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The grey kitten on the veterinarian’s table sits very still as his medicine is injected.
No meowing. No struggling. No hissing.
Traumatized, says the vet matter-of-factly.
The kitten, and six others in the crate beside him, comes from a now-notorious Merritt Road cat property in Beamsville.
It’s a place where volunteers from Beamsville4Paw Rescue have been sifting through dozens of corpses of dead cats and picking out the living for the past week and a half.
The property, they say, was a cat drop-off site — the rented home of a cat hoarder believed to have abandoned it months ago, leaving felines in the triple digits to fend for themselves through disease, injury and starvation.
“After 20 years of doing this, I know feral. These aren’t feral,” said Pam Huson, owner of Beamsville4Paw Rescue.
“These guys are forgottens.”
A community effort to save those that can still be saved has led to moments like this on the vet’s table at Livingston Animal Hospital in Grimsby.
Huson cuddles a kitten as Dr. Mayanna Burmeister gives it a complete physical exam.
The cat and his peers from different litters did not have an appointment.
Burmeister was about to close shop early Saturday when Huson appeared at the door with a seven-kitten problem.
A well-meaning resident had gone to the Merritt Road property in an attempt to aid the rescue effort and scooped up the kittens. After seeing Huson on the TV news telling people not to take the cats — the rescue groups are trying to document the numbers, keep babies with moms and get them proper medical attention — he dropped off the cats to Huson while she was promoting Beamsville4Paws Rescue at a PetValu store.
“The public’s hearts break,” Huson says. “Everybody wants to do something.”
Burmeister’s vet clinic was directly next door and she kept her door open.
“They are underweight, all bony, with big abdomens full of worms,” the vet says. One has an eye infection.
She gives them their shots for worms, fleas and lice. With further medical treatment, they’ll all be OK.
Veterinarian care isn’t cheap though, even with a discount like today.
Huson says her group has already rescued 70 cats from Merritt Road. Twenty have received medical attention and are in foster homes. The other 50 are with volunteers until they can raise funds to get them to a vet.
Some of those 50 cats are pregnant and will have kittens. Huson estimates there will be 150 cats in all from the property.
“Our main focus is to find foster for cats and I can’t put them into homes until they’re healthy,” said Huson, a nurse educator with a palliative care company who’s spent every day at the Merritt Road property since July 18.
She said each cat’s veterinarian care costs an estimated $250 for neutering and spaying plus medical care.
The rescue groups don’t have those kinds of funds.
They’re asking for money, along with high-calorie, high-quality food, litter and blankets. They need small dog crates to trap kittens. Thick gloves. Bug and tick sprays. Hazmat suits.
And they’re asking other local vets to pitch in and help out.
Hillview Veterinary Clinic in Beamsville has been the main vet treating the cats but Huson said there are too many for one clinic.
Anyone who wants to help can go to www.Beamsville4pawrescue.com.
Concerned Burlington resident Marsha Locke of Project Save-a-Cat’s Life started a fundraiser on YouCaring.com that gives tax receipts. It’s the only fundraiser affiliated with Beamsville4Paw Rescue. By Sunday, $7,670 had been raised for the Beamsville cats.
She and Huson estimate it will cost about $30,000 to care for them all.
Locke, a massage therapist by day who began fostering cats in April, said she was at the Merritt Road site Wednesday and was swarmed.
“The screams of one cat, I couldn’t get out of my head. I broke down in tears. I’d never heard a cat so hungry,” she said.
“They were choking their food down they were eating so fast.”
It’s a bad scene, says Huson. Worse than she thought it would be. The vets have had to remove eyes.
She can’t believe it’s come to this and wants to keep the pressure on animal investigators.
Out at the Merritt Road property Saturday, Beamsville4Paw volunteers continued to comb through the property and trap any cats still hiding.
One volunteer walked forward with a cat carrier he found that appeared to have a dirty, rust-stained towel in it.
A closer inspection revealed it was a dead orange cat.
Another volunteer says she found five dead cats that morning. Huson said that brings the number to 155 confirmed dead.
“This is a shame on humanity,” says the property owner from Mississauga, on site this day.
Noor Teyyab says he was shocked to discover the condition of the property which he was renting for a nominal fee as a favour and only checked out once a year. He became aware there was a problem when he got a call a week ago from the police. When he showed up, he says the place smelled so bad, you couldn’t stand on the road.
“We did not know there were hundreds of cats cared by her. We had no clue.”
He said the basement was flooded and there’s at least $150,000 to $200,000 damage from the cats and general living conditions.
He’s been working with the rescue group and allowing them on the property.
The address falls under the responsibility of both the Welland SPCA and Lincoln County Humane Society.
Welland is in charge of animal control for Beamsville while Lincoln County is responsible for animal cruelty investigations.
Lincoln County Humane Society operations manager Nadine Bonin, an OSPCA officer, said an investigation at the property is ongoing.
“We are attending daily, keeping an eye on the situation, providing food and water if necessary and helping with the sick and injured cats,” Bonin said.
Welland SPCA executive director John Greer said the property has been a problem for a while. Because it was part of a cruelty investigation, his agency was only able to trap cats that came off the property. Two months ago it had officers there almost daily trapping cats until there didn’t seem to be any off site anymore.
Now, he said, Welland SPCA is working with three different rescue groups — the Beamsville4Paw Rescue, Burlington Cat Rescue and Animal Assistance of Niagara.
Greer said because there was a caretaker, the cats had human contact and are not totally feral.
“I would say after a little bit of work and vet care they should all be adoptable, “Greer said. “There shouldn’t be a problem adopting them out.”
Huson expects to be able to put some of the cats up for adoption by the Aug.12 weekend.
She said she’s had baby kittens from the property crawling on her and adjusting well to their new lives in foster care.
“We’re bring them to adopt in two weeks,” Huson said. “I want people to see they are lovable.”
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