Cat rescues merge to save more felines in need

The merger of two cat rescues results in a strong organization of professionals who work tirelessly to help homeless and feral cats.

The tearful voice on the phone was a young girl’s. She and a friend had found a badly injured kitten by the curb of a busy intersection in Toronto. The girls were directed to meet a team member from an organization called Urban Cat Relief at a nearby veterinary clinic.

Upon arrival, the kitten’s status was quickly assessed and lifesaving treatment began. The teenage Good Samaritans were graciously thanked for saving the baby’s life, and comforted with assurances that the organization would be responsible for everything the little guy needed.

The kitten has since recovered and been adopted out to a new home. He’s just one of thousands of needy felines lucky enough to fall into the loving hands of the Urban Cat Relief team.

Rosalynne (Roz) Gelade is president of the non-profit organization, based in Downsview, Ontario. It was formed in 2009 through the merger of two other cat rescue groups – Fostering Felines Cat Rescue and CATalyst Cat Rescue. The groups united to create a stronger alliance dedicated to helping homeless cats. Urban Cat Relief (UCR) focuses on rescue, foster and adoption, as well as public education and caring for feral colonies.

“In 2011 alone, we responded to hundreds of emails, and over 2,000 calls,” says Roz. “We rescued, vetted and fostered over 400 cats and kittens and provided emergency veterinary care for kittens with life-threatening illnesses or injuries. We arranged adoptions for over 300 cats and kittens. We also supplied food for over 50 cats per day in managed colonies; spayed and neutered over 200 through our TNRM (Trap, Neuter, Return & Maintain) program and started a barn-home relocation program for feral cats that can’t be returned to their original colonies.”

“Relief” is the operative word for UCR. “Although rescue is a very large part of our work, relief imparts hope and promotes a positive, humanitarian view of what we do,” says Roz. “Through our network, we relieve the suffering of whatever the issue is.” This suffering is not exclusive to illness or injury. It is also emotional and environmental. Roaming cats put tremendous stress on the environment, and an indoor cat suddenly left to live outside with poorly-honed survival skills undergoes incredible hardship.

UCR is not a Tuesday knitting group of “crazy cat ladies”. It’s a conglomerate of well-educated professionals who respect and love animals. Completely volunteer-driven, it’s organized and directed by four board members while other volunteers assist with trapping cats, fundraising events, administration, feeding feral colonies and making veterinary appointments.

Three veterinarians provide medical care and 23 foster homes, including some that specialize in caring for special needs kitties or taming ferals, offer felines a loving haven for transition or recovery. “These foster homes are truly the stars of our organization,” says Roz. “Without them, we could not do what we do”.

“The cost of care for one cat for three months is $300 on average,” adds Roz. “We are funded solely by donations and fundraisers, and by the generosity of veterinarians who set discounted fees for medical care.”

The individual needs of each cat are assessed by UCR’s board members. Each cat receives a care directive based on his or her unique requirements. Regardless of the cat’s health status or age, the organization is committed to adopting all its rescues into best matched homes. They work closely with the foster homes to ensure this, and the cat stays under UCR’s wing until it is adopted.

Kirby is one such kitty. “He was found injured by someone who knew he had lived outdoors for many years,” says Roz. “He was not neutered and thought to be eight to ten years old. Our veterinarian treated his abscess, neutered him and ran some tests that confirmed he was FIV positive. FIV positive cats can live long, healthy lives but the stigma of the disease makes it very difficult to place them. However, we were determined to find a family experienced with this condition. After three months, during which Kirby lived at the veterinary clinic, the right home came through. Despite his years of being a tough street cat, he sought out affection. Until he came to us, he had probably never known a loving human touch.”

UCR’s mandate is “helping people make a difference in the lives of homeless cats.” Says Roz: “A situation does not need to be desperate for us to help, but the more desperate it is, the harder we work. We believe no cat or kitten should ever be left behind.”