Some of you know that Boomer, Ringo and I just went to Georgia for a long weekend of hiking and camping. We expected to come back with lots of great pictures and memories, but not these guys..
When a Hiking Trip Turns Into a Cat Rescue
Most of you know me as a dog person, which I definitely am, but I have a sweet kitty at home too and have had cats my whole life. When I saw these poor cats in need of help, I had to do something. Here’s what happened and how you can help.
On Friday, we headed to Providence Canyon Outdoor Recreation Area in Lumpkin, GA to hike and explore the canyons. As we were leaving the park after a long, hot hike, I decided to make a quick pit stop on the side of the park road to take a picture of the canyon from above. The dogs were hot, so I left them in the car with the AC running and went to go get my picture. On the way back to the car, it had started raining and I saw a grey cat run out from under a tree and into the woods. I approached the tree to find what looked to be 2 black kittens hiding from the incoming storm.
When those who should care, DON’T
My first thought was to head back to the park office and talk to the part employee about the cats. Maybe they didn’t know about them, maybe they could call animal control or a rescue to come grab these underweight kittens. This park is in the middle of nowhere and food sources are limited. It’s hot and there are predators. It’s not an idea place for a family of cats, let alone kittens. I told the guy behind the counter about the cats and his response was basically “We know about them. Three people told us about them today alone. Someone dumped them here a while ago. They’re friendly.” Okay, that’s awesome that they’re friendly, but shouldn’t we do something to help them? I suggested animal control or reaching out to a rescue. His response was “They’re fine. Like I said, they’re friendly and sometimes visitors feed them. As long as they continue to be friendly, we’ll leave them be. When they turn feral, maintenance will make quick work of them.” He held his hand to his temple in the shape of a gun while saying this…
ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??????
He then said well, you can take them if you want to. I live 6 hours away and was on vacation with my dogs.. solo. I had no one to help, had no idea how my dogs would react to the cats, let alone how I was going to catch them and get them all the way back to Charlotte. I suggested again trying to find a rescue, even in Columbus, which is only 30 minutes away, or posting them on their facebook page asking for help from the community. The guy responds with a comment about how many birds of prey there are and that someone just saw a bear in the park recently, so they “won’t be a problem for long”…
How I did not punch this man in the face I have no idea. You would think someone who works for the park service would care about nature, wildlife, animals.. Not this guy. I stormed out of the office and went back to my car with my head spinning, not sure what I could do to help but knowing that I had to try.
On the drive back to our campground, I started calling every rescue group and shelter I could find on Google, to no avail. Most of the rescues were in Columbus, which is a different county, so they couldn’t help. I was also told that there is a GA ordinance that doesn’t allow them to take in strays. Awesome, okay, so it’s up to me I guess. I am still seeking a local rescue in the area, so if you know one PLEASE comment or email me via our contact page!!! I’ll get into why I still need help and what I need later in this post.
Impromptu Canyon Cat Rescue
I typed Wal-Mart into my GPS and drove into Columbus to grab some supplies. Leaving my dogs in the car with the AC running, I ran (like literally ran) into the store and grabbed a pet carrier and a few cans of cat food. Initially, I was going to go right back to the park and try to get the cats, but night was approaching and I still had a campsite to break down if I was going to take them home with me. After talking to my husband, I decided the best thing to do was to go in the morning so I could leave straight from there to make the 6 hour drive home. With stray cats… and my dogs. Should be fun!
I rose early Saturday morning, broke down camp, walked the dogs to get some energy out, and started the hour and 20 minute drive back toProvidence Canyon Outdoor Recreation Area. I had no idea if I would be able to even find the cats again or if they’d come to me if I did, but I knew I had to try. I parked a little ways away from where I saw them the day before and left the dogs in car with it running so they didn’t scare the cats away. I went to the tree where they had been hiding the day before but they weren’t there. After some searching, I spotted 2 of the kittens sitting on the fence at the edge of the canyon.
I approached slowly and opened a can of cat food. As soon as I set it down, 2 of them came running up. They were skeptical but SO hungry. Then a third kitten approached, followed by a very wary grey cat that I assume is the mom. The park employee had said 3 kittens and a mother cat were dumped and the grey one was slightly larger. I have never caught cats before, so I had no idea what I was doing but here goes nothing…
While they ate, I moved the carrier closer and started grabbing kittens. The first two came pretty easily. They didn’t like being put in the carrier, but they didn’t fight me very hard. I opened can and gave it to the 2 remaining cats and put the rest of the first in with the kittens I had already caught to keep them occupied. After the remaining 2 calmed down a bit and were distracted by the food, I picked up the third kitten and got it halfway in the carrier, just to have them all escape. GRRRR…(insert expletives here).
