By Pat Foster-Turley
September 23, 2022
I have always been a cat person. Throughout junior and senior high school I volunteered and eventually got paid to work at the local animal hospital, where I was known to be able to calm the most frightened cats. Bucko and I have always had a cat throughout our 46 years together, but only one at a time, all calico/torties. Bandita and Masala both lived to be about 18 years old, and our current cat Dumela is only 10 with hopefully eight more years to go.
Bucko is adamant about being a one-cat household but that’s not nearly enough cat love in my life. Now that I have discovered volunteer opportunities at the Nassau Humane Society in Fernandina Beach I have found fulfillment. My volunteer job is to “socialize” the cats in the facility. In other words, I have free reign to visit the cats and kittens, play with them, groom them, whatever, whenever the center is open. Wow, how come I didn’t learn about this sooner!
I’ve only been to the facility in my new role three times so far, but that’s all in the first week and already I am getting to know a few of the feline residents and some of the kind humans who make this possible. Most of the older cats roam free in the “cattery,” two large rooms, an air conditioned inside room and a large screened-in outside area. The cats are free to move between the rooms and there are platforms, chairs, boxes, tunnels, litterboxes, and water bowls placed throughout the area. Toys of all descriptions litter the floor, cat brushes are handy, and the cats are given a variety of different brands of cat food and treats that cater to their individual tastes. Some of the chairs are just fine for visitors too, and if you sit too long in one you just might end up with a cat on your lap, which is not a bad thing at least for me.
The king cat of the cattery is Tank, who was rescued by long term, almost daily, volunteers Cindi and Roy Carter, who spent weeks trying to befriend him when he was in the wild, and finally succeeded. Tank has been at the center so long and become such a friend of the staff and volunteers that the Nassau Humane Society adopted him themselves, to live his life in this luxurious setting with people doting on him. Another cattery resident Ferdi may end up staying there for a long time too. He is blind in one eye, which makes him startle easily when approached unexpectedly, but he also has the somewhat annoying trait of attacking people’s legs. But only to get more attention. Once someone starts playing with him, dangling a feather on a string or something, he is all set. That’s what we volunteers are for.
Other cats get adopted quickly. During the week I have been visiting, two adult cats got adopted out, Millie and Marcus. According to Alec Rowe, the Adoption Manager, Marcus only lived at the Nassau Humane Society for a week, while he got checked out by the animal care staff. When he was deemed ready to join the cats in the cattery he only lasted 40 minutes there before he was adopted.
Other adult cats that can’t associate with others for various reasons are housed in extra-large individual cages (the “condos”). Stephanie Miller, the Executive Director of the Humane Society, shares her office with a cat or two as well. Recently she housed old Tiger King there in his final days, before he died of age-related issues this past week. Tiger had long lived in the facility, roaming freely throughout the offices and hallways, the “sheriff” of the place, they said. His passing was a sad occasion but it was a lucky break for Gremlin and Little Lee, a bonded adult pair, who have moved from a condo to her office until they win over someone else’s heart.
And don’t get me started about the kitten room—cuteness overload! About a dozen small kittens are housed in cages here some of the time, but mostly they roam loose in the room entertaining adoring visitors and potential adopters. Like the main cattery, this room is filled with cat toys and soft areas to sit. Unlike the older cats, these small felines love to play, and the room is usually filled with the happy laughter of those watching their antics. There are few things more enjoyable to me than sitting on a pillow with baby cats on my lap and more playing in front of me. Now the numbers of kittens are diminished as they too get adopted. And that’s a good thing.
- If you want to help the Nassau Humane Society you can volunteer, donate, adopt or even attend their annual fundraiser, “Pasta for Paws” coming up October 8. Check out their website https://nassauhumane.org, call them at 904-321-1647, or stop by the facility on Airport Road during visiting hours beginning at 11 a.m. most days.
And just maybe when you visit you’ll see me playing with the cats. I just can’t stay away!!!!
Pat Foster-Turley, Ph.D., is a zoologist on Amelia Island. She welcomes your nature questions and observations. [email protected]