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Brutal weather increases danger for homeless cats

FORT KENT, Maine — A cat that the PAWS Animal Welfare Society recently rescued seems to be doing OK, but only time will tell if the brutally cold winter weather has caused any permanent physical damage.

A man living on South Perley Brook Road notified PAWS with concerns about the cat, a 5- or six 6-month-old female which PAWS volunteer Sophie Saunders named “Aurora,” once the cat reached safety at the non-profit, no-kill organization’s Valley Cat Haven shelter on Jan. 4.

After receiving the call about the homeless cat, PAWS secretary Connie Michaud braved risky winter roads to rescue Aurora during a northern Maine snowstorm that dumped 18 inches of snow on the area by Friday.  

“The cat was starving and very cold,” said PAWS treasurer Jean Cobb. “We won’t know until later whether she has frostbite because it doesn’t show up until after a cat has been inside for awhile.”

Cobb said the most vulnerable areas for cats who remain outside during extreme cold are the ears, feet, tails and noses.

“We did have a cat several years ago that had frostbite from being out and had to have its tail amputated,” Cobb said.  

Another cat which PAWS volunteers rescued from Eagle Lake a number of years ago was so injured by cold weather that it could not be saved.

“All four feet were so badly frostbitten that (the veterinarian) couldn’t bring circulation back to its feet so it had to be euthanized. That’s how bad it can get,” Cobb said.

Cobb added that there are other felines currently struggling to survive outdoors.

“We know of several other situations where cats are out in the cold including one in St. Francis someone is trying to get and has been feeding, and there are others,” she said.

Frostbite and starvation are the two primary dangers cats face during cold weather, according to Cobb, who recommends that people who see cats outside in the St. John Valley during dangerously cold weather call her at (207) 543-7348, or PAWS president Leah Parent at (207) 231-5208.

“The very first and most important thing to do is start feeding the cat as soon as possible because they are even more at risk from the exposure if they are not eating,” Cobb said.  

She also recommends that whoever finds a cat in need provide whatever shelter possible for the animal until PAWS representatives can pick the cat up.

As for cat owners, Cobb also has another message.

“We strongly advocate that people keep pets inside,” she said. “Pets are safer and happier being inside this time of year and it is imperative that they keep them inside.” For more information visit the PAWS website or Facebook page.

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