Animal workers step in to avert cat-astrophe


Patty Blair, an animal care technician, holds Tornado, who only has one eye, as she tends to cats in a cat adoption room at the Marion County Animal Center in Ocala, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. Tornado was one of 82 cats seized by Marion County from a Salt Springs home recently after a complaint for the cats’ well-being. Tornado is one of seven of the cats who now only has one eye due to neglect. Veterinarians at the animal center had to close the eyes of cats in surgery due to a problem with their tear ducts. About half of the cats from the seizure have already been adopted or moved to a cat shelter. The rest of them are looking for a loving home. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.

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Posted October 16, 2020 | By Bill Thompson, Ocala Gazette

A cat is shown in its cage in a cat adoption room at the Marion County Animal Center in Ocala, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.

National Happy Cat Month, the time when feline fans are encouraged to focus on the health and well-being of their furry friends, ended on Sept. 30.

While that moment has come and gone, Marion County officials are looking to make more than 80 cats happy by finding them new homes.

County Animal Control authorities recently took custody of the cats as part of an investigation into allegations of maltreatment at a home in Salt Springs.

Per a judge’s order, county spokeswoman Stacie Causey said, the county now has 82 new cats at the Animal Center just off Baseline Road.

The investigation remains and open and ongoing, she said.

But in the interim, the department is giving away the newly acquired animals.

Causey said the county is promoting the rescue and the subsequent giveaway for a couple of reasons.

First, the Animal Center is already overflowing with cats, and a new wave of potentially abandoned kitties is anticipated as peak “kitten season” approaches.

Patty Blair, an animal care technician, holds Tornado, who only has one eye, as she tends to cats in a cat adoption room at the Marion County Animal Center in Ocala, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. Tornado was one of 82 cats seized by Marion County from a Salt Springs home recently after a complaint for the cats’ well-being. Tornado is one of seven of the cats who now only has one eye due to neglect. Veterinarians at the animal center had to close the eyes of cats in surgery due to a problem with their tear ducts. About half of the cats from the seizure have already been adopted or moved to a cat shelter. The rest of them are looking for a loving home. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.

“For most of the country, kitten season is from February to November,” said Causey. “Florida’s mild temperatures pretty much make kitten season year-round with spikes in March, July and November.”

Secondly, the cats in question need to “debrief,” Causey said.

“Many of these cats have ongoing and chronic issues due to the stress of their previous life,” she noted. “The immense activity and noise typical of any shelter is a lot to take in and not cohesive to healing from the mental and physical stress the cats have already experienced.”

Causey noted, for example, that seven of the felines were deformed and needed intensive medical care. The Animal Center’s veterinarian had to remove their tear ducts and eyelids, and then surgically close the cats’ eyes.

The county’s regular adoption fee for dogs and cats is $50. But Causey emphasized that the animals involved in this case are available for free, and that the county will handle the cost and services required for adoption.

That includes surgery to spay or neuter the cats, providing a county license, the insertion of a microchip, making vaccinations current, and whatever other medical treatment, including surgery, the cats require in order to make them healthy enough for adoption.

“These babies need to find forever homes quickly to start their healing process,” Causey said.

Causey noted that the county shelter retains its “no-kill” policy, which means the felines from this abuse complaint will remain in the custody of the Animal Center until adopted by the public or by other cat rescue groups.

Cats are shown in their cages in a cat adoption room at the Marion County Animal Center in Ocala, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.

“We work with rescues to alleviate the burdens of large seizures like this one, and greatly appreciate the rescue community for their constant support,” Causey said.

Still, she pointed out, the no-kill status is tough to maintain.

For one thing, budget constraints can take a toll on the care and feeding of the existing population, and that can be exacerbated by occasion events like this possible case of abuse.

Which is why, as in this instance, the Animal Center often holds free adoption events, Causey said.

“The purpose of a publicly maintained animal shelter is to be a temporary safe location for strays and injured pets until they are rehabilitated to safely adopt,” said Causey.

“Animals should not remain in shelter environments for years, which happens. The intensity of the shelter environment’s impact on mental and physical health of animals is not good, not healthy.”

For more information about the cat giveaway, contact the Animal Center at (352) 671-8700, or visit in person at 5701 S.E. 66th St. in Ocala.