Kitchener Stray Cat Rescue dedicated to rescue, rehabilitation

By Isabel Buckmaster

Kitten season is every season for Kitchener Stray Cat Rescue. 

An organization dedicated to cat rescue and rehabilitation, the self-funded, community-run facility is located across from Cameron Heights Secondary School and spans 3500 square feet, including a kitten lounge that is open on weekends. 

“In my mind, cats are the forgotten animals outside, you know, if you're driving down a road and you see a dog, everyone will stop to help a dog right? But anyone who sees a cat, will just keep driving,” said Tammy Tanner, owner of Kitchener Stray Cat Rescue. “The amount of emails and calls we get even daily is extreme.” 

Tanner has been rescuing cats since she was a little girl. Before she started Kitchener Stray Cat Rescue, she would monitor social media for cats in need of help and rescue them from her basement. 

“Honestly, every city has a large number of stray cats,” said Tanner. “I receive cats from all over, not just Kitchener, often from the country where (the cat was) dumped outside.” 

In 2019, the Kitchener-Waterloo & Stratford Perth Humane Society studied homeless cats in the region. The study found over 140,000 cats live on the streets in Waterloo Region alone, suggesting a combination of both strays and feral cats.  

“There are some months where I'm like, ‘oh, God, okay, guys, we cannot rescue any more cats this month' because we have a lot of medicals that we have to take care of,” said Tanner. “We have to be very careful of how many cats we take in with major medical because honestly, 80 per cent of the cats that come in are major medical.” 

Receiving cats from all over the GTA, Tanner does most of the trapping for the facility using the T-N-R strategy (trap, neuter, release). However, most cats end up needing more medical care than a simple neuter which means that when Tanner finds one, they always go straight to a quarantine room to be screened for underlying diseases. 

“They have their litter box, their bed, their food and water and they stay in there till we find anything,” said Tanner. “Usually you'll see a virus of some sort come out within those quarantine periods.”

One of her fondest memories is of a rescue named Ming. Originally mistaking him as a female cat for his sagging, seemingly pregnant belly, Tanner took him to the vet only to discover that the swelling was from a bout of stomach cancer. When she found the cancer wasn’t causing any pain, Tanner decided to keep him rather than euthanize him. 

“Ming stayed with us at the facility for three loving months and he took all of our hearts when he passed,” said Tanner. “He actually died in my arms. This cat never experienced so much love that he probably did his whole entire life. It was beautiful.” 

Since opening its doors in January 2020, Tanner has prided herself on generating awareness for various feline diseases including feline AIDS (FIV). While most cats can live a normal life with treatment, FIV is extremely contagious to other cats and deadly if not detected in time. 

“Once I started doing FIV awareness, suddenly all of these FIV cats were getting adopted,” said Tanner. “And then they come back because they want a buddy FIV cat and I was like ‘are you kidding me?’ this is awesome.”

While the group focuses on rescues rather than surrenders, lately, they’ve been receiving at least four emails a week from individuals with pandemic pets that they don’t want anymore. 

“My main focus is to help the actual homeless cats outside because I can fill up the whole facility with people not wanting their cats anymore,” said Tanner. “But then at the back of my mind, I'm thinking ‘if I don't take it, is it just going to wind up outside anyways?’”

More information about the organization can be found on its website

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