As you may know already, I’ve started a new collaboration with the Forgotten Ones Cat Rescue which is the rescue we adopted our dear Kalista from. I’ve been getting to know some of the volunteers quite well and they have opened up about some of the circumstances they have to go through to rescue and adopt out these cats. While I was fairly aware of some of the struggles volunteers have had to go through (especially since we rescued Beau from the street and my sister rescued her cat Avery the same way), but our circumstances weren’t as difficult as some of the circumstances shelters/rescues have had to face.
It’s easy to forget how much work goes into running a rescue, especially if you’re a new pet owner who is focussed on finding the right pet for your household. You may actually never know the true story of how much work and effort was put into rescuing your baby. You may also be like me, who ended up adopting a cat who was born into a loving family and was simply surrendered to a cat rescue because the mother had too many kittens for the family to take care of (this being my first cat Walker.)
So, in this post, I’d like to ask some questions to my friends Michelle and Sharon about what their experience rescuing cats has been like. I’m excited to welcome Michelle back to the site and Kalista’s original foster Sharon. Michelle recently contacted me about some kittens Sharon and another volunteer Stephanie rescued a few years ago and the images immediately made me cry. I used to live in North York, which has the highest stray population in the GTA. The stray population is actually so high that statics have shown that the bird population is dropping. This has caused a lot of problems for North York, and while the Forgotten Ones Cat Rescue is based in Richmondhill (about 30-minutes from North York), they probably still feel the impact from the strays.
Cats are smart creatures who learn to fend for themselves early on, but there are a number of horror stories where kittens are found with no mother because she’s passed from a car accident, a raccoon fight, been taken away and rescued by folks who didn’t know she had kin, etc. So what happens to these kittens? Dependant on their age, they’ll either find a place to hide and take care of themselves (similar to Beau) or if they are too young, they might also pass away. This is something that rescues try hard to fight, and sadly it’s not as easy as just “picking them off the street.”
Here’s a little interview I had with Sharon & Michelle about rescuing:
How do you get contacted about cats to rescue?
S: Sometimes, it is by email through our website, or a lot of times it is by word of mouth. Sometimes, it is by people that have adopted from us before.
M: When other rescues reach out and the rescue is closer to our area, and if we are able to help (i.e. have foster home space, and people available to help), then we do our best to help.
What is the protocol on-site for rescuing?
S: First, before we do any rescuing we go to the location where the cats are needing help and we check it out to see what the situation is. Sometimes, these are feral cats that just need to be TNR’ed and put back and the people can keep feeding them and provide shelter for them. We always have to have a plan in place first before we start to trap. We need to know where we are going to place these cats when we do trap them. Once we know the situation we usually put out an email to the core people in the rescue to let them know about the cats needing rescuing and what is needed.
M: The rescuer’s safety is a huge priority – we try to avoid any dangerous situations, and rescue the cat(s) safely.
Is there any training you give your volunteers before they are sent to rescue a cat?
S: Usually, if there are any cats needing rescuing we send out an experienced person. If someone is interested in learning how to trap then I am usually the one that will get them to come along with me when I do some trapping so they can see how it is done. With trapping, you have to have a lot of patience, and you have to have no fear cause if a feral cat senses fear then they know You might not trap the cat on the first try. You have to keep going back until you succeed. If the cat that needs rescuing is being fed by someone, lets say in their backyard, what I would do is leave some traps with them and get them to set the traps when they are home, and then call me when they get the cat so that it saves me time for not having to go there and wait for hours hoping to catch the cat.
M: Sharon has been the most amazing teacher. She has patience and bravery like nobody else and is one of the most selfless people. She has saved so many lives and helped so many people, but Sharon’s just one person, and rescuing cats is a community effort.
What have some of the hardest rescues been like for you and why?
S: I found out about an abandoned house where there were over 20 cats living under the house. It was winter time and there were coyotes in the area. Because it was winter and there was snow on the ground and it was so cold out there, I could not leave the traps set and come back to check on them. I had to
stay and wait because once I got a cat trapped, I had to cover them and put them in the car for warmth. It was a race against time to save all these cats before the coyotes got them. Their ages ranged from about 10 weeks to adults. We found another rescue that took most of them and our rescue took about 4 of them. Surprisingly, most of these cats were friendly and were able to get adopted. This rescue operation probably took about 2 -3 weeks to catch everyone.
There is a park in Richmond Hill that was overrun with cats. Cats were having kittens left, right, and centre, and we never felt we were getting anywhere. We just kept trapping some of them we were able to socialize and get them adopted. Some of them were so feral that we had to get the fixed and put them back and manage them as a registered colony. This rescue probably took us a few years to get in under control. We heard that coyotes were coming down into the centre of this park where we were feeding these cats. At this point, we only had 3 cats still living there. They were cats that we had already gotten fixed and vaccinated, so we set out to retrap them and bring them to safety. Well, we were only able to get 2 of those cats. The third one had disappeared, sadly. One of those cats, we were able to socialize her and she got adopted and the other one we relocated to a barn.
