By Debra Bell
Special to The Weekly
Cold weather makes humans want to bundle up, but what about the animals who live among us?
They’re cold, too. And if they are homeless, then the cold weather is even more dangerous.
Among such animals are feral cats, which are fearful of people and take time to rehabilitate if they are going to go into a home. Sometimes feral cats can’t be placed in a home; however, they can be cared for.
Feral cats may have started out as lost or abandoned cats, or they are the product of cats that were lost or abandoned and who were not spayed or neutered. Female cats can reproduce between two and three times a year and can produce litters of between four to six kittens. Kittens can reproduce as early as four or five months old. Without intervention, the cycle continues, and feral colonies grow.
Just ask Shannan Bodwell and Rachel McLeod, owners of Rachel and Shannan Grooming Salon, located at 115 Main St., Winterport.
A barn near the pet-grooming salon had become a haven for feral cat colonies. When Bodwell and McLeod opened their business two years ago, they greed that they wanted a salon cat. At the nearby barn they discovered a female black cat weighing five pounds and within weeks of delivering a litter.
“We took Tipsy because she was blind, and she seemed to need the most help immediately,” McLeod said.
Since that first rescue two years ago, the Bodwell and McLeod have helped hundreds of cats in Winterport as well as in Milo. Bodwell and McLeod catch feral cats, transport them to Ridge Runner Veterinary Center in Winterport for spay or neuter surgery, and then bring some lucky cats to the salon. Time at the salon acclimates the cat to people and dogs and results in developing cats that will be good pets.
“It’s good for them when they come here,” Bodwell said. “They can come out and see people. They get used to the noises, seeing people, dogs. And a lot of cats pick their own home.”
But Bodwell and McLeod don’t do it alone. Recently Winterport residents banded together to help the town’s feral and barn cats. Rachel and Shannan Grooming Salon hosted a raffle with prizes donated by area merchants; this effort raised substantial funds for spaying and neutering 15 cats, as well as bringing the animals up to date with their shots, worming, and other medical treatment. The raffle was so successful that Bodwell and McLeod did not have to pay for any of the care out of pocket — and they have built a little buffer of funds to help more cats in the area.
But Rachel and Shannan Grooming Salon is not a place to deposit cats; it’s a place to help them. Bodwell and McLeod accept funds to offset the cost of medical treatment and spay/neuter surgeries and to feed and care for the cats they rescue.
For more information call 223-5550 or log onti randsgrooming.webs.com.
Want to know more about feral cats in Maine? There are several rescues including Portland’s Friends of Feral Felines (feralfelines.net) and Gouldsboro’s Forgotten Felines of Maine (forgottenfelinesofmaine.org).
Debra Bell is a freelance writer and graphic designer and is the owner of the pet photography business Bell’s Furry Friends Photography (a division of Bell Imaging & Design LLC). She and her husband, Bill, are owned by Olivia, a Maine coon cat, and a greyhound named Laura. She is the author of the “Critters” blog. Find it online at bffpetphotos.com/critters-blog.html.