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Hairball Haven at capacity

COVID-19 affects local cat rescue

Ciara Parizek/MDN From left to right, Hank, Adilynn and Tucker Tix sit with two of their fosters, Nova and Connor.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit non-profits hard and is making it difficult for them to operate. One such non-profit is Hairball Haven, a local cat rescue.

Hairball Haven was founded by Tanya Mendelsohn back in 2015 to rescue cats from the Minot pound. It’s strictly a foster rescue, as Mendelsohn and others involved did not have a large space to have a complete shelter. Because it’s a non-profit, they rely on donations and adoption fees to get the supplies they need, get the adults spayed or neutered, and getting the sick cats the care they need.

Julie Witter started fostering cats and kittens in January 2017, taking over the rescue in July 2018 when Mendelsohn moved out of state.

Before the pandemic, cats and kittens could be housed at the Minot Petco for people to see as they walked by. If the people were interested in one of the felines, they could play and visit with them in the adoption room.

Now the areas for cats in Petco are empty and the adoption is unavailable, as well. The last four cats, Impala, Eleanor, Kia and Sport, were all adopted out to their forever homes. As a safety precaution, new cats cannot be housed there until the pandemic is over. Meta Tix, the newest member of Hairball Haven, said that the cats are less likely to be adopted due to lower exposure to people.

As a result, all felines taken in from the pound have to be with foster families until they are adopted out.

The application and adoption processes have also had to be adjusted. People who are interested in adopting a cat or kitten have to ask for an application over Facebook Messenger and one of the page admins will email it over. Once it’s complete, the applicant has to take a picture of the second page and send it back over Messenger.

Hairball Haven is very thorough in making sure that the cats and kittens are a perfect fit for the families. When an applicant is approved to adopt, they have to go to the foster’s home to pick up their new family member.

The foster family must be willing to allow the adopters to visit their homes to pick them up. Masks must be worn by both the foster and the adopter while in the home.

As of May 6, four mother cats all had kittens. Between the four females, there are 24 kittens. Cynthia Misner, Troy Roness, Witter and Tix each have a mother cat and their respective litters of kittens.

Natalie Davy, a licensed veterinary technician and rescue partner, is in charge of making sure that their cats and kittens get the medical care they need, including being spayed or neutered. “Thankfully, our veterinary partners at Pinkerton Animal Hospital (have) made accommodations for Hairball Haven,” she said. “They continued to spay or neuter strictly for our cat rescue. We are thankful for their dedications to us and the cats!”

The cats from the rescue are usually seen within a day. “We drop them off and they work them in when they have time.”

Tix also said that they have recently taken in an abundance of cats from a hoarding situation in Bottineau.

Getting premium brand food, such as Canidae and Blue Buffalo, for their cats hasn’t been too difficult. Davy said they use donation money to buy bags of kibble, including prescription food for urinary issues and other medical conditions. Hairball Haven also takes donations of the premium cats food.

Witter has two adult German shepherds. The 11-year-old male is about 115 pounds and the 10-year-old female is 85 pounds. Growing up around dogs would reduce the chances of being afraid of dogs and make it much easier for them to find a home.

Witter and Tix have their own cats, so the kittens will be raised around other cats who are not their litter mates. Growing up around other animals increases their chances of being adopted, especially if the family already has a cat or dog.

The foster families do everything they can to keep the kitties comfortable. When cats are overly stressed, they shed a lot more than normal and their coats may feel oily or greasy. Keeping stress levels down is another large reason why their adoption process is so thorough. The more an animal is moved around, whether it’s a cat, dog or other species, the more stressed they get, making it more difficult to trust their new people and settle into the home.

As of May 6, all fosters are at full capacity. Once a cat has been adopted, they take in another from the Minot pound. As fewer people are going out and continuing social distancing, it’s more difficult for cats and kittens to be adopted. Expenses are up exponentially and Hairball Haven is doing everything they can to make sure their fosters are fed, have clean litter and stay healthy.

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