Feline friends care for the homeless

Published Dec 18, 2013 at 6:13 am (Updated Dec 13, 2013 at 1:31 pm)

Pets can be a joy. They offer companionship and unconditional love. Household furry friends provide a continuous source of social stimulation and tend to give their owners opportunities to be more physically active. Pet owners are reported to have lower cholesterol than nonpet owners.

Unfortunately, there are countless domesticated animals that are without a home and are barely surviving. During harsh winter months, extra help is needed to protect them from the elements. Hunting for food and a warm, dry hideaway, strays and homeless cats roam cities and small towns in rural and neighborhood communities.

As an educated society, adults should accept more responsibility for feline overpopulation. Fewer cold, starving or ill cats would be living outdoors and reproducing if responsible men and women would be less indifferent and more caring.

The Fluffyjean Fund for Felines is a low-cost spay and neuter program providing surgeries in a safe and humane environment for cats in Washington County. The volunteer program is dedicated to eliminating the pain and suffering of uncontrolled breeding. With help from Animal Friends and Brush Run Veterinary Clinic, this year alone, Fluffyjean will have spayed or neutered more than 700 felines, and is raising its goal to 1,000 in 2014.

FJF schedules Animal Friends Mobile Units at locations in Washington County several times a month from spring to early fall.

“I’ve picked up cats and taken them to AF before heading to Duquesne University where I teach, and return them to their homes later in the day,” said Faith Bjalobok of Peters Township, initiator of FJF. “My Invisible Cat seminars educate people about homeless cats, focusing on ethical and social justice issues. Also, I’m writing a book on animal ethics, with chapters on our moral obligations to ill and aging animals and on killing as animal control.”

Under the umbrella of In-Care-Of-Cats, FJF recently received a grant of 2,000 pounds of 9 Lives dry cat food from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The grant was made possible by the Del Monte Foods Morris Rescue Program.

“The roundtrip drive to the Del Monte warehouse in Bloomsburg to pick up the food was nearly 500 miles,” Bjalobok said. “The next day, representatives from Fix ‘ur Cat, In-Care-of-Cats, Valley Pet and numerous colony caretakers in Houston, Canonsburg, Peters, Venetia, Charleroi, Monongahela and Washington received bags of food to help feed homeless cats who are victims of human irresponsibility. FJF also assists in providing low or no-cost food to feed about 400 additional Washington County cats on a regular basis.”

The use of easily accessible neuter/spay services continues to reduce feline births. This service is critical to stopping the reproduction cycle.

Shelters providing care for abandoned, homeless cats are also available, but most are filled to capacity. The mission of Animal Friends is to ensure the well-being of companion animals, while ending overpopulation, abuse and unwarranted euthanasia. Each cat brought to Animal Friends is given a health-check, tested for feline leukemia and FIV, and either neutered or spayed to eliminate offspring. They are groomed for adoption and their personalities determined as to the type of household that would suit them best.

This year, volunteers at the AF outreach adoption site in the Petco store on Fort Couch Road in Bethel Park have found homes for 125 loving senior cats and kittens, each one eager for a place to call home. Currently waiting for a caring family are a number of beautifully groomed and sociable felines. The family of “Shrinkles,” a brown and white tabby female, had to give her up due to a change in family living circumstances. She enjoys greeting visitors and hopes to spend Christmas in a loving home.

“All animals brought to Animal Friends stay with us until they are adopted,” said Amy Green, adoption team leader. “Our cats don’t have a shelf life, their time here is not limited.”

Cats are social animals and suffer without interaction and companionship. They bear needless discomfort when they and their homeless litters cry from hunger and cold. Traffic, disease, parasites and undomesticated animals also are causes for concern.

Feral populations grow by the dumping of unwanted cats and their breeding, contributing to homeless cat colonies. Animal advocates can’t solve these problems alone. As adults, we should not be blind to these issues. We need to teach our children about caring for our furry friends’ needs.

To contact FJF, call 724-941-3991 or email faith.b2@verizon.net.

At Animal Friends, volunteers are available during adoption hours, 6-9 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon-4 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. For information on cat adoptions, call 412-835-6008.

EEN: Animal Friends was once again voted the Best Place to Adopt a Pet by readers of Pittsburgh City Paper. AF offers free straw for bedding to anyone who cares for outdoor pets or feral cats. Call 412-847-7000.

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