Sunday, April 14, 2024
advocacyanimal rescueanimal welfarecatsferal catsHCMTHomeless Cat Management TeamkittensPittsburgh CATPittsburgh Feral Cat MovementTNR



Many of the rescue stories and nearly all the kittens and cats for adoption I share here come from the volunteers and activities of the Homeless Cat Management Team and the Pittsburgh Feral Cat Movement, and the rescue/foster organization that grew from the kittens and cats who would not or could not go back out to their colonies, Pittsburgh C.A.T.

Fostering healthy, happy kittens is one thing. Fostering abandoned, neo-natal, sickly, malnourished or abused kittens, feral mother cats, frightened adult cats and more is quite another story, but those are often the kittens and cats who come in when people are literally picking cats up off the street and providing veterinary care because all cats deserve it.

Helping homeless cats, be they feral, frightened, stray, lost or friendly, is another challenge, to safely trap and transport them for spay or neuter and vaccines, providing for other medical needs if they are ill or injured, assessing their level of socialization and deciding if they should go back to their colony and live as community cats or if there is any way they can find a loving forever home indoors with a family of their own. All these activities take a very special person who can spend two days in 8 degree cold and snow to help trap 100 cats in a trailer park, or will get up every two hours overnight to feed the newborn kittens whose mother never appeared and continue with feeding and nurturing until they are ready for adoption, and the person who has the strength to make the decision to let a cat go when it’s clear injuries or illness have made them suffer enough and not all the love in the world will heal them.

Because I can’t be out there trapping cats and kittens and don’t have the space here to foster in any large way I use my other talents to support the efforts of these organizations and others that all work together to make life better for cats in my city and region. For National Volunteer Week I was asked to write up a few volunteer profiles, one each day into the weekend. When we got going it was clear we were already into the following week, so we decided to keep going. I wrote up a list of questions and sent them out to our prospective volunteers and asked for a photo, and ask the answers came back I wrote up the stories.

Each person is different, each came to this in a different way, lives in a different place, has a different home life, different jobs but a commitment to helping cats unites them all and makes these two organizations a strong and stable network for helping cats to live the best life they can, wherever they are living.

Because I talk about these people so often and many of you readers have contributed to their efforts by donating for the welfare of individual cats or toward clinics or purchased items from the wish lists, I’d like you to get to know them a little better. I’ve been publishing them on our Facebook pages and we’ve added their profiles to the HCMT website, but for those of you who don’t use Facebook or who wouldn’t think to visit the HCMT website I also wanted to share them here. The first seven are up and the links are below or you can find them all linked on the “Volunteer Profiles” page on the HCMT website. When the rest are up I’ll update for you to read.

And you can bet that behind every TNR and cat rescue organization out there is another group of dedicated volunteers just like these.

And thanks to volunteer Wendi Stafford Wiegand for getting that awesome bottle-feeding photo!

Lynn Choltko Cullieton and Willie
Lynn Choltko Cullieton and Willie

Lynn Choltko Cullieton

Lynn is one of the main foster homes and cares for a huge number of cats and kittens every year for HCMT and Pittsburgh C.A.T., from tiny kittens to elderly cats and friendly to frightened and in need of gentle socialization, and she also transports and regularly volunteers at offsite meet and greets at Petco, Petsmart, pet expos, home shows and other events as well as transporting and volunteering at clinics. Read more…

Debby Christy Nicola and husband Rich
Debby Christy Nicola and husband Rich

Debby Christy Nicola

In addition to her own family of cats and dogs Debby often fosters two or three nursing mom cats with their kittens at a time at various ages and stages of socialization and a also few cattens and adults who need medication or treatment on top of those litters. Read more…

Tarra Provident
Tarra Provident

Tarra Provident

Tarra hadn’t been involved with TNR or cat rescue for cats living outdoors ever before, but knew she had to do something for all the cats she saw living outdoors on the street she’d moved to. Once she “stumbled on” the Homeless Cat Management Team on Facebook she not only took care of her own neighborhood but began helping others and even helped to found the organization that became Pittsburgh C.A.T. runs the Facebook page and facilitates adoptions for it. Read more…

Cynthia Buncher Savitt and Henri
Cynthia Buncher Savitt and Henri

Cynthia Buncher Savitt

Cynthia has decades of experience in helping cats living outdoors and brings that to her own colony as well as stepping up whenever others who work with HCMT need help and in assessing situations and working with reluctant or confrontational cat owners to get assistance for cats in their care, and she also schedules appointments for clinics which often include as many as 100 cats from dozens of people from all over the Pittsburgh region, with numbers and needs that change every moment. Read more…

Diane Chapman Schlag and son Connor
Diane Chapman Schlag and son Connor

Diane Chapman Schlag

Diane started out with a free kitten offered on craigslist, but when offered help ended up as one of HCMT and Pittsburgh C.A.T.’s most constant foster homes, and she has a secret weapon—her eight-year-old son Connor, the cat whisperer, who can socialize any cat he meets. Read more…

Wendi Stafford Wiegand
Wendi Stafford Wiegand

Wendi Stafford Wiegand

Wendi is one busy volunteer, not only for Pittsburgh CAT and HCMT but also on behalf of cats with organizations in her home area of Ellwood City, about an hour north of downtown Pittsburgh, and even outside of her volunteer work focuses on rescuing cats. Read more…

Margo Cicci Wisniewski and Auntie
Margo Cicci Wisniewski and Auntie

Margo Cicci Wisniewski

Margo is one volunteer who had a few years of experience with TNR prior to beginning with HCMT through managing a colony, trapping, spaying or neutering and returning adults to the area behind her workplace and socializing and adopting out the kittens, and once she joined up with HCMT she is at it every day with fostering, transporting, trapping, planning as well as volunteering for clinics and even serving on the board. Read more…

Read other stories in my Rescue Stories series.

Browse some rescued cats and kittens!


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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
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Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
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From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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