Here’s a riddle for you … if you run an all volunteer animal welfare organization in your “spare time” and all of your volunteers are good friends who have even less than time than you … you have almost no donations except the ones you make yourself or coerce out of family, friends and co-workers … you have more calls than you can handle and not enough hours in the day … what is the logical thing to do? Well of course the answer is to start a new initiative!
Thanks to the generosity of the Rhode Island Foundation Barrington PAW has the seed money to get Bristol County Community Cats off the ground. We hope it will provide a platform for engaging others in the community who are interested in helping. We hope we are not completely delusional that there will be people willing to help. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t hear about a cat somewhere in our region needing help. It has come to the point that it is harder to explain why we can’t help than to put the energy into figuring out how to help.
For years I have been waiting for one of the large, well-funded, fully-staffed animal welfare organizations to take a leadership position on the issue of community cats in our state. Any one of them – surely I kept thinking one will step forward – one will stop euthanizing any cat that doesn’t fit their perfect mold – one will stop ignoring the feral cat problem – one will do anything to get out ahead of this problem…to begin implementing the kinds of progressive programs that are working in communities all across the country. A “working group” on feral cats organized by the state veterinarian and made up of all the “key players” (as he defines them) has been meeting for years but the only outcome has been a newspaper article telling us we have a cat problem – really? imagine! Had they talked to volunteer groups across the state working to solve this problem every day with little help and less resources they would have known this years ago. It is time to stop talking about the problem and start doing something to solve it.The cats can’t wait for us to sort out whose job it is - or for more studies on the right approach - they need help today. Stay tuned…
October 16, 2013 is National Feral Cat Day. What is it, I wonder, that draws some people to feral cats? What makes them spend money they rarely have, brave the worst of weather and devote endless hours to cats they cannot even touch? What bonds these fiercely independent felines and these free spirited individuals? There is a common crazy cat lady image that comes to mind for most – but it is rarely true. Feral cats are cared for – most always in the shadows – by men and women – by little old ladies and teens – by retirees, teachers, lawyers, business owners, construction workers, veterinarians, city workers and people from all professions and walks of life! Some care for them as part of a formal colony system – working with a shelter or rescue group to ensure all are spayed and neutered and have the care they need. Others make do on their own, scraping together enough money to provide food and some veterinary care when they can. And countless others worry about the cats they see slinking about alley-ways, meadows and backyards after dark but don’t know how to begin to help. But what is it that makes some people care so much and others seemingly care so little? One of our biggest challenges at Barrington PAW www.barringtonpaw.org has been a nearly endless supply of volunteers and donors anxious to help our virtually non-existent stray dog population coupled with a remarkably small number of individuals willing to have anything to do with feral cats. Perhaps education, outreach, advocacy will change this, but I am skeptical. I believe that this connection some have to feral cats lives deep within, it cannot be taught or forced – it simply is. And the cats most of all seem to know it. They have an uncanny ability to find people who care. On my wall hangs a 45 year old painting titled “The Wharf Cat”. Growing up in New England meant summer vacations on Cape Cod. For many who shared this experience , their vibrant memories would be of long days at the beach, swimming, boating, miniature golf, soft serve ice cream – but for me even as a young child the memory seared in my mind is of the Wharf Cats taking refuge under docks and scrambling for handouts from fishermen. This was my first encounter with the felines who reside at the edge of our existence. Since that time I have helped hundreds of cats find their way to a better life. I have ventured into blizzards and hurricanes to secure shelters, have forgone decades of vacations, given up all hope of ever having a fur-free elegantly decorated home, bought cat food instead of stocks & bonds, climbed through holes in fences and crawled on my belly under decks, entered condemned homes and hiked through dense woods – all to help cats I had never met – many of which would respond to me with no more than a hiss. There are some who would say this makes me special. But there are many more who would say this makes me quite odd! But for me … I simply couldn’t live any other way. And I suspect this must be the same for others who devote their lives to these elusive creatures.
Welcome to Pooka’s Place! Pooka is a truly one of a kind ten year old cat who rules with a firm paw at “The Land of the Misfit Kitties”. He and his six feline companions reside at the Headquarters of the Barrington Partnership for Animal Welfare – www.barringtonpaw.org – and they all have many “tails” to tell. Be prepared to laugh, learn and cry as you enter this magikal world – and come to know and love these special felines. You will also get to glimpse inside the often painful, exhausting, thankless but always rewarding and exhilarating experiences of their human companions working tirelessly to help Community Cats in need.