Eight more lives | PostIndependent.com

Eight more lives

Post Independent / Kelley Cox

Kathy Miller admits she’s a “crazy cat lady.”

The former veterinary technician loves cats ” especially those rescued with special needs ” so much so that she drove 30 hours to bring 11 felines left homeless from Hurricane Katrina to Colorado Animal Rescue Shelter Tuesday.

“A lot of these animals were found in areas after the storm surge came in just wandering around the debris,” said Miller, who left two weeks ago for Gonzales, La., and eventually assisted with pet rescue efforts in Hattiesburg, Miss.

“For 11 cats, it took me 81⁄2 hours to get them processed and out of there. Getting animals out of there was a political nightmare.”

Miller volunteered with vet techs from Pet Rescue Colorado Effort ” a grassroots hurricane relief initiative that Shelley Whipple, of Fort Collins, recently formed ” at the Humane Society of the United States emergency animal shelter in Hattiesburg. She said volunteers averaged about five hours of sleep per night and worked 12- to 16-hour shifts to tend to the more than 1,200 homeless animals.

“It was exhausting, but it was something that had to be done,” Miller said. “We had tons of little bitty kittens.”

Miller said there weren’t too many cranky cats to deal with, except for a particular black cat with an “old man face” who didn’t appreciate his oral exam.

“He’ll love on you, but if you mess with his mouth, watch out,” she told CARE vet techs assisting with Tuesday’s arrival of rescued cats.

Many of the animals ” up to 90 percent ” that came through the temporary shelter in Hattiesburg had not been neutered and had heartworms, said Miller.

“We decided the official dog of Mississippi is the unaltered pit bull,” she said.

Mostly adults, and a mix of males and females, the 11 cats that arrived at CARE had been examined by a vet, received shots for worms and rabies, and implanted with microchips for permanent identification. They all appeared to have weathered the 1,500-mile road trip well.

“These guys are so resilient, with the stress they’ve been through and the traveling. We’re going to handle them very cautiously,” CARE director Leslie Rockey said. “I’m very pleased. Everybody looks pretty good, happy and social. I’ve literally been having dreams, and some nightmares, too, about their arrival.”

After a quarantine of at least two weeks, blood work checks for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus and possible re-vaccinations, the cats will be available for fostering.

“I would like to foster them through the shelter following our own fostering guidelines,” Rockey said. “My concern is for those who have lost a short-haired black cat and they get on the (petfinder.com) Web site and see 500 other short-haired black cats. That’s my biggest nightmare.”

Rockey said she hopes foster individuals or families will donate the cost of reuniting the 11 cats with owners if they are found, but that may not be a requirement. She also hopes people will help CARE in other ways.

“It would really help if I can get people to come in and foster animals that are already here,” she said. “And we do need volunteers to come in and clean cages and feed the animals.”

Miller said she would foster some of the cats she transported, but she has her own adopted and rescued animals to care for at home.

“My husband would probably divorce me if I came home with another one,” she joked. “I’m the crazy cat lady, I admit it.”

After making her rounds in the quarantine room, Miller reluctantly said goodbye to the 11 hurricane evacuees. Two tabbies with striking yellow eyes rubbed up against their cage doors. A shy, long-haired Manx rested in the back of a cage and a stocky black one with a clipped tail begged for more lunch. Two young, feisty littermates ” one black and one tiger-striped ” played with a furry white mouse toy.

“Gosh, we’ve spent a lot of time together,” Miller said. “Coming though Texas, it hit 102 degrees and I had to move all of them from the trailer to the cab of the truck.”

Even with 11 stressed-out cats in carriers stacked in the truck’s front and back seats, the trip was relatively quiet ” and not too smelly, either. Miller and her furry passengers periodically stopped along the way for mandatory rest stops.

“They were actually all very good,” she said. “These guys are all very good.”

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