M: There were so many people in the park. A lot of young children scared the cats or were constantly around us because they didn’t know what we were doing. It also took longer because the cats already knew what traps were and did not want to go back in them. We had to resort to a drop trap. Luckily, I had been caring for these cats for about 1.5 years so they let me get close to them (but not touch them) and we caught both of them at the same time.
Have you ever had a circumstance where you weren’t able to rescue the cats?
S: One time we had someone email our rescue about cats they were feeding at their trailer. Now they started to feed these cats in the spring time, when they were kittens and now it was the fall and the trailer was being closed up for the winter. First, these were now feral cats and we had no space for them and 2 weeks notice is not enough time for us to work with, so we asked another rescue for help. We are willing to help people that need help with cats if they are willing to help too.
Can you share any amazing stories about cats who have been rescued and brought into loving homes?
S: One time, we got an email from a condo building – there was a mom cat and kittens living in the underground garage. I went there to investigate and see what the situation was. I did find a mom cat but could not find any babies. I did find one dead baby so I could not take the mom cat at this time, as we needed to find where her babies are.
I had the superintendent keep an eye out for the kittens and to let us know if they see any. A couple of weeks later, I went back with a friend to have another look around. We still could not find any kittens. Now, the people in the building could have taken the kittens but this was the best rescue ever because this mom cat would follow us around everywhere we went – never letting us out of her sight. She would start to yell if she thought that we were going to leave her. We knew she knew that we were her ticket out of there so we decided that today we needed to save her. I went to my car to get a cat carrier and she was freaking out because she thought that I was going to leave her there. We let the superintendent know that we were taking the mom cat today and that we could not find any kittens but asked if they could keep their eyes and ears open just in case the kittens are around. We took her to the vets to check to see if she was a lactating mom but she wasn’t so we knew there were no kittens. This cat found a very loving home to go to and she was so happy to be saved. I have never had a rescue like that ever -when a cat wanted to be saved so badly and knew we were her ticket out of there.
A cat named Nikki was rescued from a park in Richmond Hill (the same one we wrote about before). First, she was trapped and released back because she was a nursing mom and we did not know where her kittens were. A couple of years later we retrapped her and surprisingly enough, she turned friendly and we were able to put her up for adoption.
We put her into a PetSmart Adoption Centre. Now, even though she was friendly she still did not like to be picked up. One day, a family came in with 2 young boys – the oldest one went into the adoption centre and looked around at all the cats that we had up for adoption and he chose Nikki. Out of all the friendly cats he chose Nikki!
I told him where Nikki came from and that right now she does not like to be picked up. He was ok with that because Nikki was the cat he wanted.
That family adopted Nikki, and before long I found out that Nikki would allow this boy to carry her all around the house they became very good friends. Today, the youngest boy is also best friends with Nikki. You will find them curled up sleeping together! This family went on to adopt 2 other cats from our rescue cats that were rescued from the outdoors.
A lady had called me for help with cats she was feeding in her backyard. One of the kittens came into her house, plopped herself down on her knee and did not want to go back outside. I went down there to check out this little kitten and when I saw her I knew we needed to rescue her. She was one special kitten – she had no fear of anything. When I got her back to my house, she became very clingy and always wanted to be held and snuggled so I knew I needed to find her a home where there was going to be someone home most of the time for her. Once she was spayed though, this little kitten became quite independent! I was still unsure if she could be adopted as a single kitten though, but she showed no interest in other cats. A couple of weeks later, I dropped her off at her new home. I was still unsure because she was going to be the only cat in the house and alone all day while they were at work but my unsureness was short lived because when I dropped her off, I opened up the carrier and let her out inside of her new house. She walked around checking everything out, not scared at all. She knew this was the home for her. Later that day, I called to see how she was doing and she was doing great. She made herself at home on the lady’s lap while she was on the computer. She curled up and took a nap with the husband. It was amazing how this cat just walked in and made herself at home so quickly because usually, it takes a cat a couple of weeks to get adjusted to their new surroundings.
I had rescued a cat from a shelter. He needed to come to my house to be socialized.
This cat was a big black and white boy you could not even touch. He was really scared. One day, when I came home from work, about 6 months after rescuing him, he was laying by the door. I went over to him and he let me pet him – I could not believe it. From that day on he never looked back. He became the friendliest cat you can imagine.
He loved to be on your lap! Well, it took 6 more years before he found his forever home.
We were doing a cat adoption weekend and a lady came in Friday evening, looking over all the cats we had up for adoption and fell in love with this beautiful black and white boy. She came back Saturday and took him home. He went to a very loving home.
Whenever you rescue a cat, you never know how long it will take for them to find their forever home but no matter how long it takes they stay with us in our foster homes until the time comes and they find their new family.
A couple emailed our rescue to see if we could help with 3 cats they were feeding outside. They were moving to Costa Rica and needed some help with these cats. Now, 2 of these cats they were able to pet over the years of feeding them, so I dropped off traps to them so they could try and trap them. We ended up trapping all three of them. It took months to get them! One of them, a cat they named Oreo, who was a big black and white boy, was one vicious cat. I had him in a room at my house and he would lunge at you. Well, he needed dental work and, surprisingly enough, once he had his dental work, he turned into this wonderful loving lap cat. You could imagine it took time for this to happen, but he must have been in so much pain with his teeth – that is why he was so aggressive. He was an older cat, at least 10 years old. He became a father figure to my other younger cats – he would snuggle with them and clean them and curl up and sleep with them.
