Jasper was just 14 days old when this photo was taken of the cute tiger-striped kitten. Photo submitted

Friends animal home in need of volunteers

The nursery at Friends in Quincy is overflowing with kittens. They’re part of a group that was rescued in June. Although they’re of an age to be adopted out, until they have a clean bill of health, they’re staying where they are.

It’s kitten-time again. And Friends of Plumas County Animals is still inundated with last season’s kitten crop.

When two malnourished, uncared for mama kitties and their 11 babies were rescued from one Plumas County home, volunteers at Friends almost took on more than they could manage.

All of the cats were in bad shape, according to Rose Buzzetta, one of the founders of the local organization. The mother cats were flea-infested, malnourished and dirty. And their equally pathetic kittens were attempting to nurse.

Buzzetta and other volunteers immediately separated the adult cats from their litters. No one could get well if they remained together.

The backroom at the Friends’ facility once again became a nursery as volunteers took on the new kittens as well as continued to care for others in the home on East Main Street in Quincy.

And that’s how Buzzetta, longtime volunteer Jennifer Motzkus and others see the Friends’ facility — it’s a home, not a shelter. Cats and occasionally dogs, are at home here. Every day the cats are cared for — not just fed and given water, but brushed, petted, cuddled — whatever the cat prefers. Many are socialized.

Rescue efforts

This was the second time Buzzetta agreed to rescue kittens from one homeowner.

The first time the woman called — last year — she said she had purchased the property and it was overrun with feral cats. The second call wasn’t much different, according to Buzzetta. The homeowner was in a panic. She had far too many unwanted cats and she just didn’t know what to do.

Once again, Buzzetta agreed to help. When she arrived to collect the cats, Buzzetta said they were in containers. When the lid was removed there were cats that had lived in their own filth until her arrival. Everyone was in bad shape.

To date, Friends has spent $3,500 on the cats and kittens they rescued, according to Buzzetta. That doesn’t include the bill for spaying the two mama kitties.

But getting the animals well, getting them medicine and constant care would prepare them to seek new homes.

Now watching these kittens tumble and play with each other, batting bits of fluff across the floor, while ignoring the toys, or relaxing in one of the large, tiered cat kennels, it looks as if they’ve never known anything but a healthy life.

Volunteers needed

They’re so adorable. But they have been expensive and demanded a lot of extra work for volunteers with Friends. These are just two of 11 kittens rescued from a single home earlier this year.

Now in operation for 10 years, Buzzetta said that Friends has plenty of money. What they need are volunteers. Another large kitten crop — especially one that needed so much care — has just about exceeded the time and energy many existing volunteers can give.

People “are willing to give us money,” Buzzetta said. They’re “willing to give us cards,” she added holding up a recent one, “why not two hours a day?”

And that commitment isn’t every day. Looking at the current volunteer schedule, Buzzetta said there are a lot of vacant days. She’ll be the one to take on those necessary hours until more volunteers step forward.

The idea is to have enough volunteers so that each person doesn’t feel overwhelmed.

The ideal arrangement is that a volunteer agrees to work two hours a week or even a month, according to Buzzetta.

The cleaning has to be done in the morning, she explained. That makes the place ready to receive those who are looking for a pet to adopt.

Friends isn’t a shelter. Cats aren’t confined to little cages. Some cats are kept in rooms, essentially floor to ceiling areas where they have cat towers for climbing and with sleeping platforms. Others have large wire kennels and are allowed the freedom of the main living area to roam around. Window boxes with padded beds allow them to look outside or sleep in the sunshine.

On this particular afternoon, a huge black cat napped on the sofa. A second napped under it.

In a nearby kennel, a large colorful tortoiseshell calico enjoyed the sunshine on the top bed. Although the doors were open to give her maximum freedom of the living room, she seemed quite content to nap, waking just long enough to appreciate a loving hand and a quick snack.

There’s also an outdoor patio so the animals can enjoy some time outside.

And this is the environment where volunteers work. Buzzetta manages the litter boxes and feeding each day. Other volunteers are in charge of seeing that the rooms are vacuumed and tidied. Towels and blankets are laundered as needed.

Then it’s time to give each of the animals some individual attention. For a few, it’s time to get them used to people. One or two will welcome only so much attention before they say that’s enough with a warning bite or scratch. Volunteers quickly learn the signs to watch.

Playing with the kittens, holding them, cuddling them, dangling a string or tossing a toy is all part of the fun.

Buzzetta manages all medical needs for the residents.

“This is not a shelter,” Motzkus emphasized. “This is a rescue,” where animals stay until adopted.

“They stay here until the right owner comes along,” Buzzetta said. They encourage would-be adoption prospects to get acquainted with the animals to see who likes them best.

For instance, someone might come into Friends thinking they want a yellow cat. But then it’s an entirely different cat that jumps in  his or her lap and makes the choice known. “We have great success adopting out older cats,” Buzzetta said.

By getting to know all of the animals’ likes and dislikes as well as their personalities, volunteers are able to make better suggestions to adopters.

Shelly, the beautiful tortoiseshell cat, has had quite a few people interested in adopting her, but Buzzetta is particular. She knows this cat needs quiet and independence. That means no children, other pets and a quiet routine. It’s taken volunteers a long time to get Shelly accustomed to them and her surroundings. Someday the right person will come along, Buzzetta is sure.

But that depends on finding more volunteers to help. If they don’t come up with more people willing to help, then they will have to close their doors, Buzzetta explained.

Considering the home idea, Buzzetta said this isn’t just a home for animals, people have also been known to stay. One man couldn’t have his dog at the Sierra House, so he chose to spend time with his dog at Friends.

No fees

It doesn’t cost anything to adopt a pet from Friends; people are welcome to donate.

Friends also gives away pet food. Individuals who find themselves in crisis situations are welcome to apply for pet food up to twice a year.

Buzzetta said that about once a year she heads to Reno, fills up a truck and has that available to give to others.

“Friends of Plumas County Animals will offer food through this Crisis Food Program as long as we have a supply of donated food available to us,” Buzzetta explained. This food is not part of what is purchased for animals living at Friends.

Who’s responsible

Both Buzzetta and Motzkus lay the blame for the county’s dog and cat overpopulation problem squarely the Board of Supervisors.

Wherever the pair look they see a problem with cats that aren’t being cared for. That doesn’t mean just food and medicine, it means overpopulation.

One year another facility received a grant to help spay and neuter cats and dogs. People were delighted with getting their pets fixed at a fraction of the cost. Buzzetta said they saw a noticeable decrease in the number of animals needing homes. But the grant wasn’t renewed and the problem returned.

One of the problems in attracting grants is that grantors are seeking larger populations. They want their funding going to areas where there is the biggest need, Buzzetta said. That doesn’t mean however that the needs aren’t present here in Plumas County.

This is when the influence and funding from the county is necessary, she explained. And not only is the problem evident in terms of the overpopulation issues, it’s also a health hazard.

Disease spreads in colonies of unwanted cats. Rabies is just one of many concerns.

And it’s no different for dogs that roam free or join packs.

The county is also responsible for managing homes where residents are allowing their animals to breed without consequences, Buzzetta said.

There are plenty of examples where residents don’t do anything to solve the problem.

Or they’re mentally or emotionally not able to manage the situation. Buzzetta said she was thinking of one specific case where at least 50 cats were discovered in one home. They weren’t being cared for, some had died, most were sick, she said. Unfortunately this isn’t an isolated situation.

For more information about Friend of Plumas County Animals, a nonprofit, contact Rose Buzzetta at 927-8057.