Our son was first to see the scraggledy cat dart under the back porch, and he called us to come see.
It was fall, and the weather had started to turn colder at night. This young female cat was choosing a hiding place for her kittens, but as soon as she realized that we were watching her, she had to move them again.
Her fur was falling out in patches, and she was thin for a mother of four. The kittens’ eyes weren’t open yet, so they were under two weeks old. She rarely left them for more than a few minutes, but she had to hunt for food to keep up her own strength. So we decided to help her the only way we knew how: we brought her food.
I’d never dealt with a feral cat before, but this one seemed to choose us. We gradually gained her trust, found homes for her kittens, had her spayed, and took care of her after she was injured. She wasn’t with us for long, but every day she showed us that she truly appreciated our companionship.
Unfortunately, few feral cats have the same experience as ours did, although there are many who need help.
I recently talked to Henni Anker about the feral cat population in Sullivan County. Anker is the county’s Rabies Control Officer, and she rescues feral cats and abandoned dogs with volunteers from the group Katskill Mountain Critters. There are many animals needing rescue, in part because of the economy. Anker addressed several specific items that the rescue group needs:
1. Volunteers: people are needed to assist with the trap/neuter/release program to prevent the growth of the feral cat population.
2. Pet food donations: the group monitors feeding stations which provide food for feral cats which have been neutered/spayed and vaccinated against rabies. This is an ongoing effort, and food donations are always welcome.
3. Foster homes: the group Katskill Mountain Critters (a no-kill, 501C non-profit organization) is not an animal shelter. They rely on volunteers to house animals for them, until a suitable home is found.
Anker stressed that she and the group do not have a shelter, yet people have been abandoning animals where she has been trapping ferals. In New York State, a person who abandons an animal is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than $1,000, or by both.
If you’re thinking of adopting a kitten or puppy, or even better, a full-grown animal which has not been neutered or spayed, but you can’t afford the cost of veterinary services, the organization SPAYUSA can help you find a participating program or veterinarian in your area. Contact SPAYUSA at 1-800-248-SPAY (1-800-248-7729).
You may be surprised at how simple it is to help. I know a woman who visits an animal shelter in Pennsylvania monthly with all her newspapers, which can be used to line cages or shredded for bedding. She sorts out the glossy magazines and flyers, which can go to the recycling center near her, and the rest is useful for the shelter.
A typical list of supplies for a shelter or rescue group might include bleach, laundry detergent, towels, newspapers, kitty litter, canned and dry bags of dog and cat food, chew toys, and more, but call these places first to ask what is currently needed most.
Volunteers and supplies seem to be the core items that are needed, whether for an animal shelter or for a rescue group.
If you feel you have some expertise or talent which would benefit them, talk to board members or directors to see if you can donate your time in that way. But please give what you can.