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Comfie Cat Shelter over capacity; OSPCA responds to concerns

Andrew Philips

By Andrew Philips, Special to Postmedia Network

Cats of all sizes and colours can be found throughout almost every room at Orillia's Comfie Cat Shelter. (ANDREW PHILIPS/SPECIAL TO THE PACKET & TIMES)

Cats of all sizes and colours can be found throughout almost every room at Orillia's Comfie Cat Shelter. (ANDREW PHILIPS/SPECIAL TO THE PACKET & TIMES)

Animal welfare investigators inspected an Orillia cat shelter Thursday after receiving public concerns over the health of some felines.

During the afternoon visit, two Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) inspectors toured the Comfie Cat Shelter with volunteers to check on the health and well-being of the nearly 100 cats and kittens living at the Norweld Drive facility and in an adjacent trailer.

With a friendly mix of calicoes, tabbies and black cats brushing against their legs, the group went from room to room to check on felines after the OSPCA received a call that a number of cats were suffering from untreated upper-respiratory infections.

Orillia-area resident Rhonda Sheppard and fellow cat lover Neale Kerr earlier collected close to 20 strays from Big Cedar Estates, near Bass Lake, where Sheppard lives, and brought them to the shelter.

The pair said they’ve become concerned about the health of some cats, which they believe have the respiratory illness.

“They’re all sniffling and their eyes are running,” Sheppard said as she surveyed the trailer’s seven or eight feline occupants and spotted a big black and white cat sleeping in a bottom cage.

“He’s not going to make it. He won’t be here much longer.”

Just outside the trailer, a medium-sized freezer holds garbage bags filled with animals that have died at the shelter recently.

“Cats are dying and it’s not a nice death,” Sheppard said. “It’s spread quite easily but can be treated easily with medication. We don’t want (the shelter) closed down.”

Inspector Alanna Patterson and another investigator took a couple of cats away that required immediate medical attention.

Shelter board president Jason Browning said volunteers always do the best they can for the cats staying there.

Browning said the shelter is appreciative of the OSPCA’s advice and looks forward to working with the agency.

“They are helping with some urgent medical issues,” he said.

Wendy Vollick, who, with her daughter, Sam, is a long-time volunteer — both serve on the shelter’s board of directors — said she hopes the shelter is on the upswing.

“We’re in a hell of mess,” Vollick said. “We feel we can’t do enough for them. We don’t have enough money for food or medicine.”

Vollick said the shelter is also stretching its capacity, with space for about 75 felines rather than the 100-or-so it currently houses.

Patterson told Vollick perhaps the shelter should limit intake for the time being and maybe close for two weeks to get everything running smoothly.

“We will have follow-up visits,” she said, adding the shelter also needs to begin ensuring all cats receive flea treatment. “I noticed quite a few of them had fleas.”

The inspectors left a list of steps that should be taken, including the suggestion the shelter be closed for two weeks to get all of the cats back to health.

Vollick said the shelter now has close to 100 cats and kittens and optimally shouldn’t have more than 75 at any time.

Shelter founder and general manager Barbara Ellen MacLeod was out of the country Thursday and not available for comment.

Browning said every shelter that houses cats normally has an issue with airborne upper-respiratory illnesses sometime during the year since cats are often free to wander.

“We had a bit of an issue in the summer,” he said, noting the shelter is ensuring any cats that might have some of the symptoms will be tested over the next few days to determine if they have the illness, and they would then receive the proper medication.

But Browning said they’re always looking for volunteers as well as any monetary or other donations.

“We still have an urgent need. It’s the veterinary bills that put us behind the eight-ball,” he said.

It’s always a difficult decision when one has to either get an operation for one cat or medicine for 50, he said, as both could cost the same amount.

“We’re a no-kill shelter and we have cats who’ve been here since Day 1. We have Christopher, and he’s 24 years old,” Browning noted. 

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