The cats are alright at Shady Acres, a rescue centre in Corbeil founded by Teresa Gilchrist. She started the operation from her home earlier this year to help feral cats re-enter society, with the goal of finding them permanent homes.
BayToday spoke with Gilchrist in March as she was opening her rescue, so we wanted to check back to see how things are going for her and her furry housemates. Overall, all is well, but she’s finding that when you embark on a mission like this, the need can be greater than expected, and there are more feral cats than she has room or resources for.
“The need is far greater than what we can accommodate at most times,” she said. And those cats, used to having their own way and doing their own thing, need more space than your average house cat while they get used to living with people and other cats again within a domestic space.
There were thoughts of refurbishing an outbuilding on the property into an elaborate cat house, but she decided to keep the felines inside, as the social element is integral to their re-integration to homes and people.
“An outbuilding is great, but if you don’t have constant socialization for them, they will retreat into areas to hide,” and that’s not going to help advance cat human relations.
Currently, Gilchrist is at full capacity. Shady, the cat who started it all and is the namesake of the operation, is still playing with his stuffed monkey and doing just fine. Some of the first residents have now found forever homes – including Matilda, found alone, and scared under a deck in Callander – so there are heart-warming success stories.
Gilchrist has a huge animal loving heart, and stories like Matilda’s keep her going. She created this space to help cats in need, so when that happens, it makes everything worth while. However, there are a lot of hardships in running a home for feral cats. As mentioned, the demand is so high, and resources are few.
Cost is an issue, and when Shady Acres raises some decent funds – they had a few “very successful” garage sales this summer – the money raised can disappear after that first vet visit. When a cat comes in, the first stop is the vet, and we all know those fees add up.
However, Gilchrist must ensure the cats are healthy and not infested with some sort of ailment that could endanger the others. Also, some of these cats are in pretty rough shape. Fur all matted and tightened up in knots so tight the cats hurt every time they move. Ripped ears from fights, cuts and gouges. Life ain’t easy for a street cat, and the ones in the country don’t fare much better.
Plus, there’s the regular pet maintenance, neutering, spaying, and vaccinations, that also dig into those garage sale proceeds. However, those sales are a lifeline for the operation. All of the items for those sales were donated by neighbours and friends of the cause, and Gilchrist is so grateful for that support. People are helping when they can, and they want to see the cats get help, which also inspires Gilchrist to carry on.
Good folks will also donate food, cash, or supplies to Gilchrist to help keep things going. Blankets as well. Old blankets and towels are put to good use.
There is plenty of cat love within Shady Acres, but there are some limits to how Gilchrist can help. She wants people to realize that she’s not an emergency shelter. The facility is her home. Right now, she has four or five cats and the place is full. She wants to help as much as she can and will guide people to where they can get help, but she cannot take in every stray feral cat that slinks out of the woodwork.
But she will continue doing what she can to help those she can help, and she has no intention of stopping anytime soon. Lend a hand if you can by donating – and don’t forget the wet food, a coveted treat at Shady Acres – or ask about fostering or adopting one of the cats. Most aren’t truly feral, they’ve just been outside for a while and Gilchrist is bringing them back in.
On that note, she reminds everyone to keep their cats inside. They can’t get lost if they don’t leave the home. There are bylaws in place to keep cats in. She wished people would abide by them because Shady Acres only has so much room.
You can learn more at shadyacresferalrescue.ca.
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.