Local animal shelter rescues 66 cats from Reserve Street encampment, draining budget | Local News

Chicken Noodle needs a home, and so do 100 of his fellow cats and kittens at the Missoula nonprofit AniMeals.

Chicken Noodle, a relaxed orange tabby who loves attention and head scratches, is one of 66 cats rescued from a colony living at the encampment of homeless individuals under the Reserve Street Bridge in the past few weeks.

Rachel Taft, a marketing specialist for the organization, said they usually shelter an average of between 70 and 90 cats and kittens at any given time. There are a few reasons why there are so many more cats right now, and all 101 of them are up for adoption.

“The Reserve Street project was a big part of that,” she said. “And also being in the height of kitten season (the annual baby boom happens this time every year). We’re also seeing an influx of cats being left out at the building overnight, and also owner surrenders. So all those kinds of factors are playing into why we’re so full right now.”

The organization relies on donations to fund its operations and seven staff members. They also get a lot of volunteer help. However, rescuing all those cats from the encampment ate up $15,000 of the organization’s budget.

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“Originally, when we were referred to by another agency that they were down there, we were under the impression that there was only 20,” Taft explained.

So, they’ve worked especially hard to get the cats spayed, neutered and microchipped. Taft said the cats were all well-fed and taken care of at the camp, so there’s no huge health issues other than some upper respiratory issues due to harsh outdoor weather. All of the cats are well-behaved and would happily adjust at most homes, although Taft said the organization has a set of requirements and does a check on any new owner’s living situation. For example, they need two personal references on an application and call landlords to make sure pets are allowed.

“We like to make sure that our cats are going to homes where they’re valued and cared for,” Taft said.

Rescuing the cats wasn’t difficult, she said, but it did require a lot of work done by staff and volunteers. They trapped most of the cats. Turns out, a lot of them are related and have the same six-toe genetic anomaly. But the endeavor was expensive.

“When cats come to us as bottle babies, for example, you’re talking $300 to $500 to get that kitten ready for adoption, based off like milk supplements and things like that,” she said. “So just the overall care for that length of time. So yeah, financially I think that’s our biggest need right now.”

The organization also has a stockpile of dog and cat food for needy owners as well as a “barn cat” program for cats that can be adopted but who would do well with less human interaction. They also have an intensive care unit where they nurse injured or unhealthy cats. People who don’t want to take on a pet can sponsor a cat’s care in the shelter for $100 and get to name it.

That’s where Chicken Noodle got his fantastic name, Taft noted.

AniMeals started out as an animal food bank back in 2003 but transitioned to a “no-kill adoption center” in 2007 because the local animal control shelter was so overcrowded.

For more information visit AniMeals.com.

Holli Hargrove, the manager at Missoula Animal Control, said they’ve got 65 cats and kittens right now, although not all of those are up for adoption.

“We’re seeing more than normal being left in kennels overnight,” she said. “There’s been more of an uptick in pocket pets, like rabbits, hamsters, Guinea pigs and birds. I couldn’t tell you why.”

She said there’s no definitive explanation for why “kitten season” occurs every April through July, but it always happens here. To see a list of pets up for adoption, visit MissoulaAnimalControl.com.

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