Those of us who volunteer at the Winnipeg Humane Society have done so because of a love for, and enjoyment of, animals. For Claudia Allen, it’s more of a passion. She’s determined to help our feline friends.
“This is not the average relationship with the Humane Society,” Claudia explained. “I run Winnipeg Lost Cat Alert (WLCA). So it’s a community partnership with the WHS in different capacities.”
“A program I started, in 2017, was Scaredy Cat Academy (SCA). I continue to run that with the Winnipeg Humane Society, so we can help cats and kittens that would otherwise not be adoptable. We send them to specialized foster families who will socialize otherwise shy or feral cats or kittens. They stay in foster until they’re ready to be adopted and when they come back to the WHS, they go straight to adoptions after their health check.”
SCA was started because the WHS needed help with three feral kittens who were not social enough for adoption. It’s been successful by anyone’s standards. Since start-up, approximately 100 previously feral/shy cats and kittens have been saved and adopted. The cats and kittens come from the WHS or Winnipeg industrial colonies and are usually between four and 12 months old.
“It’s been a big project and I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in this short time,” Claudia said.
“I’m very fortunate the WHS wanted to be on board with that,” she elaborated. “We’re really happy with the outcomes and the people who’ve adopted these cats and kittens haven’t looked back. We’ve had one cat returned because she was too outgoing for the adopters. They brought her back and I think she was adopted again maybe 48 hours later.”
She added that some of the cats who are a bit older and less sociable might be referred to the WHS Barn Buddies program, which places cats at farms and businesses such warehouses or shops.
Claudia and the WHS Intake and Behaviour departments work with approximately 15 foster homes (and more are always needed – hint, hint!) to take in and care for cats and kittens for a, usually, two week to two month time frame.
One would think that running WLCA and SCA would take up much of Claudia’s spare time, especially given that she and her husband operate their own business. But no – there’s more…
“I also run a Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) program for industrial areas of Winnipeg as well as rural areas and some residential areas of Winnipeg (through the WHS Clinic),” she said. With this program, feral cats are trapped, spayed or neutered and returned to the area from where they came and are cared for, for the rest of their lives or as long as they stick around. Funding for Winnipeg area cats’ spays and neuters comes from the city of Winnipeg cat licensing revenues.
The TNR program began in the summer of 2017. It, too, has been a success – it soon will be booked up for the rest of the season, Claudia said.
People or businesses contact WHS or Winnipeg Lost Cat Alert about cats or colonies of cats. Volunteers from those businesses, or homeowners (if residential or rural) are provided detailed instruction and watch specialized humane traps. Once the cats have been trapped they are taken directly to the WHS Clinic where they are spayed/neutered and are, subsequently, returned to their home area.
In some cases, if a cat is young enough to be socialized, they will be turned over to WHS Intake for consideration for the SCA program. “You have maybe a year before a feral cat can no longer be socialized easily,” Claudia explained. “If they’re older and they have the option to stay where they are from, we like to take that opportunity because they are more comfortable being out there doing what wild animals do.” Claudia said most cat colonies have 15-20 cats but she came across one with 40. They were successfully TNRed, and some were adoptable.
“I’ve met a lot of really great people,” she said. “Very driven people that have surprised me. I’ve even met people who wanted all of their area cats killed, and when I offered this instead, they took me up on it. They’re happy with it. Often people don’t know this is available. They think the only option is putting cats down. The majority of them didn’t need to be convinced to use the TNR program. They didn’t know what to do. They just needed help.”
And if all this wasn’t enough, Claudia also works in the Adoptions department as a matchmaker, so WHS cats can find their perfect families and also with the Intake department on the Return to Field program. “It involves cats that are not feral, but are community cats that have been around awhile,” she pointed out. “They just need spaying and neutering and then they can go back to their community because people are feeding them. They go in and out of peoples’ houses. They just don’t have an owner, but they’re not feral.”
“You might go to Wolseley, for example, and someone will say ‘That’s Joe. He’s been around here for four years and there’s a lot of kittens here.’ Well, let’s get Joe neutered.”
Claudia’s tireless efforts are appreciated throughout the organization. “Claudia is always willing to help,” said Michelle Hedin of the Foster department. “I would say she loves cats more than people as she sees so much neglect in her travels. She will always go the extra mile if she can help out some cat, and she’s not afraid of hard work to help them out.”
Her dedication comes from an incident in her childhood. “I had a gorgeous long-haired tabby as a child.” Claudia explained. “She slept with me, brought her kittens to my room under my bed and one day, after being sick at the age of four (she had blood in her urine), she disappeared, never to return. In hindsight, she would have had a urinary tract infection that could have been sorted out had my parents known anything about cats and vet care at the time, but we were not from this country. They didn’t know what the right thing to do was and didn’t make good decisions on her behalf. They told me she went off to die, because that’s what they thought sick cats did. Through education and experience, they eventually learned how to care for pets properly. I always hope someone had picked my cat up and brought her to WHS or gave her a good home. I just don’t want other cats, kids and adults to be without resources, so I do what I can to help.
Written by: Brian Kozak, Volunteer MVP Writer
Photo by: Jim Harvey, Volunteer MVP Photographer
A group of volunteers founded the Winnipeg Humane Society in 1894 and are vital to our success today! With the help of volunteers, we can provide care, love and attention to our four (and sometimes two) legged friends until they find their forever homes. The MVP (Monthly Volunteer Profile) will recognize the work and get to know these special MVP’s in a spotlight each month that includes an article and photo shoot. MVPs will receive a framed photo and gift card as our thanks!
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