The women who trap, treat and re-home the feral cats of Kamloops | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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The women who trap, treat and re-home the feral cats of Kamloops

The cats are part of a colony that has been in the Kamloops area for around 15 years. Bread is their staple food, and a new rescue organization is hoping to better the lives of these cats, and then all the other ferals in the area.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK / Sammy's Forgotten Felines
February 08, 2020 - 8:00 AM

Three women are taking matters into their own hands to reduce the feral cat population in Kamloops.

Kamloops has the highest rate of cats that are brought into the SPCA in the province.

Valerie Wilson, Julie Ondang and Jenn Breckenridge have all worked or volunteered for various B.C. SPCA branches and found that there wasn’t enough being done to catch and re-home the feral cats that live in various colonies around the river city. Now, the three have created their own rescue organization, dubbed Sammy’s Forgotten Felines. The women hope to collect all of the stray cats in Kamloops by eradicating one colony at a time.

When Wilson was working with the SPCA in 2015, she captured 98 cats from one colony. Wilson says her previous experience catching the cats has not proved to be as successful as she had hoped, as the organization couldn’t meet the needs of all the animals she was bringing in.

“Unfortunately the B.C. SPCA’s mandate isn’t really to socialize adult feral cats, some were put down, some were put in barns, but some of them did come around and were adopted out. That’s why we like what we're doing now, we don’t have to put a timeline on it, we don't have to worry about space issues.... We can sort of focus totally on these cats and move on to other cats once this is finished.”

Right now, the women are working on trapping the last remaining cats at the same colony near Kamloops. After her 2015 attempt, a few cats remained uncaught, which lead to an uncontrollable repopulation. In addition to the feral cats, she suspects people dump their unwanted pets there.

Although Wilson couldn’t share the exact location, she says the cats have shelter in a barn and the property owner does his best to feed them. The women have been working with the farm owner to catch, treat and re-home the cats.

“I think in some ways he might miss them because it does give him a bit of a purpose, it’s part of his daily farm chores to go out and feed the cats,” Wilson says. “He goes out and counts noses so we’re in contact with him as to how many are out there and how many still need to come in.”

Credit: FACEBOOK / Sammy's Forgotten Felines

The women trap, treat, foster and re-home the cats with the help of some local organizations such as the Kamloops Ruff Start Rescue, the Lower Mainland Humane Society, Shuswap Paws Rescue Society, RAPS Cat Sanctuary, Canadian Animal Rescue and Extended Shelter, Tranquille Road Animal Hospital, The Visiting Vet and many others.

“These cats are essentially what we call 'fake ferals' because they act feral, they don’t want to be trapped, and some of them will rip a strip off of you, but the majority of them we’ve been able to turn into lap cats,” Wilson says. “These cats are so kind-natured that within a week of trapping them, they’re like, ‘Okay, I love you.’"

Although the cats may eventually become loving house pets, the process of getting there is quite difficult. The cats need to be kept in crates so they don’t ‘popcorn’ all over the house and climb the walls, and they must be fed a buffet as many of them don’t even recognize or like cat food.

“They aren’t always fed the species-appropriate diet… when I was there previously, there was a lot of bread, and there’s still a lot of bread. Some of the kittens had deficiencies that were classic (signs of) malnourishment, they’ve got deformed legs. One, we called her ‘Dizzy’ because she couldn’t straighten her head but once we started giving her proper food... and the B12 supplements, it all worked out and she was fine.”

Wilson says the land owner does the best he can to care for the cats that are dumped at his property, but as the number of cats increase it has grown difficult. She says the trio bring cat food when they visit to help offset the costs for him.

There are eight to ten cats left of the 68 that they have trapped at the colony since last fall. The remaining cats are particularly elusive, and the group has come up with interesting ways to catch them.

“Some of them are hard to trap because they get hungry when they smell food, and if they’re congested they can’t smell the food and that makes it really difficult," Wilson says. "We’ve been out there with our cars running and the canned food on our heating vents to try and warm it up so it smells really stinky, and our cars smell lovely after.”

Credit: FACEBOOK / Sammy's Forgotten Felines

The women have been paying roughly $100 to $200 per cat that they rescue, out of their own pockets and with help from some word-of-mouth donations. Each cat caught receives a spay or neuter procedure, vet check-up, and proper medication. Some of the cats are transported to neighbouring cities for their vet visits and to be brought to other rescue agencies, which adds an additional transportation cost.

Now, the three cat-lovers are actively working to accept donations to help continue their efforts. Their first fundraising event will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 and the Stock Pot Cafe, and the $20 ticket will score you a comedy show and discounted food and drink choices. If you can’t make it to the event, you can give by e-transfer, or donate blankets, crates, traps or other necessities. Click here for their Facebook page and to find out more on how to donate.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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