by Kelly Flanagan
It all started with three cats. Three unaltered cats had been abandoned in a trailer home when their guardians moved away. Left on their own, the cats had many litters of kittens that were never socialized. And so, in little more than two years, three abandoned cats had grown to a feral colony estimated at over 130 felines. According to the Humane Society of the U.S., one un-spayed female cat and her offspring can produce up to 420,000 cats in seven years.
The proliferating colony quickly became more than the few kindhearted trailer park residents who fed it could afford to support on limited incomes. The caretakers reached out for help on social media and got the attention of Heather Holmes, a Suffolk resident and independent rescuer who coordinated with area organizations like Hope for Life Rescue, Billy the Kidden Rescue and Feral Affairs Network. This connection couldn’t have come at a better time because the land on which the trailer park sat was about to be foreclosed upon and sold to make way for a truck stop. Demolition of the entire park was imminent! To make matters worse, the park property manager considered the cats a nuisance and was threatening to poison them.
Together with resident caretakers Amy B. and Christine T., the group worked for over a year and a half on trapping, fostering, securing funds and supplies, and coordinating veterinary care. They liaised with sanctuaries and farms as far as Maryland and the Eastern Shore to find homes for the entire colony until the last litter of kittens was pulled from a trailer the night before it was demolished.
Heather stepped away during the midst of the project after suffering the loss of her husband but resumed her involvement a few months later when FAN notified her of a crying singleton kitten left by a dumpster in the pouring rain. That kitten, now known as Pepé, was one of two kittens she adopted from the project. “Because that kitten showed me love, I feel like [my husband] sent him to me to remind me that my life wasn’t over.” She also noted that “FAN put in the bulk of the work when it came to the trapping, holding and fixing of these cats.”
The combined efforts of so many caring people from different walks of life turned a story that could have ended tragically into an example of how feral cats really can be saved by their community.