NORTH KINGSTOWN – After a pair of cats in particularly bad conditions were brought to the Pet Refuge organized by the North Kingstown-Exeter Animal Protection League (NKEAPL), the animal shelter acted immediately, getting both cats veterinary treatment that is expected to cost thousands.
While one of the cats, Chantel, did not survive the ordeal, Coal, the second cat, spent days receiving veterinary treatment and will need long-term nutritional care. And though he appears to be stabilizing, the cost of Coal’s current and future medical bills are quickly adding up, leaving the animal shelter to turn to GoFundMe, an online crowdfunding website, to make up for the expenses.
The NKEAPL Pet Refuge is a privately funded, no-kill animal shelter, which relies on donations from supporters to cover costs, including veterinary bills.
“The Pet Refuge takes in many abandoned and neglected cats like Coal, who was found cold and starving with matted fur,” the GoFundMe page reads. “He only weighs four pounds when he should weigh at least twice that. He has spent several days in the hospital being stabilized and will need months of special feeding and veterinary check-ups in addition to medication to manage his previously untreated thyroid condition. The Pet Refuge is a no-kill shelter and we take care of all treatable animals, so veterinary bills can be substantial.”
The goal for the campaign is $4,000 and, as of press time on Monday, more than $400 dollars have already been donated since the page was set up last Thursday.
Linda Stevens, vice president of the NKEAPL Pet Refuge, said that both Coal and Chantel were in some of the worst conditions she had ever seen in her 30 years working in cat rescue.
“We often get cats that are neglected, hungry, etcetera,” Stevens said. “But I have to say, I’ve been in cat rescue for 30 years, and these two cases are among the worst I’ve ever seen.”
Both cats, she said, were “starving, weak, filthy and severely underweight,” and both had untreated thyroid conditions, which exacerbated their problems and may have been a factor in their abandonment.
And even when Coal is discharged from the clinic, Stevens said, he’s going to need “frequent weigh-ins, frequent veterinary checks and even some specialized nutrition.”
“This is definitely going to be a long road back, he’s going to incur some substantial vet bills,” she said. “This money will go to his care. If for some reason we end up with more money than we need for his care, the money will go to one of the other cats in a similar circumstance.”
Coal was originally brought to a municipal shelter in Kent County but was turned away because the shelter didn’t have enough space or resources, a relatively common occurrence that Stevens said is part of a larger problem.
“I communicate with other people in rescue, both statewide and nationally, and it seems like everyone is full,” she said. “Shelters are full, rescues are swamped, people are utilizing every volunteer hour they can get.”
She also said that this year has been particularly bad, both for the NKEAPL Pet Refuge and elsewhere. This year alone, the NKEAPL Pet Refuge has received almost $30,000 in veterinary bills, along with its usual expenses of the mortgage, heat and basic cat provisions.
The pet refuge currently has about 115 cats and kittens and can have as many as 150 during a busy summer. It also has a small population of around 40 cats who are likely permanent residents due to behavioral or medical issues which make placement difficult. Over the year, the refuge has found 222 cats and kittens “forever homes.”
Such a difficult and busy year, Stevens said, can make it a struggle to “stay financially afloat.”
“We have a very small, paid, mostly part-time staff and many dedicated volunteers who put in countless hours and without whom we could not operate,” she said. “It does seem like it’s been particularly bad this year. We’ve seen a lot of young, pregnant cats, which is very disconcerting. Cats that aren’t even a year old themselves and they’re coming in with litters of kittens or about to give birth.”
Beyond donating funds, Stevens said anyone interested in helping the animals can volunteer at a local rescue or donate items that can be sold at auctions or yard sales.
She added that visibility was also very important for the shelter, encouraging the public to share stories about animals in need on social media.
“If they see something on social media, even if they’re not able to contribute, they can share it on their page, get their friends to share it on their pages,” she said. “That’s very helpful for us.”
But for all those who are able to contribute money to the GoFundMe page for Coal’s recovery,
Stevens said the contributions are necessary in order to rehabilitate “extremely sick” cats.
“We are a private shelter and receive no municipal or state funds to operate. We exist solely on donations from our generous supporters,” she said. “The GoFundMe was set up to raise veterinary costs for extremely sick cats like Chantel and Coal.”
To make a donation or learn more about Coal’s story, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/abandoned-and-starving-cats-need-care. And to learn more about the NKEAPL Pet Refuge, visit http://nkeapl.org.