By Joy Smith
210 days, nearly seven months. That’s how long we have been working on the Camp Fire Cat Recovery Mission.
FieldHaven has recovered over 600 cats, actually more than 650 to date. We have been part of some of the most joyous reunions. People who thought they had lost everything in the fire, crying tears of joy when they found their kitty had survived the inferno. We have held people in our arms as they cried tears of despair at one more disappointment when a kitty we recovered was not their beloved family member. For some of those people we have helped them fill just a tiny part of that void in their heart by adopting a Camp Fire kitty whose family we could not find.
For cats whose owners we were unable to find, we have worked with adoption partners to give them the very best possibilities for a new home and family.
Paradise had a large, thriving population of community cats. Residents loved their cat colonies and many people cared for them. We are helping rebuild those colonies by spaying and neutering cats that are not domesticated and therefore not candidates for adoption programs. They are released back to their respective feeding stations, most implanted with a microchip so we can track them and gather data for years to come.
The Camp Fire is an unprecedented disastrous event. What we have learned these past seven months will be carried forth for future events. We look forward to sharing what we have learned with others while learning from those that observed and can help us discover what we can do better. The relationships we have established will be long-lasting, giving us the power in numbers and collaboration of minds to save even more animals.
How honored we are that Alley Cat Allies entrusted their support to us! Without them we could not have done all that we have. “Thank you” doesn’t even begin to express the gratitude for the opportunity to embark upon this mission.
Along the journey we met a powerful partner in Pet Rescue and Reunification. By teaming up we could complete the full circle of care we provide to people and their cats. It all starts with a notice of a cat missing from an owner. From that point on their team follows a truly remarkable process from tracking to feeding to trapping to matching and hopefully, ultimately reuniting. Watching their network operate is an inspiration and what an honor to be partnering with them.
The online community stretches from the East Coast to Hawaii and beyond to utilize the magic of social media to match cats with owners. From the moment a cat walks into a trap and a picture is snapped they begin the work of matching the most minute details of reported missing cats.
Volunteers emerged from all points to provide the gifts of their time, skills and talents and are still going strong. More than 400 new volunteers have helped us along the way. Some for a day or two, others working harder than any full time job they’ve ever had.
All of you who have supported us in a myriad of ways; donating funds, sending boxes and boxes of supplies, cheering us on, encouraging us when the work seemed overwhelming, telling us to stick with the mission when we were met with opposition. From the tallest mountain we shout “THANK YOU.”
For months and perhaps years to come there will be cats recovered. Those little resilient, hardy felines will evade capture, hide out and be invisible until one day – poof! – they announce themselves by just showing up or finally wandering into a trap. This is why we encourage owners to not give up hope. Carry a tiny piece of hope in your heart because one day you could be very surprised!
FieldHaven’s day-to-day involvement in the Camp Fire mission has been slowing in the past weeks. Only a few cats a week are coming into the Transfer Station. Together with PRR we have built an incredible network of local volunteers who have found a new passion in their lives. The passion for helping people and cats. They’ve learned about feeding stations, tracking, trapping, cat behavior, adoptions, fostering, TNR, feral colonies, the importance of spay/neuter and microchipping. Yes, microchipping is so very important.
These volunteer are poised to carry on the work we have built on during the past months. They are right in the community of Paradise and Magalia. Also, several new groups have emerged and organized during the past months. They reside in and are part of the community. What an incredible thing to know that all of the work we have done in the past several months will carry forth into something lasting. As Paradise emerges from the fire worn landscape, the cats have new champions to be there for them. We have been in awe of what Top Cats accomplished for a small group of devoted individuals. Think what can now be carried forward with an army of new organizations and resources.
As we continue to wind down operations in Paradise we have been working to fine tune some of the details and tie up loose ends. While we know there will be many questions, some of which we haven’t even thought of we have outlined our plan until the end of June below. We will adjust it as needed going forward.
The Transfer Station is still being staffed every day although we have shortened up the hours to close at 6 pm. However, staff and volunteers are available to flex the hours as needed for owners coming in to look at found cats.
FieldHaven staff are not at the Transfer Station every day starting June 4th. Jennifer Petruska of PRR and volunteers will be handling the daily staffing with support from FieldHaven.
PRR will continue to do trapping and managing feeding stations. The feeding stations will begin transitioning from free feeding to managed colony feeding over the next several weeks. There is a large group of local volunteers who will be managing the colony feeding going forward. We have been approached by dozens of homeowners who want to establish or re-establish feeding stations around their homes.
Cats who are trapped and brought into the Transfer Station will be processed just as they have been all along. Matching efforts will continue to be made. When owners are not identified the cats are offered for adoption or TNR’d. FieldHaven will continue to manage the adoptions and TNR until the Transfer Station closes. After it closes we will support the local volunteers and groups to take on those functions.
Our target date for PRR and FieldHaven closing down operations at the Transfer Station is the end of June. By no means will this mean we will not continue to be available to help. Paradise, the people and the cats, have become part of the FieldHaven and PRR families. We will proudly watch as the town grows and continue to be a champion for the cats of Paradise.
Please let us know of any questions or concerns you have. You can always contact me directly by email at [email protected] or (916) 300-8166.