Stray and feral cats spur action from Thumb-Area community members

A Caseville resident’s encounter with a stray cat led her to join the effort to bring veterinary care and shelter to Huron County.

Rebecca Caldwell spoke during the public comment period at the December 13 meeting in Huron County to share an encounter she had with a stray cat while having dinner over the summer.

“I am here today to discuss my concern over the increasing number of feral cats in Huron County, particularly in Caseville,” Caldwell said. “Perhaps of even greater concern is the lack of remedies in our county to address this issue. … What a feral cat will endure in this harsh winter climate without food or shelter is cruel and inhumane. Simply put, they must suffer freezing temperatures and often ensuing death for these poor kitties.”

Caldwell said that while she was having dinner with her friends at an outdoor venue, a stray cat approached her and started rubbing up against her and meowing. She was not the only one to speak since Donna Corriveau, a resident of Port Austin, was present at the meeting. She also spoke about the treatment of stray and feral cats.

“I would like to congratulate Rebecca for planting the seed because all of us animals have had a vision for many years,” Corriveau said. “I’ve been in animal rescue, community education. I’ve worked for shelters for almost 45 years and we really need something here. Every town in the state I’ve lived in had an animal sanctuary. Currently I manage a feral colony in Port Austin. We personally trap, neuter, spay, nurse and shelter. Currently there are between 10 and 13 cats. … I might like to get the ball rolling in the county, if we could get together and brainstorm to get something started…. There’s a lot of things we can do because a lot of people are worried.

It was encounters like this that led Caldwell to get involved with the nonprofit organization Thumb Kitties TNR & Adoption. This organization focuses on treating, neutering, and releasing feral and stray cats in the thumb area. The group also provides temporary shelter and connects cats with foster homes, which will hopefully lead to adoption.

“I’m advocating for feral cats,” Caldwell said. “Because of the lack of recourse, it’s a lot of work. I kind of feel like this issue is being pushed under the rug. It’s disheartening.”

She explained that the nearest animal shelter in Elkton is a dog-only shelter. Caldwell said she understands why some shelters are exclusive to animals, but still finds the lack of resources upsetting. The closest cat shelter is in Bay City. Most people aren’t prepared to make the trek with a cat in tow, and Caldwell says the shelter is usually full.

This is where Thumb Kitties tries to fulfill those appeals. Caldwell says his work with Kelly King, who helps organize efforts, assists with trapping, veterinary care and rehoming of cats. King, who was not immediately available for comment, is working to round up all the cats she can, along with other volunteers, to transport to Flint. There, cats can receive the care they need, from neutering to vaccinations to treat common feline illnesses. Once they have been taken in, they are sent back either to be adopted and taken in as a new pet or to be released, now neutered/neutered so they cannot reproduce in the wild.

“It’s a lot for these kitties to endure,” Caldwell says. “My heart goes out to her and the whole group. Many of the (volunteers) who work with Kelly have outdoor shelters. It’s about raising awareness and standing up for the kittens. It’s heartwarming to see the community get involved. When The people of Port Austin also made complaints to the board, I started to cry I’m glad I’m not alone.

What’s next for Caldwell and the TNR & Adoption Thumb Kitties? The group’s long-term goal is to raise enough funds to create a shelter that can also provide veterinary care. The group is a non-profit organization, hopes for the support of the county council and hopes to obtain grants in the future. In the meantime, he is still accepting donations of cat food and litter as well as funding to support ongoing efforts.

“It’s going to take more than the county council, it’s going to take the community,” Caldwell said. “If we had the resources, we could give these kitties a better life.”