My Adopted Kitties

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Article About FuRR In Our State Paper

Okay, well, it's more about how the vet who so graciously offers FuRR his services, offering us his services, but hey. We take publicity where we can get it.

This article belongs to Arkansas Democrat Gazette. I do not take credit for it at all.

Veterinarian has a soft spot for FuRR

By Jennifer Nixon
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

You see it pretty often, that stray cat roaming the neighborhood. You don't own it, but you feed it and look out for it. Now imagine that cat has a litter of kittens. And those cats grow up to have kittens. Pretty soon, you're looking at a neighborhood being overrun by feral cats.
Neighborhood strays, cared for but not owned, fall into what FuRR (Feline Rescue and Rehome) volunteer Dr. Cole Bierbaum calls "the gray zone."
"We started noticing that once it became and issue, that's when people would make the phone call," explains Bierbaum, a full-time veterinarian at Pinnacle Valley Animal Hospital.
That phone call would lead to the cats being trapped by animal services and taken to a shelter where the unadoptable cats would live a sad existence and then be destroyed.
It's that situation that FuRR tries to prevent.
"Our goal was, first, to try to contain or control that issue- to stop the process.
"People alert us to a cat they've been taking care of that's not really theirs but yet they really want to do something about it."
FuRR began as an offshoot of Central Arkansas Rescue Effort for Animals (CARE). A group of CARE members wanted to focus on feral cat issues and, since CARE, didn't have the resources to support such an organization, they started their own organization in 2003.
Today, FuRR is still the only organized group in Arkansas that does feral cat rescue and TNR (trap, neuter, release).
"We work over the whole state," says FuRR board president Lynne McAllester. "Our board is still doing all the grassroots work. We all get out and trap and transport. We're very proud of that. We haven't lost that connection to our mission."
After receiving a call, FuRR volunteers trap the cat and take it in to be spayed or neutered. From that point, there are several options. If the cat has a caregiver, it is returned to its old stomping grounds. If the cat is socialized- a cat that has been a pet but was abandoned by its owners, for instance- or if it's a young kitten, a foster or adoptive family is found. Otherwise, FuRR uses its network of feral cat colony caretakers to find the animal a new place to live.
FuRR also tries to help with cats that are owned but whose owners can't afford sterilization, offering low-cost spay/neuter clinics and other financial help.
The whole object is to sterilize as many cats as possible, Bierbaum says, "so we don't get to that point where we get the pregnancy or the overpopulation and people are having to surrender them to a shelter or give them away at Wal-Mart."
Sterilization doesn't just keep a neighborhood from becoming overrun by cats. It's in a city's best financial interests as well.
Bierbaum says, "It makes more economic sense for the city to have a pet sterilized than for the city to...trap it, house it, and then have to euthanize. It helps financially. Have the pet sterilized and there will be no more."
As funding and foster home space allow, FuRR rescues shelter cats that are in danger of being killed, saving cats and easing the burden on shelters. The organization's projects have also grown to include more fostering and education programs.
Educating the public about the importance of spaying and neutering and thus nipping the problem in the bud is vital.
"It all starts with public awareness and responsibility," Bierbaum says.
For FuRR, that education and awareness go beyond sterilization issues.
McAllester says, " We try to work with people."
FuRR provides support and cat care education for people when needed. Cat owners experiencing problems have called FuRR looking for help and advice.
"We've found a lot of success in talking with people and sharing what their problems are," McAllester says.
Those problems are frequently financial or behavioral. Or a new owner might just have trouble adjusting to the realities of cat care, McAllester says. "Many times we can work that out. We try to keep the kitties in their home with their families."
Volunteers are crucial to keeping FuRR running. Vets like Bierbaum provide their services, doing the reduced cost spay/neuter clinics and giving other medical help and advice. Other volunteers help trap cats, serve as foster families or care for feral colonies.
On the financial side, FuRR is supported primarily by donations and by yard sales in the spring and fall.
"We have a huge need for homes and foster homes right now," McAllester says. Due in large part to the economic troubles, more cats are being abandoned.
In addition to FuRR, Bierbaum helped several other animal organizations, including CARE, the cities of Maumelle and Sherwood animal services, Helping Hands for Little Paws, and All About Labs, a Labrador retriever rescue group.
While some of these organizations have different specialties, they all work closely with each other and with local government. "We all work together for the common purpose to spread awareness that this is an issue," Bierbaum says. "It won't go away. It only gets worse."
"If we address it now, we can be a very progressing city where pets aren't suffering."
For more information about FuRR, visit or call (501) 661-0956.

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