"Each cat we rescue comes to us with a set of issues. Very rarely do we get that perfect, healthy cat that has no lingering psychological issues, said Tracy Harder - Founder and President of Furever Friends Cat Rescue (FFCR) in Altona.

The rescue was established in September 2015, out of Harder's concern for lost, abandoned and feral cats in the community of Altona. Since that time, more than 600 cats have been helped, and found their forever home thanks to the efforts of Furever Friends.

Louis-Cheddar, also known Babyface (FFCR given name, Sebastian) was found as a kitten, thrown out on the side of the highway. He was badly injured and it wasn't known for several days if he would survive. He now lives in a home where he can do what he loves, like bird watching, get many under the chin scratches, and jump the highest at the laser light beam!

Harder says each of the cats they have rescued have been abandoned in some way, and it affects them. "Some are left to fend for themselves on the street, some are never picked up by their owners from a pound, some fall out of vehicles on the side of the road, this can lead to behavioral problems, and we feel we give these cats a second chance at a better life."

When the cats are taken in, the first step is proper vetting, which includes spay and neutering, placement in the appropriate foster homes to deal with medical or emotional health issues. Proper diets are also important to the cat's health, so they make sure the foster homes have the supplies and the food that they need for that particular cat. Once the cat is healed, happy, and healthy, they are advertised as available for adoption.

Harder noted some cats they take in have extreme health issues, such as dental care problems, where the entire mouth will need extractions. "These are expensive
procedures that require a lot of fundraising, and special care for the rest of their lives. This past year we have had many dental issues. Two cats that we have had to remove the eye, and several legs that have needed amputating. But all of these cats have been incredibly sweet and loving, and are so happy to be alive, that we could not do anything but go the extra mile for all of them. After all this care, we want to find them the perfect home, where they never have to worry about anything again."

Furever Friends Cat Rescue works together with the Pembina Valley Humane Society, Kat's Kritters Rescue, Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue, and Grateful Friends Animal Rescue. Harder says by forming these connections and working together, they can help more animals.

Tracy shares a "happy ever after" story about a thrown away kitten:

As part of its efforts, Furever Friends Cat Rescue has also successfully established a Trap Neuter Release Program (TNR) in partnership with the Town of Altona. Harder says the TNR Program was the answer to a cat overpopulation problem in the community. When they realized the sheer number of feral cats in Altona, FFCR proposed to Town Council to join them in a humane way to deal with the issue.

Together, along local animal control, the cats are trapped and placed at the pound. From there, the rescue takes them to the vet for spaying or neutering, all treatments, blood testing, and vaccinations. They are then released back into their original territory, with heated winter shelter, and a volunteer caretaker.

"Our town's generosity and passion pays for the vetting expenses for these cats, and in the end, everybody is happy," said Harder. "The cats get to live out their lives without having to be controlled by breeding instincts, the town and animal control receive less cat related complaints, the community gets low cost environmentally friendly rodent control, and we see less cat numbers due to spay and neutering."

Tracy shares a successful feral cat story:

Harder notes they have been approached by others wondering how they would go about starting a TNR program in their own community. "We haven't heard of anybody who's been successful with doing that in their community yet, but there's definitely been talk in the surrounding areas."

"Even though we have successfully controlled the feral cat population in several areas in Altona, and we are very proud of the progress we are making every year towards our goal of having a town with all fixed cats, but we are still seeing rising numbers of cats. Not feral cats, but tame strays."

Harder believes a lot these cats are coming from surrounding rural properties, and make their way into town by walking in, or under vehicles, because of resource issues on their yard, and over population due to not being spayed or neutered."

Harder said they need to maintain what they're trying to accomplish, and would like the cooperation of every cat owner to spay and neuter. "It really is the only solution."

Fundraising is always one of FFCR's biggest challenges, noted Harder. Without the funds, they cannot help any cats, with the exception of the TNR Program

"We are a non-profit, so the majority of our funds have to come from the private sector, with the exception of the TNR Program, which is in partnership with the Town of Altona. This past year we did help more feral cats, and we did go over our town budgeted amount. Because our town does see the TNR Program making a significant difference in animal complaints, and reduces cat numbers, they sourced funding from a few other areas that were under budget to cover our last month's of vet bills for our TNR program."

"We are lucky to be in a town that sees the value in a progressive way to control animal populations, instead of the culling and euthanizing we're seeing in other communities."

The following stats were from President, Tracy Harder's 2021 report:

In 2021 we were able to help 116 cats.
Of the 116:
37 were transferred to other rescues in hopes of finding homes
26 were adopted through our Adoptions program
18 are still available for adoption
12 were vetted and released back into our community through our Trap-Neuter-Release program (in collaboration with the Town of Altona)
7 were euthanized due to catastrophic injury or illness
6 found homes through our Finders Keepers program
4 are adoption pending through our Adoptions program
3 are on medical hold and will be available for adoption once healed
2 were lost and we helped them find their way home
1 was a past TNR cat who retired from life on the streets to live out his days in sanctuary at Kat’s Kritters Rescue due to a recent illness
We are happy to report we completed 47 adoptions in 2021 (some were new intakes and some were long term intakes from 2018 through 2020) and more importantly, 103 cats were spayed or neutered through our vetting program. That is 103 less cats producing kittens!

Lucius knew exactly how to find his way to the good life and his forever home. He pranced his way right into the open door of Altona's by-law officers neighbour's home, and made himself cozy on the couch. He was brought to the pound, and when he wasn't claimed Furever Friends took care of him. The word is, he loves the couch at his FOREVER HOME!