by Brenda Malinics
— Part Two
Ed. Note: Brenda Malinics is one of four area residents who were given awards for community service by the Chestnut Hill Community Association at a dinner on Thursday, April 23. Brenda, who now has a team of volunteers, has rescued and found homes for hundreds of abandoned and abused cats and kittens over many years. However, on Monday, after the article below had been written, Brenda sent us the following note: “We have just been given notice that our Cat Camp must vacate the property at 8514 Germantown Ave. by June 30. This means that all of the 26 cats and 42 kittens presently housed at Cat Camp have nowhere to go. Brenda’s Cat Rescue is dealing with the height of kitten season, and we just finished a major trapping with Best Friends, where many pregnant females, kittens and teens were pulled from the streets.” More information at www.brendascatrescue.com.
When I wasn’t at Cat Camp, I was at my full-time job. My house was beginning to look as if I was moving. Boxes were everywhere, and my resident cats began to run from me when I came home. Did I look like a stranger in their midst?
The Cat Camp space was huge, the windows enormous, which proved to be great for educational displays. The room itself had to be divided into cage display, work space and a quiet area where potential adopters could spend time with the cats. I borrowed a tent from a friend and set it up with pillows and chairs. We wanted the room to be welcoming and tasteful.
We then had to decide how many cats would go to Cat Camp and then check records and ensure that all those cats were current on their vaccinations. Everyone also had to have their nails clipped and their ears cleaned. It was approaching showtime.
Showtime. Friday, Jan. 30. Brenda’s Cat Rescue (BCR) volunteers spend the day putting the finishing touches on the space. Thirty minutes before opening, the skies opened, and it began to snow. Actually a blizzard began. I was sure that no one would come, but they did. Our twinkle lights in the window attracted attention from passing traffic, just as we had planned.
Opening Day. Saturday, Jan. 31. As I walked outside to get in my car to come to Camp, a neighbor ran outside with a clipping from the Roxborough Review announcing Philadelphia’s First Cat Camp sponsored by Brenda’s Cat Rescue. Pretty cool, I thought, one newspaper ran the release that I had written. (I mistakenly put the wrong address on the release!)
A friend called to say she had just heard about Cat Camp on KYW Radio; another friend phoned to say that Channel 6 featured it on TV. People were streaming in the door, and in walked a TV cameraman and reporter from Fox Channel 29. Wow! We may be onto something, I thought. The weather was frigid, but 185 people came in the first day.
Our initial plans were to keep the cats at Cat Camp only during the weekends, but now with 20+ cats in the space, that was going to be difficult. I checked with Bowman Properties, and we got permission to keep the cats onsite during the week. That proved to be another challenge because we now needed weekday volunteers and more food supplies.
Robertson Flowers donated a dozen long-stem roses for us to raffle, and we got other donations from the Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop and several Ambler businesses. On Valentine’s Day, Bredenbeck’s Bakery donated a tray of cookies, and we sold “kitty kisses” for $5. By mid-February, we adopted almost 18 cats. (BCR Adoption entails an application approval and fee.)
The great windows of Cat Camp became educational displays showing winter shelters, heated water bowls, have-a-heart traps and messages about the need for sterilization. In one window, we placed our “adoption tree” where we hung newly adopted cats’ photos and descriptions.
This ample space was not only great for adoptions, but it enabled us to trap and recover ferals (strays). Winter trapping is always risky to the cats because following anesthesia, a cat (or person), can’t thermoregulate, and with frigid temperatures, you can’t guarantee that a cat will be able to find food and shelter when put back outside. Plus they are sore and have incisions. Females, whose bellies have to be shaved, need a minimum of 5-7 days recovery time following sterilization surgery, so we were able to trap and recover many feral cats before putting them back outdoors.
Multiple adoptions began to occur from the first weekend, and the crowds kept coming even during the most frigid weekends. Our slowest night in February, when the temperatures were well below zero, still brought in 35 people. Some folks who visit are just curious, but others come with questions about cats or to report strays in their neighborhoods. People have brought donations from our wish-list and have signed up to volunteer. On two different Saturdays, we had 265 people visit each day, and on April 18 we had 304 people visit!
February’s success turned into our space being extended into March, April and now into May. So far, we’ve had over 2,000 visits, 43 adoptions and have trapped/recovered countless feral cats. We’ve held two shelter building workshops, one in partnership with Best Friends of Utah, with whom we are partnering. We’ve held four children’s programs and four adult workshops, all focusing on compassion for animals.
The Cat Camp/Pop-up Adoption site has been a labor of love, blood, sweat and tears. People ask how long we will be at the site, but we don’t know. What we do know is that it has taken a village to create Cat Camp and build it into the success that it enjoys each Saturday weekend from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For that opportunity, the cats and BCR team extend their most sincere heartfelt thanks.