Nine lives in Paradise
Eight months later, Camp Fire cats are still being found
Jellybean is home. On his own in Magalia since the Camp Fire, the elusive long-haired tabby was finally trapped by Friends United in Rescue volunteers on June 9 and returned to owner Julie Walker the next day. That’s more than seven months in the wild!
It’s a testament to a cat’s ability to survive, and also a reminder to not give up hope. Even though most animal rescue efforts have ceased, there are certain sturdy-yet-skittish pets—i.e., cats—still being found in the burn scar and owners who might not know that a reunion is possible.
But time is running out. On June 30, the FieldHaven Feline Center’s Paradise Transfer Station (one of the primary shelters for Camp Fire rescues) closed its doors at the same time that the Camp Fire Pet Rescue and Reunification organization, which shared that space, ceased its trapping operations.
However, there are still other groups working to bring cats in, namely the grassroots Friends United in Rescue (FUR—previously Friends of Camp Fire Cats) in Paradise and Fire Cat Farm in Butte Valley, as well as a slew of citizen-led Facebook pages. The cats from FieldHaven will be transferred to foster homes, as well as the organization’s Feline Center in Lincoln. At press time, there were more than 100 unclaimed Camp Fire cats being taken care of by those three groups.
Even though Camp Fire Pet Rescue and Reunification is no longer trapping, its reunification efforts continue, largely via the organization’s impressive database of found pets, which includes animals picked up by trapping/shelter groups, as well as the other Butte County shelters, animal control, and even private citizens posting to Craigslist, Facebook, etc. As of last week, 1,420 rescued cats had been listed in the database since the fire broke out—plus 477 dogs and 175 other animals (horses, chickens, sheep, etc.).
Camp Fire Pet Rescue and Reunification was co-founded by Jennifer Petruska, who was posted up in an RV outside the Paradise Transfer Station between late February and the end of June (and had been in Butte County—and away from her Santa Rosa home—since Nov. 10). Pet Rescue and Reunification (the parent group) was started by Petruska and others in the wake of the 2015 Valley Fire in Lake County, and since then has brought its organizational structure to fires in Napa/Sonoma, Mendocino, Redding and now Butte County, working with local organizations to centralize pet rescue efforts as much as possible.
Given the great need, it was a no-brainer for the CN&R to devote this year’s Pet Issue to helping these survivors get back to their owners—or to fosters or new homes (many unclaimed cats are, or will be, available for adoption).
We visited two of the Paradise shelters—FUR and FieldHaven—a couple of weeks ago to take these photos, and we brought along someone with experience, Sue Anderson of Black Cat Photography. In addition to her pet-portrait business, Anderson donates her time to photograph the shelter cats at Butte Humane Society, and she volunteered to take pictures of these Camp Fire cats.
Anderson also belongs to HeARTs Speak, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to use art to increase visibility of shelter animals. HeARTs Speak’s slogan is “seen equals saved,” and that’s the goal with this year’s Pet Issue. We hope by publishing these pictures and providing information on where to find other cats, pet owners will see that it’s not necessarily too late to check to see if their pets survived the fire and were rescued.
If you see your cat in one of these pictures, contact FieldHaven or FUR right away. If you don’t see your missing cat here, visit the Camp Fire Pet Rescue and Reunification and other trapping/shelter sites and scroll through the photos.
Your cat might be waiting for you to come looking.
Note about photo IDs: “CF” numbers indicate FieldHaven cats, and “FUR” numbers are Friends United in Rescue. See “Find your cat” for info..