats.' "

As the director of the Virginia center, Wine quickly got her act together and found out how to incorporate the SRA and achieve non-profit status. She describes the communication between the three organizations as, "Lots of e-mails, phone conversations, and telephone calls. We've gotten together a few times too, to talk about ethics, values, policies and procedures."

The SRA has also put together several successful fundraising strategies, many of which utilize the Internet. The rescue currently operates out of private homes, and the immediate goal is to raise enough money to complete construction of a Virginia shelter that would serve as office space, a retirement home for cats that are not adoptable, and a show area for those that are. Wine explains, "We need adequate isolation because right now I have a cat behind every closed door in my house. With adopters coming to see cats it's like open house at my place every weekend, and that's not really fair to my husband."

There is still plenty of work to be done but Wine remains optimistic and jokes, "My friends say instead of having 30 cats in my house, I'll have 60 in the shelter and 30 in my house. It'll be three times the cats."

If you are interested in adopting a Siamese cat or volunteering with the SRA, you can visit The Siamese Rescue Alliance Web site, call 1-877-SAY-MEOW, or e-mail them at VAsrc@siameserescue.org

For more information on Siamese cats visit the following sites:
The Siamese Internet Cat Club
Traditional Siamese Breed FAQ
Cat Fanciers' Association Breed Profile: Siamese