It took years to find him a home but he finally did and he went to a very loving and caring home.
A shop in Newmarket called me – they had got my number for a friend of theirs. They had 3 kittens inside their shop. They did, at first, have a mom and 5 kittens show up inside their shop but the mom and 2 kittens disappeared, leaving 3 kittens. They were not able to touch them. They thought they were about 10-12 weeks old, so I dropped off traps for them. It took about 1 week to catch all three kittens. These kittens were friendly scared but loved attention. Months after getting them, we held a cat adoption event at TruPet in Richmond Hill. A family came in looking for 2 kittens to adopt and they fell in love with the 2 boys. They were both white with black spots – one had a black patch on the right eye the other kitten had the patch on the left eye. They went home that day with the family.
One of the boys was a lot shyer than his brother but before long they were both all over their new owner for attention. They will be well loved and cared for their rest of their lives.
That left their sister, Carrie, a little calico girl, looking for a home. I thought it would take months before she would find her forever home. Carrie was the sweetest little girl you could imagine she would always be in our face wanting to be snuggled.
I knew I needed to find Carrie a home where someone will be home most of the time. as she just loved so much attention. An amazing couple, Johnny and his partner Kenny adopted Carrie!
We set up a meet and greet at TruPet store in Richmond Hill, where they could meet her in person. Well, it was love at first sight. Johnny worked from home so that was great for Carrie as she needed lots of attention.
It would be a couple of more weeks before Carrie went to her forever home as she was scheduled for her spay surgery first. Well, the time came and Johnny and Kenny came and picked her up. She has settled in amazingly at their home and has become friends with their other cat, Beau. I could not have asked for a better home for her. She is well loved and will be well cared for the rest of her life.
M: Is this last story starting to sound familiar? It should because this Carrie is now Kalista!
J: Sharon! You’re the sweetest ever! I’m so glad we found a forever home for our little one, and still can’t believe she wasn’t scooped up faster. That little bugger is sleeping right next to me! 🙂
How would you recommend our readers go forward with rescuing cats if they do not have a rescue near them?
S: If you are going to start to rescue cats, you need a spare room to start them off in. You need to be able to assess them to see how friendly they are. If you have your own cats in your house, do not mix new cats with yours until they have been totally checked out by a vet, to ensure they do not have any sickness that they could pass onto your own cats.
You should be snap testing any cats you bring into your house that you are going to mix with your cats. This snap test is a test in which they check to see if a cat has FIV or Feline Leukaemia. If they are tested FIV positive and are not an aggressive cat, they can still live a very long and normal life and can live in a home with other cats that are not FIV positive. If a cat is positive for Feline Leukaemia, also known as FeLV, they cannot live in a home with other cats that are not positive for this disease. FeLV is a very highly contagious disease. Sadly, the lifespan for a FeLV+ cat is only 1-6 years, although there are some cats that have lived a full life.
Before you bring any cats into your house, you need to treat them for fleas.
If you are feeding feral cats in your backyard, the most important thing is that you need to get them fixed. This can become very costly, but there is a course you can take – it is a half a day course and costs around 20 dollars.
Once you take this course, you register your colony and the Toronto Humane Society will fix these cats for free. It is first come first serve and they only fix 4 feral cats a day, so you have to be there by 6 am to ensure you get your cats in. Doors open at 7 am and pick up is 4 pm. This course is done through Toronto Feral Cat Coalition – you can look up on their website to find where the course is going to be held. You must keep these cats for the next 4-7 days to recuperate after getting fixed before you put them back outside.
These feral cats will have to be trapped in traps like raccoon traps to bring them down to Toronto Humane Society in.
If you find a friendly cat outside, first things first is to take the cat to any vet and see if the cat is microchipped. If the cat is microchipped and the chip is registered, the vet can find the owners and the cat can hopefully be reunited with his or her owner. If no microchip is found, then post a picture and description of the cat on Helping Lost Pets. It’s possible that you can find the owner this way. Give all the vets in your area flyers with a picture of the cat and a description. If no owner is found, you can choose to keep this cat or ask around your neighbours or friends if anyone is interested in adopting this cat.
You would need to get this cat spayed or neutered, vaccinated, treated for any parasites, and microchipped.
M: It’s always a good idea to contact a local rescue for help too. They can provide guidance, as long as your provide patience and are willing to help. If you can foster a cat that you’ve rescued, but need help covering the medical fees, rescues may be able to help as well. If you’re unable to foster the kitty, and rescues are too full, contact your local animal services or humane society, who have shelter locations to house the cats in.
I want to thank Sharon and Michelle again for being interviewed and giving us all some insight to a day in the life of. Please make sure to check out the Forgotten Ones Cat Rescue on Facebook & Instagram.