Sunday, January 24, 2010


A Tale of Three Kitties

We are a rescue. If you have ever sat in one of my presentations or taken a tour here with me, I can tell you stories of Magic for hours. You bring up a topic and I've got a story. On and on and on. I've got stories if you've got the time. I love to tell their stories.

But my one single message is this: We are a rescue. We rescue. That's what we do. Be it horses or humans, we rescue. And even though we have ample opportunity to do so, we decline the offers to rescue dogs and cats and llamas and goats and pigs. We specialize in and we are built for horses. And so we rescue horses.

Well, my Mother taught me there is always an exception to every rule. And this past month in the last few hours before the arctic air of winter blew in, one of our steady volunteers responded to a call to rescue some kittens. Yup, we had kittens in the old barn at THE FARM.

I did my best to wait it out and see if Mama was around. But soon I saw that they were not supported by the Mama and so I placed a call to Colleen. And true to her heart, Colleen responded. This woman will go the distance to save a life. And save a life she did.

But I'm not going to tell the story. I've asked Colleen to tell you about her rescue and she has. So read on. And yes, we rescue. We rescue horses and humans. And, oh yeah, just recently we rescued some kitties, too.

Bless you, Colleen! And thank you from those precious little lives you saved!


The email appeared in my inbox on Tuesday, December 1st. It was from Sandy, telling me about some kittens she could hear crying in the old barn and could I come and live-trap them? I’ve done a little rescue and fostering of kittens in the last couple years and Sandy knew this.

Earlier this spring at Refuge Farms, there had been four black and white kittens about three or four months old that appeared in the big barn for a day before scattering to the winds. Wild kitties. Feral kitties*. And later, an adult black and white cat had been seen just once or twice during the summer, walking down the driveway. But nothing since then.

But on this Tuesday in December, two black and white kittens were crying and running out of the barn to the sunshine, then scooting back in and hiding whenever Sandy approached them.

Temperatures had been okay for that time of year – 30’s or 40’s – but it was supposed to get single digit cold and windy in a few days. Kittens can survive if they have that eight pounds of mama’s fur to sustain them, but not alone. And mama hadn’t been seen. And these babies were hungry.

Upon arriving at THE FARM I saw them in the barn door opening. Then they went out into the pasture with the horses. Little one pound balls of fur juxtaposed against 1500 pounds of horseflesh! But ironically, both were just rescues in need. As we walked over, the kittens scampered back into the barn, crying all the way.

We set out canned cat food on a paper plate in front of the riding lawn mower parked inside the barn, and within 30 seconds the first one came out (Liam) and started eating. Barn gloves were on and he was quickly picked up. He did not fuss or resist at all. We put him in a carrier with food and the process started again.

The second kitty, Lucy, took a bit more time. She was scared and hesitant. When I picked her up, she resisted a little but we got her in the carrier, too. They both started eating, and then peered out at us, trembling in fright or cold; most likely a combination of both.

We set off to our good friends at Eau Claire County Humane Association (ECCHA) where one of the workers had offered to foster-care these two. Feral kittens are special needs babies. They need lots of love, petting, and socializing. Important to note – feral kittens are easily tamable up until about six weeks of age. Seven weeks is still do-able, but they need a LOT of care. And once they’re eight weeks or older, it’s very, very difficult . . . these babies were just five weeks old, so we were still in time!

The bitter cold temps hit by that weekend and we held the Applebee’s Breakfast in Menomonie. And then . . . Monday morning I received another email – there was another kitten! I started to reply I would try to leave work early, but in five seconds a flood of thoughts went through my head . . . it was six days later . . . this one was by itself . . . no idea when it ate last . . . it was now six weeks old and harder to tame . . . and then, my last thought . . . “I cannot sit at my computer for five hours while this kitten is outside freezing and hungry”. So I checked with my bosses and said I was taking a “long lunch” and headed once more to THE FARM.

