BURGEO, NL – Burgeo’s stray cats unexpectedly caught a break almost two months ago when a trio of women launched Lucky Paws Kitty Rescue.
Backed by what they call an overwhelming amount of local support and with help from Scaredy Cat Rescue in Corner Brook, Karen Hare, Kerri Green and Winter Janes are taking a pro-active approach to nuisance cats by trying to save them.
“The three of us are from Burgeo and we’ve been talking about it on and off – I’d say about a year,” said Hare via telephone interview.
The townspeople of Burgeo have long been worried about the cats and Janes had already taken it upon herself to feed them when she could.
“For the past three or four years I’ve been rescuing them and finding homes for the little baby kittens,” said Janes.
One of the group’s goals is to get a better idea of just how many stray cats are roaming the Burgeo area. Currently they have estimated about 25 cats, but some are visibly pregnant.
Then there are other cats some locals are caring for on their own, usually by putting out shelter and feeding them regularly.
“That doesn’t count the dump cats,” said Hare.
Lucky Paws feeds the cats that live in the dumpsite too, but doesn’t have to provide shelter as the cats have gotten pretty good at finding their own.
Hare said town workers are always careful not to plow areas where the cats have chosen to live.
Said Hare, “(The strays are) … filthy, but they’re pretty well fed. And they’re extremely difficult to catch.”
“They’re very feral,” agreed Janes, who estimates there’s a colony of at least 11 cats at the town dump.
All those stray cats have also taken over part of Lucky Paws’ shelters. The team is now storing bags of cat food and other donations, many solicited through the group’s Facebook page.
Many skills needed
When it comes to running the operation, the trio makes a good team.
“We each have different skills,” said Hare, a teacher. “I’m the paper person. I’m not very good with mixing the food and handling the cats. I (keep) track of the money and donations, and every week I publish a picture of what our donations are so people know … the running balance of what we’ve got.
“Once we start doing the spaying and neutering we’ll show people how we are spending that money.”
As a legitimate non-profit organization under Scaredy Cat Rescue, the group is able to provide tax receipts to donors and take advantage of discounts at the vet when the cats need medical care.
Janes and Green tend to handle the more practical side of things, such as bathing cats.
“I did one. It wasn’t fun,” laughed Janes. “Lots of oven mitts.”
Getting scratched and bitten is just part of the deal when it comes to saving feral cats. Typically, rescued and rehomed cats are kittens too young to have learned to avoid humans.
“Anything that is older than six months that has been outdoors is too feral,” said Janes, who works as a pet groomer.
Unless the cat is sick and needs a vet first, she will simply clean it up before posting the adoptee on Facebook.
“Do a little sob story and usually I get a home,” said Janes, who is a bit of a softie when it comes to kittens. “And I usually keep some of them. But they’re never usually in my care longer than two days.”
Stray named Grey
One of the cats Lucky Paws recently rehomed is a six-month old adopted by Steven Hiscock and named Grey
“The wife named her after her favourite show (Grey’s Anatomy),” said Hiscock. Grey had been living in the fish plant until Lucky Paws rescued her, and Hiscock promptly took his new buddy to a retired vet for a checkup.
“She said it was the smallest six-month-old cat she has ever seen.”
Hiscock plans to take Grey to Corner Brook to be spayed and vaccinated.
For the older feral cats around Burgeo, spaying is the best option Lucky Paws can eventually aspire to. For now, the focus is on keeping them fed and warm during the winter. Not only does it keep the cats healthy, it gets them accustomed to seeing Hare and Green at the dump and will hopefully make them a bit easier to catch.
“Under Scaredy Cat’s guidance, they suggested we not trap and spay and neuter until April to October,” said Hare.
Hare says feral spayed and neutered adult cats will have to be sheltered, usually in sheds or garages, and those tend to be unheated. Once the warmer weather arrives, Lucky Paws will arrange to have as many spayed and neutered as they can afford, and after a full recovery the sterilized cats will be released.
Daily feeding of the feral cats has also helped with an ongoing headache.
“It keeps them out of everybody’s garbage, which is a huge problem we had,” said Hare. In fact, complaints about torn garbage was part of the driving force behind founding Lucky Paws.
Instead of standing around and wringing their hands, said Hare, the three women decided to take action. And the cats and the town seem to be much better off because of it.
“We just want to help out the animals,” said Janes.
To donate or adopt, check out the Lucky Paws Kitty Rescue page on Facebook.