Two Alberta animal rescues have found their alumni are so grateful for their second leases on life, they want to give back by helping other animals in need.
At Furget Me Not Rescue in Edmonton, Garth was known as a rough and tumble outdoor cat.
“He was a stray for a few years at a housing complex out in Abbostfield and every winter he started to look worse and worse. But he was evading any traps anyone set out for him,” explained the rescue’s founder, Christine Koltun.
During Easter 2020, he ended up on the doorstep of a Furget Me Not volunteer with severe injuries: bad ear mites, a limp and multiple broken teeth.
He was taken to the City of Edmonton’s Animal Care and Control, and the rescue feared the worst.
“We thought for sure he’d be a prime euthanasia candidate because he was a senior cat in really terrible condition. But animal control really wanted to fight to save him if we would commit to finding him a home after,” Koltun said.
So she did. And when he walked into Koltun’s home, his life changed forever.
“Kittens just charged us — which tends to happen when you’re here. And I was anticipating the worst, but as soon as they got close, he started to purr. That was the moment when Garth became Grandpa Garth,” she said.
“I have to say, in my 23 years of rescue, I’ve never experienced this from a senior male tomcat. It was a huge shock to all of us.”
Soon after, the big tomcat was adopted by Koltun — the only feline rescue she’s taken in permanently.
“He hasn’t been away from kittens for a moment since that day. He loves them,” Koltun said.
“He’s my only full-time employee. We pay him in Temptations (treats) and sardines.”
Since then, Grandpa Garth has cuddled more than 500 kittens.
“While he can’t be a food source for them, he’s the source of everything else. He’s the source of nurturing, comfort, he’ll cuddle with them and bathe them. He carries them around the house sometimes,” she said.
“He seems to know the ones that are needing him the most: that are frail, that are sick, that are probably not going to make it. Those are the ones he spends the most time with.”
The senior cat’s kindness has also drawn him some attention online. His Instagram account has followers from around the world.
Koltun is optimistic Garth’s caring nature will inspire others to take a chance on senior rescue animals.
“I hope when people see him, they’re more willing to give senior pets a chance because they do have a lot of love left to give — and unfortunately those are the ones most often overlooked.”
Grandpa Garth isn’t the only unlikely surrogate parent helping orphans this kitten season though.
Down the QEII in Alix, Alta., Saving Grace Animal Society has a mother dog who’s stepped up for its most recent arrivals, too.
“Mo has always gravitated towards babies,” said Saving Grace’s development director, Amanda McClughan.
“Whether they are human babies, dogs or cats, she was an amazing mother to her litter of puppies when she was at my house with them and she’s just a really loving dog all around.”
A pregnant Mo came to the rescue about four months ago. While fostering her, McClughan was enamored by her personality and ended up adopting her.
On Tuesday, McClughan brought home a handful of two-week-old kittens.
“We got a call from a lady. She had found five kittens in a bag in her garage. She didn’t own a cat. She hadn’t seen any cats around. She had been trying to locate the mother cat for a few days and bottle feeding them on her own,” she explained.
With the kittens being so young, they have to be bottle fed regularly.
McClughan was already fostering a mother cat, and hoped she’d take the kittens under her paw. But she had no such luck — that momma wasn’t interested.
But someone else was…
“They were all crying and it was feeding time so I was going to go and feed them. I let Mo into the room and she immediately just jumped in with them, cleaning them, kissing their faces and just making sure they were ok.”
Now, she’s with them every opportunity she gets.
“Whenever she’s not in with them, most of the time she’s sitting at their door, just making sure they’re ok.”
Just like Grandpa Garth, Mo can’t feed her kittens — but that hasn’t stopped the kittens from trying.
“Just being a mom in general, no matter what species you are, you just have that connection to wanting to nurture, wanting to help. That is Mo to a T.”
To try and help with feeding, Saving Grace is going to try and introduce the babies to another cat who recently gave birth. Unfortunately, all of her kittens died.
“Kind of hope that her and Mo can co-parent them,” McClughan laughed.
The Saving Grace kittens are about two weeks old right now, won’t be up for adoption until around the ten-week mark, after they’re spayed or neutered, vaccinated and chipped.