Wednesday, January 26, 2022

‘I’m not walking away from this’: Poquoson rescue working to remove 100 cats from York home

About 100 cats were found at a house in York County in June. (WYDaily/Courtesy PAWS)
About 100 cats were found at a house in York County in June. (WYDaily/Courtesy PAWS)

YORK — A Poquoson-based animal rescue is working overtime to remove a colony of about 100 cats from a home off Dare Road in York County.

The Poquoson Animal Welfare Sanctuary was contacted recently by a concerned neighbor about a home with cats and kittens that needed “immediate attention,” said Kelly Holloway, a sanctuary board member.

The neighbor estimated there were about 15 cats, but when sanctuary workers and York County Animal Control arrived at the home they found many more — about 100 cats, some of which are friendly, part-feral and completely feral.

Of those cats, there are between 25 and 30 young kittens and a pregnant cat.

Now the nonprofit rescue is heading up efforts to remove the cats from the property and is asking the community for help finding supplies, veterinary care and foster homes.

Some cats need to be euthanized, and one has already been put down, Holloway said in a post on the rescue’s Facebook page.

“We didn’t really have any idea until we all went out there,” Holloway said. “We are a small rescue. Obviously, we thought like 15 to 20 cats, then discovered more. We need assistance.”

Holloway and York Fire & Life Safety Acting Battalion Chief Alan Turner, who oversees animal control in the county, declined to release the location of the house because the homeowners are cooperating with the removal of the cats.

Feeding feral cats

Holloway said the homeowners told her the issue began with just one cat about three or four years ago. 

The homeowners began feeding feral cats in the area, which eventually attracted more animals.

But when the number of animals started to spiral out of control, the homeowners reached out for assistance but weren’t able find anyone who would help them, Turner said.

About 100 cats were found at a house in York County in June. (WYDaily/Courtesy PAWS)
About 100 cats were found at a house in York County in June. (WYDaily/Courtesy Sara Clapper)

“I promised them I’m not walking away from this,” Holloway said.

Turner estimated animal control has been working the case since early June, when they released notices to homeowners in the Dare Road area saying there would be animal traps set to catch cats from the large colony.

The Poquoson rescue got involved shortly after and began making a plan with the homeowner, Turner said.

Turner said animal control has conducted an investigation but will not charge the homeowners with a criminal offense or zoning violation because they had tried to get assistance with the growing number of cats.

York County zoning ordinances allow only four cats per property.

“We’re trying to move forward to fix the problem,” Turner said, adding that any injured animals will be immediately taken to an emergency vet for evaluation and treatment.

Removal

The recent rainy weather in the area has hampered rescue workers’ attempts to catch the cats. 

“It’s hard enough trying to catch a cat, but with this weather, it’s even harder,” Holloway said.

So far the rescue has removed 17 cats from the residence and plans to remove more as resources and homes become available. The York County property has a garage and small cat houses to provide shelter for the animals that are not immediately trapped and sent to new homes.

The Poquoson rescue’s facility, at 181 Messick Road, is already at its capacity of 100 cats. It’s also “kitten season,” meaning many cats are giving birth to litters this time of year.

While Holloway said she would like to see the cats removed as soon as possible, she expects the process may take up to six months.

Animal control officers are continuing to check in on the property weekly, Turner said.

How to help

Holloway met this week with various veterinarians, other rescues, foster homes and shelters to see who could help.

The plan is to remove 25 to 30 more cats from the property over the next two weeks. Holloway has been able to connect with foster homes and rescues, who have agreed to take in some of the felines.

The cats will be available for adoption as they are spayed, neutered and brought back to health.

While the cats are being fostered, the rescue will pay for their supplies, food, medications, and spaying and neutering.

The rescue has also established a GoFundMe fundraiser to raise money for the cats. Holloway said the rescue has already spent around $2,000 on the cat colony and estimates the final costs could reach $20,000.

Without grants or state and federal funding, the nonprofit relies completely on donations. Donations can also be made directly to the rescue’s veterinarian, Poquoson Veterinary Hospital, at 438 Wythe Creek Rd.

The rescue has set up a wishlist on Amazon for supplies, as well as in-person donation jars at the following locations:

  • Sheffield’s Grocery, 1155 Poquoson Ave.
  • Poquoson Pharmacy, 498 Wythe Creek Road
  • Taylor’s Do it Center, 475 Wythe Creek Road
  • 7-Eleven, 436 Wythe Creek Road
  • Maaco Collision Repair and Auto Painting, 827 W Pembroke Ave., Hampton
  • Pomoco Nissan of Hampton, 1134 W. Mercury Blvd.

Sarah Fearing can be reached at sarah.f@localvoicemedia.com.

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Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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