I managed to get the first 2 back in, but the third was now super distrustful. The last kitten and the mom ran a little ways away and watched me. They wanted the food but didn’t trust to come too close. I walked my last can of food over to them at the edge of the woods and backed away. They gobbled it up while keeping an eye on me. I crept back up and picked up the mom, who was terrified and scratched me up pretty good escaping from my arms. I tried the kitten again, but he did his best to avoid being captured. I tried to get near them one last time and they both bolted. Being by myself with no gloves, no trap, and no proper rescue supplies, I determined that it was better to take the two I had than to risk them escaping while I try to get a third or fourth scared, angered cat into the carrier with them.
My heart broke for the two remaining cats, but having such a long journey ahead to get the two I had caught back home, I knew there was nothing else I could do, not alone. I picked up the carrier, heart still pounding out of my chest, and started for the car. A state employee had shown up on the scene a few minutes earlier and was making a call (I heard him mention cats so I’m sure it was about me). I walked towards him as I was leaving and said hi. All he said was “You got a cat in there?” Yes, I told him. Two of the kittens. I’m going to take them with me and find them homes. I tried to get all 4, but I can’t get the last two. “Oh,” was all he said. I asked if they could reach out to a rescue or Animal Control to help the last 2 and all he said was “nobody’s gonna come out here.” Another person who just doesn’t care and has no interest in helping. “Okay” I said, I guess I’ll keep making some calls then and try to find someone else to help”. No response.
The Long Drive Back to NC
I nestled the carrier and our two new foster kitties into the space on the floor in front of the front seat,. I figured they’d be far away from the dogs and would hopefully feel a little less exposed and scared. I had piled all of our camping gear behind the front seats as a buffer to keep the dogs in the rear of my SUV. By this point, the kittens had settled down a bit. They had a good thrashing session when I was trying to get the last 2 cats, but had quickly given up trying to escape. For now…
We started the long drive home, which was filled with a few kitten cries every so often, but otherwise uneventful. After about 2 hours on the road, one of the kittens started trying to find a way out of the carrier. She gave up after a few minutes and I THOUGHT they were settling back down. The carrier is black and so are they, so I couldn’t really see them inside. A few minutes later, a black face pops up out of the carrier. OH NO. This smart little thing managed to open the zipper!
I’m going 70 down the highway in the fast lane and I have a loose kitten in my car. Possibly soon to be 2. AND dogs in the back seat. Luckily, there was a gap in traffic to my right. I gently held the kitten down against the seat with my right hand and crossed 2 lanes of traffic to get to the shoulder. The dogs were on top of the gear at this point, trying to get to the kitten. Thank goodness they listened pretty well to my freaked out, semi-harsh “back” commands and after some wrestling, I got both kittens back in the carrier unharmed.
Safe and Sound
We made it the rest of the way home safely and got the kittens settled in. My husband and I set them up in our spare bathroom, where it’s quiet and away from the dogs and our other cat. They were a bit apprehensive at first, but quickly warmed up to us and settled in. We ran to the store to get a cat bed, bowls, another litter box and some toys. They have since decided that our sink is the best nap spot so I put a towel in there to keep them comfy. We will be fostering the kittens until they can be vetted and we find them amazing new homes. They go to the vet tomorrow for checkups. We will be sure to post updates about their progress along the way, but for now they are safe and seem content to be inside in the air conditioning, with full bellies and lots of love.
Plea for Help
While I’m really happy to be able to help these two babies, there are still 2 more cats that need help. Being 6 hours away, there is only so much that I can do personally. So, I’m asking for help. If you live in Georgia or know someone who does or have contacts with a rescue or just some animal loving people that can get out to the park and catch the last two, I would be forever grateful. I know they would be too! I have a knot in my stomach wondering about how they’re doing and how long until they become a “nuisance” to less than caring and compassionate people that work at this park. I couldn’t help them personally that day, but with the right people and the right supplies, I hope they can find a happily ever after too.
Please help spread the word about the last 2 kittens. Feel free to share my contact info or reach out to me directly for my number. I will happily speak with anyone who wants to try to help and give them specifics on where specifically I saw them last. Hopefully together, we can help this whole family that someone else failed so miserably.
To contact me with any leads, resources, etc, shoot me a message via our contact page.
UPDATE: As of 8/8, I was informed that a rescue plan was being put into place for the remaining two cats. I reached out to the Director of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, who reached out to the regional park director for the region in which Providence Canyon lies. They are apparently both animal lovers and are working with a nearby state park (with more staff and better resources) to rescue the cats. I will write up another post once they have been rescued and I have updates!
Thanks for reading,
Debbie & THE MUTTS (and the kitties!)