There are over 140,000 homeless cats in Waterloo Region, and Cambridge Homeless Cat Rescue wants to make a difference.
The volunteer-based non-for-profit organization began operating in September, and offers Trapped, Neutered and Released programs (TNR), trapping and adoption services.
Since then, Cambridge Homeless Cat Rescue has saved over 42 cats from the streets and found adopting families for 12 in the region.
It began when Sue Parsons recognized a need in Cambridge for TNR programs due to the large number of feral cats living on the streets.
“I was shocked at the number of homeless cats in Waterloo Region, and I noticed that there wasn’t much being done. So, I decided to start my own rescue and try to tackle the problem, here, locally,” Parsons said.
“The conversation started last spring with someone who had stray cats in his area and that’s when the wheels started turning.”
Parsons has over seven years experience in cat rescue. This includes trapping, fostering, training of new volunteers, post-adoption counselling, adoption screening, and event planning. Her specialty includes caring for neonatal kittens and socializing feral cats.
Two more dedicated cat lovers, Kerstin Hutchinson and Nicky Majaury jumped on board to offer a world of cat rescue experience.
“Together, we have many years of experience in volunteering with other rescues including the Toronto Cat Rescue. It’s amazing because we all bring something different to the table,” Parsons said.
The long-term goal for Cambridge Homeless Cat Rescue is to be a valuable resource, not just in Waterloo Region, but in surrounding communities from trapping or rescuing a cat, managing feral colonies, to managing foster homes and adoptions.
“We deal with all cats, feral or not,” Parsons said. “We want people to know that we are here to help,” Parsons said.
The average lifespan of a cat living on the streets is three to five years according to Cambridge Homeless Cat Rescue. This includes stray and feral cats.
Stray cats, with some time in a foster home and with medical care, are adoptable. Feral cats will never learn to live indoors but to help control the pet population, they need to be spayed or neutered and returned to their home.
“We spayed them, neuter them, microchip and vaccinate them,” Parsons said.
The organization’s trapping team is equipped to manage both stray and feral cats and works with a local TNR program to ensure they are trapped, neutered, and released back to their home.
“We trap strays, people’s pets that may have escaped, and feral cats. We scan them for microchips and we check lost and found websites. We try to reunite them with their families, but unfortunately, it doesn’t happen as often as we would like,” Parsons said.
If no owner is found, the cat will become a part of the Cambridge Homeless Cat Rescue Adoption program.
“Once the cats are in our care, they are placed in quarantine for 14 days,” Parsons said.
“This is in case of any diseases they may have, and we look for foster homes for cats who are adoptable. And when they are ready, they go up for adoption.”
The Cambridge Homeless Cat Rescue is currently seeking financial assistance to help cover vet bills, food, litter, toys, and medication.
“We’ve had a lot of support from the community including donations of bags of litter and cat food. The Rotary has donated funds and we work with a local vet who give us 'vet rescue' rates. People are chipping in,” Parsons said.
“Trying to get things going, these first few months, this have been our biggest struggle.”
Parsons says that after one year, Cambridge Homeless Cat Rescue can begin applying for grants.
Until then, The Cambridge Homeless Cat Rescue will continue to hold draws, bake sales, and auctions to help cover costs.
“We’ll just keep going. The more support we receive, the more cats we can help,” Parsons said.
The hope for the future is to have a facility to house cats and run the rescue, where the public can come visit.
“It’s amazing. We are looking after some sick cats right now, and people are following them on social media and checking in to see how they are. They are very popular cats.”
The Cambridge Homeless Cat Rescue has set up a a GoFundMe page here to help with operating costs.
“We want people to call us if they see a cat freezing outside. We want to help,” Parsons said.
“Cats are not at fault for living on the streets. This has become a huge problem and we want to help fix it. I just want to give back.”
For more information and to donate, visit cambridgehomelesscatrescue.ca or the Cambridge Homeless Cat Rescue Facebook page.