Springfield Kitty Cat Shack helps them all
The phone request for help was one of hundreds Evelyn Borland receives each year. A hotel manager said a friendly, pregnant cat was crying at the door.
“When volunteer Valerie Hale arrived and opened a tin can, she did not see the pregnant cat, but several identical tabbies came running from the neighborhood behind the hotel,” Borland said. “Then Valerie was shocked to see a big, beautiful ginger cat with long hair and beautiful green eyes. She was so sweet…obviously a lost or abandoned pet.
Borland and Hale, like so many Jacksonville rescuers, are tireless in their passion for saving animals. Hale said Borland is “…an incredible, wonderful person who has rescued and found homes for thousands of cats and kittens who would otherwise never have the chance to be adopted, might suffer or die at home. ‘outside or be euthanized.’ Borland called Hale “super strong-willed” who is also a nurturing and tireless safetrapper.
Borland is the founder of the nonprofit Springfield Kitty Cat Shack Rescue and an economics professor at Riverside High School. Hale is a retired IBM contracts specialist. Borland and its volunteers are dedicated to rescuing potentially adoptable local cats and kittens, especially those who are not tame enough or who do not meet other criteria required to be accepted by local shelters.
Muppet, as the gorgeous ginger has been named, is sadly just one of the countless lost or abandoned pet cats that rescuers constantly find. These tame pets, who may have previously lived indoors, somehow find themselves outside in the elements, desperately trying to survive.
Both Borland and Hale said some lost cats have identification or are microchipped and can be returned to happy owners, even after long periods of time. Unfortunately, far too many others do not have identification, or the identification is outdated, never registered, or the owner does not respond or rejects the animal.
In Muppet’s case, she had no ID, but was already sterilized. The vet found injuries: a bruised side from being kicked or punched, and raw paw pads that the vet described as rashes. After the standard two-week quarantine and no owner found, Muppet was among the lucky ones; she was adopted.
The soothing sight of a beloved domestic cat sleeping peacefully in a favorite chair or playing in the safety and comfort of home, makes it hard to imagine the daily struggle for survival that homeless cats face in the outside. Whether tame, partially tame, or feral (feral), all homeless cats living outdoors are referred to as “community cats” by shelter staff and rescuers.
The cats in the community each have very different backgrounds and behaviors. Among the cats found stray outdoors are tame pets that may wear ID tags, have microchips, and mingle with homeless cats, but generally stay close to home and owners. They normally have smooth coats, are in good health, and usually come home like clockwork for food, care, care, and shelter. Their owners allow them partial or permanent access to the outdoors.
Some community cats are former pets who, for a number of reasons, have become homeless, but may still be fully or semi-tamed. These cats can be healthy as they are often fed and cared for by neighborhood residents, but are not actually claimed as pets. These ancient pets can respond to human voice and approach in a friendly manner. They purr or meow for food, rub against a leg and roll on the floor, begging to be petted or held, eager for attention.
However, some former pets that have been homeless for longer may have experienced cruelty and abuse as a result of human interaction. They may have suffered injury, disease, starvation, or the dangers of loose dogs or traffic accidents. Negative experiences can cause formerly tame pets to withdraw, become fearful and increasingly feral.
Feral cats may also have been pets or born in the wild. Their traumatic life experiences have made them desperate to avoid any human interaction whatsoever. They will not purr or respond to human voice except to run frantically and hide. They react violently or injure themselves to escape confrontation or capture. Only an experienced rescuer or professional trapper should attempt to humanely capture stray or wild animals.
Felines are instantly distinguishable from all other cats by their behavior: rapid and rapid movements, low to the ground or crouching, cannot be touched, handled or approached. Savages may have pointed ears, visible scars, wounds, missing hair, skin problems, appear thin or in poor general condition. They normally remain hidden during the day, have an abnormally short lifespan of around two to five years, and congregate near available food, water, and shelter.
Some community cats reside in cat colonies, monitored year-round by dedicated volunteers. These colonies offer a proven method of caring for community cat groups, combined with TNR (trap, neuter, release) to stop the endless cycle of unwanted kitten litters. TNR ensures zero population growth and the gradual natural decline of the colony.
Each cat in the colony is examined for owner identification or taken to any veterinarian for a free microchip analysis. If there is no owner and the cat is healthy and adoptable, it is neutered, receives veterinary care, and is placed for adoption.
Semi-feral or feral homeless cats are transported in secure traps to First Coast No More Homeless Pets for TNR, vaccinations, disease testing, health checkup and any necessary veterinary treatment. Each healthy cat is also given the slightly tilted ear as a permanent visual sign that the TNR is complete, before returning to the colony.
Feral cats are considered unadoptable except on a farm or stable for rodent control. Kittens born in the wild, orphaned or abandoned in cat colonies, under the age of four months can be successfully tamed and adopted according to experts.
The constant care that cats in the colony receive means that their average lifespan of two to five years living outdoors can extend up to ten years. This longevity requires a long-term commitment from volunteers to manage the colony.
The Humane Society of the United States, pet welfare organizations and veterinarians are urging pet owners to sterilize their cats for health reasons and because of the thousands of unwanted animals that end up in overcrowded shelters. An unneutered feline can breed at four months, have four litters a year, with up to eight kittens in each litter, directly contributing to the birth of thousands of unwanted kittens, according to the Humane Society.
Spayed cats are healthier because they cannot develop uterine cancers and their risk of mammary cancer is reduced by 25%. They are also less prone to urinary tract infections and hormonal changes, according to the Pet Health Network.
Neutered male cats also enjoy health benefits. They will not develop testicular cancer and will live an average of 40% longer than unmodified male cats. Neutered males are calmer, less aggressive with other cats, tend not to travel great distances, and may never mark their territory with a urine spray.
In anticipation of kitten season, the Jacksonville Humane Society (JHS), Animal Care & Protective Services (ACPS), and First Coast No More Homeless Pets (FCNMHP), are urgently asking residents who find kittens to wait and monitor the return of the cat. and resist the urge to “kitnap” the kittens. The best chance of survival for kittens is to be nursed by their mother. If the mother returns, provide food, water and shelter and when the kittens are eight weeks old, have them all neutered and find homes for them.
If mom does not return, contact JHS for care instructions and assistance, then find the kittens in their home once they are weaned. For kitten medical emergencies such as difficulty breathing, open wounds, or visible ribs/spine, contact ACPS at (904) 630-2489. JHS and ACPS are in need of volunteers, foster homes, and donated items from their Kitten Wish Lists website. The FCNMHP needs volunteers and donations through its website.
Springfield Kitty Cat Shack Rescue fills a critical gap in rescuing, taming, and finding homes for countless kittens that are too big to be accepted by ACPS (over two pounds), or not tame enough to be accepted by JHS. An all-volunteer non-profit organization, the organization has no physical shelter but relies on a network of host families. They are always in need of volunteers, foster homes, donations for vet bills, and supplies from the website or Amazon’s wishlist, especially cat food and litter. They have fully vetted cats and kittens available for adoption for $75 single and $130 for a pair.
By Julie KernsGarmendia
Resident Community News