Fostering felines

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Silver Linings Cat Rescue group in St. Lunaire-Griquet aspires to find forever homes for stray cats

The distressed meows of an injured kitten pulled Chris Humby’s attention away from his duties one October day in 2012.

Debbie Humby coddles Silver the cat, which was discovered outside the Strait of Belle Isle Health Centre in Flower’s Cove with a broken leg. — Photo by Chris and Debbie Humby

While working as a paramedic at the Strait of Belle Isle Health Centre in Flower’s Cove, he couldn’t help but succumb to the cries that echoed from outside the facility’s emergency department door.

“His leg was completely broken and healed on a 90-degree angle … the part he walked on was completely worn through, exposing the muscle and bone underneath,” he said.

“(The kitten) ran a few feet when I approached, but came over when I called him, got up in my arms and cuddled in.”

Until that embrace, Chris only considered himself “tolerant” of cats. And if it were up to his wife, Debbie, whom he called immediately after discovering the injured kitten, their house would have been littered with felines, he said.

“For weeks we nursed him and cleaned his wounds,” said Chris. “He learned to walk on his makeshift splint and became a happy, fun-loving kitten that didn’t seem to notice his disability.”

And from there came a name … Silver.

“Because he found a silver lining to a sad life, and he hobbled around like Long John Silver.”

Chris and Debbie decided to take Silver to the veterinarian for a routine checkup and it was there the duo discovered their newfound pet would require an amputation.

“We agreed that this was the best course of action to make our little guy happy and comfortable. ... The surgery went great, he came out of it with flying colours and was his young, energetic, playful self,” said Chris.

A few days later the unthinkable happened. Silver seized suddenly from a blood clot and died.

“Needless to say, my wife and I were devastated and, after that day, we both were never the same,” said Chris. “His short life changed us.”

Their desire to rescue strays began after they fostered a pair of kittens named Eddie and Chase.

“Then it seemed we were seeing cats everywhere. Whenever we went there was a stray cat crying to come in, that was hungry and crying for love,” said Chris.

They eventually began working with the Corner Brook Scaredy Cat Rescue group in an attempt to rescue strays on the Northern Peninsula, get them spayed and neutered, and find them homes.

“After a while my wife and I figured it was time to bite the bullet and form our own mini rescue and see if we could make a small difference,” he said. “This is where Silver Linings Cat Rescue was formed, to honour our little guy and make his short life have a gigantic meaning.”

The duo has fostered and rescued, with help, several dozen cats in their short operation time. Chris said they go through an exorbitant amount of cat food and litter, which is either purchased by them or donated by their supporters.

Any funds raised, he said, are to help cats through their shelter program, for spaying and neutering and for helping other rescues cope.

And while they are actively looking for foster homes, he clarified that there are certain things a person must know, but before making such a decision.

“These little souls are in need of love and patience — it may take weeks or multiple months to gain the trust of these abandoned, unwanted kittens,” said Chris.

“Fostering means giving your heart to another living creature, but remembering that, one day, if you have done your job, someone will come and take your baby away to a forever home.”

The job is both fulfilling and heart breaking, he said, but fostering isn’t something to venture into lightly.

“Getting attached is an occupational hazard and Debbie and I are both failed fosters,” he said. “Debbie refused to give up Beauty, a super lap cat … and I adopted Shadow, a blind and partially paralyzed kitten we rescued from a large colony in Parson’s Pond — he is my constant companion.”

Fostering multiple cats, each with their own distinctive personality, often means “squabbles,” said Chris.

“Jealously from our own cats does become an issue at times, when they see us paying attention to the rescues and they feel left out,” he said. “Sometimes we have to isolate a cat from the community, but this is rare.”

He explained that all cats have full access to their house, except for those unneutered and the recently neutered males, which are placed in a kennel due to the natural spray that marks and claims their territory.

Their operation is based on the Trap-neuter-return (TNR) method of humanely trapping unaltered feral cats, spaying or neutering them, and returning them to the location where they were collected.

They work closely with the Parson’s Pond feral cat colony, where they’ve donated several shelters to house the felines.

“We help when we can and where we can and we will help people care for stray or wild cats, but there must be a caretaker established before we bring in a shelter. We cannot accept unwanted house pets because limited fosters and funds won’t allow it,” he said, clarifying that they do not run a full-fledged shelter although they do have short-term fosters, as well as long-term fosters.

“We are a small group trying to help, in some small way, to protect stray and feral cats and to cut down on their population by rescuing those we can find homes for and TNR’ing the rest over time.”

At present they have 10 cats, safe and warm, in their home.

“We accepted the fact that we will have fur around, scratched furniture, litter boxes, but we hope the end justifies the means,” he said.

“But I think the biggest challenge is getting comfortable at night because at any given time there are six to eight cats sleeping on our bed with us and they apparently don’t like being disturbed.”

Organizations: Strait of Belle Isle Health Centre

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