Feline Rescue was founded in late 2006 by Mary Braem Foster. Mary moved to northern California from Minnesota with her partner, James Williams, an international business attorney. Prior to Feline Rescue, Mary worked for many years in the areas of human rights and community organizing. "We never dreamed of starting a rescue. However, it seemed the need found us." In almost five years, Feline Rescue has developed into an extremely effective organization, thanks to a very small number of incredibly dedicated and talented volunteers.
In addition to responding to calls for help from throughout Sonoma County and beyond, we support efforts to care for homeless cats in area feeding sites, provided these sites conform to guidelines re permissions, proper feeding practices, trapping, spay/neuter, etc. Truly feral cats are returned to the sites, and adoptable cats and kittens are placed in foster care. We also work diligently to educate the community about the importance of feline spay/neuter and help connect low income residents with affordable resources.
Each adoptable cat or kitten is placed in a loving foster home, a much happier and healthier situation for the cat and far more cost effective than being in a shelter kennel. It helps re-build bonds of trust and affection with humans for the cats and kittens awaiting adoption. We screen adopters carefully to ensure a good fit and provide follow up advice to adopters.
While the majority of our activities are in Sonoma County, we are active in the entire Bay Area, sometimes even farther away. We also work closely with a special rescue group in the Round Valley. We respond to calls for help about homeless cats and kittens, some ill or injured, some needing rescue from roofs, culverts, crawl spaces, under blackberry thickets or left on the sides of roads or highways.
Our primary expense is veterinary care (75% of total expenditures). We work hard to keep this expenditure a low as possible, while providing excellent medical care to each rescued animal. We partner with three veterinary hospitals and receive discounts on services. We use a low cost mobile spay/neuter feral cat clinic in Santa Rosa for some spay/neuter surgeries. We purchase many medications and vaccines at a discount and administer them using trained volunteers, in consultation with a supervising veterinarian.
Without the overhead of a physical shelter and with no paid staff, our expenses, including veterinary services, medications, food and litter, average $173 per adopted cat. We believe this is a real measure of efficiency because organizations with either high expenses or low adoption numbers show resulting very high costs per adopted cat. An examination of statistics of shelters in Sonoma, Marin and San Francisco Counties shows approximate average expenditures per adopted cat ranging from $1,800 to $2,700. In some areas, the expenditure is far higher. This is not a criticism of these shelters, which certainly provide a valuable service, nor is it a criticism of their cost structures. Instead, this illustrates the efficiencies gained through Feline Rescue's operating model, trying to meet extraordinary needs with far less funding. Your contribution to Feline Rescue goes directly to save and place cats, rather than to administrative salaries, physical facility overhead and expenses, fundraising costs, etc.
In 2008, Feline Rescue provided veterinary and other care for 195 cats and kittens. Of these, 50 truly feral cats were returned to the original sites, and 15 cats/kittens died or were euthanized due to illnesses or injuries. (These deaths include, sadly, nine emaciated, dehydrated very young kittens whose mothers had been driven off or had abandoned them. Saving these kittens ("bottle babies") is extremely difficult, often heartbreaking work, and few other rescue groups in this area attempt it.) 126 cats and kittens were adopted, and four were in foster homes awaiting adoption at years end. This number is only slightly lower than the cats placed by the shelter closest to our service area, a shelter with an annual budget of almost $500,000. (Feline Rescue's income in 2008 was $18,000.)
2009 and 2010
In the last three years, we have substantially expanded our efforts to respond to needs outside our core area and to prevent abandonments as the recession drags on. We continue to operate as an all volunteer "shelter without walls" and "animal control with a heart" for northern Sonoma County and to respond to calls from residents of neighboring counties with no other options but high-kill shelters. (We are receiving an increasing number of urgent requests to help cats-injured, ill, special needs, orphaned "bottle babies"-after larger, better funded programs have been unable to help because "they don't have the resources" or "the request doesn't fit the organization's guidelines.")
In 2009, we provided veterinary care (including spay/neuter) for 440 cats and kittens and placed 230 in foster homes, from which 196 were adopted. (156 TNR feral cats were returned to feeding sites or relocated to vineyards or ranches. Twenty cats and kittens died from injuries or advanced disease while under veterinary care (four were euthanized), and 34 were in foster care at the beginning of 2010.
In 2010 , we provided veterinary care for almost 500 cats and kittens (including spay/neuter when appropriate). Approximately 300 of these were first placed in foster care from which ~ 250 were adopted. Approximately 50 remained in foster care at the end of 2010. Approximately 150 cats were returned to feeding sites or placed as "barn cats" on ranches, vineyards or other rural property. 30 were returned to their owners, and ~20 died because of injuries or illnesses that weren't treatable.