This kitten (Lennie) talked to us – a very nasally, duck-like quacking meow! So adorable! He also took three of us just over an hour to catch. When he ran into Pam’s (gloved!) hands, he hissed and spit, so she got him into the carrier immediately. Lennie was reunited with his brother and sister and I was back to work by the afternoon.

And we were just in time – approximately 24 hours later the first snow storm of the season hit and dumped 14 inches of snow on us! There was no way Lennie would have survived after that.

So fast forward to now . . . Liam, Lucy, and Lennie have spent about eight weeks in foster care and are now beautiful, happy healthy three-month old kittens. Their foster mom, Tammy, told me a little about them:

When she first took them home, they were really petrified; hissing and spitting a lot! Much more so than when we rescued them. During their rescue they were hungry, cold and dazed, but once they were warm and fed, the wild reactions came out!

After several days they calmed down and after several weeks they were socialized quite a bit. Tammy has two other adult foster cats in her home, and they, along with Tammy’s children, all helped socialize the kittens. Lucy caught an upper respiratory infection and for two days had to be given fluids; all the while hoping it did not develop into pneumonia.

Liam – the first one we caught – is the spunkiest of all, and the most playful. He was the first one to become tame. He is not a dominant kitty, but rather, he watches out for his siblings … he is a caretaker.

Lucy – the second one rescued – is really quiet and shy. She hissed the most and even growled on occasion, but eventually came around to trust humans. She is now very playful and even purrs. She loves to be brushed, and in the beginning that was the only thing that would keep her in Tammy’s lap.

And Lennie – our last rescue. At first he was the smallest, skinniest one, but he quickly caught up to his siblings in size! And he quickly warmed up to humans once he was back with his siblings. He is a “water-kitty” – loves getting in the tub when the faucet is dripping and will get all wet while lapping at the drops.

All three like to sleep around your chest or head, or as Tammy will say, “And sometimes on top of your head!” and they will wake you up by licking your face!

If you have been thinking about adopting a kitten, these are easy-going, lovable darlings in need of a forever home. Tammy is hoping that Lucy might be adopted with one of her brothers, as she has such a quiet and shy personality; it would do her good to stay with one of them.

Rescue animals come in all shapes and sizes, and each time you rescue one, it makes you rest a little easier. Driving home after delivering these babies to safety, I slept well.

- Colleen B. of Eau Claire, WI

If you are interested in adopting any of these kittens, please contact the
Eau Claire County Humane Association at 715-839-4747. Please refer to the ID numbers below.

Liam #2179
Lucy #2180
Lennie #2209


* Feral is defined as “domesticated animals that have become wild … escaped, and living and breeding in the wild … a domestic animal that has taken up a wild existence.”

Feral cats are found everywhere across the U.S. - in large cites, small towns, in urban and rural areas everywhere. Where do all these cats come from? Many are kittens born to feral cats. Others were once-tame pets that lost their way, and in time because absorbed into the feral lifestyle. They breed, roam, fight and live a day-to-day existence just to survive.

The non-profit organization “Ally Cat Allies” is dedicated to protecting and improving the lives of cats such as these. They started a program called Trap-Neuter-Return, or TNR for short. Simply stated, if there is a feral cat colony somewhere, and there is a caretaker willing to feed and monitor them, the cats are live-trapped and altered at a local veterinary clinic, often times with the help of low-cost spaying programs or in coordination with area shelters. A few days later they are returned to the colony, and the caretaker monitors and feeds them on a regular basis.

Years of research have proven this works. The colony does not grow, it stabilizes and often times gets smaller as the cats slowly grow old and pass, often living up to 10 years of age or more. City governments save money since animal control departments go on less nuisance calls, and shelters save money because they are not holding, then euthanizing unadoptable cats. And the cats live. It’s a win-win all the way around.

For more information on TNR, and saving stray or feral cats, please visit Ally Cat Allies at

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