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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, November 18, 2010
Guilderhaven to the rescue
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND “It’s been a brutal, brutal year,” said Sue Green who chairs the Guilderhaven board.
The not-for-profit group was formed a decade ago by volunteers at the Guilderland Animal Shelter but shifted its focus to regional help for animals.
What has made this year so brutal, Green said, is the quantity of animals in need of adoption, particularly cats, and the dearth of those who want to adopt.
“It keeps circling back to spay, neuter; spay, neuter; spay, neuter,” intoned Green.
A month ago, someone dumped 18 cats and perhaps more; the cats haven’t all been caught in a wooded area in Guilderland.
Green declined to disclose the location because it is a site of a cat colony that Guilderhaven has successfully maintained “under the radar” for years, she said. The colony is for cats that can’t be socialized. They are provided with shelter and a feeding station, and are spayed or neutered.
“When you remove the two main sources of contention sex and food cats are very tolerant of each other,” said Green.
Feral cats often congregate around fast-food restaurants, she said, attracted by the rats and mice at the Dumpsters.
Cats, over the years, have frequently been dumped in the Pine Bush or left in the parking lots of Crossgates Mall, said Green.
A domesticated dog left to survive in the wild wouldn’t live for long, said Green. “He can’t hunt, can’t fight, can’t figure it out,” she said. “But, in three days, cats go back to being the predators they were born to be.”
The cats in the colony are provided with igloos, domed plastic shelters stuffed with straw. “They burrow in for the winter,” said Green. “We haven’t lost a cat in nine years.”
Green suspects that a hoarder dumped the cats at the colony site. Hoarders are people with mental problems that lead them to take on more animals then they can care for.
Green described half of the dumped cats as “semi-friendly, but too old to socialize.” The other half are kittens that can be handled.
“We’re down to the last little black kitten we saw yesterday,” Green said on Tuesday of cats still left in the woods. “We still have to get the mom.”
She went on, “We did lose one. She was an absolutely gorgeous cat but she tested positive for feline leukemia and feline AIDS,” said Green, noting that the disease is not transmittable to humans.
Guilderhaven is vaccinating and spaying or neutering the cats, which costs $100 to $150 each. Green estimates the cost will total about $2,500.
The kittens have been placed in foster homes until permanent homes can be found.
Green, who is 68, doesn’t like to foster cats herself, she said. “Every time I foster, I keep one,” she said, adding, “I have a responsible three.”
Asked about the adult cats, Green said, “That’s why I’ve been taking a lot of Alka-Seltzer. It absolutely breaks my heart….We’re looking to place them in a good barn situation, where they will be fed regularly.”
“We’ve got to educate people,” said Green, “that when you start feeding the strays in your backyard, you have to spay or neuter them…Ten years ago, it was very infrequent that we’d see kittens born in the winter. If a cat doesn’t have enough weight, it won’t go into heat… Now, people feed strays all winter long. It perpetuates the constant pipeline of kittens.”
Guilderhaven puts a lot of effort into educating the public about the importance of spaying or neutering animals and caring for them in general.
“We give coloring books to kids,” said Green. Guilderhaven members also speak to youth groups and at schools.
Guilderhaven is also active with a network of animal-care groups the Cat Care Coalition, Noah’s Kingdom, and SCRUFF (Spaying Capital Region Unowned Feral Felines) in providing low-cost clinics for vaccinations and for spaying and neutering.
Information is available online at the website for Guilderhaven, Inc.: web.mac.com/guilderhaven/.
“The overpopulation of cats is not their fault,” said Green. “It’s the irresponsibility of pet owners.’
The problem is far worse for cats than dogs, she said. “Our little group did 1,200 cats last year,” said Green. “With cuts in state funding, it falls on the shoulders of not-for-profits.”
Green concluded of Guilderhaven, “We’re tackling a difficult job, helping individuals and communities, with low-cost clinics. We help anyone who calls.”
Those who want to help Guilderhaven, Inc., either through fostering or adopting animals, or with contributions of time or money may call Sue Green at 861-6861.