Pat McCracken has worked tirelessly to rescue and assist stray cats in Jefferson County. She has estimated that she has spent thousands of dollars in efforts to trap strays, vaccinate, spay or neuter and feed animals from Kabletown to Shepherdstown. After treating the animals and making sure they are socialized, she works to find them homes.
That is where the problem lies-there are not enough homes to be found.
Many of the cats McCracken rescues are wild and may not be suitable for indoor family living.
"I am looking for farms to adopt them out to," she said.
One farm that was a popular spot for her rescued felines now has a dog that tends to attack the cats. While kittens are more easily acclimated to a dog, she shared, adult cats would not be so easily placed there.
"I don't think people understand how hard it is to find homes," she said this week. When speaking of a hope for farmsteads to offer housing, she said that the cats simply need some shelter and someone who is willing to feed and water them.
"They don't need to be indoor cats," she said. And, before the cats travel to a new home, they are spayed or neutered so they don't breed, producing a new generation of homeless cats.
"And if the home doesn't work out, I will take them back and find them a new home," McCracken said.
Currently the Kabletown resident is seeking homes for seven kittens and four "farm" cats. All cats have been or will be spayed or neutered and receive a clean bill of health from the veterinarian.
McCracken said that Ranson Animal Hospital's Dr. Wilt and his staff have been instrumental in helping with her cat rescue efforts. '
"Dr. Wilt and his staff have worked with me like these were my own personal kittens. I don't know what I would have done without them," she said in reference to making sure all the potential adoptees are healthy and ready to move on.
McCracken has been an animal rescue advocate in the area for about three years. She has developed an outreach with others who help feed and trap cats throughout the area. She then works with vets like Dr. Wilt to address health issues and make the cats ready for homes. Often cats are returned where they were trapped after a visit to the vet for a spay/neuter procedure. But there are many, like the ones she is temporarily housing now, who need to find safe homes.
McCracken said, trapping these cats and having the females spayed will help eliminate additional litters in the future. She has been able to trap, secure the treatments, provide "foster" housing through a recuperation period after surgery and then release the animals, sometimes back where they were found and sometimes at farms or other locations. But it is getting more and more difficult to keep up with the demand, she said.
She also said that there has been an increase in kittens and cats this winter season.
"The problem is increasing," she said. She went on to explain that the financial, physical and emotional drain is becoming difficult to deal with.
"I can't do it alone," she said.
McCracken said that she hopes to educate people on the need to be responsible for cats and have them spayed to avoid unwanted increase in litters.
"I can't take them," she stressed, but McCracken can provide information on how to prepare them for placement in other homes.
"If nothing else, take them to a shelter," she said, rather than simply leaving them loose. While Briggs and Jefferson County's Animal Welfare are often "full" and won't take additional cats, McCracken said that Berkeley County's shelter will take them and make every effort to adopt them out.
Those who have questions about how to secure a lower cost spay or neutering may contact McCracken at 304-724-5599 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More importantly, any local farmer who has room for some farm cats are encouraged to contact her. Those wishing to adopt one of the kittens "fostering" with McCracken may also call.
She explained that she does have some stipulations with regard to adopting out kittens. Among those are that she won't allow the animals to go to home where the potential owner plans to de-claw. She feels that is not good practice. She also stresses that these animals are not the best fit for homes where there are young children, especially because they are often "wild" and many not be suitable yet for youngsters.