In 2019, the Kitchener Waterloo Humane Society conducted a study to determine how many cats were living homeless and on the streets in the region of Waterloo. The result; 140,000.
After seven years of volunteering with Toronto Cat Rescue, I decided to do something about it. Those seven years taught me so much about not only the issue of homelessness, but also how to run a rescue. I was very fortunate to meet some amazing people along the way, build relationships with local veterinarians, humane societies and businesses, meet concerned members of the community and of course other rescuers and volunteers. Two very important relationships that were established early on were with Kerstin, who jumped at the opportunity to start a new rescue with me and has been here since day one. Kerstin built the rescue an amazing website and has years of experience as an adoption counselor and volunteer coordinator and Nicky, who joined us a short time later bringing with her experience in fundraising, which is vital for all rescues. Fundraising alone takes a great deal of time and resources and is an ongoing, everyday, nonstop job.
How does it work?
We are contacted either through our website or social media pages when a community member or colony caretaker is concerned about a cat. We then do our best to determine what the cats’ needs are and formulate a plan.
If a cat is determined to be feral (multi-generational street cat with no hope for socialization), we will set out to TNR (trap, neuter, return) the cat. To do this, we learn the cats’ location and feeding schedule, we use either a live or drop trap depending on the cats’ location and then set, bait and monitor the trap. Once the cat is trapped, we transport it to the Kitchener Waterloo Humane Society and have it spayed/neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, ear tipped and treated for both internal and external parasites through their surgical feral cat program. The cost of this service is exceptionally reasonable at $39.00 per cat. Once the cat is healed, we return it to where it was trapped. Research has shown that TNR is the most effective way to control feral cat populations. They say if you want to save 100 cats, spay just one and while this is true, it is also important to know that over the span of one cats’ lifetime, it can be responsible for the birth of 9000 cats. Some of you might be wondering what is meant by ear tipping. This is where the vet snips off the top portion of the cats’ left ear as a signal to other rescuers that a cat has already been fixed.
Stray cats are cats that were once someone’s pet and for whatever reason is now homeless. It is sad to note that people still often leave pets behind when they move or dump cats away from their homes when they no longer want them. These cats don’t do well on the streets and really struggle with learning to survive and oftentimes, completely losing all trust in humans. People who are reunited with their pets after even a few months have passed are saddened by their reunions as the cats are often afraid and react negatively towards their owners. It takes time for them to learn to trust again and for this reason, when no owners are found, foster homes become extremely important. Foster homes provide the cats the support they need to heal both mentally and sometimes physically after being on the street for whatever length of time.
Once stray cats are secured, they are vetted, placed in foster care and when ready, placed up for adoption. Some cats take longer than others to come around, but they all do find homes eventually. To date, we have adopted out just over 90 cats!
How can you help?
As a new rescue, we have big dreams for our future. Ideally, we would like to have a facility one day and possibly a cat cafe. Currently, we are striving hard to get our name out there letting people know we are here to help and as well, to solicit funds so we can keep rescuing more. Every month we have an online auction and as well, different lotteries such as our 50/50 draws. Our biggest campaign though is our Every Toebean Counts fundraiser. For those who don’t know, “toe beans” are what we call the cute little pads on the bottoms of cats’ feet. For this campaign, we are looking for people to sign on and donate $10.00 a month either by credit or debit and that money will be used to help with vet costs and other much needed supplies.
Other ways you can help
Besides signing on to be a monthly donor, Cambridge Homeless Cat Rescue is always looking for volunteers and donations. Items from our monthly auctions often come from small business owners offering either goods or services or from people just getting rid of items they realize they have no use for. We are also currently looking to add people to our fundraising team. We are always looking for unique and fun ways to engage the community while raising much needed funds. Foster homes are always in demand especially homes who are willing to work with shy cats/kittens needing socialization prior to adoption. Socializing cats in my opinion is one of the more rewarding challenges in rescue, when you see a cat put its guard down and play with a toy for the first time, it moves you.
With our one-year anniversary fast approaching, we are looking back very proudly at what we have accomplished in the last year. Year one is by far the hardest for any rescue and I feel we have knocked it out of the park. We are so excited to see what year two will bring and are excited to rescue the next 100 cats.
Article by Sue Parson, founder of Cambridge Homeless Cat Rescue
Updated August 2022