Alley Cat Allies President and Founder Becky Robinson invited the community to an open house Jan. 11 for the new Alley Cat Allies® Recovery Center. The center opened to care for the cats who were injured and displaced in the Camp Fire in November 2018, the deadliest wildfire in California history.
The center has been a vital community resource for more than 200 cats who have come through its doors. The center opened in Marysville, California, in December in response to the wildfire that devastated the town of Paradise. Cats are still being rescued and brought into the center every day, many in need of emergency medical treatment.
Becky Robinson spoke to the crowd at the open house about the efforts to care for the feline fire victims, many of whom may not have survived without the care provided by the recovery center. She also says that the work is far from over. Thousands of cats are estimated to be in fire-affected areas and in need of rescue.
“The area was left in ruins by the wildfire, but cats are survivors,” says Becky Robinson. “Some cats are just now coming out of hiding, and many of them have ears and paws burned by the flames. That’s why we’re here. We’re giving them the lifesaving medical care they need to survive. We’re reuniting them with their families. We will be here for as long as the cats need us.”
The Alley Cat Allies® Recovery Center opened on Dec. 22 and is managed by FieldHaven Feline Center, a non-profit. Before the recovery center opened, FieldHaven Executive Director Joy Smith and Becky Robinson worked together in hands-on rescue efforts while the Camp Fire was still burning.
Some residents whose homes burned down took their cats to the center to be cared for while they figured out where they were going to live. Other residents whose cats were lost amid the chaos continue to visit the center in hopes of a reunion.
The Alley Cat Allies® Recovery Center is open seven days a week to shelter, care for, and provide emergency medical treatment to these cats. Through microchip scanning and a network of volunteers, some owned cats have been reunited with their families and some community cats have been reunited with their caregivers. Alley Cat Allies and FieldHaven also plan to hold a Feline Frenzy®, which includes microchip, spay and neuter, and vaccination clinics in the area in the months to come.
At the open house, Yuba City Mayor Shon Harris and Vice-Mayor Manny Cardoza joined Becky Robinson and Smith, along with dozens of supporters and community members, to walk through the facility to meet the cats and learn their stories. Many fire victims fled with their animals to Yuba City from Paradise.
Some cats at the recovery center have fur stained with the dark remnants of ash even after FieldHaven volunteers carefully bathed them. Some had the tips of their ears singed off by the flames and are being treated and monitored by veterinarians. Nearly all have whiskers curled and warped due to the heat of the flames.
For the cats who had been reunited with their families and caregivers, microchip technology played a large role. At the open house, Alley Cat Allies handed out free microchip vouchers to bring attention to cats who have not yet been reunited because they aren’t microchipped.
“People ask me what they can do during disasters like this for cats, and my main message is to please microchip your animals,” says Smith. “Less than 5 percent of cats coming through here are microchipped. When they are microchipped, it makes our jobs so much easier. We can get those cats back to their families almost immediately.”
The center also works closely with expert volunteers like Shannon Jay who bravely entered fire zones to rescue cats. After the open house, Becky Robinson and Smith joined Jay on his most recent mission in Paradise: finding and rescuing an elusive cat named Hunter, who was separated from his family by the fire in November. Surveying the scorched remains of homes nearby, Becky Robinson marveled at the resiliency of cats.
“Cats are amazing survivors,” she says. “We’re finding them two months later and there are others still waiting to be found. This is why we can’t stop doing what we’re doing.”
Jay says he’s talked to hundreds of fire victims who’ve lost everything. “Their lives are so completely turned upside down. Then you give them their cat back, and they’re just a beacon of light. We’re still finding these cats out here all the time.”
Later that evening, Jay spotted Hunter and quickly rescued him. The frightened feline was taken to the recovery center and reunited with his family the next morning.