Every day, the Alley Cat Allies® Recovery Center in Marysville, California, is caring for the cats who survived the deadly Camp Fire by providing everything they need from recovery to reunion with their families. Thousands of residents, cats, and other animals were injured and displaced when the raging Camp Fire destroyed the town of Paradise and damaged surrounding areas in November 2018. Our recovery center, operated by FieldHaven Feline Center, opened in December to provide vital, lifesaving relief in the aftermath of the unprecedented disaster.
“The area was left in ruins by the wildfire, but cats are survivors,” says Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies. “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.”
Alley Cat Allies and FieldHaven Feline Center are working tirelessly together to care for these fire cats. Over 250 have already come through the recovery center’s doors.
Dedicated volunteers and staff scour the areas devastated by the Camp Fire for cats in need of help and then bring them into the recovery center for lifesaving veterinary care, comfortable shelter, and love. Each cat is immediately scanned for a microchip upon arrival; the quickest means to identify a cat’s family. If a cat is not microchipped, she is microchipped in-house so she can be reunited with her family more easily if she is ever lost again. To protect more cats in future disasters, the recovery center also educates people on the importance of having a disaster plan in place that includes microchipping.
Most importantly, the recovery center is working around the clock to reunite cats with their families. Staff and volunteers are active every hour of the day scanning for microchips, talking with community members, and utilizing social media to find these displaced cats’ owners or caregivers. The recovery center posts information about the recovered cats on the Butte County Camp Fire Rescued Animals website. In compliance with all appropriate state and local laws, the recovery center is proud to provide the lifesaving care and enrichment for these animals. We have already facilitated many happy reunions.
Here are just some of the fire cats’ journeys out the ashes and into the care of the Alley Cat Allies® Recovery Center.
Hulk, a handsome, long-haired orange tabby cat, was ready to meet visitors to the Alley Cat Allies® Recovery Center on the morning of its open house, Jan. 11. By noon that same day, he was in a brand-new foster home with a little boy he bonded with immediately. That little boy gave the tabby his new nickname in honor of the famous giant green superhero.
The brave name suits Hulk, who was rescued on Dec. 13 by Thomas R., one of the volunteers with the recovery center. Hulk survived for a month in what Thomas R. described as the desolate remains of a Paradise neighborhood until he finally wandered into a humane trap set next to a burned-out car at 3 a.m., while a Thomas R. monitored the trap from a distance. From there, he was whisked off to the recovery center, where he was carefully looked over by a veterinarian, provided nourishing food, and given a cozy space to sleep in as volunteers searched for his family.
Hulk lived comfortably at the recovery center until that fateful day Jessica T. walked in to attend the open house with her young son. Jessica T. only planned to show her support, not leave with a cat in her arms. But when she saw Hulk’s striped orange face peeking out among the crowd of rescued cats, whiskers curled from the heat of the wildfire, she knew she had to take him home. At least until he could find his family and be reunited.
With Alley Cat Allies President and Founder Becky Robinson and a thrilled crowd of supporters looking on, Hulk left the Alley Cat Allies® Recovery Center for his new foster home.
Now, Hulk will spend his days with a temporary family who will give him the love he deserves. In the meantime, the recovery center staff is hard at work getting the word out about him over social media so the people who love him can find him.
Macy, a gorgeous calico cat, is awaiting a new home to call her own after Alley Cat Allies® Recovery Center volunteer Dave Y., who dedicates his time and energy to rescuing cats from the remains of destroyed Paradise homes and reuniting them with their families, rescued her from the wreckage of her former home in Paradise. She was unable to go back with her owner, Schelley K., who lost everything in the fire and was no longer in a position to take Macy with her.
On Jan. 11, the day the Alley Cat Allies® Recovery Center invited the community to an open house, Schelley K. came in to reunite with Macy for the first time since the fire separated them two months ago. She’d been informed by recovery center volunteers that they had rescued Macy a few days earlier. Macy’s fur, once magnificent, long, and fluffy, was matted and filthy with ash when she was first brought in. She had to be shaved from head to tail by veterinarians, but was no less beautiful for it.
