A better understanding of community (feral) cats is about to be realized in the south Georgian Bay region because of the generosity of dedicated GTHS volunteer and donor, Jennifer Watt.
No matter where you live, city or country, community cats probably live among you. Like pets, they belong to the domestic cat species, however, community cats are generally not socialized or sometimes friendly to people. They live full healthy lives with their families, also called colonies, in their outdoor home. Most often Community Cats are not spayed or neutered. Trap-Neuter-Release is a humane approach to controlling the community cat population and allows them to live in their natural outdoor environment.
Through the past 8 years of her volunteer work with the GTHS, Jennifer Watt has become increasingly aware of the need to support cats in their natural habitats, whether that be in a comfortable home with loving people or thriving in their natural setting as a community cat.
“One of the things that I have come to love about my work with the GTHS so far has been the connection between animals and people and how regardless of your situation as an animal or a person, you are treated with respect and compassion”, Jenn tells us.
In her role as a Food Fairy, the first person in the cat rooms to feed them their breakfast, Jenn recalls a memory. “I’ll never forget one morning when I entered the room to find a cat who had passed in her sleep. I reacted by covering her kennel with a blanket and waiting for guidance from Sonya our Executive Director who arrives early every morning. It was the first time since the creation of the Food Fairy position that an animal had passed away overnight. It was a sad experience for me and the entire cat care team to lose an animal. What I will always remember, is a note that followed the experience from my fellow volunteer and board member, Deb. She reached out and expressed her condolences and reminded me that this stray cat had a warm bed, food, water and was probably shown more love and affection in her too short of stay with us then her entire life. That was my moment of realization that I was surrounded by a caring and compassionate team at the GTHS and that love really does live in these walls”.
Jenn Watt has made a significant contribution to establish the GTHS Community Cat Care Program with surgical care for feral cats starting at the GTHS Animal Hospital in August 2019 and community education starting in March 2020.
In April 2019, with the help of a core group of donors and a grant by Pet Smart Charities, the GTHS opened a 5-room animal hospital onsite at the shelter. Having a hospital onsite means that cats and dogs using the services of the shelter will receive spay and neuter, emergency medical / surgical intervention, and routine procedures such as micro-chipping right at the shelter facility.
From Jenn’s perspective, timing was perfect to create the GTHS Community Cat Care Program.
Jenn’s gift means that community cats living in rural areas will receive spay and neuter surgeries to control their population and help residents to best understand their purpose and livelihood in these areas. These cats will also receive rabies vaccinations to control the spread of this harmful virus. Her ultimate vision is that people will continue to contribute to this fund ensuring that community cats are cared for now and into the future.
“The best place to start awareness is with our youth”, explains Jenn. That’s where I want to get started.”
The GTHS is incredibly fortunate to have Jenn’s support in founding a Community Cat Care program.
Jenn’s commitment to funding this important program and others does not stop here. She has also made a planned gift through her estate to support the longevity of animal welfare work through the GTHS for future years to come.
On behalf of the GTHS, thank you Jenn for your profound care and the impact that you have made for the love of animals in our community.