Volunteer Spotlight – November, 2020 by Missy Schmidt – “Mother of Cats”

THE BEGINNING

I’ve been involved in cat rescue (and fostering) since I was a child. My first cat was rescued before I entered preschool, a tiny tiger kitten I called “Seeheart” —since I had no front teeth. Cat rescuing continued through to my adult years, especially since we had only a dingy, inadequate dog pound in my Shenandoah Valley hometown (no cats allowed -they were immediately euthanized!). And, finding cat adopters in rural, small-town America —pre-internet days— was quite a challenge!

IN HAMPTON ROADS, VA

When we moved here for my husband’s work as CEO of WHRO Public Media for Southeastern Virginia (https://whro.org/), we’d been cat-less for way too many years. To address my pent-up cat urges, I began fostering for Norfolk Animal Care Center (NACC) (https://www.norfolk.gov/260/Norfolk-Animal-Care-Center) …then came the unplanned adoptions of now permanent residents Marcus & Annie, then chocolate siblings Rocher & Godiva. Norfolk has a limit of 4 owned cats per household, so we’re still fostering! Sometimes upwards of 10 fosters at a time, when counting kittens just delivered by a feral queen in our master bathroom aka “the birthing suite.”

THE CAT-ACTIVIST
Then, on the invitation of friend Debra Griggs, founder of Animal Resources of Tidewater (ART) (https://artanimals.org/), I attended the annual meeting of the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies (VFHS) (https://www.vfhs.org/) to learn more about Virginia’s animal welfare needs. My eyes were opened to the many statewide public and private shelters and home-based rescues; the lack of enough low-cost spay/neuter services in our region; the positive ramifications of TNR (Trap Neuter Return); and the huge need for more foster homes. And fundraising! Retirement allowed me to devote time to more foster programs, at Norfolk SPCA, CatTeam7, and Feral Affairs Network. My career skills in marketing also lend themselves to help impact organizations in many ways, especially with greater exposure on social media.

THE CAT-LOVE

I applaud the many rescuers around our region who humanely trap, provide medical care, and house community cats, whether friendly and/or feral.

My specialty is taking care of neonatal kittens requiring round-the-clock bottle feeding and pregnant cats who need a safe space to give birth to (and raise) their kittens to an adoptable age. And, yes, we’ve devoted much of our home to our fosters. A guest bedroom is now a “kitten room” —complete with a foster photo gallery— and we refer to the main part of the house as “Genpop,” à la the popular series “Orange is the New Black.” Coincidentally, our Fall 2019 Queen Piper litter was named for OITNB characters.

Most of our cat/kitten adopters stay in touch and regularly share milestone photos of their furry family member(s); some even have their own Instagram! https://instagram.com/gingerbeignet

THE CAT-STORY CONTINUES

Every day is entertaining at the Schmidt Cattery… every mama cat, singleton and litter has its own story, all of which I post —with photos and videos— on my public Facebook profile. My hope is that friends (and friends of friends) become potential adopters (and donors!!!) and to watch their new furbaby grow. Follow me: https://www.facebook.com/missy.schmidt

WHAT’S NEXT?

Before COVID-19, I was in the early discussion stages with ART to develop a Coastal Virginia Community Cat Summit. The goal? To see how all of us together —working smarter, not harder— can collectively improve cat welfare. On my mission-critical “to-do” list…

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