The Grieco Community Cat Care Center is looking to make strides in helping reduce the number of cats loose in Rhode Island communities.
The center, which plans to open later this month, will house divisions of Scruffy Paws Animal Rescue and Paws Watch. The two organizations will work collaboratively to help the thousands of cats roaming the streets in a number of ways.
Truly feral cats, center volunteer Pam Fisette said, are trapped, neutered and released – or “TNR” – back into the wild to help prevent population growth. Friendly cats, though, are allowed to stay, socialize with other kittens and get put up for adoption.
It’s a mission in life that Fisette, co-director Dianne LaPointe and Scruffy Paws director Stephanie Pinto have enjoyed for several years. The latter two met rescuing kittens and mother cats born in a home in Providence. LaPointe said she has been trapping for two decades, previously using any spare space she had in her home or car to take care of cats pre- and post-operation.
“So, every time I did a trapping, I’d keep them in my garage, my breezeway, my car, my extra room in my house,” LaPointe said. “Then I’d have to bleach that room out for the next trapping, which left us only trapping not as many cats as we’d want to because we would have never made a dent in the population, the overpopulation of cats.”
Then, Mike Grieco allowed her to use his collision center, which allowed the number of cats receiving care to skyrocket. LaPointe said 80 percent were put up for adoption and foster care, while the remainder were released to reunite with their feral colonies. LaPointe heaped praise on the Griecos for their assistance in making the center a reality.
“At least we had the opportunity to evaluate them, instead of just dumping them back out on the streets and thinking they could’ve slept on somebody’s bed,” LaPointe said.
Fisette said that, through conversations with those who “dumped” their cat, she’s been told owners are apprehensive about taking their pets to shelters out of fear they will be killed. Fisette said, though, that abandoning cats on the streets leaves them vulnerable to predators, such as coyotes.
Pinto reasoned that cat owners may feel forced to abandon their pets if they are in financial turmoil. She said a majority of the cats that Scruffy Paws receives are going to be left outside, as their owners are in the midst of foreclosure and cannot afford to pay $50 owner surrender fees at shelters.
Scruffy Paws, and by extension the Community Cat Care Center, will not charge owner surrender fees. However, if owners are able to do so, the center welcomes donations.
“We run on donations,” Pinto said. “We need those to keep going. So if it’s somebody who had their child develop some allergy or something and they’re willing to donate to the cat going to a new home and going to the vet.”
LaPointe said the center is seeking out all sorts of volunteers, from data entry and transport help to plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. She emphasized that the center is searching for a veterinarian to work at the nonprofit, which has a room dedicated to veterinary needs.
She said she also welcomes trappers and those willing to foster cats, which would allow those interested to socialize the cat for some time until it is ready for adoption.
“You take a cat in and it’s almost on the verge of being social, to want to sleep on somebody’s bed, but it just needs this much love,” LaPointe said. “So we trust to have fosters to take those cats, socialize them, and then we can put them up for adoption. It’s like you don’t own the cat, you don’t keep the cat, you just socialize the cat.”
Those who would like to volunteer can go to scruffypawsanimalrescue.com or the Community Cat Care Center Facebook page. There were a few volunteers at the Center during the interview on Tuesday afternoon, and LaPointe accepts walk-ins.
“I’m here every day just opening up the door for anybody that reads the sign and volunteers, so if somebody’s looking to volunteer, great,” LaPointe said. “Come on in, I’ll take your name and I’ll evaluate it and get you started.”