Saving an ocean of homeless cats

Published as “Postcards from Phoenix” in the Tryon Daily Bulletin, June 7, 2018

A photo of a sign that reads “Feral Cat Entrance” is on my Facebook page.

It was the perfect illustration of my spring in Phoenix, a season of cat catching and making new acquaintances. I’ve certainly learned a lot, especially that it takes a village to make an impact on a project like this.

In the end, I had three adult females spayed, and found homes for six kittens. I learned how to bottle-feed and foster a feral family, and how to reach out and ask for help.

In April, I captured and spayed Ratty Cat, the unfriendly feral I’d been feeding for months, along with her three newborn kittens, and thanks to instructions found online, housed them all in a crate within a crate in my office.

Things were going smoothly until I spotted another stray nursing a litter of kittens in the alley behind my house. I felt like I was spitting into the ocean.

I posted a plea for help on Nextdoor, a phone app that serves as a virtual bulletin board for neighborhoods, but got no response. Paul found a post from a cat rescuer nearby, and I commented on it, thanking them for their work, describing my cat situation and adding, “I could sure use some help.”

A woman named Michele Ford contacted me, and suddenly, I was in business. Armed with Michele’s traps and knowledge of cats, we went to work. I was elated when we caught the entire family from the alley, and then devastated when someone stole one of my traps with two kittens inside.

It was a reminder that I live in a big crime-filled city, and also that this cat-rescue stuff isn’t for the faint of heart.

I promised Michele I’d help her in any way I could to thank her for all she’s done for my alley cats. My plan is to set up a Facebook page where she can solicit donations, share photos of kittens and cats up for adoption, and accumulate more volunteers like me.

I’m not an expert, although I did tell her I’d been the publicity chair for the Tryon Garden Club and the Lanier Library Poetry Festival. I’m not sure how impressed she was with my resume, but she’s grateful for the offer.

I showed her the Facebook page for Paws, Prayers, and Promises, an organization in Tryon that’s a shining example of conducting a rescue the right way. While I was spitting into the cat rescue ocean, Paws, Prayers, and Promises amassed a navy of well-equipped vessels to navigate the seas.

In the time I saved a handful of cats, they saved dozens. Just today, they raised two-thousand dollars for life-saving surgery for an orphaned kitten. They are a mighty force in the cat-saving world.

The whole time I was juggling my crate-within-a-crate feral family with only the internet to provide me advice,  I wished I was in Tryon where I could reach out for help and easily find it.

My Phoenix vet gave me a list of local cat rescue organizations, none of whom returned my calls. One even had a recording that said they didn’t accept outside calls.

I get it. Phoenix is a huge city. These organizations are overwhelmed. But that was no comfort to me when I watched kittens nursing in the dirt in the alley behind my house with no way to help them.

My season of cat rescue has come to an end. By the time you read this, I’ll be in Tryon where I’m happy to say I’ll spend my summer.

I have a cat-feeding station set up on the side of my house in Phoenix, and neighbors to man it in my absence. Hopefully, Ratty Cat and the other strays in my neighborhood won’t even notice I’m gone. I’ve asked my neighbors to be on the lookout for kittens, and Michele is standing by to trap on my property if needed.

I feel so lucky to have found Michele, and look forward to helping her with her Facebook page and anything else she needs when I return in the fall. She now uses “the McNabb method” of housing feral mothers in a crate within a crate. We’re both grateful to have made a new friend.

I have the satisfaction of seeing the kittens I raised in happy homes. Yes, of course I cried when I handed them to their new owners, but I know they’re loved.

Beautiful, now-spayed Ratty Cat adorns my lawn and meows her thanks to me, although she never wants me to get too close.

You too can have this feeling—that something you’ve done has made a difference in the life of a homeless animal. You don’t need to keep feral families in your house or set traps in alleys or reach out to strangers asking for help.

Just go to the Facebook page of Paws, Prayers, and Promisesand hit that donate button. You’re welcome.

Leo, one of Ratty Cat’s kittens