Annex Guardian

Media: Annex Guardian, August 17, 2001

Annex Cat Rescue helps felines in need find homes

by Clarie Martin (special to The Guardian)

Osiris, known affectionately as “Goofus”, every bit as scrawny and diseased-riddled as his brothers and sisters, began life in someone’s backyard. Not one of his siblings survived.

These days the jet-black feline looks, ever so cautiously, out at the world through one eye. The other, a mysterious opaque blue, is useless, the result of an eye infection that may have helped doom his littermates.

Mike Milne with Kittens, photo by Claire Martin

Annex Cat Rescue member Mike Milne cuddles a couple of scrawny kittens who were found in a litter in a residential backyard. The free-roaming mother failed to return to them after 24 hours. Good homes will be found for these two after their health improves. Photograph by Clarie Martin

“He’s lucky,” says cat-lover Mike Milne, tenderly stroking the glossy fur of the now healthy cat high up in a condominium apartment on Yonge Street, near Davenport Road.

Osiris is twice-lucky because he survived a wild birth and was never forced to dodge the ceaseless traffic in the city streets nor forage in garbage cans for nourishment through a bitter Toronto winter.

That is the predictable life of cats born homeless, without the benefit of human caregivers, said Milne, a director with the Annex Cat Rescue. The organization routinely pulls felines from backyard lots and restaurant patios and finds protected lives for them with loving owners.

Milne estimates that some 10,000 cats, both domestic abandoned and those gone wild (feral), roam the back alleyways and side streets of Toronto, many of them in the Annex area. In this largely residential area, the cats are a luckier lot because kindly people feed them from their front porches, but further south, where stores and restaurants predominate, they must struggle harder to survive.

Milne stressed that no domestic cat living in a wild or semi-wild state is living a charmed existence. They are often huddled in frozen doorways, sick with hunger and disease, venturing out to quench their thirst by licking anti-freeze leaked from cars. To cats, anti-freeze is sweet tasting, said Milne, but it can cause severe kidney problems.

Added to several other health risks, including feline leukemia and FIV, a cat disease equivalent to HIV, it can make life miserable.

The Annex Cat Rescue, which proclaims “cat adoption with a difference”, started with a handful of concerned citizens a half-dozen years ago. In 1999, when it became a registered charity, the service began issuing receipts for tax purposes.

Milne pointed out veterinary bills for the organization’s found cats can run anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per month.

Milne and his wife, Gillian, are currently nurturing five kittens in their busy apartment. The animals came into the Milne household sick and weak with hunger, just hanging onto life, after a Toronto resident took them in. The mother cat had been minding them, said Milne, in a back yard under the resident’s observation but suddenly failed to show up for a 24-hour period.

“It’s unlikely that the mother would abandon them,” he said.

The more-likely scenario would be the cat’s sudden death from some internal illness or being hit by a car. The kittens, at four weeks old, are being forced-fed from miniature nursing bottles.

Vet services run high for these cats long into their lives, said Milne. After all the check-ups, the de-worming and inoculations, the females will be spayed and the males neutered.

The Annex Cat Rescue will eventually find loving permanent homes for each one, he said.

It is not as easy as it seems because the offspring of feral cats sometimes carry into adulthood some of the wildness they first came to know, said Milne.

The Annex Cat Rescue has a “no kill” policy. The organization won’t even remove a creature’s claws, refusing to have an animal adopted out if de-clawing is part of a would-be owner’s plan.

For more information, please call 416-410-3835.

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