Photos Rob Smith
From the moment that a cat enters the doors of Floyd Felines and Friends, a promise is made. “You’ll never be hungry or cold again” is a common refrain spoken over a kennel of new arrivals. For some cats, the life they knew before was a life of struggle: for food, for shelter, for warmth. For others, the home they once knew was taken away from them due to a death, a move, or countless other reasons outside of their control. Regardless of why they first arrived, from that moment forward, they are safe.
For Director Kristy LaRue, this passion for rescue was sparked by reading the paper. After learning the euthanasia rate for cats at the local animal control, she was determined to step in and save lives. She began by volunteering to clean kennels at Petsense, a local pet store where cats are available for adoption. In 2015 she formed a licensed, 501c3 organization, and Floyd Felines and Friends was born.
Floyd Felines and Friends’ mission is to end euthanasia and cat homelessness by rescue, spaying and neutering, adoption, transport, and educating the public on responsible pet ownership.
At its core, Floyd Felines works to rescue cats that would not otherwise have a chance at a happy, healthy life. Often, after other rescues have pulled cats from local animal control facilities, they pull the leftovers, the ones no one has wanted. “This is the place that takes the one eyed cats, the broken leg cats, the sick cats,” says LaRue. “We’ll try and take care of them and find them a home, and that’s what our main mission is, to give every cat we possibly can a chance.”
The impact that Floyd Felines has on saving lives cannot be overstated. In 2015, the Floyd County animal control, known as PAWS, had the 3rd highest intake rate in the state of Georgia, and sadly, proportionally high euthanasia rates. In 2021, PAWS now has a feline live outcome rate of 95%, with similar rates in surrounding counties. Thanks to the hard work of every volunteer and donor at Floyd Felines, shelters in Floyd, Polk, Bartow, Walker and Haralson counties have essentially become no-kill shelters.
Longtime volunteer Mary Kate McCaffrey has worked in animal rescue for over 20 years, and speaks to the peace of mind this brings. “I never dreamed that Floyd County would have a real, licensed cat rescue. I can’t tell you what that feels like,” she says.
“We just don’t want anybody to die on our watch,” says LaRue.
Floyd Felines is entirely volunteer-run, with many volunteers devoting countless hours working in a myriad of areas. Some assist with cleaning kennels, some with administering medicines, some with washing food dishes, some keeping laundry machines running so the cats can snuggle up on a warm, clean blanket.
Others stay up to date and organized with paperwork, others manage the social media platforms, and some volunteers make sure that donors receive a handwritten thank you note for their generosity. There truly is a role for any skill set and interest level, even some that are possible from the comfort of your own home.
For volunteers like Chrissy Davis, the sense of community that develops from working alongside others is a reward all its own. “When I first started, I thought it was all about the cats. And it is about the cats, but the cats are the bonus. These people are like my second family. I really think my best friends are from here, because we’re such a bonded group. We’ve seen what we can do together, and the cats are the bonus,” she says.
Fosters also play an important role in the rescue process. Some cats need specialty care like bottle-feeding around the clock, and some cats will function best in a calmer setting or might need to be the only cat in a home. In a foster home, the cats are able to decompress and give their foster parent a better idea of exactly what type of home they would thrive in, which in turn helps when seeking out potential adopters, and frees up space within the rescue.
Rescue road trips
While overpopulation can be a prevalent issue in any region, the warmer climate of the South lends itself to a long kitten season, with cats able to stay in heat nearly year-round. For other regions, particularly in the colder northern climates, the numbers of cats available for adoption can be much lower and there are a greater number of potential adopters looking to find their fuzzy best friend.
Floyd Felines works with a number of rescues in states like Massachusetts, or Delaware, and frequently will transport cats northbound to their future homes. Volunteers within the organization specialize in these transports, setting off on their multi-day road trips, driving vans full of kennels with hearts full of love. These transports also serve to free up space to bring in new cats from surrounding areas, with some trips shuttling 100+ cats at a time.
Fixing the Felines
An additional aspect of rescue is the concept of TNR, or trap, neuter, release. For instances where a cat has a safe place to live outdoors and a regular source of food or is feral and would not be a suitable pet, TNR becomes a vital part in reducing overpopulation. Otherwise, an unneutered tomcat is capable of traveling a 20-mile radius in search of a mate, impregnating countless cats as he travels.
Similarly, an unspayed female cat can have up to 75 babies in a year, with each of those offspring creating a domino effect of overpopulation as well. Without intervention, many of these cats would be susceptible to disease, hunger, or injuries in their lives. In the year 2021 alone, Floyd Felines has orchestrated the trap, neuter, and release of 325 cats.
For cats that already have homes, spaying and neutering remains the most important method of reducing overpopulation in the region. “We love adoptions, but a spay and neuter is always going to have the biggest impact on the community,” says LaRue. To help members of the community who may not be able to afford to spay or neuter their cats, Floyd Felines will hold spay and neuter clinics, offering the service at a considerably lower cost. In the last two clinics held, 86 cats were fixed, making a considerable impact.
“Rescue is the band-aid and spay and neuter is the solution,” says volunteer Sarah Herndon, who coordinates the spay and neuter clinics. “Cats can’t fix themselves; they rely on us. It’s not their fault that they’re getting pregnant. It’s our fault for not taking care of them.”
The ultimate goal for each cat that comes through the doors of Floyd Felines is for them to find their own forever home, where they will know love and comfort for their entire life. Once a cat is fully healthy, has received all of the necessary shots, is fixed and microchipped, they are ready for adoption.
Some will join the adoption room within the shelter, a cat’s paradise with countless ledges for sunbathing or curling up for a nap surrounded by brightly colored murals painted by volunteers. Others will transfer to Petland and Petsense, local stores where they will be available for adoption. Floyd Felines uses their social media platforms to highlight the cats ready to be adopted, and the adoption fees go directly towards caring for other cats within the rescue.
Fundraising remains a constant need, as Floyd Felines is run entirely on donations and receives no county funding. In a given month, food for all of the cats within the rescue will cost between $3,000 and $4,000. Medicine and veterinary care another $3,000 or $4,000, fresh litter around $500 each month. Annually, the cost amounts to $200,000 to keep the cats alive, healthy, and fed.
There are many avenues for anyone who wishes to donate. For monetary donations or to donate needed items like food, beds or toys, visit www.floydfelines.org/donate and look for the PayPal links and the Amazon wishlist. Additionally, Amazon users can use AmazonSmile to designate that a donation is made to Floyd Felines with all eligible purchases. Many fundraising campaigns are conducted directly through the Facebook account, which can be found @FloydFelines
A Lasting Impact
The stories of each cat that passes through Floyd Felines can be equally heartwarming and heart-gripping, as every animal is deserving of a loving home. The volunteers pouring their heart and soul into the organization, taking time out of their lives, are equally deserving of admiration. But even more, they are deserving of support. Every dollar matters, every hour matters, and anyone with a caring heart can make an impact.