The Feral Cat Network in Donalda wants people in the region to know that it is still open for business and the work done by its volunteers is more important than ever.
Formed by Tracy Sprague when she moved to the community 12 years ago, the Feral Cat Network currently has five key members plus some additional volunteers.
“We’re small, but we’re mighty,” said Sprague in a recent interview.
When Sprague first moved to Donalda, around 270 cats had overtaken the streets of the community.
“I thought, ‘What is going on?’” said Sprague.
Sprague and some other like-minded individuals began working to deal with the cats in the community, mainly through getting them fixed and finding homes for the “friendly” ones.
As the organization grew, they began working to reunite lost cats with their homes as well — when unclaimed, those cats would go up for adoption.
Unfortunately, with the closure of Stettler’s Animal Haven Rescue League, the organization’s work has picked up.
Being relatively close to Stettler, if cats are roaming loose in that community the Feral Cat Network will sometimes get the call.
Sprague recounted a story where recently a cat was found in distress near the P&H Elevator. Sprague hit the road for Stettler as soon as she was able.
“He was on the curb, shaking,” said Sprague.
The cat, named Cheddar, was assessed at the vet in Stettler before being taken to the vet in Bashaw for further diagnostic testing.
“He needed overnight observation,” said Sprague.
Because of that need, Cheddar was ultimately taken to the Red Deer Animal Hospital, but it was all for naught. When the vets began giving the feline intravenous fluids, he developed a heart murmur and the staff found he had an enlarged heart. His lungs filled up and he began having trouble breathing. The decision was made that he needed to be put down.
“I couldn’t let him suffer,” said Sprague.
“We made the decision to peacefully let him go.”
Sprague wonders how long the cat was on the street, and if earlier intervention could have saved him.
“We’ve lost our care and compassion,” said Sprague.
“I wasn’t the first person to see him … it’s just sad.”
The entire episode left the rescue with $500 in vet bills, but according to Sprague the cost, and being able to help these felines who can’t always help themselves, is worth it. Sprague said if people aren’t able to help these small creatures, “What are we doing to each other?”
Fortunately, The Feral Cat Network is not alone in the fight. Sprague says that her organization works closely with Alix-based Saving Grace Animal Society, Calgary-based Animal Rescue Crew Society, and others.
Still, it’s not easy, says Sprague, who works full time on top of being involved with the rescue.
Sprague says that once she gets off work, she is usually busy caring for the cats until 11:30 p.m. or midnight, and her days off are full of cat rescue business.
Currently, the Feral Cat Network has 35 cats in care, 24 in their own building in Donalda.
“That’s 12 over capacity,” said Sprague, dryly.
“Fosters are hard to find.”
Sprague says that she does get contacted by people from Red Deer and Edmonton willing to sponsor, however, that includes a significant amount of travel time for herself or one of the other dedicated volunteers.
What is desperately needed in the region, says Sprague, are fosters in the region. The Feral Cat Network supplies all the needs of the animal, people just need to be willing to open their home.
For those who might be willing to foster, or wondering what animals are available for adoption, head over to the Feral Cat Network Facebook page.