When an aging couple put their 65-acre lakefront property in Wayne County up for sale earlier this year, they found a buyer — fast.
That was the good news.
The bad news is the property also was a nature preserve and home to a colony of 70 homeless and feral cats, said Diane DiGravio, president of the board of directors for Habitat for Cats. The non-profit group offers trap, neuter and return services for homeless cats in the Greater Rochester area, including Monroe, Wayne and Ontario counties.
As part of the sale, DiGravio said the buyers wanted the cats removed. However ,with the property closing coming up fast, the owners apparently felt they had no choice but to arrange for the euthanization of the cats with the Humane Society of Monroe County.
That’s when the organization reached out to Habitat for Cats, which consists of 12 volunteers, to see if it could help, said DiGravio. It did, removing all but four cats from the property and finding barn homes for 33. They’re still looking for four cats that apparently remain.
DiGravio, who lives in Ontario, said all of them are being spayed and neutered prior to adoption. She added that for all the good the couple did providing homes for the cats, including regular veterinary care and wet food, the population exploded because they were not fixed.
“The elder folks, they just let it get out of control,” DiGravio said.
It’s unlikely the animals will be able to be adopted out as pets, although they are not unfriendly, DiGravio said.
“They’re not going to be cute, cuddly kittens,” she said.
The best hope is to find responsible caretakers who own barns where the cats would be able to live out their days. Being held in cages or penned in small, fenced-in areas has been difficult for cats that had free reign in the nature preserve, DiGravio said.
“Their spirits are completely shattered,” she said.
They’re trying to adopt them out three at a time in groups they’re calling “barn buddies,” DiGravio said.
However, potential owners must assure Habitat for Cats that the barns the animals will live in provide adequate shelter and that they be provided with daily food and regular veterinary care.
DiGravio said horse barns are the best homes for the cats.
“The most critical need is to find barn owners who can open their hearts up and provide a safe haven and home for these felines,” she said. “Each came with a name, each were loved in their own way by their previous caretaker and each deserves a second chance to live out their lives.”
The hope is to have new barn homes for all the animals by the end of August.
DiGravio noted that the Wayne County Humane Society, Lollypop Farm and the Rochester Community Animal Clinic have provided considerable assistance.