In 2011, we provided veterinary care for approximately 500 cats and kittens (including spay/neuter when appropriate). 301 cats and kittens were adopted, and a small number remained in foster care. We lost 10 kittens (mostly newborn) to illness or failure to thrive, and four cats were euthanized because of untreatable illness or injuries. The remainder were returned to feeding sites or placed as "barn cats" after spay/neuter and vaccinations or returned to owners after receiving veterinary care. We accomplished this with just a handful of very dedicated volunteers and very careful stewardship of the donations we received. It's truly amazing and heartwarming to accomplish so much with so little, never compromising quality of care.
We continued to provide the highest level of veterinary care for all rescued cats and kittens (including spay/neuter, routine care and treatment for injuries and illnesses). Our partner vet hospitals are the Animal Hospital of Cloverdale, All Tails Wagging Veterinary Clinic (Santa Rosa), Wikiup Veterinary Hospital (Santa Rosa), Animal Kind Vet Hospital (Novato) and Nine Lives Foundation (Redwood City). We also work with Forgotten Felines (Santa Rosa) for spay/neuter of feral cats. We continue to support independent feeding sites, provided they conform to our good practice criteria. Our dedicated volunteers (including direct rescue teams and foster parents) are the heart of Feline Rescue. We're able to maximize every dollar donated because we are all volunteer, and virtually all revenue goes to the direct care of our rescued cats. We accomplish so much with very little, never ever compromising quality of care.
In 2013, we continued to provide the services listed in our 2012 summary but shifted focus to care for more elderly and chronically ill cats who have a limited chance of being adopted. So, most of our foster homes became "long term foster homes" rather than a very temporary bridge between rescue and adoption. We also provided veterinary care for a number of ill or injured cats, affordable spay / neuter services for hundreds of cats and kittens.
We also helped over 500 people (from Sonoma County and other neighboring counties) who needed to rehome their pet cats due to life changes (guardian died or moved to a care facility; guardians lost their home and moved to housing that didn't allow pets; family member developed serious allergies to cats; change in finances meant that people couldn't afford cat food or vet care). While we weren't able to take in most of these cats, we did work diligently to help the callers find resources that avoided abandonment of the pets. At times, we also provided vet care or supplies that, again, helped the guardian keep his/her cats. This has become an exhausting and very rewarding part of our work.
2014 and 2015
Our work has continued, using the same models and a small group of very dedicated volunteers. We continue to respond to homeless cats who are ill or injured, provide veterinary care (including spay / neuter) for cats at feeding sites and help low income people provide care for their cats.
In one special situation, we were contacted by an older homeless woman living by a local river. "Christy" had serious mental health and substance abuse problems. She needed to be hospitalized as the first step in treatment, but she had a dear , blind cat "Daisy." She refused to enter treatment unless someone would care for Daisy. We took Daisy and fostered her for almost a year. (We also helped Christy connect with resources to help her find needed social services and shelter.) Christy made amazing progress and overcame substantial obstacles. She is now healthy, has housing and is reunited with "Daisy." As is so often the case, helping cats is also about helping people.
In 2015, we shifted gears in one way and are now focusing energy on special needs cats and "long term fosters," cats who, because of health, age or behavior issues are unlikely candidates for adoption. We also are working with a few dedicated people in Lake County (a county essentially devoid of resources) to help abandoned cats there, and we've worked to address special challenges created by the 2015 wild fires.
2016 was a particularly challenging year. Bay Area shelters were almost always at capacity (with waiting lists). Housing became more scarce (and expensive), and we received several calls each week from people who "needed" to rehome their cats b/c cat friendly housing was not available. Some people didn't call and simply left their cats behind. It's clear the number of cats needing homes is far outrunning the number of prospective adopters.
FRNC networked with other organizations, some as far away as Grass Valley CA, finding places for a number of these needy cats. We worked with a number of individuals in Lake County to rescue and foster cats who became homeless after major fires...or were simply abandoned. We also counseled guardians who had cat behavior issues and supported for low income guardians with supplies and vet care for their cats. We also helped relocate a number of feral or semi-feral cats from commercial locations to safe country settings. And, we continued to support feeding sites (supplies, vet care for injured or sick cats and, of course, spay/neuter).
Note: FRNC's mailing address has changed, as you'll see in the "Contact" page. James and Mary have a second home in Woodland, WA, a property they bought to accommodate the many rescue cats in their care. (They still have a residence outside Cloverdale, CA, and continue to operate FRNC from that base.)
Mary E Braem, President
Feline Rescue of Northern California, Inc.
42608 NW 7th Ct.
Woodland WA 98674
707 494 5544