Making a home for stray cats
By Liz Dadson

The Pet Page

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"Milo" (L) and "Lucy" relax on the swing on the back deck at the home of Donna Coughlan and Phil White in Kincardine

"Cleo" watches from her perch in the cat enclosure

Donna Coughlan has a house full of cats.

While the Kincardine woman loves the felines, she would really like to adopt some of them out, and is looking for ways to help pay the cost of their upkeep and inspire a Spay/Neuter Release program.

Coughlan has five cats of her own which she and her partner, Phil White, have rescued over the past two years. She has another five that were rescued after the mother cat was killed on the road. And she has some kittens, two of which have been adopted out already.

"We rescued two cats beside the Kincardine Scout Hall last winter," she says. "They were wild cats and had never been near people. That's when we started opening our home to strays, taking care of them and trying to find homes for them."

An admitted animal lover, Coughlan has a dog, "Sweetie," that she rescued when the dog was 12. "Sweetie" is now 17 and has helped transform at least one of the feral cats from wild to loving.

"When I was very young, I wanted to become a zoologist and work with all kinds of animals," says Coughlan. Now the administrator at Malcolm Place Retirement Residence in Kincardine, she finds her passion for caring about animals and their welfare has not changed.

She also has great support from her employers, Brenda and Russ Bateman.

"I make a home for these stray cats because I care," says Coughlan. "The first kitten we took in was 'Peppi', then along came 'Smokey' and 'Nyxy'."

From there, she has branched out to taking in whole families of strays, including "Tommy" and "Cleo" and their four kittens. Then, "Bella" and her five kittens.

"We had a pretty full house by this time," she says. "Then one day I got a call - two females, eight months old, were going to be taken back to where they were picked up because their adopted home did not work out. They were lovely sisters - long hair calico, short hand calico tabby. So, I welcomed 'Gracie' and 'Lucy'."

Turns out 'Lucy" was expecting kittens, so three more were added to the household.

Two of those kittens have been adopted out, but Coughlan still has "Milo" who will have to be adopted by the right person because he will require an operation for an overbite later on.

One of the other kittens, "Midnight," had an open wound in his throat due to an infection, which needed to be fixed.

With all these cats around, White decided to build a special enclosure, allowing them to be outside but keeping them from wandering away.

"I have about 15 cats here right now," says Coughlan, including her own five. She can't take anymore strays and is hoping people will be interested in adopting some of the animals she has. They all have their first shots and all but the kittens have been spayed or neutered.

Available for adoption are: "Gracie" and "Lucy" (sisters); "Midnight," "Blackie," "Shadow," "Billie", "Ginger," and kittens "Little Spook" and "Sterling."

When a cat is adopted out, Coughlan asks for a donation. That proves the new owner is committed to care for the cat. It's similar to the way Cozy Cat Kennels works, owned and operated by Helga Szekely, in Kincardine.

Coughlan calls her cat rescue "Allies for Alley Catz" and, with the help of photographer friend Chris Wood of Vancouver, she has created a 2012 calendar in support of a Spay/Neuter Release program. The calendar features several of her cats along with some cute sayings and graphics.

They are $20 each and are available at the Queen Street Vet Clinic, and Pet Valu (formerly Critter Cravings) or by contacting Coughlan by E-mail at dcoughlan@tnt21.com

"I am self-funded and the calendars are a fund-raising effort to help cover some of the costs of spaying, neutering, shots, etc," says Coughlan. "I also hope to educate people by doing some public speaking on the subject and gain support of the public in finding a happy solution to the stray cat population explosion."

She says the Spay/Neuter Release program needs the support of the community and the municipality for it to work. If feral cats are found, volunteers live-trap them and take them to the vet where they stay for two days and are either spayed or neutered and have their first shots.

They are then put back into their cat colonies with volunteers manning feeding stations, and within three years, the number of stray cats will have decreased dramatically, says Coughlan, and the remaining cats will be healthier and happier and less of a nuisance to wildlife and humans.

The program works in Stratford and it can work here, says Coughlan.

Her mantra in caring for the stray cats is a quote from Edward Everett Hale: "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do."

The following cats are available for adoption:

Pumpkin" is available for adoption through Donna Coughlan at dcoughlan@tnt21.com  A young, neutered, male cat, he is completely loveable, very sweet and gentle.

"Billie" is a male tabby cat, seven months old

"Blackie" is a male, seven month sold

"Ginger" is a male, seven months old

"Gracie" is a year-old, long-hair calico female

"Lucy" is a year-old, short-hair calico tabby female

"Midnight is a male, seven months old, likes to be snuggled

"Shadow" is a female, seven months old, a little shy

"Sterling" is a seven-week-old kitten, needs first shots

Donna Coughlan cuddles with "Milo"

"Gracie" looks down from her perch

"Peppi" is the first kitten Donna Coughlan took into her home three years ago

"Smokey" mugs for the camera

Donna Coughlan holds "Little Spook" beside her other new kitten, "Sterling"

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Thursday, November 17, 2011