The Fire Cats of Northern California

Jennifer Petruska calls them “fire cats”. She is very concerned for them. She is an insomniac. She spends her nights searching for them, trapping them, struggling to reunite them with their owners. She entices them out of the Californian ashes with their singed whiskers and sore paws. She is successful.

I’m referring to the fire storm which swept down the hillsides of Sonoma County. These wildfires were reported internationally. They were all over the news on the Internet. Hundreds of homes have been burned down. Dogs, more often than not, ran with their owners and escaped. Cats hid or ran away in the opposite direction and therefore many of them are still out there surviving and they need to be brought home and this lady and other volunteers are doing just that.

Jennifer is an impassioned animal lover. Her home was spared by the wildfires. She has spent almost every night since the fires looking for lost cats and trapping them. Jennifer and her team of volunteers have so far caught seventy but they believe that many dozens more are still amongst the ashes on the charred hillsides.

The team call themselves Pet Rescue & Reunification. They have even gone so far as setting up nightvision cameras in storm drains and creek beds where they believe cats went into hiding. They use traps baited with mackerel and tuna, the favourites for cat trappers. They check on the traps hourly until dawn breaks.

They post flyers of cats as you can see in the photograph above taken by Jim Wilson of the New York Times. This is night-time work for the volunteers. The motion activated cameras that they have set up tell them that there are still many cats on the loose, which means that there are also many owners pining for the return of their beloved cat companion.

“I just wanted my cat – that was the only thing I wanted back… I spent hours every single day looking for her.” (Kelly Stinson of Coffey Park)

The veterinarian, Sara Ratekin, involved in the rescue process, says that captured fire cats often arrive with burned paws, singed whiskers and many pounds lighter than normal. She recognises the fact that unlike dogs cats retreat and hide when they sense danger hence the need to recapture them.

Jennifer leaves no stone unturned in her attempts to capture these cats. She even builds personality profiles of each cat that she stalks. So, for example, one cat likes the sound of whipped cream fizzing from a can! She carries a can in her car. At the cats like certain treats, she carries these treats as well. Clearly she has been in discussion with the owners of these cat to assist in finding them.

Ten of the cats that she has recovered are yet to be reunited with their owners. It seems that these cats had not been microchipped and are therefore currently being kept at Sonoma County’s Animal Services Department and it seems likely that they will be rehomed.

Many cat owners had given up hope of seeing their cat again. One was Cindy Fulwider. She fled her home in the early hours of October 9 as burning embers rained down upon her. She was convinced that she had lost her cat, perished in the fire. Then five weeks later she received a call from Jennifer’s team.

“I really thought we would never see him again,” said Cindy. Well thanks to Jennifer she did.

Source: The New York Times.

4 thoughts on “The Fire Cats of Northern California”

  1. Since I do live in Sonoma County, but am not physically able to help, I share posts of lost/found cats, in addition to collecting warm clothing shoes,and pet items for families and pets who lost their homes.

    Just yesterday, NY eve, I brought a truck load of items to the collection area at a flea market in Santa Rosa, at the Veteran’s bldg.

    At first, things were available only to people who lost homes in the fire, but after a couple of hours, things were available to anyone who needed them.

    I’m including a picture.


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