Helen Xia, CHS Student Writer

America, for many years, has faced a nuanced concern: the rise of the population of feral cats. These domesticated felines depend on humans for survival; however, feral cats are often abandoned on the streets, leaving them to endure the harsh outside world unaided.

Not only are feral cats vulnerable to threats such as contagious diseases, blood loss from worms and fleas, infections from untreated wounds, and cruel treatment from humans, but they also pose a danger to wildlife. For instance, according to the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), “Every year in the United States, cats kill well over 1 billion birds.”

The number of feral cats is not low, either. In fact, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), about 60 to 100 million feral cats wander our country’s roads, helplessly. What’s more, unfixed cats continue to produce even more litters of homeless kittens, further accelerating the problem.

Here’s some good news: We can help! The Cuddles Cat Rescue was organized in 2013 to help humanely reduce the large stray and feral cat population in the Thurmont area. The rescue is run entirely by volunteers who regularly dedicate several hours per week to coming in and caring for the cats. Since Cuddles Cat Rescue is a nonprofit organization, it relies solely on donations from the community to pay for food, veterinary care, and supplies to support its beneficial cause. (As a way to support the nonprofit, you can purchase an adorable tee or hoodie! To learn more, please visit bonfire.com/cuddlescatrescue.)

In the beginning, Cuddles Cat Rescue only operated through Trap, Neuter, and Release (TNR). This method entails colonies of cats being captured, vaccinated for rabies, and safely sterilized by a veterinarian before being returned to where they were found to be cared for by the property owners for the rest of the cats’ lives. Not long after starting, the rescue moved into a small, donated space on Carroll Street, where the organization could house cats and offer them for adoption. That way, instead of releasing them back into the wild, the cats had the opportunity to find forever, loving homes. In 2021, the rescue relocated to East Main Street in Thurmont, where they—Cuddles Cat Rescue and the felines themselves—have much more visibility to the public.

As mentioned previously, Cuddles Cat Rescue is managed exclusively by loving, generous volunteers, fostering a devoted, passionate, cat-loving community. The institution’s volunteers enjoy helping the cats as much as the cats enjoy finding their safe havens!

“I enjoy the rescue because it is my break from a hectic life,” said Tami Ridgway, a devoted volunteer at Cuddles Cat Rescue. “We see them come in scared and helpless, and then they develop into crazy fun cats! I also enjoy seeing the joy on the adopters’ faces when they get to take their new friend home.”

These sentiments were shared throughout the Cuddles committee. “I enjoy volunteering at CCR because you see the difference we make first-hand,” Chelsea Boggs explained, adding “Scared, sick, or unwanted cats come to us and leave not only healthy but with loving, forever homes.”

Similarly, the adoption director of the organization wrote, “Cuddles Cat is my weekly outlet from work and life. As the adoption director, it’s a great feeling to watch them find their ‘furever’ homes after coming in from a life outdoors. I love being a part of that. I started volunteering after the loss of my own cat. It’s been therapeutic.”

It is evident that while improving neglected cats’ lives and the environment, Cuddles Cat Rescue is bringing happiness to the individuals forwarding the nonprofit’s mission, too.

As a student volunteer at the rescue, I’ve definitely felt this happiness. It’s a bittersweet moment when a cat finds their long-awaited family—it’s a rewarding feeling, though you can’t help but feel a little sad when reminiscing the hours you spent looking after and playing with them. You often witness the feline friends grow up—both physically and mentally—especially if they entered the rescue as kittens or from adverse conditions. The rescue, to me, serves as a getaway from a potentially daunting reality. Sandwiched in-between responsibilities, such as work and schoolwork, is a refuge of innocent cats, jolly and eager for playtime, along with kindhearted volunteers who spark amusing and interesting conversations. I’ve been playing with the furballs for more than a year now, and I hope to continue for several more! Cuddles is excellent at what it does, from nurturing cats to emanating a warm, welcoming aura for all.

You can help save the lives of cats and dogs by making sure they are spayed or neutered. Fixing your furry friends is the number one way to reduce the population of homeless cats and dogs. Doing so also increases their quality of life, since they wouldn’t have to have litter after litter, which can cause a plethora of medical issues. There are far too many pets all over the country in need of loving homes. Even one litter of kittens or puppies is too much when countless other animals are waiting to be adopted in shelters and rescues.

If you have an unfixed cat on your property, or if you know of one anywhere, please do something to help! One unfixed cat can turn into dozens before you know it, only adding to the already overflowing population of feral cats in the United States. Though it is an intimidating issue, we have the power to help resolve it.

To learn more about Cuddles Cat Rescue and its adoptable companions, please visit www.cuddlescatrescue.com.

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