Wild cats have a new champion in East Ferris, as Teresa Gilchrist is setting up a cat rescue operation to help the region’s feral cats rehabilitate to a point where they can once again enjoy a life of domesticity. It’s a new initiative for Gilchrist, but everything is coming along well, and she recently took in her first rescue—a female wild cat found cold and alone hiding under a deck in Callander.
Gilchrist’s Shady Acres Feral Cat Rescue may be new, but she has had a lot of experience working with and helping animals. She has worked with the North Bay Humane Society and has been involved with animal rescues in the Niagara Region and with the now defunct The Cats of Paint Lake in Huntsville.
While working and volunteering with animals, Gilchrest came to learn she had a talent for helping feral cats, and now she’s opened a rescue for the cause. One of the issues with these wild cats is that there are so few resources for them. Each cat can take some time to get used to people again, and this long process is not well suited for a traditional animal shelter.
Gilchrist figured it was preferable to have these cats in a place of their own, which would open space in the shelters for others and create a more welcoming environment for these cats, many of which begin their rehabilitation with a lone-wolf personality.
They’re not too keen on too much company, in the early days of rehab, Gilchrist explained. When cats come to her, she keeps them separated for a week or so as they get used to the new surroundings. The time also allows Gilchrist to ensure the new arrivals don’t have any diseases or health issues that could affect the other animals.
After this period of light quarantine (Gilchrist still spends time with the new cats, they’re just separated from other cats) it’s time to put them into “general population,” Gilchrist said, where they can become acclimated to other felines.
As time rolls on and the cats get used to society again, eventually, the goal is to adopt them out and give them new homes.
It’s easier said than done, and Gilchrist explained how she’s always researching ways to help the cats achieve this goal of domesticity. Some cats have been on their own for a long time, living in the shadows of the North Bay streets, or fending for themselves in the wilds around Corbeil.
So Gilchrest has her work cut out for her, and currently, she’s operating her rescue at her home in Corbeil. She’s converted a part of her house to accommodate the rehabilitation, and all of the cats who come through the door will remain inside so as to not bother any neighbours. The family is on 84 acres of land, so close neighbours are few, but she wanted to ensure the cats remain inside for safety’s sake.
She expects to be busy, and although her love is strong for all cats, she wants people to know that this operation is specifically for feral cats. These are housecats that have escaped into the wilderness and have lived without people for some time. They are basically wild, and they will not approach people. They will run, and they must be trapped to become rehabilitated. Suffice to say, they will not come when they are called.
So keep that in mind if you plan to reach out to Gilchrist for help. Is your cat really wild, truly feral? Or did you just find a litter of kittens by the fence? There is help available for the kittens, but not so many resources exist for the feral kind. Usually, most cat problems can be helped by the humane society, however, Gilchrest will be happy to offer you some advice on where to find support.
Whatever you do, do not try to nab a feral cat by yourself. Gilchrist couldn’t emphasize this enough. House cats can do a number on a person as is. A feral cat, after years of hard living, can give you a lesson in regret. Call someone with a trap who knows what they are doing. Reach out to Gilchrist for advice. Her email is [email protected]. There is also a Facebook page with more information about the rescue, search for Shady Acres Feral Cat Rescue.
The community has been a great help to her in this new endeavour. Costs add up with food, litter, cat carriers, medicines and other feline necessities, so a GoFundMe page has been established to help offset these expenses.
People have been generous and supportive, and currently, Gilchrist is putting together a board of directors and getting everything worked out for the organization’s charitable status.
What about that name, Shady Acres Feral Cat Rescue? As mentioned, the family lives on a large acreage, and the Shady part comes from the name of a very special cat in Gilchrist’s life. Shady was a feral cat she first met through The Cats of Paint Lake rescue. Before long, the two developed a strong bond, and as the wildness wicked out of Shady, eventually, the cat was welcomed into the family home where he’s been ever since. She likens him to “a crotchety old man” complete with a few missing teeth from his drifting days, but she wouldn’t have him any other way.
Shady proved to Gilchrist—and others who meet him—that these feral cats can really come around and gain a new lease on life. Shady inspired her to help more animals like him, and with the new rescue getting off the ground, she plans to do just that.
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.