Here’s little Henry Ford, rescued and already adopted. He had his rites of passage today—he was neutered at an on-site spay/neuter prior to going home with his foster and then to his forever home. He was a friendly member of a cat colony and everyone decided he needed a home of his own. (Note about Henry Ford: his adoption fell through! He’s in foster with his equally cute fuzzy gray brother, but foster space is at a premium and they’d really love a home of their own.)
He’s named Henry Ford for the city he was born, Ford City, in a rural area nearly an hour outside of Pittsburgh. Frankie’s Friends, which is also based in that general area, and the Homeless Cat Management Team had both heard from the caretaker of a trailer park that was overrun with cats. The surprise was that they only wanted to spay and neuter them all and keep them, where usually the call is to come and get rid of the cats. All the residents considered the cats their pets, even if they lived outside. The cats were drop-offs and leave-behinds and likely a few simply forgotten, a mix of friendly to distrustful and frightened with a few truly ferals thrown in.
The current cat population of adults and older kittens was estimated at around 100, but likely it is a little higher than that. There are many likely reasons why over 100 cats came to be living in one place and it would be simple to be critical of what might just be neglect, and give the residents information for the next few free and low-cost clinics. But they made the effort to ask for help, and they offered to continue caring for all the cats after spay and neuter. Without help in trapping for spay and neuter they would never catch all the cats. The idea of trying to trap and transport those cats to the clinic in Tarentum or into Pittsburgh to any of the other TNR opportunities would never take care of all the cats before they began reproducing in earnest this spring, and the population would absolutely explode this summer. Their love for all those cats could easily turn to hate and even cruelty as the numbers continued to increase. The Frankie’s Friends mobile spay/neuter unit would do this one onsite—creative problem solving on behalf of cats, knowing that even with willing humans to care for the cats the job needed to be done immediately by people who truly believe in putting the cats’ needs first. Funds were raised with an online auction and other activities, and the onsite clinic was paid for.
So first thing this morning in 10 degree cold four volunteers arrived with over 50 traps and began trapping cats and placing them in an abandoned caretaker house at the entrance. It had no utilities but was a shelter nonetheless. By evening 58 cats had been trapped and were waiting—well, they were really wondering what was happening while the humans were planning their destinies. Tomorrow, Monday, is technically surgery day, but Dr. Morrow decided to get an early start and get a few done today.
And not a moment too soon—of the first 18 cats spayed and neutered, three females were already pregnant, pretty unusual for this region in January, but not impossible.
All the cats were clean and well-kept aside from some dirty ears and such, coats were clean and very few injuries, and in surgery Dr. Morrow found a good layer of fat on them showing they’d been fed well.
Many of the shelters made previously by volunteer Deborah Christy Nicola, above, and others also went to this place. While many cats live indoors others live strictly outdoors as well, and they needed shelter during the “polar vortex”. In addition Frankie’s Friends and HCMT have been taking donated food to help them feed all the cats too.
In my years of rescuing cats and working with my own neighborhood I’ve heard every sorry excuse for not getting a cat spayed and letting her have litter after litter of kittens, but I learned pretty early on that a stern lecture on what someone should have done months ago doesn’t solve the problem, and in fact just puts a distance between the cat and the spay. If people had an unspayed cat, money was usually the issue, sometimes timing with getting to the clinic or even the lack of a vehicle, and I offered them information on low-cost clinics and even assistance in getting the surgery done, and they usually took me up on it. Sometimes I took matters into my own hands if they clearly didn’t care. And, of course, I asked for Mimi instead of just her kittens, and I got her. Who knows how many more perfect black kittens she would have produced otherwise? But the key is to think of the cats’ needs first and take care of that, and meet people where they realistically are. This is a huge issue solved, larger than most, but it’s only one of many, and it’s the way to close the gap between the numbers of cats who need homes and the homes which are available.
Many thanks go to Deborah Christy Nicola, Cynthia Buncher Savitt and Lynn Choltko Cullieton who were there today as well as those who helped prepare for this day, and those who will help care for these cats after today building and delivering shelters and collecting and delivering food, to Michelle Miller for organizing all the volunteers and traps and trapping and who was all day today, and Dr. Becky Morrow for her innovative ways of meeting the needs of cats and people.
The goal of this effort is to stop the population of cats from growing, stabilize it and reduce it through natural attrition and adoptions. A few of the kittens and even adults are friendly enough to go to foster and will be looking for a forever home. You’ll see them here if they aren’t as lucky as little Henry Ford who already has a home!
And if you’d like to help Frankie’s Friends and the Homeless Cat Management Team with innovative projects like this one and with low-cost spay and neuter clinics, click below and read about “Treats for Homeless Cats and Their Caretakers” to see how you can help and get a gift from me.
Browse some rescued cats and kittens!
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