For more than a decade Betty Hansen has taken care of the abandoned or forgotten cat population in Keremeos. And now residents are stepping forward to give her a little help.
Rona Brewin, a friend who shares Hansen’s love for felines has setup a Go Fund Me Campaign to raise money to offset some of the costs involved with caring for the cats and kittens.
“I met Betty two years ago at the Christmas craft fair at the LightUp celebrations. She was selling the slippers she makes to raise money to help pay for the cats. We got talking about the cause and we shared the same passion,” she said.
A recent drop off of two kittens in bins outside Hansen’s house pushed Brewin into doing something for her friend.
“She said to me in passing, ‘it’s going to be food or heat soon,’ and I thought oh my God. Here’s this woman taking care of people’s unwanted cats because she doesn’t want to see them suffer and she might have to choose between food or heat for herself. I knew we could do something as a community.”
As of late Tuesday morning the fund had raised almost $500 of its $5,000 goal.
Betty Hansen told the Review she was in shock people were so kind to donate and that her friend took the time to setup the fund.
“I never asked her to do it, but I really appreciate it though. We really need a little boost. It’s a bad time of year. It gets really tight. I don’t want to use the charge card all the time,” she said.
Hansen lives off a small pension. To help buy cat food, litter and other supplies, she crochets slippers and sells them. She also collects cans.
Hansen said her work with the abandoned and feral cat population started over a decade ago when a group of about 35 cats started hanging around the old vet office.
“We had them all fixed. We gave them food and we gave them water but coyotes came and took them all, well except one. One girl survived. She’s still alive. I go and I feed her everyday still.”
“I just can’t not help. I can’t stand by and let cats starve to death.”
Hansen isn’t sure how many cats she’s taken care of over the last decade but knew it was “lots and lots.”
Currently she cares for about 20 stray or feral cats at her home. They’ve all been fixed and received medical care. Those cats are not able to be adopted out because they are feral, or have special needs, she said.
“The thing about feral cats is no one wants them. Everyone wants a cat that will sit on their lap, but these are good cats. They have personality. They don’t deserve to die or starve.”
Over the years she’s been called into to help with all kinds of issues with cats from kittens being left in fields, to cats being hit by cars or injured cats found and no one knows what to do.
“They don’t all make it. We try our best to help but sometimes they are too hurt,” she said.
At some point over the years, Hansen connected with Paw Prints Animal Rescue. The rescue, now in Chase B.C., takes cats and kittens that can be adopted. It’s also working on building a large cat sanctuary for feral cats.
“Without them I’d be up to 150 cats. I wouldn’t be able to do it. It’s them that pays for the vet bills and adopts them out. I have to meet them in Kelowna, but they take the cat to the vet when it needs it and make sure it gets spayed,” she said.
Hansen said sometimes its days, weeks or even months before the rescue can make its way to Keremeos to pickup the cats.
“It could be a few days that I have a cat or kittens or it could be a few months. It just depends when they can get here. They were really busy over the summer with the all the wildfires and now it’s winter and the roads.”
Hansen said her trips to Wal-Mart always get a puzzling look from the cashier.
“We buy in bulk and buy a lot of things. They always say I have more cat food and litter than I do food for me. That tells you how much it takes to take care of them,” she said.
Hansen said her hope is that people will start spaying and neutering their cats regardless of whether their barn cats or house cats.
“I think people think, ‘oh they’re just cats.’ They’re a tool. They’re here to catch mice. To work. But they aren’t just that. They can catch mice, but they’re living things. If we could get everyone to spay and neuter their cat we wouldn’t have this issue of kittens being abandoned.”
Hansen said although things are tight financially quite often she makes it through by just believing what she does helps and knowing it will all work out.
“Sometimes donations do come in. They just show up and it’s really appreciated. I have to just trust and believe that something is going to be there when we need it.”
Anyone wanting to donate can do so by going to www.gofundme.com/bettys-cat-rescue.