The moment Schelley K. entered the recovery center, she rushed over to scoop her cat out of a cage and into her arms. Macy immediately melted against her, purring.
“It’s a blessing that she’s here. Knowing that she’s with you and safe is the best thing to happen to me since the fires,” Schelley K. said to Alley Cat Allies staff, tears running down her cheeks.
Although she was upset to have to leave Macy, Schelley K. was glad she was able to hold her beloved cat at least one more time before surrendering her to the recovery center to find a new home.
Now, recovery center staff and volunteers will care for Macy and work toward finding her the loving, permanent home, for Macy’s sake and for Schelley K.’s.
After the Camp Fire destroyed her family’s Paradise home, Mama Cat found herself lost and alone in the ashes for two months. Her brother, Aspen, was another cat saved soon after the blazes began by volunteer Dave Y . Aspen was brought to the Alley Cat Allies® Recovery Center and was given medical care and shelter as Dave Y. continued to try and rescue his sister.
For weeks, Dave Y. attempted to catch Mama Cat, but the frightened cat avoided the humane box traps set out for her. But, on Jan. 11, Mama Cat finally ventured into a trap. Dave Y. wasted no time rushing her to the recovery center. He already personally knew Mama Cat and Aspen’s family, and he was thrilled to be able to call them and inform them that their cats were safe and sound and ready for a happy reunion. Mama Cat and Aspen are now together in a foster home. Their family visits them regularly as they search for a more permanent place to stay so they can all be together again.
Large, long-haired, and grey as the ash around him, Hunter hunkered down for 62 days near the wrecked remains of the Paradise home where he once lived. When the fire began, his family was forced to flee without him. Then, Shannon J., a volunteer who works closely with the Alley Cat Allies® Recovery Center, set out his night-vision camera and a food station with a tasty meal nearby. Hunter came out to eat and was caught on camera, with the collar and bell his family had given him still around his neck.
Shannon J. knew Hunter’s owners personally, so he knew they were searching for their cat. He called them immediately and told them Hunter was seen alive. He says they were shocked that their cat had made it through the fires. They were relieved beyond measure by Hunter’s resilience and hoped to be reunited soon. For the next three weeks, Shannon J. struggled to catch Hunter, who was savvy and knew how to avoid traps. Thankfully, Alley Cat Allies’ president and founder Becky Robinson was a good luck charm. She was out in Paradise with Shannon J. when he set up the trap that would be the one to finally catch Hunter later that night. The next day, Hunter was reunited with his family at the recovery center.
Ellie’s long and winding journey back home is proof of how important it is to have a community network in the wake of disasters like the Camp Fire. When the grey and orange calico was rescued on Dec. 26 and brought to the Alley Cat Allies® Recovery Center, she was sporting a collar tag engraved with her name and a phone number. The phone number was no help—it was for the landline of a burned down home in Paradise.
FieldHaven Feline Center Executive Director Joy Smith and her team researched the phone number and found that it was registered to a woman named Constance but had no way of tracking her down. Through postings on the Butte County Camp Fire Rescued Animals website in accordance with the county regulations, the recovery center volunteers shared information about Ellie and asked everybody who came into the recovery center from Constance’s former area if they knew or could keep an eye out for Constance.
Word of the search reached staff at a local shelter, which contacted the recovery center on Jan. 11 with good news: a woman named Constance had recently come in searching for her cat, Ellie. The shelter passed along her information. It only took a moment on the phone with Constance, a woman in her 80s who lost everything in the fire, to verify that Ellie was her cat. She described Ellie perfectly, from her beautiful looks down to her stubborn personality.
Elated, Smith loaded Ellie into her car on Jan. 13 and set out to reunite her with her owner. The sheer delight on Constance’s face when she spotted Ellie in her carrier made all the searching worthwhile.