Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New address, old commitment

Craig Street Cats relocates, giving feral felines a better life, and giving its operator a better one, too

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Craig Street Cats is no longer on Craig Street. The Winnipeg-based feral and stray cat rescue has moved to a new location, but its objective remains the same. To some, this may seem like simple news, but if you know the owner/operator of this non-profit organization, Lynne Scott, you'd understand why she's excited to celebrate the move.

Five years ago, Scott saw an unmet need in her community: an abundance of feral cats that were left to procreate, get injured or freeze to death. Shelters and rescues were full, but it wasn't in her nature to let so many cats suffer. She had to help.

As Scott began to house some of the kitties, she also researched how to solve the issue. Over months, and eventually years, she became one of Winnipeg's leading voices in feral cat care.

In her research, Scott encountered a feral cat strategy called the TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) program. To attempt to manage populations, this technique traps feral cats, takes them to receive veterinary care (spaying, neutering and vaccinations) and then takes these cats back to their original spot. The strategy limits the growth of feline feral populations.

Scott helps control several colonies. Her method has been to expand the project street by street. And the end goal is to expand this program across the city to reduce the feral cat population. But Scott can't do it alone; adding to the TNR initiative requires both time and money.

Despite the move, Scott will continue to offer her seminars for those wishing to follow this method.

Aside from managing her TNR program, she also took in cats. The first time I interviewed her, we were surrounded by them. The night before, she hadn't slept much because she had just taken in a couple of very young kittens that needed special care. Simple tasks such as trimming nails, cleaning ears and offering basic care to dozens of cats amounted to two hours of work for Scott and her volunteers. On top of that, she had to raise funds just to keep the program afloat. There was no line between the rescue and Scott's life. At the time, all she wanted was a day off, something she hadn't enjoyed in a year and a half.

A few years later, she's still waiting for that day off. But you can tell that she's pleased she's making progress. With a smile on her face, she explained that she'll still do cat care, the TNR program, adoptions and fundraising. However, at the end of her busy day, she'll finally be able to go home to her dog and cats. "When I'm home, I'm done," she said.

The new Craig Street Cat location, at 489 Madison St., measures a comfortable 2,375 square feet, including retail space that has everything from cat food to handmade teddy bears with outfits crocheted by a kind elderly lady.

Scott's new facility allows her to separate her adult and kitten populations into different rooms. There's even an isolation room for cats that might harbour a communicable illness. Practical to the core, Scott has used new and what she calls "experienced" products to meet construction needs. The floors are lined with economical vinyl flooring that can be cleaned quickly and easily. Specially designed devices will be attached to the walls so the cats can play, climb and sleep. "The cats will be able to literally climb the walls," Scott said. Hand-painted murals will create a joyful atmosphere for the cats and volunteers alike.

Moving this non-profit from Scott's home to the Madison location not only gives Scott her home back, but it also achieves another vital goal -- greater accessibility to adoptions. When Craig Street Cats was located in a house, Scott had to make appointments for prospective new cat owners to view available kitties. The Madison locale offers retail hours, which means people can visit and see the cats at their convenience.

The grand opening of the new location will run from June 22 to 24. There will be prize draws and refreshments, tours of the facility and, of course, visitors will be able to meet the cats. With room enough for 100 cats or kittens, you're sure to find one that will make that perfect addition to your family.

This non-profit organization will continue to be run with volunteer help. Scott explained that she requires a volunteer staff of six every day. Scott hopes to eventually train someone to run the front end and handle the adoptions; she said it's still her hope to "get a day off - maybe two."

Nevertheless, she's thrilled to see her dream of a new facility become a reality. When I asked Scott how she accomplished this difficult goal, she offered one word: "Persistence." Others would describe her work as selfless, but I think the best description of this tireless woman is inspiring.

Scott is still accepting donated food, litter or cleaning supplies (as well as cash).

For further information on adoption or volunteering contact Scott at 421-1919 or http://cats.wolseleygirl.com

char.adam@mts.net

twitter.com/charspetpage

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 19, 2012 D5

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