Fort Oglethorpe resident Gloria Stafford recently noticed two stray cats roaming her neighborhood. "One was pregnant," says Stafford, "and the other one looked like he was starving, his sides were so sunken in."
Stafford was worried about both cats. Her own cat is a rescue whose kittens had been run over, and she was concerned the scenario was about to repeat itself. "I thought the other cat was a male," she says. "It was so pitiful."
Unwilling to watch the emaciated cat starve, Stafford put out a little food for it. "It just ate and ate and ate," she says.
CCAC rescues hundreds of cats and dogs a year. Local vets and clinics offer discounted services to the group, which depends on donations and the many fundraisers it conducts to cover costs. Petsense provides facilities and help in their Fort Oglethorpe store for adopting out cats rescued by CCAC. For more information about adopting a cat or dog, to volunteer, or to donate, contact CCAC at 706-937-2287 or catoosacitizensforanimalcare.org.
Stafford called ChattaNeuter, a new spay and neuter clinic in Chattanooga, and they referred her to Catoosa Citizens for Animal Care. CCAC volunteer Lynne Hall set out to see what the situation was, not realizing that the expectant cat had already had her kittens.
"I caught both cats," says Hall. "When I took them to ChattaNeuter to get them fixed, it turned out both were female. The starving cat was already spayed and the other cat had given birth shortly before we caught her."
Hall returned to Stafford’s neighborhood to look for the kittens. Another neighbor said he’d seen the mother cat go into a storm drain. Stafford was able to hear the kittens crying, and Hall called 911 for assistance.
Help came in the form of Lt. Steve Blevins of the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department and Mike Housley from the city’s water department.
"They were awesome," says Stafford. "You could tell they loved animals. They were baby-talking the kittens and acted like they really cared."
Housley lowered himself into the storm drain and found three tiny kittens, no more than two days old, and handed them out to Blevins.
"I wasn’t sure what to do at that point," says Hall. "All our fosters who take newborn kittens were full." Hall decided to take the kittens to Petsense in Fort Oglethorpe. She knew they needed to be fed soon.
Fortunately, Petsense dog trainer Esther Sindler was in the store. Sindler, who is also the volunteer coordinator for Happinest Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation, had the experience needed to take the situation in hand. She mixed up some kitten formula and got the babies drinking immediately.
"The mama cat," says Hall, "wasn’t back from her spay yet. And we weren’t sure if she’d be able or willing to feed the kittens after being operated on."
As it turned out, Greta, as the mother cat is now known, was happy to see her babies when she was returned to them and fell back into mothering like a pro. The little family is staying with Hall for the time being.
"Officer Blevins and Mike Housley were just great" says Hall. "We’re so grateful for their assistance. We’re grateful for Gloria for caring enough to find help for the cats and for Esther, who not only knew how to help the newborns but cared for them until Greta was able to get back to her job."
Hall says she’s working on getting Stella, the starving cat, fattened up and ready for adoption. "She’s a white and gray, long-haired cat with big yellow eyes – very verbal and tame."
Greta, says Hall, will be ready for adoption when her kittens are weaned, and the kittens should be ready around Christmastime.