By Anthony St. Clair

Around 40,000 stray or feral cats call our area home. Throughout the county, cat rescue organizations led by dedicated, compassionate people work to remedy this issue humanely. Leslie Beekman is one such local who is passionate about animals. Inspired by her childhood dog Puggy, she has organized an annual Furry Friend Drive for 14 years, using donations to purchase pet food for area animal rescues. Whenever she observes a feral cat in her area, she knows who to turn to.

“The cat rescues I work with will jump at a moment’s notice, no matter the time of day, conditions, or inclement weather, to help rescue cats and kittens in need, then hopefully get them to their humans,” says Beekman.

Cat rescue organizations know how to deal with stray cats (which are domesticated but may be away from their known homes or need a new home) as well as feral cats (which are not domesticated and can’t be adopted). According to Lane County, animal shelters might euthanize feral cats. However, any feral cat simply taken off the street has its territory taken over by another cat. Instead of killing the animals, today’s rescues and other organizations prioritize limiting the area’s feral cat population by using TNR, or trap, neuter, and release. Cat rescues also offer fostering and regular adoption events for strays, so the public has a chance to connect with a kitty that needs a forever home.

Any number of situations might separate a cat from its human companions. Local rescues can swing into action for larger community disasters as well. Beekman recalls that in the aftermath of the Holiday Farm Fire in 2020, Toni Ray at Community Cats Advocacy Team Springfield (CCATS) was “unbelievable” in her dedication.

“She was the main force in saving and rescuing, or at least giving closure, to so many after the fires up the McKenzie.”

Ray says CCATS is the longest-standing small local rescue and the only one in Springfield, although the group serves our surrounding communities as well. “We operate on a 100% volunteer basis and fund our abilities through community involvement/fundraisers and donations,” Ray says. “All of our rescued cats are in private, loving, foster homes, where all supplies and medical costs are covered by the rescue, until they find their forever families and are adopted. We host adoption events every two weeks. We take in stray, abandoned, or abused cats from our local communities. Our focus is the cats in need, right here in Lane County. We also do trap/neuter/return in an effort to end unwanted litters and a growing feral population. CCATS has a dedicated handful of community members who volunteer as colony caretakers, that care for and feed feral colonies throughout our community, with upwards of 300 feral cats relying on CCATS daily feedings. Leslie’s Furry Friends Food Drive is a huge help to our colony care program, with her yearly donation of around 1,000 pounds of food! We also provide medical care for these colony cats as needs arise. Our commitment to feral cats doesn’t end with spay/neuter.”

The compassionate animal lovers at Feline Good Animal Rescue coordinate a network of volunteer foster homes. Cat fosterers provide food and home space to stray, surrendered, abandoned, or abused cats until the rescues can receive any needed care, such as testing, vaccinations, microchipping, and/or spay/neuter services. From there, Feline Good Animal Rescue places the cats at adoption events and, hopefully, loving homes.

“Fostering cats is the beating heart of our rescue efforts, as well as most of the rescues in town,” says Kayla Pancake, Feline Good Animal Rescue board member and co-founder. “Without our foster families we could not help as many kitties as we have. Fosters open up their homes, invest their time, and pour their love into giving each cat the personalized care needed to thrive.”

The safety and security of a nurturing foster environment also gives these cats an opportunity to open up, reveal their unique personalities, and charm potential adopters.

“Our fosters specialize in everything from nurturing fragile kittens to offering comfort to hospice cases,” says Pancake. “They’re the reason each cat gets a shot at a forever home, and their passion and commitment make our rescue family truly special.”

However fulfilling serving as a cat fosterer can be, though, it’s also important to understand the challenges, because not every cat will be a healthy, playful bundle of fur. A cat fosterer needs to be ready for hard work, demonstrate patience, and have a willingness to help cats in various conditions. Fragile neonatal kittens require round-the-clock care. Older or geriatric cats often require regular treatment and check-ins for medical issues.

“Fostering is a commitment to seeing the beauty in every cat, regardless of age, health, or appearance,” says Pancake, “and being part of their transformative journey toward a brighter future.”

While Lane County will likely never have a zero stray or feral cat population, stalwart cat rescue operations do their part to balance compassion and control. And as Leslie Beekman knows, they are always ready to step up and help.

“I have reached out so many times over the years when I have found animals in need,” says Beekman. “Local rescue groups do so much for our furry community.”

Lane County Cat Rescues